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Is Antigua Guatemala for You?

Antigua Guatemala could rightly be called “the heart of Guatemala.” Once the capital city of the Kingdom of Guatemala, this historic and cultural center has undergone a renaissance as foreign investors and expats have discovered both the beauty and potential of this highland community.

Colonial era buildings, designed in the Spanish Baroque style, blend with modern construction to form a unique duality that is difficult to equal anywhere else in Latin America. The type, style, and location of properties available for purchase can suit almost every taste and budget.

antigua guatemala

David Amsler

The Magnetism of Antigua Guatemala

There is a sense of being someplace special when walking along the centuries’ old cobblestone streets of Antigua Guatemala. After all, for 230 years, this city was the seat of Spanish power throughout much of Latin America. Below are some of the elements that add to the magnetism of Antigua.

History Told Through Stunning Architecture

Antigua has been recognized as one of the best examples of Spanish colonial town planning.  The large amount of 17th and 18th century structures exhibiting the influence of the Italian Renaissance design that line the streets of the old city are a prime reason why Antigua was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Amazing Climate

Antigua has often been referred to as “The City of Eternal Spring.” With temperatures averaging in the 70s, there is little need for either air conditioning or heating; the obvious economic benefit in lower energy costs is an attractive benefit for budget-conscious expats with fixed incomes.

A Strong Cultural Connection

As the cultural center of the Captaincy-General of the Kingdom of Guatemala (which included Honduras, Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and El Salvador), Antigua has retained much of the ambiance of those bygone times. The city is known for having the largest celebrations and processions during Lent and Easter in the entire Western Hemisphere.

Additionally, there are always events such as live music concerts, festivals, and various religious celebrations, as well as many free events, that make it easy to become immersed in the essence of the community.

Natural Beauty Is Close at Hand

For nature lovers, the surrounding area provides many opportunities to explore and experience the bounty of the highlands. Hiking enthusiasts will enjoy the challenge of scaling the three volcanoes close by. One, Acatenanago, is over 13,000 feet high and has options for overnight treks in order to experience the sunrise in a breathtaking setting.

Antigua is famed throughout Latin America for its chocolate products. There are classes and tours that can satisfy even the most dedicated “chocoholic” and explain how this sweet substance is made. There are also coffee plantation tours for caffeine aficionados.

antigua guatemala

Christopher William Adach

Why Consider Antigua?

There are a number of reasons to consider Antigua Guatemala, both as an investment location and as a possible expat retreat. One of the major reasons is the growing number of residences that are on the market at this time.

Antigua’s increasing popularity as a vacation and/or tourist destination has made investing in rental properties an attractive proposition. The type of properties available can range from colonial homes that can be restored in the central part of town, to modern residences with up-to-date amenities outside the city center.

There are also lots where you can build a home to suit your personal needs and requirements. Alternatively, buying the property and holding it as an investment also promises a good return on your initial outlay as the need for housing continues to grow.

Perhaps the best reason to consider Antigua as a place to live and invest is the fact that prices are still affordable. Being away from the congestion of Guatemala City (and the higher prices for homes), but still close enough to be accessible, has created a real estate market that is desirable but still reasonable from a pricing perspective.

The Digital City

For all its historical importance, Antigua has become a modern community with the kind of amenities one would expect from an established and growing metropolitan area. For expats who want to have the comforts found in U.S. cities combined with a tropical destination, Antigua should be on the short list of places to consider.

One important example of Antigua’s status as a 21st century location is the fact that it has become the first “Digital City” in Latin America. The ZONA WIFI (wifi zone) will permit free wifi access within the four corners of the Plaza Mayor (Main Plaza) of La Antigua Guatemala.

Not only does this make Antigua the first municipality to offer such free access in Latin America, this initiative puts this highland city ahead of many U.S. cities in offering a way for residents to stay “connected.”

antigua guatemala

Christopher William Adach

Is Antigua Guatemala Right for Me?

Learning about Guatemala in general is a great place to start in deciding whether to move or invest there. Using internet resources, interacting with social media to learn what others have discovered (good and bad), and asking questions can provide a context about what life would be like there.

From that point, narrowing your inquiries to Antigua will fill in the rest of the picture. As you work through the process, make a list of the positive and negative points that you have identified and see which list is longer.

One important item to factor into this potentially life-changing decision is the budget that you have to work with. Understanding your monetary resources at this stage can help clarify decisions on where to live and how much to spend later on – and to avoid “buyer’s remorse.”

Perhaps the most important step that needs to be taken is to actually visit Antigua for yourself; perhaps take more than one visit to see firsthand the possibilities that this colonial town has to offer. There is no substitute for actually being there and experiencing the “soul” of this unique community.

Once you have done your “due diligence,” the answer to the question “Is Antigua Guatemala right for me?” will become clear. Use your senses, and listen to your heart; Antigua is there to experience and enjoy.

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2 thoughts on “Is Antigua Guatemala for You?

  1. 1

    I’m interested in Antigua Guatamala.
    Any published news will be greatly appreciated.

  2. 2

    With the exception of El Salvador I have visited every country in Central America multiple times in search of an expat/retirement home.

    Starting with Guatemala: I could find nothing affordable in Antigua or, to a lesser degree, Lake Atitlan. The colonial homes in downtown Antigua average $500K USD and upwards, unless one can find a renovation project–which I am willing and able to tackle–on the outskirts of the centro for, say $250K USD.

    As another example, look at the 2nd poorest country in the western hemisphere, Nicaragua. Home prices in colonial Granada are easily $200, $300, $400 thousand USD. Too much demand from affluent norteamericanos who have the means to purchase these homes. It’s the law of supply and demand.

    Right now I am in Mexico, exploring for the umpteenth time. I’ve learned that because there is no such thing as a mortgage here–one pays cash and owns outright–that homes are held for generations, passed down as the only asset (and living space) for an ever-increasing family. Because taxes are minimal, maybe just a couple hundred dollars a year, and property insurance purchased only by a very few, it makes fiscal sense for a Mexican homeowner to not sell his/her primary abode.

    The way I see it now, the expat buyer of “average means” (I.e. $200k of cash on hand) has three choices:

    1) seek out colonial homes in still unknown-to-mainstream-media locations, like Morelia, Mexico; Quetzaltenango, Guatemala; Leon, Nicaragua, which is, despite the incredibly hot temperatures, becoming overpriced
    2) choose a more remote location still within a reasonable driving distance to a major city/airport, but a place that doesn’t have any quaintness factor. Matagalpa, Nicaragua comes to mind. Prices are reasonable, but the lifestyle may not be what many expats expect.
    3) seek out housing in one of the newly-built subdivisions, usually a gated community with homes built in a certain style and standard. Of course one may have to drive into town (or take a bus) but for many expats, this option is the most reasonable.

    If readers can think of any other options please share with the rest of us!

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