Headed to Central America and looking for the best things to do in Antigua, Guatemala?! You’re in luck! I’m sharing all my favorite things to do in Antigua, as well as how to get there, where to eat, and tons of other helpful tips!
Antigua is full of Spanish colonial architecture (gorgeous red-tiled roofs and intricately carved wooden doors), a vibrant cultural heritage, stunningly beautiful churches, quirky Hobbitenango, and tons of gastronomic delights.
There’s also an amazing cafe culture here (many with volcano views!), the iconic yellow Santa Catalina arch, vibrant markets and street performers, and leafy green gardens and plazas.
There’s a reason it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site afterall!
I first visited Antigua about 10 years ago, and recently came back from a second trip (which was part of my epic 10 day Guatemala itinerary). I just wish it hadn’t taken me all those years to get back there! I forgot how much I deeply loved this little colonial city, and would love to stay for much longer (perhaps a month or two to do a Spanish language immersion program someday).
There’s just something so electrifying and unique about Antigua – maybe it’s the romantic atmosphere, lush gardens, or colorful artisanal crafts (I couldn’t get enough). Or just the fact that there’s volcano views everywhere around town.
Hard to say because I loved it all! We were in awe our entire time in Antigua, so safe to say I highly recommend you visit!
Before we get into all the fun and exciting things to do in Antigua (trust me, there’s loads to do here despite being a relatively small city), there’s a lot of logistics to get out of the way first!
Antigua, Guatemala Trip Planning Logistics
Where is Antigua, Guatemala
If you wanna partake in all the fun things to do in Antigua, you of course gotta get yourself there!
Antigua is located in Central America, in the central highlands of Guatemala surrounded by a series of hills located in the valley of the Panchoy River. It’s a city in the southern part of the country (located in the Sacatepéquez Department of Guatemala, which is one of the country’s 22 departments), about 25 miles southwest of the capital city, Guatemala City.
Lake Atitlan isn’t very far (about 3 hours without traffic), however other popular spots in Guatemala are much further (over 10 hours from Tikal and 6 ½ hours from Semuc Champey).
One of the best parts about Antigua?! It’s situated in a valley surrounded by not one, not two, but three volcanoes (Volcán Agua, Volcán Fuego, and Volcan Acatenango)! Imagine walking the cobblestone streets and seeing a volcano erupt in the distance. Kinda amazing, aint it?
How to Get to Antigua
Getting to Antigua is thankfully pretty easy. First off, you’ll need to get yourself to Guatemala of course, where Antigua is located.
The nearest international airport to Antigua is La Aurora International Airport (airport code GUA) in Guatemala City, which is about a 45-minute drive from Antigua.
Psst — if your flight gets in late at night, stay in Guatemala City for the night to avoid traveling to Antigua in the dark. Safety first my friends!
As most people visit Antigua from Guatemala City, I’ll list your options below.
How to Get to Antigua from Guatemala City
Option 1: Shuttle Service from Guatemala City
Wanna avoid the hassle of driving or navigating public transportation? Head to Antigua by shuttle service – it’s actually one of the most popular ways to get there, and the cheapest, safest, and easiest way to travel.
There’s many shuttle services between Guatemala City and Antigua, and I highly recommend looking on GuateGo to find schedules and tickets and such. The shuttles operate every few hours, leaving from the airport and hotels in Guatemala City.
Public shuttles all cost around $20USD per person. If you’re traveling solo (without anyone to split a more expensive private transport), a shuttle is a great option.
Option 2: Public Chicken Buses
Chicken buses are a popular and affordable mode of transportation in Guatemala. They’re essentially retired American school buses that’ve been brightly painted and decorated with various designs and slogans. They’re called “chicken buses” because they’re often used to transport not only people, but also livestock, including chickens!
The fares are very cheap, often just a few quetzales (the local currency), and they’re used by both locals and tourists alike. However, it’s worth noting that chicken buses are usually pretty crowded, with people and luggage crammed in tightly, so they’re not the most comfortable option for everyone.
In addition, safety can be a concern, as these buses are often driven at high speeds on winding mountain roads. It’s important to keep an eye on your belongings and be aware of your surroundings at all times. In my opinion, unless you’re financially unable to get to Antigua another way, skip the Chicken buses.
Option 3: Taxi/Ride Share/Private Transfer from Guatemala City
Private transfers are also available for those who prefer a more personalized experience. Hi, that’s me! These transfers can be arranged through tour operators or private transportation companies, and usually offer door-to-door service. We opted to take a private transfer between Antigua and Guatemala City (at the end of our trip), and our ride cost a total of 350Q (~$45US) for 2 people. Not terrible if you ask me.
Book your private transfer from Guatemala City Airport to Antigua here. All flights are tracked to ensure you’re picked up in a timely manner. The driver will be waiting for you once your flight lands, holding a sign with your name on it. Your private air-conditioned minivan will then take you safely to Antigua.
Taxis are readily available in Guatemala City, and can also be used to get to Antigua. However, always negotiate the fare beforehand, as some drivers try to overcharge tourists. You should be able to get a ride from the airport in Guatemala City to Antigua for about $40USD or so.
In addition, ride shares like Uber operate in Guatemala City, and you can typically find a ride to Antigua for about $25. This is definitely the fastest way to get to the city, meaning more time for all the things to do in Antigua.
Option 4: Rent a Car from the Airport and Drive
Do you need a car in Antigua? I really don’t think so, but if you want max flexibility, you can surely rent a car in Guatemala City and drive yourself to Antigua! Most major car rental companies, such as Avis, Budget, Hertz, and Thrifty, have offices at the airport in Guatemala City.
Driving from Guatemala City to Antigua is pretty easy, and only takes about 45 minutes to an hour or so (depending on traffic of course, and sometimes, there’s lots of it). The road between the two cities is well-paved and generally in good condition, but be on the lookout for potholes!
Note that driving in Guatemala can be a bit challenging for those who aren’t familiar with the area. The roads can be narrow, crowded, and chaotic, with lots of buses, trucks, and motorcycles. And there’s soooo many speed bumps, especially in the smaller towns along the way.
Stay safe by ALWAYS driving during the daytime and ALWAYS sticking to the main roads. And like in San Francisco, avoid leaving valuables in your car. That’s basically an invitation for thieves…
Option 5: Day Trip from Guatemala City
Short on time but still wanna experience the beauty and charm of Antigua? Yup, a day trip from Guatemala City to Antigua is very possible! While I definitely recommend 3 days in Antigua or longer, if all you’ve got is a day, go for it – Antigua is super walkable and compact and you’ll be able to see a whole lot in just a few hours, promise.
In order to maximize time, don’t mess around with potential shuttle delays and private transport mishaps. Book yourself on a guided tour – you’ll wander the city with local guides who can take you to all the best spots in the shortest amount of time. Here’s a few options:
- Antigua City Tour from Guatemala City
- Full Day Tour from Guatemala City to Antigua
- Combo Tour of Two Cities: Antigua and Guatemala City
While you definitely can’t experience all the things to do in Antigua in just one day, you can stroll the cobblestone streets, take in the colorful surroundings, SEE THE VOLCANOES, and visit local artisan markets. Perfect if all you’ve got time for is a day or a few hours.
But really, I encourage you to spend at least a night or two in the city to fully appreciate its charm. I wish I could have stayed another week – I fell in love with the city, and hard!
How to Get to Antigua from Lake Atitlan
Many visitors also head to Antigua from Lake Atitlan, which is actually what we did! It should take about 2 to 3 hours to get from Lake Atitlan to Antigua, depending on traffic.
Note that Uber DOES NOT operate in Lake Atitlan (like it does in Antigua and Guatemala City), so don’t rely on that to get to Antigua.
Option 1: Shuttle from Panajachel, Lake Atitlan
There’s private and public shuttles from Panajachel (the main tourist village in Lake Atitlan), and which you decide to use solely depends on how many people you’re traveling with. Since we were a group of 5, we opted for a private shuttle (since it was actually less expensive than each of us paying for a seat on a public shuttle).
For reference, we paid about $100USD to get from Pana in Lake Atitlan to our hotel in Antigua, Guatemala. Our hotel in Lake Atitlan was able to set up a private shuttle for us – ask your hotel; they’ve typically got reliable drivers they work with. A great option if you’re splitting the cost with a few friends like I was. Our shuttle only took about 2 hours, which meant we could start checking out all the things to do in Antigua earlier than expected.
You can also pre-book a private minivan from Lake Atitlan to Antigua ahead of time if you’re not comfortable waiting until you arrive in Guatemala like we did.
Option 2: Public Transport
If you’re on a budget or traveling solo, you can take public transportation from Lake Atitlan to Antigua.
First, you’ll need to take a boat from your hotel (the main way to get around Lake Atitlan) to Panajachel.
From there, take a shuttle or a chicken bus to Antigua. The shuttle is a bit more expensive ($20 USD per person) than the chicken bus ($5USD) but it’s more comfortable and way faster (I’d pick the shuttle over chicken bus any day).
How to Get Around Antigua, Guatemala
Walking: So many of the best things to do in Antigua are within walking distance of each other. Which is why walking is easily the best way to explore this little colonial city! We were able to walk practically everywhere during our 3 days in Antigua, besides a few spots further afield.
The town is compact and easy to navigate, with most of the major attractions located within walking distance of each other. I loved wandering around town, soaking up the atmosphere of Antigua’s colorful streets and colonial architecture. Bring comfy shoes – we walked a ton!
Tuk-tuks: Tuk-tuks are small, three-wheeled vehicles that are a popular mode of transportation in Antigua. They’re easy to spot, with their bright colors and loud horns, and can be hailed from almost anywhere in town.
I’ve taken tuk-tuks in other places around the world, including Guatape (Colombia), Sintra (Portugal), and Bangkok (Thailand). Always so much fun zipping around town!
They’re pretty cheap (especially when split between friends), costing about $2 to $4 USD per ride. We also used them a bit in Lake Atitlan! Like always, negotiate the ride with the driver before getting into the tuk-tuk.
Ride Shares and Taxis: I typically recommend using an Uber if at all possible over traditional taxis, since there’s no negotiating price and zero confusion about where you wanna go.
In town, I’d say definitely call an Uber. If you’re trying to get to Hobbitenango, El Hato Verde, or anywhere else a tad further away, expect to have some difficulty with Ubers or just call a taxi instead.
We unfortunately found some Uber drivers a bit shady, messaging us asking for extra cash or they wouldn’t pick us up. We simply canceled these drivers and attempted to find new ones, however depending on where we were, it was pretty difficult. All that to say, don’t 100% depend on Uber drivers.
When to Visit Antigua (Weather and Crowds)
There’s a reason Antigua is called “The Land of Eternal Spring”! The city is situated at an altitude of 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) above sea level, giving it a pleasant climate throughout most of the year.
There’s honestly really no horrible time to visit, just stay away from the heavy rainy season (June through August) if you want the best weather for all these fun things to do in Antigua. More info below:
High Season: November to March – Dry Season
High season is crowded for a reason – temps are perfect (between the high 60s and low 80s), and the weather is usually sunny and dry. This is the busiest time of year in Antigua (although it never felt crazy crowded), and there’s definitely higher prices for accommodations and tours (but nothing is crazy expensive in Guatemala so don’t worry).
The town is especially crowded over Christmas and Semana Santa (Easter), so you’ll definitely want to book accommodations and tours in advance. A few friends I met in Flores (another super cute spot in Guatemala) were headed to Antigua during Semana Santa and they had suuuuch a hard time finding rooms at the last minute. Book ahead of time (at least a month or so out) and you should be ok.
For reference, we visited in mid February, and had almost perfect weather. We were able to see the volcanoes each and every day (they’re sometimes covered by low-hanging clouds/overcast skies), and temps were really comfy (never too hot nor too cold). Jacaranda trees were in full bloom (with those gorgeous purple flowers), and I couldn’t get enough. Absolutely perfect!
Low Season: May to October – Rainy Season
The weather is way more unpredictable during Antigua’s low season, with daily rain showers and occasional thunderstorms. The heaviest rainfall occurs in June, July, and August, so I’d plan to skip these months if you really wanna take advantage of all the fun things to do in Antigua (which you totally should!).
However, temps are still really nice, ranging from 18-25°C (64-77°F). This is a quieter time of year in Antigua, with fewer tourists and lower prices for accommodations and tours.
If you are visiting during the rainy season, I recommend doing your outdoor activities in the morning, as rain showers typically occur in the afternoon or evening. Thankfully it doesn’t usually rain all day, with mornings usually sunny and pleasant!
Shoulder Seasons: April – May & September – November
These are transitional periods between the high and low seasons, and the weather can be a mix of sunny and rainy days. Temperatures can range from 18-26°C (64-79°F). This is a good time to visit if you want to avoid the crowds and still enjoy good weather.
If you don’t mind some potential rain and wanna save some cash, a visit during the shoulder season can be a great idea!
Additional FAQS and Info about Antigua, Guatemala
- Is English spoken?
Yes, English is spoken in Antigua, Guatemala, especially in tourist areas, hotels, restaurants, and shops. Many younger locals in Antigua speak some level of English, and there’s also many English-speaking expats living in the town.
But don’t expect everyone to speak English, as some taxi/Uber drivers, local residents, and market/street food vendors only spoke Spanish (or Mayan). Even most staff at the bank didn’t speak a word of English.
Spanish is the official language of Guatemala, and I always recommend knowing some basic Spanish phrases when visiting the country. Make an effort; the locals will totally appreciate it!
A few helpful phrases to start you off:
- Hola = Hello
- Adios = Goodbye
- Buenos dias = Good morning
- Buenas tardes = Good afternoon
- Buenas noches = Good night
- Cuanto cuesta? = How much does it cost?
- Cómo te llamas? = What is your name?
- Me llamo… = My name is…
- Soy de… = I am from…
- Cerveza = Beer
- Margarita = Margarita
- La cuenta, por favor? = The check, please?
- Muchas gracias = Thank you so much
- Para llevar = take away
Since many indigenous Maya people live in Antigua, you’ll hear some Mayan languages as well (although Spanish is the primary language spoken in town). A few times I attempted to use my Spanish, I later realized the person possibly spoke Mayan, whoops!
- What’s the plumbing and infrastructure like in Antigua?
Guatemala is a third-world country, so expect some differences in terms of infrastructure.
Bathrooms may ask you to dispose of toilet paper in the waste bin next to the toilet. It sure took some getting used to, but it’s common practice over there. This is because the plumbing system isn’t designed to handle paper. The plumbing did seem much better than in Lake Atitlan though (where hardly anything would go down the toilet….).
- Local Currency
Like the rest of Guatemala, the local currency in Antigua is the Guatemalan quetzal (GTQ). I highly advise you to take out some quetzal at an ATM in Antigua once you arrive (as you’ll get the best conversion rate using an ATM and never at a currency exchange kiosk).
At the time of writing (April 2023), the quetzal is equivalent to 12 cents USD (or 1 USD = ~ 7.7Q). At first I found it kinda difficult to convert, but semi-figured it out within a few days. I thought of prices in 100Q’s and used that as my base, so for example:
- 50Q ~ $6 USD
- 100Q ~ $12 USD
- 200Q ~ $25 USD
It takes a bit of practice but after a day or two you’ll be able to do the conversion quickly in your head. And if not, there’s always currency conversion apps (no shame).
- How long should I stay in Antigua?
As long as you’ve got! I spent three nights and three full days in Antigua, and felt it was the perfect amount of time.
However, while I was satisfied with our 3 days in Antigua, I kinda wish we had at least another day or two to check off even more things to do in Antigua. The city is small and compact, so you can see a lot in a short period of time. To really soak in the local atmosphere, I’d say a week will suffice.
If you want to do some day trips (to say, Tikal or Pacaya Volcano), or attempt to climb the famous Acatenango Volcano hike, I’d plan a few extra days. And if you wanna learn Spanish or do some volunteering, plan to stay for at least a month (my dream!).
- Are there beaches in Antigua?
Nope, Antigua’s not near any large bodies of water, so there’s no beaches here! Head south to the Pacific and Caribbean coasts and you’ll find quite a few in Monterrico (with a black sand beach), and El Paredon (up-and-coming and quite trendy).
- Elevation of Antigua
Antigua sits at an elevation of approximately 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) above sea level. If you’re not familiar with elevation, this is high, ya’ll! For reference, Denver, known as the Mile High City, sits at 5,280 feet, San Francisco’s at 45 feet, and New York’s basically at sea level.
If you come from an area near sea level (or close to it), you may experience Altitude Sickness. And yes, it’s a real thing, and affects everyone differently. We didn’t feel the effects (surprisingly, since I got a massive headache in both Mexico City and San Miguel – although a bit higher in elevation), but some do.
You may feel super thirsty, have a nagging headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, and/or unreasonable fatigue. That, my friends, is altitude sickness. Drink a lot of water (this helps your body adjust to the higher altitude) and don’t plan anything strenuous for the first day. Avoid alcohol and caffeine (if you can!), as these will dehydrate you and make your symptoms even worse! Allow your body to acclimate to the altitude.
- Do any of the volcanoes near Antigua erupt?
Yup!!! From Antigua, you can see three volcanoes, but only one is active.
To the east of Antigua, Guatemala lies the active Volcán de Fuego, which is known for its frequent eruptions. We even watched it spit out fiery lava one night – such a cool experience and one of our favorite things to do in Antigua.
To the south of the city is the dormant Volcán de Agua, which is the highest volcano in the area at 3,766 meters (12,353 feet) above sea level. To the west of the city is the Acatenango volcano, which is also dormant and is popular among hikers.
Health and Safety in Antigua, Guatemala
- Is Antigua safe for a female solo traveler? I was a bit nervous to travel to Guatemala at first, which is why I went with friends. But after visiting Antigua (and Lake Atitlan), I’d totally go back solo to both. As always, use normal precautions like elsewhere in the world, like being aware of your surroundings, never walking around solo at night, limiting your alcohol, using reliable transportation, and keeping expensive electronics/jewelry at home/out of sight. A few weeks later I even went back to Guatemala solo and explored Flores and Tikal!
- Can you drink the water in Antigua? Nope! The tap water in Antigua is not safe for drinking, so you’ll need to drink bottled or filtered water over there. You shouldn’t have a problem finding safe drinking water since many hotels and restaurants have purified or filtered water, as well as purified ice (always ask if you’re unsure).
Where to Stay in Antigua
Antigua’s got a wide range of accommodation options, from colonial-style luxury hotels to cute trendy boutiques to inexpensive yet design-forward hostels. If your aim is to check off a bunch of fun things to do in Antigua, stay in the center of town. Thankfully, there’s tons of choices!
We stayed in a private room at Ojala Hostel, which was honestly more like a boutique hotel, and loved our King size bed, steamy showers (with amazing water pressure I might add), and flower-filled gardens. The fact that we could see the fiery lava from volcano eruptions at night from the common space right outside our room made it all that much more special. Ojala also has dorm beds, which is perfect if you’re rocking solo and on a budget.
Other affordable luxury hotels on my list were Good Hotel Antigua, Porta Hotel, El Convento Boutique Hotel, and Hotel Museo Spa Casa Santo Domingo – but we booked too late and those were all already sold out! If you’re coming between February and April, I’d make sure to book a few months in advance. I was honestly really surprised just how fast accommodations sold out.
On a budget? I’d also look at Selina Antigua, Maya Papaya (Ojala’s sister hostel), Casi Casa, and Barbara’s Boutique Hostel. So many amazing options!
Brief History of Antigua, Guatemala
So, the history of Antigua, Guatemala is actually pretty interesting. It just so happened to be the original capital of Guatemala, founded by the Spanish conquistadors in 1543 and named Santiago de los Caballeros.
The city quickly became an important hub for commerce, religion, and culture, attracting wealthy families and powerful leaders. The city’s architecture and gardens were some of the grandest in the region, making it a popular destination for visitors.
However, Antigua has a tumultuous history. It was hit by a series of devastating earthquakes in the 1700s, causing much of the city to crumble. As a result, the capital was moved to present-day Guatemala City in 1776.
Despite the relocation of the capital, Antigua remained an important cultural and religious center. Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular destination for tourists who come to explore its colonial architecture, vibrant culture, and lush gardens.
Best Things to do in Antigua, Guatemala
Finally – what you’re probably here for! All my favorite things to do in Antigua, Guatemala, plus a few I wish I had time for!
Looking for an easy DIY itinerary?! Here’s my recommended 3-day Antigua itinerary based on my personal experiences. I didn’t do the popular Acatenango Hike, so you’ll need to change things around a bit if that’s on your Guatemala bucket list!
- Day 1: Morning at Hobbitenango and/or El Hato Verde, wander around historic Antigua (markets and ruins), sunset at a rooftop terrace
- Day 2: Morning walk to Hill of the Cross, cafe hop and more ruins, Pacaya Volcano sunset hike
- Day 3: Breakfast at Caoba Farms, chocolate making class, more cafes and rooftops, drinks at Ulew
Walk and Photograph the Historic Center/Colonial Streets
One of my fondest memories of Antigua was simply wandering around the old colonial streets, camera in hand. I swear, around every bend there was something to photograph in this charming city.
As I was wandering the cobblestone streets, I felt like I was transported back in time to the colonial era, with beautiful architecture, vibrant colors, and stunning colonial-style buildings around every corner.
Exploring the historic center can be easily done in an afternoon since it’s relatively small. To gain deeper insights into the city’s distinctive history and geography, I suggest signing up for a walking tour on your first day in Antigua.
Many of the buildings date back to the 16th and 17th centuries, and their ornate facades and intricate details are a testament to the city’s rich history and culture. You’ll see everything from brightly colored colonial-style homes and shops to grand churches and public buildings, all with their own unique stories to tell.
A few special spots not to miss:
- Santa Catalina Arch (obviously!)
- Parque Central
- La Merced Church
- The Santa Clara Convent
- San Francisco Church
- Tanque la Union
As you walk, you’ll encounter street vendors selling all kinds of local goodies, from handicrafts to freshly cooked snacks. And you’ll see friendly locals going about their day-to-day lives — it’s like getting a glimpse into the real Antigua, Guatemala.
But let’s not forget about the parks and plazas! These green spaces are a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, and are often surrounded by historic landmarks and buildings.
So put on comfy walking shoes, grab your camera, and get ready to explore this amazing city on foot! I walked almost 20k steps each and every day I was in Antigua. You can even sign up for a group photo walk if you wanna wander around with a local – they know all the best photo spots and have tips for capturing this stunning city.
Explore the Historic Ruins
Since Antigua is nestled in a valley surrounded by three majestic volcanoes, the area’s super prone to earthquakes. And boy, has it been through a lot over the years. Over time, the city has experienced numerous earthquakes, including a catastrophic one in 1773 that caused extensive damage to many structures in the area.
While some of the buildings have been rebuilt, others haven’t. Thus, Antigua’s full of historic ruins, and they’re super interesting to check out. You’ll come across plenty during your walks around Antigua. There’s a whole bunch, scattered around the city; here’s the most popular ones:
- Convento Santa Clara: This convent and church, founded in 1699 by nuns from Puebla in Mexico, is known for its amazingly beautiful ornate facade and the amazing courtyard with its fountain in the middle. The gardens are wonderfully kept with beautiful plants and flowers. We had so much fun taking photos here.
- Catedral San Jose: If you make it to one ruin, make it this one. It was completed in the 1680s, and damaged by earthquakes in the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s now a popular tourist attraction known for its towering columns, picturesque giant pillars, intricate stonework, and collapsed ceiling. Note that it’s also called “Antigua Guatemala Cathedral” and “Catedral de Santiago” – this confused me a whole lot! I absolutely loved exploring these ruins and they were one of my favorite things to do in Antigua.
- El Carmen Church: Built in the 17th century and destroyed by earthquakes in the 18th and 19th centuries, this lavish church was once famous for its ornate stonework and majestic columns. While you can’t go inside anymore, there’s a local handicrafts market at the base of the church that’s great for people watching and photography.
- Convento de las Capuchinas: Built in the 18th century and abandoned in the early 19th century. It’s known for its intricate baroque architecture, beautiful courtyards, and well-preserved living quarters, cells, and gardens. Capuchinas was the last convent to be built in the city.
- Casa Santo Domingo Hotel: This hotel is located in a former convent and monastery, which was founded in the 16th century and partially destroyed by earthquakes in the 18th century. Casa Santo Domingo features a museum of colonial-era artifacts, and we loved wandering around the property.
Spend the Morning at Hobbitenango
Hobbitenango is a really cool and unique attraction located just outside of Antigua, Guatemala! If you’re a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” or “The Lord of the Rings,” you’ll definitely want to add this spot to your 3-day Antigua itinerary.
What is it exactly?! A hobbit-themed eco-park (!!!) that’s nestled in the lush green hills overlooking Antigua. The park features a few hobbit-style houses built into the hillsides that you can explore – we loved going inside; it had such a magical and whimsical atmosphere!
Visitors to Hobbitenango can take a short hike through the park to explore the different hobbit houses and enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. There’s also a number of fun activities to enjoy, including a giant tree swing, archery, and the famous Hobbitenango hand – don’t miss a photo on it!
I loved Hobbitenango so much I wrote an entire post on it – check that out over here (literally everything you need to know about visiting Hobbitenango).
Check out Iglesia de la Merced
There’s tons (and tons) of pretty churches in Antigua, Guatemala, but my #1 is easily Iglesia de la Merced. This church is seriously stunning, with a bright yellow facade that’s totally Instagram-worthy.
But it’s not just a pretty face – the architects were smart and made sure it could withstand earthquakes with its sturdy wide columns and lower height. This baby has survived not one, but TWO major earthquakes! Talk about resilience, am I right?
If you’re lucky enough to check out the Iglesia de la Merced, make sure you take some time to explore the inside too. The cloister area is seriously beautiful and definitely worth a look. So go ahead, snap a pic outside, but don’t forget to give the interior some love too!
Wander around Parque Central
We ended up in Parque Central (Central Park) more than a few times, on our way to different activities in Antigua! This lush green square has been around since the 16th century, and it’s surrounded with historically significant buildings, yummy restaurants, cute cafes, fun shops, and tons of attractions. I stopped here with the photographer as well, and had so much fun attempting to take (failed) photos with all the pigeons, haha.
You’ll see all kinds of people here, from locals just chilling to tourists soaking up the sights and sounds. There’s plenty of trees and shrubs to keep you cool, and loads of benches where you can people watch to your heart’s content. Oh, and did I mention the super-cute fountain in the center of the park? It’s got mermaids spouting water — what more could you want?!
Take Photos with the Santa Catalina Arch
The Santa Catalina Arch is one of the most iconic landmarks in the city, meaning you can’t miss it on any Antigua itinerary! Just look at those photos – the arch is just gorgeous, and a symbol of the city’s rich history and culture.
And it’s got an interesting history too – the arch was built in the 17th century, and was originally used by nuns to move between buildings without being seen by the public. In addition, it survived multiple earthquakes and was eventually restored in the 20th century to preserve its beauty and cultural significance.
Nowadays, it’s one of the most popular things to do in Antigua! Walk under the arch, and admire the surrounding mountains and La Merced Church from one end, and the Agua Volcano from the other side. I passed the Santa Catalina Arch numerous times during my 3 days in Antigua, and was wowed by it each and every time.
Psst – if you wanna get photos with the Santa Catalina Arch, come just after sunrise. It’s the most popular spot in Antigua for photos, so it’ll get busier as the day goes on. Come early and you can have the arch *almost* all to yourself. I joined a photo session with a local photographer in Antigua and we met her under the arch at 7am, and were the only ones taking photos!
Hike Pacaya Volcano and Roast Marshmallows
One of the most popular day trips from Antigua is to Pacaya Volcano, and lemme tell you, it’s an absolute blast! I did this on my first trip to Antigua, and if I had more time, I would have totally done it again. It’s the perfect way to get out of the city and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Guatemala.
Plus, how many of your friends can say they’ve been hiking on an active volcano?! Yup, you read that right – you’ll be hiking on an ACTIVE volcano.
Pacaya Volcano is located about 19 miles (30 km) southwest of Antigua and is one of the most active volcanoes in Central America. Thankfully, the volcano hike isn’t too strenuous, but it can be steep and rocky in some parts, so definitely wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water.
The hike usually takes around 1.5 to 2 hours (with the hardest portion being a 15-20 minute steady incline). You’ll be rewarded with some incredible views of the surrounding landscape. As you get closer to the top, you’ll be able to see steam rising from the volcanic vents, and you might even be able to feel the heat coming from the ground. Whoa! Something you don’t see every day!
And the best part? Roasting marshmallows over the hot volcanic rocks! How cool is that? Trust me; they taste amazing with a smoky flavor from the volcanic heat.
Since you can’t hike Volcano Pacaya independently (you need a certified guide with you at all times, because, ya know, it’s an active volcano and all…), it’s best to book a tour in advance. Here’s a few popular options:
- Pacaya Volcano Trek from Antigua: Your standard, run-of-the-mill Pacaya Volcano hike, with transfers and a guide included. Everything you need for a fun hike up the volcano!
- Pacaya Volcano Tour and Hot Springs with Lunch: Hike up the volcano and then relax in some thermal hot springs afterwards – the perfect way to soothe those aching muscles! One of my favorite things to do in Antigua!
- Small-Group Sunset Pacaya Volcano Tour from Antigua: My friends climbed up the volcano just before sunset – and their photos were absolutely beautiful. Plus, you get to stop for a freshly prepared picnic to enjoy along with views of nearby volcanoes Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango!
Of course, it’s important to be cautious – Pacaya Volcano is an active volcano afterall, and eruptions can occur at any time! But as long as you follow your guide’s instructions and stay within the designated safe areas, you’ll be just fine. Don’t forget to check the weather forecast (it can get quite chilly at the top), and bring appropriate clothing, sunscreen, and lots and lots of water.
Relax at Charming Cafes and Sip Guatemalan Coffee
Before visiting, I had over a dozen cafes and coffee shops in Antigua pinned on my map, and discovered even more by simply wandering around the city. Each one more charming than the last! Choosing which ones to hang out at was super hard! I absolutely loved the cafe culture – one of the most relaxing things to do in Antigua, Guatemala after a day of exploring/hiking.
I loved all the outdoor patios, lush gardens, and stunning views of the city’s colonial architecture. It’s not uncommon to see both locals and tourists spending hours sipping coffee, reading a book, or chatting with friends.
Guatemala has some of the best coffee in the world – why not try a few cups?! The climate and soil in Antigua are perfectly suited for growing coffee beans. Each cafe has their own special twist on how they brew and serve their coffee, so I highly urge you to visit a few coffee shops to compare!
A few popular spots:
- El Gran Cafe: Super aesthetically pleasing little shop, with baristas who are super passionate about their job. I picked up a bag of beans here!
- 12 Onzas: Another gorgeous spot, and they have a full brunch and lunch menu with super friendly staff. Really beautiful interior with turquoise tiles and a gorgeous back courtyard.
- Artista de Cafe: Great ambiance and great coffee! I unfortunately didn’t make it here, but it’s firmly planted on my list for next time!
- Cafe Cafe Guatemala: A trendy little spot with a full breakfast menu (I loved my rainbow smoothie bowl) and such great coffee drinks.
- Fat Cat Coffee House: One of the most popular coffee shops in all of Antigua, that’s always buzzing with energy. I loved this lively and vibrant space!
→ Read Next: My Favorite Coffee Shops and Cafes in Antigua!
Shop for Traditional Handicrafts
One of my favorite things to do in Antigua, Guatemala was to look around at all the artisan markets and shops – and there’s quite a few! With vendors selling BEAUTIFUL handmade textiles, ceramics, wood carvings, and other artisanal goods, I wanted to buy it all. Too bad my suitcase was already pretty stuffed. Thankfully I had room for a few special things!
Purchasing from these shops is a great way to support the local artisans, and bring a little piece of Guatemala home with you. The markets showcase the vibrant colors and patterns of Guatemalan culture, and no two items will be exactly the same.
Here were my favorite markets and local shops:
Mercado de Artesanias (Artisan Market): This is a popular market filled with stalls selling a wide variety of products, from textiles to leather goods, and it’s a great spot to bargain with local artisans for the best prices. Don’t miss the beautiful fountain in the middle!
As soon as we entered we were super overwhelmed, and we honestly didn’t even know where to start – we got lost in the maze of colorful stalls multiple times, whoops! Be prepared for the craziness!
One exciting find we came across was a second-hand clothing store located in the very, very far back of the market. It was interesting to see that they have these kinds shops just like we do!
Mercado de Artesanias El Carmen (Carmen Market): El Carmen is a lesser-known artisan market in Antigua, but definitely worth checking out. We actually liked this one much better than the Mercado de Artesanias, as it seemed much cleaner and easier to navigate. Plus, it was smaller, although we still kept getting lost, haha. It’s located near the ruins of Iglesia El Carmen, hence the name.
Once you step inside, you’ll find tons of items on sale, ranging from traditional Guatemalan textiles, pottery, jewelry, and other handcrafted souvenirs. The market is held indoors during the week, but takes place at the actual ruins on the weekends (something we unfortunately missed).
Nim Pot: I quickly browsed Nim Pot after heading to the arch around sunset one night, and loved all the beautiful handwoven scarves and colorful bags. Nim Pot is actually a retail store which specializes in textiles made by indigenous communities from all over Guatemala.
Just remember, since it’s a store (and not an artisan market), you can’t haggle for a cheaper price. Because of that I don’t recommend buying anything from here.
Ixcaco: Ixcaco is a smaller boutique shop known for their super high-quality (homemade) products. What I love about this shop is that they work directly with the artisans themselves.
I bought a beautiful handmade overnight bag here, and I can tell the craftsmanship is unlike anything I’ve ever purchased before – the quality of the bag is topnotch, the leather is super supple, and the stitchings are perfect and secure. It felt so great supporting a local and my bag is oh so beautiful.
They’ve got a much larger facility in Lake Atitlan (Casa Flor Ixcaco where you can see a weaving demonstration), but if you don’t have time to visit that location, the Ixcaco shop in Antigua works!
Take a Chocolate Making Class at ChocoMuseo
Guatemala is known for their chocolate, so what better way than to lean into this by making your own chocolate IN Guatemala itself?!
The chocolate making class at ChocoMuseo is an incredible experience, and was one of my favorite things to do in Antigua! We learned all about the history of chocolate and how it’s made, from the cacao tree to the final product. Our class was led by an expert chocolatier who guided us through the process step-by-step.
During the class, we got to taste different varieties of chocolate and learn about the different flavors and textures. Then we made our own chocolate from scratch (!!!) using traditional Mayan techniques. We roasted the cacao beans, then ground and tempered them, then finally added the toppings of our choice! Trust me, it’s way harder than it looks – I had a hard time grinding the beans into paste!
The class took about two hours, and at the end, we got to take home our own handmade chocolate. Book a class in advance as they do in fact sell out – they’re popular for a reason. I took home the most delicious bag of chocolates, plus some cacao tea (which I now drink on the regular). Reason enough to visit Antigua in my opinion!
Admire the Views at El Hato Verde
Up for a unique experience right outside of Antigua? Head on over to El Hato Verde – you get to hang out and relax in cool nets and tree houses overlooking the volcanoes! And it was super spectacular to say the least – I’ve never done anything like it in my life.
We had a perfect view of the lush, green countryside and it felt absolutely wild sitting/relaxing on the nets staring at the volcanoes in the distance. Wow! What an incredible view and place they have created. Such a special memory.
I heard you technically only get 15 minutes at the mirador, but we had it all to ourselves for what felt like a much longer time, haha. I think we were the only ones on the entire property so far that day. The perks of going first thing in the morning. 🙂
Getting to El Hato Verde is a tad confusing. You first need to call an Uber or taxi which will take you up the mountain to their parking area (or drive yourself), and then you’ll be greeted by El Hato Verde staff who take you up in golf carts to the viewpoints and restaurant. We didn’t know this at first so we were kinda confused!
El Hato Verde gets super mixed reviews as it’s kinda pricey. You need to pay Q115 per person just for admission, and then you’re required to spend a minimum of Q150 on top of that at the restaurant. Pretty expensive in my opinion, especially for Guatemala.
My friends and I had a mixed experience – while we LOVED the views at the mirador, relaxing on the nets, and sipping our coffees in the real-life tree house, the menu had absolutely no options for plant-based eaters. And they were out of the one thing I actually wanted to order, haha.
They thankfully waived our Q150 food fees once they realized they couldn’t accommodate us. At least they let us go without putting up a fight.
Try Antigua’s Foodie Scene
I was so surprised with just how much fantastic food we were able to find in Antigua. The city really is a food lover’s paradise, with a huge variety of dining options, from street food vendors to high-end restaurants, offering traditional and contemporary dishes.
This city has got it all – from mouth-watering traditional Guatemalan dishes to scrumptious international cuisine. Whether you’re in the mood for pepian (a hearty stew made with chicken or beef, vegetables, and a variety of spices), chiles rellenos (stuffed peppers usually filled with meat, cheese, and vegetables), or some cheesy pizza after a wild night out, Antigua’s got your back.
- Once Once: This completely vegan restaurant totally changed my perspective on plant-based food – everything was absolutely delicious and we wanted more of everything, haha. Such a cute space as well.
- Por Que No Cafe: Some of the best (and well-priced) steaks in Antigua; make sure to reserve a table in advance or you’ll be waiting all night (the place is tiny!). Great vibes – kinda resembles a southern speakeasy!
- Frida’s: This colorful and vibrant Mexican restaurant (themed after Frida Khalo!) has a range of delicious dishes, from classic tacos and guacamole to more unique options such as cactus salad and hibiscus enchiladas. We thrived on the lively atmosphere and colorful decor, and loved the downstairs bar.
- Los Tres Tiempos: I popped in here one evening to check out the colorful interior and upstairs terrace, and all the food looked SO GOOD. I’m so bummed I didn’t make it here for food myself – next time! The Pepian (kinda like the national dish of Guatemala) is super popular here.
Antigua, Guatemala is a popular destination for travelers who want to learn Spanish. The city is known for its Spanish language schools, which offer a range of courses and programs for students of all levels.
One of the benefits of learning Spanish in Antigua is the immersive environment. Since Spanish is the primary language spoken in the city, students have plenty of opportunities to practice their skills outside of the classroom.
Most language schools in Antigua offer a variety of course options, including intensive programs, group classes, and one-on-one instruction. Students can choose the program that best fits their needs and goals, whether that’s to improve their conversational skills, prepare for a Spanish-language exam, or simply gain a deeper understanding of the language and culture.
I’m dreaming about taking a Spanish-immersion class in Antigua one day – just need to find the time!
Hike to Hill Of The Cross (Cerro de la Cruz)
Looking for some of the best panoramic views in all of Antigua? Head on over to Cerro de la Cruz (also known as Hill of the Cross in English). From up here, you get a stunning panoramic view of Antigua, the surrounding mountains and volcanoes, and even the Antigua Guatemala Cathedral. There’s also several vendors selling snacks and souvenirs, plus a small chapel where you can light candles and offer prayers.
The trailhead is located just a few blocks from the main park in Antigua, and you can either walk or take a taxi to reach the start of the trail. To reach the top of the hill, you’ll need to walk up a semi-steep trail (only ½ mile out-and-back), taking about 20-30 minutes roundtrip. Don’t worry – there’s plenty of lookout points along the way if you get tired!
They’ve recently renovated and refurbished the entire viewpoint, making it much easier to access and way safer. Don’t miss the large white cross at the top of the hill, which serves as a popular photo spot and a symbol of the city’s religious heritage.
It’s especially popular at sunset when the sky is illuminated with hues of orange and pink, but any time of day is beautiful! I recommend hiking either early in the morning or late in the afternoon so you can avoid the heat of the day. Regardless, it’s best to go on a clear day so you can see both Agua and Fuego Volcanoes. Make sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen!
Enjoy a Farm to Table Lunch at Caoba Farms
If you’re a foodie like me, you’ve got to get yourself over to Caoba Farms. This special spot is a sustainable organic farm known for its delicious farm-to-table dining and DIY farm tour. We came here for breakfast one morning and absolutely LOVED our visit – our dishes used the freshest ingredients and the beautiful surroundings of the farm just made our visit even more exceptional!
The menu at Caoba Farms changes seasonally and is made entirely from the farm’s produce – yes, everything is grown right here! Kinda wild if you ask me. The chocolate cake is even made with cacao grown on the farm. Doesn’t get fresher than that!
We loved wandering around the farm, admiring all the colorful flowers, leafy green plants, and plenty of crops, including fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Plus, those tiny piglets were oh so cute!
Do note that Caoba Farms is located just outside of the city center of Antigua. We walked there (only about a 20 minute walk or so), but you can also take a tuk-tuk or quick taxi/Uber ride.
Sip on Cocktails at Ulew
Mmm… Ulew. A spot I don’t think I ever could forget. I absolutely loved this place – the vibe, the atmosphere, the wacky decor, the bartenders, and of course the drinks. It’s by far the best speakeasy in all of Antigua, and I could have come here every single night of my trip.
Even entering the bar is super fun – it’s kinda hidden, in the basement of Antigua Brewing Company, and you’ll need to enter through a secret phone booth. It honestly feels like you’re in a cave instead of a fancy cocktail lounge with its exposed brick walls and dark wooden interiors. And totally belongs in a hip major city like New York or Mexico City.
Since there’s no official menu, the mixologists will ask you what kinda drink you’re in the mood for (spirit, flavor, taste, etc) and prepare a drink special just for you. The cocktails are some of the most creative and innovative I’ve ever seen, all made using high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients. Mixology masters!
And the presentation was second to none – with snow globe coasters, edible flowers, giant goblets, and silly shaped glasses. Understandably the drinks are kinda pricey (about 75-150Q each), but well worth it in my opinion. Easily one of the coolest cocktail bars I’ve ever been to.
Come on the earlier side (they’re open from 4-11pm) because this place gets busy!
If you’re down to experience Antigua’s nightlife, sign up for an Antigua bar crawl. You’ll meet loads of fun people and get to try a whole bunch of bars in the city!
Go Rooftop Terrace Hopping
Oh boy, if you’re looking to witness some breathtaking views of Antigua, then you absolutely need to check out one of the city’s many rooftops! Trust me, there’s no better way to soak up the beauty of this charming colonial city than by grabbing a drink or a bite to eat while taking in the stunning views from above.
And let’s talk about those views for a minute. You’ll be able to gaze out at the city’s fascinating ruins, and on a clear day, you can even catch a glimpse of the volcanoes that tower over Antigua. And here’s the real kicker – if you’re lucky, you might just see Fuego, one of those magnificent volcanoes, erupting right before your eyes! It’s seriously powerful stuff.
Here’s a few fantastic rooftops to check out:
- Antigua Brewing Company: Looking for a craft brewery with a volcano view?! Look no further than Antigua Brewing Company. We came up here one night before sunset and had such a great time hanging out and sipping on our drinks. Get a flight to sample a few beers – brewed in house!
