The 15 Most Beautiful And Underrated Colonial Towns In Latin America
July 10, 2018|María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards
If you're looking for the best cities for your next trip, or you just want to be amazed by the photos of these colonial towns in Latin America, keep reading.
The world has many spots and wonders to offer: from amazing landscapes to marvelous cities with long and deep historical backgrounds, there are endless options to pick from when we’re planning our next trip. Of all these incredible places in the world, Latin America is one of the best travel destinations thanks to its huge natural, cultural, and historical value. Starting at Mexico's northern border and ending in Chile southernmost regions, Latin America is much more than just a geographical term, it's a group of countries united by a shared culture, language, and a similar history, that of European colonization.
Today, all of these countries that share similar origins have syncretically created new and rich cultures that attract millions of visitors every year. This mixture is often more visible in the many gorgeous colonial towns all over Latin America. These towns not only tell a dark story of oppression and colonization, but they have also, through that syncretism, developed into cultural hubs that appeal to us because of their beauty. So, if you’re looking for a great and beautiful spot with lots of history, you should definitely consider visiting one of the following wonders Latin America has to offer.
As the capital of New Spain, Mexico has colonial towns basically all over its territory. Even in Mexico City, there are some neighborhoods that preserve their colonial essence, like Coyoacán, Tlalpan, or San Ángel. But if you really want to immerse yourself in that episode of their history, you have to pay a visit to these amazing towns, some of them considered to be “magical towns.”
San Cristóbal de las Casas
San Cristóbal is one of the best examples of that amazing syncretism we were talking about. Located in Chiapas (southeastern Mexico), you can visit the lovely and romantic colonial main square and then be amazed by the impressive Mayan vestiges at the Toniná archaeological site.
San Miguel de Allende
Listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, San Miguel is one of the most important colonial towns in all of Mexico, not to mention its huge historical importance. Go and be delighted by its 17th and 18th-century buildings, its traditional food, crafts, and music.
Taxco was colonized at the beginning of the Spanish invasion because of the impressive amount of silver it offered. To this day, it’s still the best spot to find this precious metal, though the most stunning thing about the city is probably the amazing view you get from the top of the hill it’s located at, plus the impressive Santa Prisca cathedral, one of the most beautiful examples of Spanish Baroque architecture (and it's pink!).
When we think of Brazil we immediately picture white sand beaches, carnival, and football, all of which are really amazing. However, one great option to see something different would be visiting the vestiges of Portuguese colonization all over the region.
Salvador de Bahía
Once the capital of Portugal’s largest colony, Salvador de Bahía has become the center of several artistic movements in the country. Be delighted by the town’s cultural and artistic riches while enjoying Brazil’s many joyful traditions.
Quite a secret destination, Paraty is one of the Brazilian towns that has best preserved its colonial heritage. Definitely a great destination you’ll want to take lots of pictures at due to its whitewashed buildings, cobblestone streets, and deep blue beaches.
Founded in the 17th century, Ouro Preto (which translates to Black Gold) became the center of the Gold Rush in Brazil during the following century, even becoming one of the most populated cities in the New World. It was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List due to the impressive Baroque architecture all over the city.
With impressive views of the Andes and breathtaking Caribbean beaches, Colombia is one of Latin America's favorite destinations. Besides this, it has some of its oldest colonial settlements, dating back to the early 1500's.
Built in the style of Spanish Andalusian architecture, the town of Barichara is one of the best preserved colonial sites in the whole country. Besides the tranquil and picturesque scenery, just half an hour away you can practice several extreme sports like rafting and paragliding.
As one of the first colonial settlements in Colombia, Guaduas has a lot of historical importance and it's also the home of one of Colombia’s most important heroines, Policarpa Salavarrieta.
Cartagena de Indias
As huge inspiration for Nobel Prize Winner Gabriel García Márquez, Cartagena de Indias is a city filled with history and tradition. Besides the amazing colonial buildings and streets, you can also spend some time sunbathing on its awesome Caribbean beach.
As one of the of the most important Mayan territories, Guatemala might be one of the culturally richest countries in the world. Though the colonization of the territory happened at quite an early stage, its unique geography made it harder for the Spaniards to get full control over it. It’s actually believed that Guatemala comes from the Nahuatl term Quauhtemalan, or place of many trees.
Surrounded by breathtaking mountains, Chichicastenango sums up all the colors, beauty, and nature of Guatemala. Perhaps one of its highlights is its local market on Thursdays and Sundays, where you can buy and admire the traditional indigenous textiles and crafts.
With a bright white basilica capable of catching everyone’s attention, Esquipulas is one of the most important pilgrimage centers in Latin America. This is mainly because the basilica is home to the famous Black Christ revered in most Latin American countries.
As the original capital of the country, Antigua was the center of government and all the cultural movements of Guatemala. Today you can admire the picturesque colonial architecture framed by the grandeur of the Volcán de Agua, which offers a unique landscape of this historical city.
The land of salsa and guaguancó, this island is probably one of the most famous destinations in Latin America. It was one of the territories that Columbus discovered in his first trip and the place where one of the first settlements was founded. Besides that, Cuba is a country with lots of history and traditions many people want to experience at least once in their lifetime.
With bright and vivid colorful buildings, cobblestone streets, and tropical trees adorning the streets, Trinidad was a crucial point for sugar exportation during colonial times. Today you can visit the different historical spots to learn more about this period, besides enjoying the many traditional celebrations they have.
La Habana Vieja
When the Spaniards started settling in the continent, La Habana became one of the most important naval spots for import and export between continents. For that reason, it was the first geographical and cultural link, and thus, to this day, it's an extremely culturally rich city. It's a must-see for anyone going to Cuba.
Founded in the nineteenth century and inspired by French architecture, Cienfuegos has an air that takes you on an amazing journey to a complex and unique past. How about spending the day at the beach and then walking down the Malecón at night, bar-hopping and dancing to live salsa?
The history of Latin America is as diverse as its people, landscapes, and culture. And yet, that shared episode of colonization in our history is what makes us such a strong and resilient people capable of transforming that pain into a colorful tradition and folklore.
If you’re looking for other amazing destinations try these: