Antigua often becomes travellers’ favourite place in Guatemala. Not many cities in the world are surrounded in all directions by volcanoes, including one that is constantly erupting (don’t worry, it’s safe).
Wherever you are in this stunning colonial town, the view is mesmerising.
The cobblestone streets, tree-lined plazas and colourful buildings tempt visitors to stay longer than they originally intended. The city is so spectacular, it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
Or maybe it’s because people need more time to recover from the unforgettable hike — climbing the famous Acatenango Volcano.
If you’re visiting Antigua soon, you’ve come to the right place. After reading this guide, you’ll know which area to stay in, where to find the best restaurants, how to get around and the top things to do in this historic city in Guatemala.
Is Antigua, Guatemala worth visiting?
The Acatenango trek involves hiking up a 4,000m-high volcano to watch the volcano directly opposite erupt.
Whilst this is most people’s highlight of Antigua and even Guatemala, there are still plenty of other things to do in Antigua. You can visit the Hobbit village nearby, explore local markets, take Spanish classes or visit one of the most beautiful McDonald’s in the world.
Whatever you plan to do, Antigua is a must-visit in Guatemala!
How long should you spend in Antigua?
There isn’t a definite answer for the perfect amount of time in Antigua. Being a very livable city, Antigua makes a perfect base for working, relaxing or taking Spanish lessons.
A lot of people visit Antigua for the Acatenango hike which takes two days.
We recommend staying in Antigua for a minimum of five days. This gives you enough time to prep for and recover from the hike, plus see what else the town itself has to offer.
Where to stay in Antigua
Antigua isn’t a big city, which luckily means there aren’t several different neighbourhoods to choose between when it comes to where you should stay.
The closer to the centre of Antigua you are, the closer you are to all of the main amenities — restaurants, bars, markets, and supermarkets.
Even if you’re a bit further out, it really doesn’t matter. Most places that you’ll need will be within 20 minutes of walking.
We recommend deciding where to stay based on your favourite accommodation.
Accommodation in Antigua
There are a variety of accommodation options in Antigua, ranging from Airbnb, hotels, homestays to hostels.
Our favourite hotel in Antigua is Ojala. The modern interior and light rooms create an undeniably relaxing atmosphere. There is also the choice of both dorm and private rooms.
Private rooms in Antigua start from around $15 per night.
Best restaurants in Antigua
Antigua is a popular city amongst travellers in Guatemala, meaning that restaurants try to cater to all tastes from around the world.
Fancy Indian, vegan, Italian, Guatemalan, American or Japanese? You can find it in Antigua!
With a lot of restaurants to choose from, here are our 3 favourites places to eat:
Por Qué No? Cafe — potentially the best food in Antigua
Dishes in Por Qué No? Cafe are so beautifully presented that you won’t want to eat them. Trust us, though, it’s worth destroying the lovely presentation for the food’s incredible taste.
The dishes are always cooked to perfection and the service is impeccable. You’ll probably end up eating here a few times whilst in Antigua. The restaurant is pretty small, so you’ll need to make a reservation.
Santa Rosa Burger Club — a great spot for a delicious burger
A no-frills restaurant, Santa Rosa Burger Club is simply a cheap place to get a huge, melt-in-your-mouth delicious burger.
They have 16 different types of burgers, plus a ton of extras. You can also get chicken wings, salad and a range of sides, like nachos and soups. A perfect spot to make up for all those calories you burned going up Acatenango.
La Bruja — a vegan restaurant with a beautiful garden
La Bruja is a vegan restaurant situated in a beautiful garden in the centre of Antigua. The courtyard is the ideal place to indulge in some delicious plant-based food, such as burgers, wraps, sandwiches, empanadas and much more.
The service is fast and friendly. Plus, all of the ingredients are locally sourced, ensuring that everything is delicious and fresh.
How to get around in Antigua
Getting around Antigua is a breeze. Not only can you walk in most places, but it’s also a stunning place to wander around.
Here are the best ways to get around Antigua:
Good news: most places in Antigua can be reached by foot. The colonial streets are beautiful and some are pedestrian-only, so walking here is very enjoyable.
If it’s late at night, or you just don’t fancy walking, you can use a taxi or a tuk-tuk to get around Antigua. Typically, a journey in the city centre costs about Q10, but it depends on your haggling skill.
Tuk-tuks are normally cheaper than taxis.
Uber is also available in Antigua. Getting an Uber can often be quicker and easier than taking a normal taxi.