- Cafe Sky: Easily the most popular rooftop in the city, and a busy spot for breakfast and brunch. From here you can see Volcan Fuego go off – absolutely mesmerizing (!!!), plus the other two volcanoes near the city.
- Rooftop Antigua: Such a lovely space with views of the ruins and volcanoes. Service can be a bit slow, and there’s not a ton on the menu, but the views are great and the coffee is good.
Admire the Courtyards at Starbucks, Taco Bell, and McDonalds
Haha, what?! Sounds kinda random, right? Now, I know what you’re thinking — why would I ever recommend visiting a Taco Bell, McDonald’s, or Starbucks as one of the best things to do in Antigua?
But hear me out — I promise these aren’t just any old fast-food chains with your typical boring interiors and such. They’ve got some of the most beautiful courtyards you’ll ever lay your eyes on. Easily the most beautiful Starbucks, Taco Bell, and McDonalds in the world
My favorite was the courtyard at Starbucks – it’s surrounded by beautiful colonial architecture, and has a gorgeous fountain in the center. The seating area looked so cozy and welcoming, decorated with traditional Guatemalan textiles and colorful artwork. I couldn’t stop taking photos!
The courtyards are hella impressive, and the most beautiful I’ve seen – ever. Wander in yourself and you’ll see what I mean! It’s a great spot to relax and recharge after a day of exploring the city’s historic landmarks and charming streets.
Shop at Mercado Central
Have you heard about Antigua’s Central Market, aka Mercado Central? It’s seriously the ultimate spot for experiencing local life and getting a taste of the vibrant culture. This large open air market is jam-packed with all sorts of vendors selling EVERYTHING under the sun — fresh produce and meats, flowers, spices, electronics, clothes, and tons more!
I won’t lie, it was a bit overwhelming to navigate since it’s so huge, but trust me, it’s worth it! If you’re looking for an authentic Antiguan experience and want to catch a glimpse into daily life, this market should be at the top of your list of things to do. I was absolutely fascinated by it all!
While the market is open everyday from 8am to 5pm, it gets much busier on Market Days – Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Take an ATV Tour
Looking for something extra adventurous and wanna explore the countryside and mountain towns around Antigua? Book yourself on a thrilling ATV ride! I wanted to take an ATV tour of Antigua and its surroundings so badly, but just couldn’t find the time! My friend Matt signed up and loved it – next time for me.
There’s a few to choose from, but these three sound the most epic:
ATV Sunset Tour: If you wanna journey up into the mountains to get the best view for sunset, this is your best option. This guided ATV tour starts at El Cerro de la Cruz, heads to a local eco-lodge and avocado plantation in a little village in the mountains, and finally to Hobbitenango for sunset! Such a wonderful way to spend a few hours up in the mountains!
Antigua ATV Mountain Tour: Tour around the outskirts of Antigua on an ATV, motorcycle, or scooter – you pick your ride! You’ll visit the mountains around Antigua, a local Mayan village, the famous El Cerro de la Cruz viewpoint, an organic farm, and of course the Hobbitenango eco-park.
You’ll also get to visit a popular chocolate factory called Chocolateria Antigua, and get to watch part of their chocolate making process (and of course taste some chocolate).
Antigua ATV Villages Tour: Experience Antigua’s surrounding areas by motorcycle, scooter, or ATV. This half-day tour takes you to several villages on the outskirts of Antigua, including Ciudad Vieja, Guatemala’s first capital.
Visit a textile market and an indigenous village at the foot of the Agua Volcano. Enjoy a short hike, hammock time, and panoramic views from a lookout point over Antigua.
Acatenango Volcano Hike
The Acatenango volcano hike is one of the best hikes in all of Central America – I mean, you get to SEE LAVA SPEWING FROM A NEARBY VOLCANO – up close from the summit of another volcano. Absolutely wild!
There’s no other place on earth quite like Acatenango. It sits at 3,976m next to a super active volcano, and overlooks another 8 stratovolcanoes, lakes, and ocean on the horizon. Pretty epic if you ask me.
Climbing Acatenango is by far the most strenuous thing to do in Antigua, but one of the most rewarding. I swear, this hike is no joke – there’s a reason I didn’t do it, haha. The hike involves trekking up the Acatenango volcano, which takes about 6-8 hours to complete and is considered a moderate to strenuous climb. But trust me, the views along the way are totally worth it! You start the journey from the base of the volcano and ascend through various terrains, including forests and volcanic ash.
Once at the summit, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the nearby volcanoes and valleys, as well as the opportunity to witness Fuego’s eruptions from a safe distance. Camping overnight on the volcano is a unique experience, with stunning sunset and sunrise views, and an opportunity to stargaze in the clear night sky.
The hike requires a reasonable level of fitness, and it’s advisable to come prepared with sturdy hiking boots, warm clothing, a flashlight, and enough food and water. The hike is typically organized by local tour operators and includes a guide to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
While I chose to skip the famous Acatenango Overnight Hike (I simply didn’t have enough time and I was a bit worried about my lack of fitness… I’m definitely not a hiker), so many of my friends have climbed and said it was one of the best experiences in their lives. Perhaps I’ll do it in the future… maybe.
Easily one of the best things to do in Antigua, Guatemala if you’re looking for phenomenal volcano views and don’t mind working up a sweat! Most of my friends climbed up Acatenango with the company Wicho and Charlies, but check out other companies like Tours & Activities SA (great reviews) and OX Expeditions (more great reviews) if Wicho and Charlies is already sold out (which it does, and fast!).
Secure your spot early – a few friends I met in Flores almost completely missed out because they waited so long to book.
Stuff Yourself Silly on a Food Tour
Antigua is a beautiful city that’s famous for its rich history and colonial architecture, but also its delicious cuisine! If you consider yourself a foodie, I highly recommend signing up for a food tour in Antigua – you’ll get to taste everything from tamales and pupusas to fresh fruit juices and local coffee! Plus, in a small town with over 300 restaurants, it’s hard to know which ones to try!
Antigua Foodie Tour: Dine your way through the town of Antigua, known for its local take on baroque architecture, complete with cobblestoned streets, with this small-group food tour. You’ll visit a variety of restaurants, tasting around 10 different items (including dessert!) as your guide introduces you to Antigua’s culinary scene and the chefs and restaurant owners behind it.
Expect hidden rooftop bars, amazing courtyard spots, hole in the wall gems, and a whole lotta food! Make sure you book early because this tour does sell out quickly.
Antigua Evening Street Food Tour: Did someone say authentic Guatemalan street food?! Whenever I try street food, I’m always a little wary of cleanliness and safety. That’s why I prefer to go with a local who knows exactly where all the best (and safe) spots are!
On this street food tour, you’ll taste chalupas, chocolates, búfalos, shucos, and more from favorite stands and tiny ‘comedores’ in the towns surrounding Antigua. 10/10 a great way to spend an evening!
Take a Guatemalan Cooking Class
Antigua’s an amazing place to explore and learn about Guatemalan culture and cuisine. And one of the best ways to do that is by taking a cooking class! There’s several great options for cooking classes in Antigua that specialize in Guatemalan cuisine.
