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If you’ve landed on this blog post, the charming city of Antigua has probably peaked your interested. The first thing to get clear here, is that this article is about Antigua, Guatemala, not to be confused with the island of Antigua in the Caribbean. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s dive into what makes this city so special with all of the best things to do in Antigua Guatemala!
The contrast between the Spanish-Baroque architecture in the town and the volcanos circling the city is one that you don’t want to miss. Fun fact: Antigua was actually once the capital of Guatemala, but it was moved to Guatemala City after an eruption destroyed the city below.
Antigua Guatemala has an adventure for everyone, whether you want to hike the nearby volcanoes or learn about Guatemala’s coffee history. I have visited this charming city 3 times over the years, and am excited to share it with all of you. This guide will cover all of the best things to do in Antigua, Guatemala to add to your travel itinerary.
Best Time to Visit Antigua Guatemala
While there isn’t necessarily a bad time to visit Guatemala, with mild temperatures all year round, there are distinct wet and dry seasons.
The high season is from November to February, when the weather is typically the driest. This is the best time to visit if you’re planning a lot of outdoor adventures while in Antigua, and the surrounding areas.
March and April are typically still dry, but the temperatures in the city can get quite hot.
In May the rainy, wet season in Antigua starts, and lasts until November.
Additionally, Antigua hosts one of the biggest Easter celebrations in the world. While prices are a bit higher during this time, it is an incredible time to experience in the city. I was in Antigua during this time once and have the fondest memories of the celebrations and decorations.
How to Get to Antigua Guatemala
The most popular way to get to Antigua is by flying into La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City. From there airport there are a number of ways to reach Antigua, which is located 40 km from the airport.
The most popular options include a shared shuttle bus, an Uber, or a private car. You can book a private car through Viator here. If you are planning to arrive late at night, I recommend taking a private car. We booked ours directly through our hotel, Casa Jardin, which was definitely more an expensive than usual but for $40USD it felt like the safest way to travel in the middle of the night.
I would try to avoid traveling between Antigua and Guatemala City during rush hour, as traffic can be really really bad.
If you’re traveling to Antigua from other parts of the country, there is a rather extensive network of tourist shuttles in place to get your from point A to point B. We booked a shuttle from Panajachel directly back to the airport with Magic Travel and had a great experience. The shuttle was direct and tickets cost 190Q ($25). You can find the office right on the main street in Panajachel.
Best Things to do in Antigua Guatemala
Spend a Relaxing night at Earth Lodge – an avocado farm in the mountains
Just a 20 minute drive from Antigua, just outside of the town of El Hato, you’ll find the Earth Lodge.
My visit to Earth Lodge was one of the highlights of my entire trip to Guatemala. I was meant to be hiking Acatenango with my friends, but unfortunately due to a foot injury, hiking wasn’t in the cards for me.
Instead, I booked a night in one of the treehouses at Earth Lodge and spent the night overlooking the incredible volcanoes in the distance. I stayed at Casa de Agua, but if it is available, I recommend snagging a night at La Casa del Encino or the Famous Treehouse for the best views. But don’t worry, all of the views from the public areas are unreal!
The food at Earth Lodge is delicious. There is an organic avocado farm on the property, so cleary anything with avocado is a win. Some of my favorite items on the menu are the pesto grilled cheese with avocado and the veggie burger. But definitely don’t pass on the hot chocolate.
Getting to Earth Lodge
It takes about 20 minutes to reach Earth Lodge from the center of Antigua by car, as it is located just outside the town of El Hato. I arrived by Uber and it was super simple. Shouldn’t cost you more than 40Q each way. You can also book a private transfer directly from Guatemala City airport. It is worth a visit just for lunch and some time in the sun, but if you have the opportunity to spend the night, I absolutely recommend it. I could have spent a full week hanging out here!
Note: you will need to walk about 15-20 minutes down a dirt path to reach the lodge from the parking lot. I recommend not bringing heavy bags (or carry a backpack if possible) and definitely wear sturdy shoes.
Visit the Picturesque Famous Yellow Arch of Santa Catarina
The famous yellow arch of Santa Catarina in the middle of town is easily one of the most picturesque spots in Antigua. With its colorful yellow hue, and the volcanoes looming in the background, it’s hard to get a bad picture here. This also means that it is one of the busiest spots to visit within the small city center of Antigua.
In order to enjoy this spot without the crowds, I recommend arriving at sunrise. This will not only help you to avoid the crowds, but also to capture some stunning morning light over the peak of Volcano Agua in the distance.
Do the Overnight Hike to Acatenango and Fuego Volcanoes (one of the best things to do in Antigua Guatemala!)
One of the most popular adventure-activities around Antigua is the overnight hike to Acatenango and Fuego.