How to get to Antigua
|Leaving from||Duration||Prices from||See details|
|San Cristobal||12 hours||From 1,560 MXN ($91.00)||San Cristobal de las Casas to Antigua|
Top 21 things to do in Antigua
Get your bucket list ready. In this guide, we’ll show you the best things to do in Antigua and how to experience them.
Top tours in and around Antigua, Guatemala
- Unforgettable 2-day Acatenango hike for $89
- Day of hiking at Pacaya volcano for $23
- Private walking tour of Antigua for $21
#1 Hike the incredible Acatenango volcano
Acatenango volcano is likely to be one of the first must-see places in Guatemala you’ll hear about.
It’s easy to see why! Not many people can say that they’ve climbed a 4,000m volcano and then watched another volcano magnificently erupt right in front of them.
Hiking Acatenango volcano
The Acatenango volcano hike takes two days — one day going up, one day coming down. This means that you get to camp near the top of Acatenango and admire the Fuego volcano in its full glory at night.
It feels surreal to be drinking hot chocolate whilst lava, rocks and ash are exploding from the volcano right in front of you.
The adventure begins at 2,400m. You then spend the next 5-6 hours tackling the steep sides of the Acatenango volcano.
We’re going to be honest: it’s a challenging hike due to the incline and altitude. But it’s likely to be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do!
You take lots of breaks along the way (sometimes every 10m to catch your breath) and you’ll have a longer lunch break.
I highly recommend having hiking poles. If you don’t have any, then keep an eye out for the women selling walking sticks that they’ve carved themselves. They are normally waiting around the start of the hike.
Once you reach your campsite for the night, you’ll watch an incredible sunset above the clouds, eat dinner around a campfire and watch the best live performance of Fuego erupting.
If you’re anything like us, you won’t want to sleep and you’ll keep popping your head out of your tent to watch the spectacular act of Mother Nature.
As you’re pretty high up, it gets freezing at night! Bring as many layers as you can. Some tour operators rent out warm jackets, gloves and hats.
The second day begins very early — around 4 am. That’s because you have an hour’s hike to the summit of Acatenango for sunrise.
Before you know it, you’ll be at the top, watching the world wake up. If you have a cloudy day, it almost feels like you’re in heaven.
At the summit, you have a different view of Fuego and beautiful views of some of the other volcanoes surrounding Antigua. On a good day, you can see as far as Lake Atitlan.
After sunrise and breakfast, it’s time to make the descent. Typically this takes 3-4 hours, but due to the incline, some people find it easier to just run down. You can be down in a bit over an hour!
By the time you get down, you’ll likely be exhausted, but fueled by adrenaline and the memory of what you’ve just completed! Climbing Acatenango is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
How to climb Acatenango
You can climb Acatenango independently, but most people hire a guide or join a group tour.
A group tour is one of the most convenient options as transportation, equipment and food are all organised for you.
There are plenty of agencies in town that offer tours, but if you’re worried about them being fully booked, you can book in advance online with OX Expeditions via Viator for $89.
They organise everything for you and include the rental of warm clothes, a sleeping bag and a backpack in the price — something that not all agencies offer.
Witness an epic volcano eruption on this unforgettable 2-day Acatenango hike for $89.
#2 Roast marshmallows on Pacaya Volcano
The Acatenango and Fuego volcanoes may steal the limelight, but the Pacaya volcano shouldn’t be missed either.
Pacaya is one of Guatemala’s youngest and most active volcanoes. It constantly has a plume of smoke floating into the sky, and it’s not uncommon to see rocks and lava exploding from its crater.
These eruptions have formed huge and spectacular lava fields throughout the valley surrounding Pacaya.
Hiking Pacaya Volcano
The lava fields are the perfect hiking spot. You’ll get a close look at Pacaya and marvel at the intricate volcanic rock formations.
You can even roast marshmallows using the geothermal hot spots that act as a mini campfire. How cool is that?!
Hiking Pacaya is considerably easier than Acatenango. The hike up to the viewpoints takes around 1.5-2 hours.
How to visit Pacaya Volcano
You can’t visit Pacaya volcano without a guide due to safety reasons — it’s an active volcano after all.
You can hire guides at the entrance of the national park. However, once you account for transportation costs, the small amount of money you save may not be worth the admin of organising it yourself. Therefore, it’s much easier to join a tour from Antigua.
We recommend this 6-hour tour of Pacaya volcano that includes transportation and a guide.
Pack your marshmallows and get up close to an active volcano by booking this Pacaya Volcano tour for $23.
#3 Become a hobbit for the day at Hobbitenango
A hobbit-themed town in the hills is probably not what you expected to see when visiting Antigua, Guatemala. It’s a slightly bizarre and random place, but it’s a lot of fun!
