Five Fascinating Colonial Destinations in Latin America

Cities throughout Latin America keep historical treasures that are a World Heritage Site thanks to the enormous cultural value that is recognized by tourists from all over the world. The great colonial history is reflected in its 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 the visitor cannot miss.

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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 on 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 Dominican religious order, 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, the Capilla del Rosario stands out, considered one of the greatest expressions of baroque architecture in Mexico. It contains a beautiful altarpiece, as well as high reliefs in marble and an exceptional golden structure.

Puebla, Mexico, was one of the most important cities for the Spanish Crown during the Colonial period.  (Photo via Puebla Tourism).
Puebla, Mexico, was one of the most important cities for the Spanish Crown during the Colonial period. (Photo via Turismo de 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 at 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 a favorite for tourists.

The city center and the Gestemaní neighborhood are two emblematic places for tourism due to the great history and culture that the two entrances to the sea have: Boca Grande and Boca Chica. In addition to this, a great wall was used to protect the city from foreign powers and harassing 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 see the places where the slaves lived and the places of entertainment of the sailors of the time.

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

The Historic Center has important centuries-old churches and houses that have been converted into cozy boutique and luxury hotels, as well as gourmet restaurants and all kinds of shops for tourists. Another highly recommended site is the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, which is the largest military construction in South America and one of the seven wonders of Colombia. Beneath its walls are some 700 meters of tunnels that were kept packed with explosives to destroy the castle should it be taken over by 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 historic 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, as well as the first Medical University. In the upper part of the city were the churches and houses of the inhabitants, while in the lower part were the financial center, the port and the market.

Salvador de Bahia was very important for the Portuguese Crown because a large amount 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 Brazilian economy.

Arequipa, Peru

This city has great traditions and history that make it one of the most valuable in Latin America. Whoever walks its streets enjoys ancient monasteries, convents and churches that are the heritage of the Spanish Crown. Opposite the Plaza de Armas is the temple of the Compañía de Jesús, made in an extraordinary mestizo baroque style dating from the 16th century. Its main altar has a valuable painting by the Italian artist Bernardo Bitti of The Virgin with the Child.

In addition, the cloister, which used to function as an orphanage, has now been converted into an attractive restaurant and craft shop for visitors. Tourists can also admire the Recoleta Convent Museum, which has a large collection of religious and pre-Columbian art, as well as an important collection of ancient paintings.

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

For its part, the Monastery of Santa Catalina has cobbled streets that take the visitor to the San Francisco Complex decorated with images sculpted in bas-relief that represent the Virgin of the Immaculate, San Francisco de Asís and Santo Domingo de Guzmán. A great idea to end the tour of the city is to visit the Santa Teresa Monastery where tourists can learn colonial decoration techniques, such as gold paintings, in addition to visiting a series of paintings with themes of the daily life of the inhabitants. weather.

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 for its more than 4,200 listed buildings, of which 130 have been listed 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 Society of Jesus and the convent of San Francisco, buildings with invaluable religious treasures.

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

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

The San Francisco Monastery is the oldest of the city’s buildings (1534) and has some 3,500 works of art from the colonial era. The Church of Santo Domingo stands out, a baroque-style building with Arab influences, and Our Lady of Mercy with pagan motifs in its decoration, such as images of the Sun and the Moon, as well as a statue of Neptune, the god of Greek mythology. Lastly, the Iglesia del Sagrario is also an important place as it is the chapel of the Main Cathedral. It is an Italian Renaissance-style church and has elements that are considered emblems of the baroque of the capital of Ecuador.

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