I did this hike for the first time when I was 18, and recently booked a trip back to Guatemala after 10 years to do the hike again. To date it was the most challenging hike that I’ve ever done, and I was excited to tackle it again – now in much better physical shape. Unfortunately, a foot injury had other plans for me and I wasn’t able to join the hike. Luckily, my friends were still able to hike – and provide any updates on this magical experience for me. And you can best bet that I will be back reaaaal soon to hike it again myself.
Volcan Fuego is a very active volcano, so hiking here offers the super unique opportunity to see these eruptions up close, in a relatively safe way. The last major eruption was in 2018, and unfortunately a number of people were killed in the event.
If you are limited on time or not looking for such a challenging hike, you might what to consider the hike to Pacaya Volcano instead. This is a day hike, and significantly less physically challenging.
Roast Marshmallows on Pacaya Volcano
If you’re like me, you love a good toasted marshmallow – not burnt but that perfect golden toasty hue. Well if your feelings about marshmallows are anything like mine, imagine the thrill of toasting one over a crater on an active volcano. YES, that is really an experience that you can have in Guatemala, and it is easily one of the best things to do in Antigua Guatemala.
Unlike the overnight hike to Acatenango (and Fuego), the hike to Pacaya is just about 2 hours, depending on your level of fitness. The drive to the volcano is about an hour and a half, and is usually reached by booking a tour. It is required to have a guide with you, so organizing a tour from Antigua is typically the easiest way to visit Pacaya. While the views aren’t quite as impressive, it is still a wonderful experience. If you have the time, I’d recommend doing both hikes as they are quite different!
If you are planning on doing any of the hikes in this guide while visiting Antigua, I highly recommend booking travel insurance through World Nomads. This will ensure that you are covered in the event that any issues arrive during your travels.
Enjoy Lunch on an Organic Farm at Caoba Farms Restaurant
Our lunch at Caoba Farms Restaurant was hands down one of our favorite meals in Antigua, and a visit here is easily one of the best things to do in Antigua Guatemala. Located on the outskirts of town, you can reach the farm within 20 minutes by foot from the Parque Central, or grab an Uber for about 20Q.
There is a full farm on the property, that you can actually walk around explore. All of the menu items are super fresh, living up to the definition of farm-to-table. I definitely recommend ordering a fresh smoothie as well.
On site you can find a market with tons of local products, as well as a number of events such as weekly yoga sessions and a weekend farmers market. We were heading to our Airbnb on Lake Atitlan straight from our lunch at Caoba Farms, so we stocked up on local produce, oats, cocoa, and of course, wine.
The restaurant is only open Thursday through Sunday and gets extremely busy, so I recommend call ahead to make a reservation.
Have a Cocktail at a Speakeasy (Ulew Cocktail Bar)
Without a doubt, a night out at Ulew Cocktail Bar is a must if you enjoy craft cocktails. This speakeasy is located within Antigua Brewing Company. When you enter the brewery, step inside the red telephone booth on the left hand side to find the bar.
Ulew doesn’t have a menu, but instead you tell the bartender the liquors and flavor profiles that you like, and he will create a custom cocktail for you. From smoking our drinks to displaying them on elaborate plates, these cocktails are true masterpieces, plus they are super tasty. Cocktails are typically around 70-80Q a drink, but well worth the price!
Experience the Tiny Dining Experience at Por Que No?
This is by far one of the best things to do in Antigua Guatemala in my opinion! The space is super super small, so I recommend making a reservation or arriving right when they open. We were lucky enough to snag the last available table right when they opened. Between the writing covering the walls, the large instruments hanging from the ceiling, and the ladder you need to climb to reach your table, it is definitely a vibe.
Do yourself a favor and order the shrimp with curry. Portions aren’t huge but the food is truly delicious. The brownie a la mode is a great choice for dessert as well.
Watch the Sunset from Cerro de la Cruz
The hike to Cerro de la Cruz is an easy one, as it can be reached from the town on foot in just about 25-30 minutes. You also have the option of taking a tuk-tuk up, which I had to go on my recent trip when uphill walking was too difficult for my foot injury.
The name translates to “Hill of the Cross,” which quite literally what you can expect to find here. I recommend hiking up here just before sunset and watching the sun set over the city below.
Check out a Rooftop with Volcano Views
One of the best parts of visiting Antigua is enjoying its unique proximity to a number of active (or semo-active) volcanoes. If you’re looking to enjoy the views from the heart of the city, there are a ton of great rooftops to do just that. Here are two of my favorites:
- Cafe Estudio – a cafe in the center of town serving up breakfast and lunch. Head up to the terrace to enjoy 360 degree views of the city and surrounding volcanoes. I visited during midday during the week and enjoyed a Nutella crepe with the terrace completely to myself!