Hobbitenango is an interactive, eco and fantasy-orientated attraction that was built to inspire playfulness and wonder in adults and children alike.
There are over 26 different areas and attractions within Hobbitenango including axe throwing, archery, a scream-inducing swing, restaurants and much more.
It’s a great place to spend a day in Antigua. You can try your hand at a number of new things, relax in the hammocks or admire the incredible view. Hobbitenango is situated at 2,400m, so the views of Antigua and the surrounding volcanoes are pretty remarkable.
How to visit Hobbitenango
Hobbitenango is a 25-minute drive from Antigua. You can get there by:
- Hobbitenango shuttle
- Your own car
Unless you have a car, the best way to get to Hobbitenango is by their shuttle from Antigua. It costs Q45 return and runs a number of times throughout the day.
If you’re travelling in a group, an Uber is the cheapest option at Q35 each way. However, you’ll need to arrange a pick-up time on the way back as there are no Ubers at Hobbitenango. It’s the same as a taxi, which is also more expensive.
Entry costs Q50 for adults and Q30 for children.
#4 Volunteer at Caoba Farms
Caoba Farms was created in 2004 to contribute to a more environmentally sustainable world through community space, farming and education.
They supply a lot of the top restaurants in Guatemala City and Antigua with fresh and organic produce to create top-quality dishes.
Caoba Farms also have a cafe which serves delicious food straight from the farm. You can’t get much fresher than that!
What is there to do at Caoba Farms?
Aside from visiting the cafe, you can also take a tour of the farms, learning about their agricultural systems, organic farming and products.
If you want to get your own hands dirty, Caoba Farms accepts volunteers from Tuesday to Friday at 9 am. They ask for at least 3 hours of work, and in exchange, you receive a bag of fresh, organic vegetables grown on the farm.
Every Saturday they hold a farmers market, where a variety of vendors and NGOs set up stalls. There’s also live music all day.
Caoba Farms is a great place to visit whilst in Antigua to show your support for the amazing work that they’re doing.
#5 Get the best view of Antigua from Cerro de la Cruz
From the ground level, Antigua is a stunning and architecturally interesting colonial city.
From above, it’s just as beautiful, if not more. Plus, from the Cerro de la Cruz viewpoint, you also get amazing views of Agua Volcano directly in front of you and other neighbouring volcanoes.
The hike to the viewpoint takes between 20-30 minutes with steps most of the way. If you’ve already done the Acatenango hike, this is a walk in the park.
The Cerro de la Cruz viewpoint is a great way to spend a few hours in Antigua and a perfect spot for some photos.
#6 See another side of Antigua on a walking tour
Antigua is a city that is brimming with history and interesting buildings that deserve to have their story told.
One of the best ways to learn about a city is with a free walking tour. We recommend joining this free Antigua City Walking Tour.
Accompanied by your knowledgeable local guide, you’ll visit spots like Iglesia de la Merced, Arco Santa Catalina, Parque Central, Universidad de San Carlos and many more.
One of the best parts of a walking tour is that you also get the local secret tips and tricks from your tour guide.
Want to feel like you’re getting an exclusive insight into Antigua’s history? This information-packed private walking tour of Antigua for $21 is the perfect way to do that.
#7 Get a taste of Antigua and Guatemala with a food tour
Another great way to get to know a place is by taking a food tour. As you eat your way around Antigua, trying some of the best local dishes, you also get to learn about the country.
The food of a country says a lot about the way that locals live, their cultures and traditions. Your food-loving guide will be able to tell you everything you want to know about food in Guatemala.
Tourists often overlook a lot of the smaller, local restaurants, but this is where you’ll find some of the best food. On this half-day private food tour, your guide will make sure that you don’t miss out on these fantastic spots in Antigua.
Make sure you join this Antigua food tour for $85 on an empty stomach, as you’ll receive plenty of things to eat.
#8 Visit one of the most beautiful McDonald’s in the world
We’re not normally advocates of unhealthy foods, but McDonald’s in Antigua is a must-visit. If you don’t fancy eating a Big Mac, just pop your head in to take a look
The McDonald’s in Antigua is considered to be one of the most beautiful McDonald’s in the world (yes, apparently someone’s keeping track).
Its interior courtyard feels more like a garden than a fast-food restaurant. There are benches, water fountains and manicured gardens.
All of this is nice, but the real highlight is that you can sit at a table enjoying your fries with a view of a volcano!
There aren’t many Michelin Star restaurants with this kind of view, let alone McDonald’s.
#9 Spend time with locals at Antigua’s markets
A great way to get to know a new city is to explore its markets. This way you see the type of food people eat and witness daily interactions between locals.