During these classes, you’ll get hands-on experience preparing traditional Guatemalan dishes like chiles rellenos (stuffed chiles), pepián (meat stew), and tamales. You’ll learn about the unique ingredients and cooking techniques used in Guatemalan cuisine, and get to taste your creations at the end of the class.
Most cooking classes take place in small groups, giving you plenty of opportunities to ask questions and get personalized guidance from the instructor. And many classes even include a visit to the local market to learn about the different ingredients used in Guatemalan cooking.
This tour visits a market to buy local ingredients which you’ll use to prepare the dishes, while this cooking class takes place on a rooftop overlooking the volcanoes. Both got great reviews and allows you to learn how to cook traditional Guatemalan dishes from a local chef.
Carve a beautiful piece of Jade
Ever thought about carving some jade?! Jade is the national gemstone in Guatemala, so it’s only fitting to include this activity on this long list of fun things to do in Antigua!
Jade has been highly prized in Guatemala for centuries, and it holds a special significance in Mayan culture. The Mayans believed that jade had spiritual powers and that it symbolized life, fertility, and power. It was often used in religious ceremonies and was reserved for the elite and royalty. Beyond its cultural significance, jade is also valued for its durability and beauty.
So why not take a little piece of Guatemala home with you? Take a 2-hour jade workshop to learn all about the ancestral art of designing jade, and then carve your own piece! It’s one of the most creative things to do in Antigua, Guatemala. I wish I had bought a small jade necklace or bracelet like my friend did at Hobbitenango.
Antigua Coffee Tour
Taking a coffee tour in Antigua, Guatemala is a must-do activity for coffee lovers and those interested in learning more about the coffee industry. Antigua is known for producing some of the finest coffee in the world, and the region’s unique climate and fertile soil make it an ideal place for growing coffee beans.
On a coffee tour, you’ll have the opportunity to visit coffee farms and learn about the different stages of coffee production, from the planting and harvesting of the beans to the roasting and brewing process. You’ll get to see how the beans are processed and learn about the various factors that can affect the taste of the coffee.
In addition to learning about the production process, you’ll also have the opportunity to taste some of the delicious coffee that is produced in the region. You’ll be able to sample different varieties of coffee and learn about the unique flavors and characteristics of each one.
There’s quite a few tours to pick from, but not all are created equal.
- Coffee Culture Full-Day Tour from Antigua: Not only will you tour a coffee plantation and taste some of the finest coffee in the world, but you’ll also walk around Antigua with a local, learning all about Guatemala’s rich culture. Kinda like two tours in one!
- Sip N Cycle Half-Day Bike Ride and Coffee Tour: Cycle the backroads from Antigua to the best coffee farm in the valley! You’ll see the coffee plantation, and learn all about the entire process from picking to packaging. And of course sample a whole bunch of different varieties and blends of coffee.
- Antigua ATV Coffee Tour: Caffeine and adrenaline in one tour – what could be better?! Ride an ATV to a local coffee plantation, where you’ll discover the entire coffee making process from seed to mug. Definitely one of the most exciting things to do in Antigua.
Day Trip to Chichicastenango Market
Chichicastenango Market (or commonly known as Chichi) is the largest and most colorful outdoor market in all of Latin America. If you’re looking for some culture, this is the place to be! While Chichicastenango is quite far from Antigua (about 2 ½ hours away), a day trip is totally possible.
I highly recommend booking yourself on a guided tour to Chichicastenango with a local guide – they’ll be able to get you there easily and you’ll probably even have time for a quick visit to Lake Atitlan (another of my favorite areas in Guatemala!).
Make sure to visit on famous market days – Thursdays and Sundays. Vendors sell everything under the sun (figuratively and literally), including (but not limited to) candles, handicrafts, food, spices, masks, pottery, medicinal plants, machetes, pigs, chickens, and baby kittens. Yes, you read that right. Nothing will surprise you after walking through the market a few times.
It honestly doesn’t get more authentic than this! Visiting Chichicastenango was one of the craziest days of my life — so, so, so hectic! Visit the indoor produce market too and watch the interactions from above.
Tip: Protect your belongings here, as pickpocketing can occur if you aren’t careful. Another reason why I suggest going with a local guide.
Day Trip to Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan is full of natural beauty, surrounded by lush green hills and VOLCANOES – makes sense that it’s considered one of the most scenic destinations in the entire country. I visited for 3 days and wished I had at least a week!
While I honestly don’t think one day is enough to really experience all the cultural richness and downright beauty of Lake Atitlan, if that’s all you’ve got time for, I highly recommend going. You can always plan for longer next time!
From Antigua, you can take a shuttle, private car, or organized day trip to the lake, which is about a two-hour drive away. Once you arrive, there’s a whole slew of activities you can do, such as kayaking, swimming, or simply relaxing on the lakeshore and taking in the stunning views.
Do yourself a favor and book a guided tour to Lake Atitlan – leave the stress behind. A one day tour allows you to see the highlights of Lake Atitlan without the hassle of planning your own transportation, accommodation, or activities. Plus, you can benefit from the expertise and knowledge of a local guide, and really make the most of your day.
With only a day (including the drive from Antigua), you definitely won’t be able to visit all the different towns in Lake Atitlan. In reality, you’ll really only have time to visit one village along the lake, at most two. Most tours visit Panajachel, or Pana for short. Some tours even make a quick visit to Chichicastenango, one of the largest markets in Central America.
Day Trip to Tikal, Guatemala
Dying to see the impressive ruins of Tikal National Park right outside Flores, Guatemala, but don’t have much time?! You’ll be glad to know you can actually see them as a day trip from Antigua. Yes, it’ll be a long and very tiring day, but hey, if that’s all the time you’ve got – better make the most of it!
I recently visited Tikal when I was in Flores, and found it absolutely breathtaking. Makes sense, since Tikal is one of the largest and most impressive Mayan archaeological sites in the world, located right in the heart of the Guatemalan jungle.
Although it’s a long and exhausting 12 hour drive north to Tikal from Antigua, thankfully, there’s flights available! It’s only about a 1.5-hour flight from Antigua, and once you arrive, you’ll be transported back in time to this ancient Mayan civilization.
Tikal is absolutely enormous, and you can spend hours exploring the temples, plazas, and other ruins that date back to over a thousand years ago. One of the most iconic structures is the Temple of the Giant Jaguar, which towers over the jungle and offers stunning views from the top. I also checked out the Major Plaza, surrounded by impressive buildings such as Temples I and II.
But Tikal isn’t just about the history – it’s also a nature lover’s paradise! The surrounding jungle is home to a variety of wildlife, including howler monkeys, toucans, and colorful parrots (I saw a whole bunch!). You might even catch a glimpse of a jaguar or a puma if you’re lucky.
You’ll 100% want to sign up for an organized tour; it’s just too tricky trying to DIY it (there’s a lot of moving parts and you don’t wanna miss your flight).
While the tour is expensive (at over $400) and starts super early (around 4am), it includes all transfers, roundtrip flights from La Aurora International Airport to Mundo Maya Airport by TAG Airlines, entrance and a guide in Tikal, and even a traditional Guatemalan lunch. Read (raving) reviews) and sign up for a day trip from Antigua to Tikal here.
Don’t forget to bring comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen, and insect repellent, as the jungle can get hot and buggy.
Hope this gives you plenty of ideas and fun things to do in Antigua, Guatemala! Go now before this place gets overly discovered…!
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