- Antigua Brewing Company – a place where you can snag a craft beer or cider AND get epic volcano views? Sign me up! Antigua Brewing Company is the perfect sunset rooftop for drinks and some food. Once the sun is down, head downstairs to Ulew Speakeasy to continue the night of drinking.
Shop for Souvenirs at the Local Market
If you love Antigua as much as I do, you’ll almost certainly want to pick up some souvenirs to remember your trip. Luckily, there are a number of local markets where you can find local artisan goods. There are a number of markets sprinkled through the city, but you’ll find a great local market that spans two or three blocks on the western end of town off Avenida de Santa Lucia
Pro tip: Head to the local supermarket in a new city to pick up souvenirs. Antigua has an awesome supermarket where you can find some great local hot cocoa and coffee to bring home, that is a fraction of what you’ll find at markets catered to tourists.
Take a Spanish Class
Antigua is the perfect little city for perfecting (or simply brushing up) on your Spanish. In fact, when I first visited Guate 10 years ago, I was taking daily private Spanish lessons. You can find a number of schools in Antigua that offer both group and private lessons. Lessons tend to be at a very affordable rate.
While you’re at it – maybe look into a free salsa class where you can practice both your language and your dance moves.
Make a Stop at the Chocolate Museum
You’ll figure out pretty quickly when arriving in Antigua that chocolate (and coffee) are the stars of the show. If you are looking for a fun, informative activity, head to the Chocolate Museum (ChocoMuseo). You can get a free tour to learn about the production process, or pay for a more interactive class. Click here for a good option for a more interactive lessons for chocolate making.
If you are tight on time, just stop by for a warm cup of hot cocoa. It definitely doesn’t disappoint!
Tour a Local Coffee Farm
Similar to chocolate, coffee production in Guatemala is huge. While I am personally not a coffee drinker, I understand that most of the world is! In Antigua you have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the coffee production process, and actually visit the areas where the coffee is made!
You’ll find tons of options for booking tours once you arrive in Antigua, so it is not necessary to book ahead. However, if you prefer to have everything booked ahead of time, here is a good options with Viator!
Take a Yoga Class
Yoga is extremely popular in Guatemala, especially amongst the expat and traveler community. You’ll find plenty of yoga options if you’re heading to the lake next, but there is no shortage of studios in Antigua either.
Shakti Shala is easily one of the most popular, and most established, yoga studios in Antigua.
Hobbitenango is a themed eco-resort with a accomodations and a restaurant on-site. Admittedly, I never made it to Hobitengano myself. I originally wasn’t super interested, as I’ve never seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies. However, I hear it is absolutely worth it for the views. Plus, we can all agree that I photo in the giant hand is absolutely epic.
The entrance ticket costs 50Q ($6.50 USD) and includes access to all of the view points, unlimited games, and a cold drink.
If you are visiting Earth Lodge, I recommend combining a visit, as they are located in the same direction outside of the city. You can easily hire a driver to bring you for a visit.
Head to Lake Atitlan
Many people add a “day trip to Lake Atitlan” to their list of the best things to do in Antigua. While it is definitely possible to get to the lake and back, you’re missing out on so much of the magic if you don’t spend at least one night. Ideally, I recommend spending at least 3-4 nights exploring Lake Atitlan. This should include spending time in multiple different towns around the lake.
Where to Stay in Antigua
Budget: There are a number of hostels in Antigua if you are traveling on a budget. For anyone traveling solo, hostels are a great way to meet fellow travelers. I have heard great things about Tropicana Hostel and Selina Hostel. Selina is a bit pricier for a hostel, but they have an amazing co-working space. The space is also available to non-guests, which is great for anyone traveling and working remote and in need of fast, reliable internet connection.
Mid-Range: Casa Jardin – We spent 3 nights in a triple room at Casa Jardin and it was perfect. It was centrally located, with all of the main attractions just a short walk away. The hotel was clean, the common space was beautiful, and the staff was just lovely. The nightly room rate included a free, large breakfast each day which is served on the open layout terrace. We were the only ones staying here our first 2 nights, and it served as the perfect WFH office for us. Click here for current rates at Casa Jardin.
Luxury: There are a number of luxury hotel options in Antigua, but two of the most popular ones are Porta Hotel and Hotel Casa Santo Domingo. These both offer delicious breakfasts, volcano views, and a pool – perfect if you’re visiting during the hotter months. I recommend visiting Hotel Casa Santo Domingo even if you are not staying there – as it is truly a gorgeous property to explore.
Best Restaurants in Antigua Guatemala
There are so many great restaurants to check out in Antigua Guatemala! Whether you are looking for local Guatemalan food or restaurants for your vegetarian or vegan diet, you’ll find it all in Antigua!
I have a full article dedicated to my favorites, but here is a list of a few of the best restaurants in Antigua Guatemala:
- Por Que No?
- Restaurant at Earth Lodge
- Caoba Farms Restaurant
- Cafe Estudio
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