Once the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala, Antigua is the throbbing cultural heart of Guatemala. Surrounded by Volcanoes and filled with Baroque architecture and crumbling cathedrals, Antigua looks as if it was excavated from the 15th century. As you leave the city, coffee and cocoa farms take over the landscape, producing some of the highest quality products in the world. However, it is no longer representative of the the modern country it inhabits; it is easily the safest part of Guatemala, and the poverty that characterizes the rest of the country is invisible there.
During Easter, Semana Santa takes over the city. The streets are closed and blockaded with hordes of visitors and endless processions. Veiled women, Roman centurions, and floats borne on the shoulders of purple hooded participants march ominously across cobble stones older than the Unites States. Locals spend multiple nights crowded in social gatherings in alleyways as they craft beautifully intricate carpets of flowers and colored sand, only to watch them be destroyed and cleared away by the processions come morning.