In 1541 mega mudslides from VolcÃ¡n de Agua annihilated the second capital of Guatemala, Santiago de los Caballeros, the town now known as Ciudad Vieja. The third capital, present day Antigua, was founded in 1543 by Spanish conquistadors in the Valley of Panchoy.
Keeping the name Santiago de los Caballeros, it remained the capital for more than two centuries and was the seat of the Spanish colonial government of Guatemala. This covered a vast area including the majority of present day Central America and Chiapas in southern Mexico. It gradually grew to be the most important and booming city in Central America.
In 1773 a colossal earthquake devastated most of the city and the government was transferred to the site of present day Guatemala City. There was huge opposition to this move so a law was passed making it illegal for anyone to live in Antigua, although not everyone abandoned it. When the government relocated, the former capital was renamed La Antigua Guatemala or Old Guatemala.
The city, on the brink of desertion, was slowly restored although it wasnâ€™t until the 20th century that little by little it became repopulated. Antigua was declared a National Monument by the Guatemalan government in 1944 and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
Most of the buildings were constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries during the era of Spanish rule and prosperity. Nowadays Antigua is a treasure trove of well-preserved, beautiful, colonial architecture and imposing ruins that have survived many earthquakes and remain open to the public.