Five Fascinating Colonial Destinations in Latin America

Five Fascinating Colonial Destinations in Latin America

Latin America has the most attractive Spanish and Portuguese colonial treasures in World Heritage cities. (Photo via saiko3p / iStock / Getty Images Plus).

Cities throughout Latin America hold historical treasures that are world heritage sites thanks to the enormous cultural value that is recognized by tourists from all over the world. The great colonial history is reflected in their extraordinary cathedrals, churches, and squares that are admired by millions of visitors every year.

These five are some of the most representative cities of the great baroque architecture of Spain and Portugal that visitors cannot miss.

Puebla, Mexico

Located approximately two hours south of Mexico City, Puebla is one of the best examples of Baroque architecture on the continent. At the time of the Spanish Colony, this city was one of the most prominent in terms of politics and religious influence, which is why the main Catholic orders were established. This resulted in the construction of the most important temples in the continent that today are a great attraction for national and international tourists, of which we mention the following:

One of the most important temples is the convent founded by the religious order of the Dominicans, dedicated to Santo Domingo de Guzmán. It was built between the 16th and 17th centuries and features exquisite vaults decorated with reliefs, as well as chapels with valuable paintings. In this place stands out the Chapel of the Rosary, considered one of the maximum expressions of the baroque architecture of Mexico. It contains a beautiful altarpiece, as well as high reliefs in marble and an exceptional gold-plated structure.

Five Fascinating Colonial Destinations in Latin America

Puebla, Mexico, was one of the most important cities for the Spanish Crown during the Colony period. (Photo via Tourism of Puebla).

The city of Puebla also has other colonial architectural gems such as its impressive Cathedral, as well as the Church of the Holy Spirit, as well as the temples of San Jerónimo, San Ildefonso, San Juan De Dios, and San Marcos, among others.

Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

This colonial jewel was founded in a strategic place for the Spanish Crown. Its bay, the largest in the Caribbean, was the most important of the time and today is one of the favorite places for millions of tourists. This charming city has cobbled streets, balconies, old houses, and viewpoints that make it one of the favorites of tourism.

The city center and the neighborhood of Gestemaní are two emblematic places for tourism because of the great history and culture that have the two entrances to the sea: Boca Grande and Boca Chica. In addition to this, a great wall was used to protect the city from foreign powers and harassment from pirates. This place, full of history and tradition, is one of the most attractive to enjoy in this fabulous city. Also, in the neighborhood of Gestemaní, visitors can know the places where slaves lived and the fun sites of the sailors of the time.

Five Fascinating Colonial Destinations in Latin America

Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, is a city of historical heritage for its great cultural and architectural richness. (Photo via Charly Boillot/iStock/Getty Images Plus).

The Historic Center has important churches hundreds of years old and houses that have become cozy luxury and boutique hotels, as well as gourmet restaurants and all kinds of shops for tourists. Another highly recommended site is Castillo San Felipe de Barajas which is the largest military construction in South America and one of the seven wonders of Colombia. Under its walls are about 700 yards of tunnels that were kept full of explosives to destroy the castle in case it was taken by the invaders.

Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

Founded in 1549, this was the first capital of Brazil by order of the king of Portugal, so today it has the largest colonial historical center in the country. It offers tourists hundreds of churches and more than 5,000 buildings considered historical heritage. One of its main attractions is Pelourinho, a fascinating town characterized by the fusion of Portuguese colonial architecture with Afro-Brazilian culture.

Its original name was São Salvador do Hansa de Todos os Santos. It was where the first Portuguese cathedral in the New World was founded, in addition to the first Medical University. In the upper part of the city were located the churches and houses of the inhabitants, while in the lower part there was the financial center, the port, and the market.

Salvador de Bahia was very important for the Portuguese Crown because a large quantity of sugar, tobacco, and cocoa was exported from there, but it was also an important port of entry for slaves from Africa. All this historical heritage can be seen in the streets of this picturesque city that today is a center of great economic contribution to the economy of Brazil.

Arequipa, Peru

This city has great traditions and history that make it one of the most valuable in Latin America. Those who walk its streets enjoy ancient monasteries, convents, and churches that are the heritage of the Spanish Crown. In front of the Plaza de Armas is the temple of Compañía de Jesus, created in an extraordinary baroque mestizo style dating from the 16th century. Its high altar features a valuable painting by the Italian artist Bernardo Bitti of The Virgin with the Child.

In addition to this, the cloister, which used to function as an orphanage, has now become an attractive restaurant and craft shop for visitors. Tourists can also admire the Convento Museo de la Recoleta, which has a large collection of religious and pre-Columbian art as well as an important collection of old paintings.

Five Fascinating Colonial Destinations in Latin America

Arequipa, Peru, offers its visitors a rich colonial history in ancient churches and monasteries. (Photo via Vadim_Nefedov / iStock / Getty Images Plus).

Meanwhile, the Monastery of Santa Catalina has cobbled streets that take visitors to the Complex of San Francisco decorated with bas-relief sculpted images representing the Virgin of the Immaculate, San Francisco de Asís, and Santo Domingo de Guzmán. A great idea to finish the tour of the city is to visit the Monastery of Santa Teresa in which the tourist can learn techniques of colonial decoration, such as gold paintings, in addition to visiting a series of paintings with themes of the daily life of the time.

Quito, Ecuador

Located in the mountains of Ecuador, this city is one of the largest and best-preserved colonial jewels in Latin America. It was the first to have been declared a World Heritage Site by its more than 4,200 listed buildings, of which 130 have been classified as monumental. One of the most important sites of this place is the Plaza Grande where the Cathedral is located, which has valuable works of art such as paintings and sculptures from the colonial era. Nearby are the churches of the Compañía de Jesus and the convent of San Francisco, buildings with invaluable religious treasures.

Five Fascinating Colonial Destinations in Latin America

Quito, Ecuador, was the first city declared a World Heritage Site for its more than 4,200 listed buildings. (Photo via Quito Tourism Board).

Also worth mentioning is the Basilica of the National Vow, the largest church in Quito, inspired by the Cathedral of Bourges, France. The Church and Convent of the Compañía de Jesus, mentioned above, has interiors in gold that make it recognized as one of the most beautiful representatives of the Spanish Baroque, with French and Italian influences.

The Monastery of San Francisco is the oldest of the city’s buildings (1534) and has some 3,500 works of art from the colonial era. Stand out the Church of Santo Domingo, a Baroque-style building with Arab influences, and Nuestra Señora de la Merced with pagan motifs in its decoration, such as images of the Sun and the Moon, as well as a statue of Neptune, god of Greek mythology. Finally, the Church of the Sagrario is also an important place because it is a chapel of the Cathedral Major. It is a church of Italian Renaissance style and has elements that are considered emblems of the Baroque of the capital of Ecuador.

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