You can buy just about everything in Mercado Central — fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy, clothes, electronics, toys and much more.
It’s a bustling place that is also a great spot to enjoy a cheap meal. There are a number of small restaurants within the market selling local food at local prices.
Mercado Central is open every day from 9 am-7 pm.
Mercado de Artesanías
The Mercado de Artesanias is where to go if you’re looking for some beautiful souvenirs to take home. Here, you can find lots of hand-crafted textiles, carved ornaments, clothing and jewellery.
This isn’t where the locals shop, it’s mainly there for tourists, so it’s a bit less chaotic than Mercado Central.
Mercado de Artesanias is open from 8:30am-6pm every day.
#10 Discover Antigua’s ruined churches
For such a well-kept colonial city, there’s one part of Antigua that hasn’t been quite so well maintained — its churches.
During the 18th century, a series of earthquakes hit Antigua, damaging and destroying its churches and convents.
With too many to repair, the majority of them still lie in ruin, no longer reflecting their former glory.
Now these churches offer a different kind of beauty and a unique atmospheric element to Antigua’s character.
Which churches can you visit?
Some others worth visiting if you have more time include the Church of Santa Rosa de Lima, the Church of Santo Domingo and El Carmen Church.
You could even turn the churches mentioned above into your own ruins walking tour around Antigua.
If you’re into photography, join this photography tour. It takes you to a number of under-the-radar photo locations in Antigua, including some ruined churches, where you’ll learn how to capture the city’s beauty with your camera.
Join a photography tour for $45 to learn how to take incredible photos of Antigua’s most enchanting ruined churches.
#11 Learn how chocolate is made from cacao
A large proportion of the world is obsessed with chocolate. It’s our guilty pleasure. Most of us get caught up in that delicious taste while we don’t even know how it’s made.
Guatemala is one of the best places in the world to learn about chocolate. The very first documented use of cacao was by the Mayans in Guatemala.
You could say that they’ve had a lot of practice at making the tastiest chocolate and drinking chocolate.
Go on a cacao journey
The ChocoMuseum in Antigua offers 2-hour workshops that take you on a journey from cacao bean to chocolate bar.
Along the way, you learn how chocolate is made and get to make your own. It’s a fascinating and very manual process when it’s done entirely by hand. It definitely makes you appreciate that square of chocolate much more!
At the end of the class, you’ll have some goodies to take home with you… if you’ve managed to resist eating them.
If you’re ready to become a pro at making chocolate like the Guatemalans, book your cacao-to-chocolate workshop for $26.
#12 Can you find the speakeasy in Antigua?
Have you seen those cool videos of people entering fridges or inconspicuous doors and stepping into an extravagant hidden bar? Did you want to do it too?
Well, you can in Antigua! Hidden behind a red telephone box, you will find Ulew Cocktail Club.
The fun doesn’t stop there! There’s no menu…
Instead, you sit at the bar and tell the barman the type of spirit, flavour and taste you like. They then get to work creating a unique drink just for you, and probably one of the best you’ve tasted.
As much as we wanted to keep Ulew Cocktail Club a secret, we had to share this awesome speakeasy-style bar with you.
#13 Make your favourite Guatemalan dishes in a cooking class
If you couldn’t possibly leave Guatemala without knowing how your favourite dishes are made, you should join a cooking class.
In this private cooking class, Chef Carolina will show you how to make a number of Guatemalan dishes such as Pepián, Jocón, Kak’ik, Subanik, Tamales, Chiles Rellenos and typical Guatemalan desserts.
As well as learning what ingredients are needed to make the dish, you’ll be able to pick up unique cooking techniques used in Guatemala.
After working up an appetite, you can enjoy your wonderful creations on the rooftop terrace with a view of Volcano Agua.
Book your private Guatemalan cooking class for $90 and learn how to make tamales like a professional.
#14 Learn Spanish in Antigua
Knowing Spanish whilst travelling in Central America can be extremely helpful as a lot of the locals don’t speak English. Learning the language is also a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture.
One week of group Spanish classes starts at $100, which includes two free cultural activities, such as salsa classes, each week.
They also offer homestays, where you get to stay with a local family and improve your Spanish even faster!
#15 Admire Iglesia de la Merced
Unlike a lot of Antigua’s churches, Iglesia de la Merced is in pretty good condition. Its intricate details and buttery-yellow exterior have made it one of Antigua’s most popular sights.
Originally built in 1548, Iglesia de la Merced has had to be rebuilt a number of times due to earthquakes.
Entrance to this baroque-style church is free and worth a look around.
