The present-day Antigua Guatemala, originally named as named Santiago de los Caballeros, was founded on March 10, 1543 on the Panchoy Valley. It served as the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala, which included the current states of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, besides modern state of Chiapas in Mexico, for more than 200 years.
Antigua was partially destroyed on several occasions by volcano eruptions and earthquakes. In 1773, the Santa Marta earthquake destroyed much of the town, which led to the capital removal in 1776 to a safer location, the Valley of the Shrine, where Guatemala City, the modern capital of Guatemala, now stands. This new city did not retain its old name and was christened Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción (New Guatemala of the Assumption), and its patron saint is Our Lady of the Assumption. The severely damaged city of Santiago de los Caballeros was ordered abandoned, although not everyone left, and was thereafter referred to as la Antigua Guatemala (the Old Guatemala).
Many examples of the Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture as well as a number of ruins of colonial churches and its rich history and important role in the region, brought its designation by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.
Due to its popularity among tourists and its very well-developed tourism infrastructure, Antigua Guatemala is often used as a central location from which to visit other tourist areas in Guatemala and Central America.