#16 Go hiking or swimming at Finca el Pilar
If the volcanoes in Antigua haven’t satisfied your craving for hiking, then Finca el Pilar might do the job.
Only a 10-minute drive from the centre of Antigua, Finca el Pilar is a nice place to escape the city for the day.
The area is home to a number of regional endemic species. It crosses several habitats, including dry scrub forests, cloud forests and pine and oak forests.
There are a number of well-maintained stunning trails that you can explore.
Finca el Pilar is privately owned, so entrance costs Q65. There are also several swimming pools at the entrance of the reserve which cost an additional Q25.
#17 Get lost in the Chichicastenango market
Chichicastenango is Latin America’s largest outdoor market. That’s saying something as Latin America has a lot of big markets.
Since the Mayans, Chichicastenango has been an important trading post and a significant town in Guatemala. It’s still as important today, acting as a place for locals to buy and sell goods, as well as somewhere to catch up on the latest gossip.
Anything you can think of, you can probably buy in Chichicastenango — souvenirs, fruit and vegetables, freshly made bread, dishes from across the country, jewellery, clothes etc.
Chichicastenango has now become popular amongst tourists as well. Unfortunately, that means that vendors like to charge you tourist prices. Always make sure to haggle on the price that you’re originally given.
The market is only on Thursdays and Sundays, with Sunday being the busier day. Plan your visit accordingly.
How to visit Chichicastenango from Antigua?
If you’re visiting Lake Atitlan after Antigua, we would recommend visiting Chichicastenango from there instead. It’s easier and cheaper to get there.
Your best option to get from Antigua to Chichicastenango is to find a shuttle that is going there. You can ask your accommodation to organise one for you. These normally cost around $35 per person.
Alternatively, you can join an all-day tour that takes you to both Chichicastenango and Panajachel on Lake Atitlan, allowing you to cover two spots in one day. Everything is organised for you!
Looking for the best handicrafts in Guatemala? Book your trip to Chichicastenango and Panajachel for $80 to visit Latin America’s biggest market and a traditional Lake Atitlan village.
#18 Become a coffee farmer for the day
Coffee from Guatemala is famous all around the world. Guatemala is one of the best coffee growers, so where better to join a coffee tour than here?
There is so much that you may not know about the process of making coffee. Most people probably don’t know that coffee beans come from a fruit!
Well, don’t stay in the dark. Join a coffee tour at one of the local farms near Antigua.
This immersive coffee tour lasts for around 2-3 hours and takes you along the whole process, from bean to cup, for $30.
#19 Take some memorable photos of the Santa Catalina Arch
If you Google Antigua or Guatemala, the most popular picture will be of the Santa Catalina Arch.
It’s an iconic part of Antigua, built in the 17th century. The arch originally connected the Santa Catalina convent to the school, allowing nuns to pass from one building to the other without going onto the street — something they weren’t allowed to do.
Head down to 5th Avenue North, and get a photo of the Santa Catalina Arch yourself.
Get to the Santa Catalina Arch in the early morning to beat the crowds. You’re also more likely to get a clear view of the volcano in the morning.
#20 Visit museum and hotel, Casa Santo Domingo
Hotel Casa Santo Domingo is a stunning hotel and museum. Once one of the largest monasteries in Central America, an earthquake left the convent in ruins for over 200 years. In 1989, work began to restore Santo Domingo back to its former glory, and they did a pretty good job!
It’s now a magnificent hotel in Antigua with around 130 rooms, a beautiful swimming pool, spa, bar and a fine-dining restaurant. The restaurant offers spectacular views of the volcanoes and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
If you haven’t booked a room at the hotel, you can still enjoy the spa and restaurant. A night at Casa Santo Domingo starts at around $170.
#21 Enjoy some craft beer at Antigua Brewing Company
Antigua Brewing Company takes pride in using traditional brewing techniques and locally sourced ingredients to create a diverse range of flavorful and unique beers. From refreshing lagers to robust ales and creative seasonal brews.
To make sure the beer doesn’t go to your head too quickly, they’ve created a selection of Guatemalan dishes that pair with the beer perfectly.
They have live music, DJs and community events every day of the week, so it’s a great place to spend an evening or afternoon in Antigua.
How to get to Antigua
|Leaving from||Duration||Prices from||See details|
|San Cristobal||12 hours||From 1,560 MXN ($91.00)||San Cristobal de las Casas to Antigua|
Rounding it up
Now you’ve picked the best things to do in Antigua, it’s time to start ticking off that bucket list. After reading this guide, you should have a good idea of where to eat, stay and how to get around Antigua.
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