Antigua Guatemala conquered a place in our hearts during our trip through Central America. Although the colorful city is one of the tourist highlights of Guatemala, you will not notice it on the street. The place does not seem to be overrun by travelers, although there is at least one hip restaurant and nice hotel in every street. We stayed in Antigua for a week because of the great atmosphere and ultimate bucket list activities to do. We experienced our literal peak of Central America here! After writing so many blogs about Guatemala, it is time for an extensive city guide with the best things to do and see in Antigua de Guatemala.
Where is Antigua de Guatemala and how do you get there?
Antigua is not far from the capital Guatemala City. Guatemala City is not very popular with travelers – we think it is wrong – most travel directly to Antigua after arrival. There are buses and taxis to get to Antigua from Guatemala City, but we recommend the Uber.
Almost everywhere in Guatemala you can use the Uber app to arrange a private ride to your destination. It is useful to not be dependent on WiFi and to have internet on your phone. For only 25 quetzal (€ 3) we bought a SIM card for 15 days including 7 GB + 150 minutes. Often with these subscriptions all social media and whatsapp are unlimited, so inquire about this.
Tip: don’t have an Uber account yet? Via our link you can easily register and get a discount on your first ride.
Our Uber ride from Guatemala City to Antiqua cost 155 quetzal. The Uber ride from Antigua to Panajachel, the largest city on Lake Atitlan, cost us 370 quetzal. There are no direct buses, so you should change trains. A direct shuttle for two people does not cost much less than an Uber.
The best hotels and hostels in Antigua
In a city as popular as Antigua, it is of course bursting with hotels and hostels for all the travelers. From low budget to unprecedented luxury and from authentic historical to modern hip. These are all options that were on our wishlist when booking a place to sleep:
- Selina Antigua | current prices This beautiful hotel has dormitories, but also spacious private rooms. Everything is equally stylish.
- San Rafael | current prices San Rafael is not the cheapest hotel in Antigua, but you do get a chic luxury room with wooden furniture.
- Good Hotel Antigua | current prices Everything here is white, stylish, modern and light. All rooms have an outdoor shower.
- El Convento Boutique Hotel | current prices This is arguably the most luxery hotel in Antigua. You will sleep in one of the great highlights of the city, an ancient monastery with crypt and inner garden.
- Tamarindo Guest House | current prices This budget-friendly hotel has private rooms, but shared bathrooms. Everything is clean, the decor style full and cheerful, and the breakfast is top notch.
- Earth Lodge | current prices In the mountains just outside Antigua you have to be here for the best view. You ‘ll have a splendid view over the city and the surrounding mountains. The vegan restaurant is great and you’ll sleep in your own (tree) hut.
- Hobbitenango | current prices The most special sleeping places are hidden just outside Antigua in the mountains. If you’ve ever wanted to sleep in a Hobbithol, this is your chance.
Best things to do in Antigua
# 1 Stroling down the colorful streets
Antigua is characterized by colorful buildings and especially a lot of low-rise buildings. Due to the earthquakes in the past, virtually no building is more than two stories high. Add streets with pavers and you will understand why Antigua’s cityscape is so characteristic. Even the McDonald’s in Antigua Guatemala is located in a beautiful building. The biggest highlight of the city is therefore simply walking through the colorful streets and eating an ice cream in one of the lively squares. Don’t miss the lively main square, the famous Santa Catalina Arch and the richly decorated yellow Iglesia de la Merced.
# 2 Visit the Antigua ruins
Those earthquakes in the past have also created many special ruins. The earthquake in 1773 in particular largely destroyed the city, after which Antigua was partly abandoned. The ruins have never been completely cleared and you can visit them now. Antigua was once one of the richest cities in Guatemala and has long been the capital. The small town once had dozens of churches and other monumental buildings. We can still see that in the impressive ruins scattered throughout the city.
- Cathedral. The cathedral building is still partly there, but the old ruins are hidden behind it. Walk right past the cathedral before the entrance where you buy your ticket. Concerts are regularly organized under the old vaults.
- Convento Capuchinas. This old monastery consists of gothic vaults, a courtyard with a fountain and photogenic crossbows.
- The Iglesia y convento Santa Clara is one of the larger ruins in Antigua. There is still quite a lot of this church and monastery. It is especially the monastery with its courtyard with fountain and gardens that are special.
- Convento de Nuestra Senora de La Merced. The yellow church next to this old monastery is still in use, but the monastery is a ruin that you can visit for a fee.
- Iglesia y Convento de Santo Domingo. This monastery was once one of the richest monasteries in the city. Today it is one of the most expensive hotels in the city, where the ancient ruins are interwoven. This is not only intended for hotel guests; you can also visit this special combination. In particular, do not skip the crypt. The adjacent museums with archaeological antiquities are also free to visit.
- San Agustin. In fact, only the facade of this church remains. Walk here in the evening, because then the facade is beautifully lit.
# 3 Souvenir shopping at the local market or art gallery
The local market in the west of the city is largely covered. It is abeautiful buzzing of activity and locals in the narrow lanes between the hundreds of stalls. Getting lost is a must-do here. If you’re looking for a less chaotic place to shop or just shop for souvenirs, the huge shop next to La Antigua Galería de Arte is the place to be. That is also a good reason to view that Galería with modern art. The exhibitions show beautiful works.
# 4 Enjoy the restaurants, terraces, coffee bars and hotspots
There is no city in Guatemala with so many nice places to have breakfast, drinks, work with a cup of coffee, eat cakes, lunch or dinner. Make sure to take enough time in your holiday planning to discover the culinary Antigua. Scroll down for tips on the best spots.
Climb the Antigua volcanoes
Enjoy volcano views at Earth Lodge
The reason why we stayed in Antigua for so long is the beautiful volcanoes in the area. Not only did we climb two volcanoes and stay camping there, we also slept in the mountains with vulcano view at Earth Lodge. This beautiful sleeping place is located high in the mountains next to Antigua with a view of the city and the surrounding volcanoes. The Earth Lodge restaurant serves delicious vegetarian food, there are beautiful hiking trails, the morning yoga is delicious and you sleep in special (tree) huts.
The 2-day Acatenango volcano hike
Our view had already prepared us for the two volcano treks we undertook in Antigua. These were the literal highlights of our trip. We started with the Acatanango, the most famous and climbed volcano in Guatemala. You climb this volcano in two days, camping just below the summit with a view of the Fuego. The Fuego also offers the evening’s entertainment, as this volcano erupts approximately every 15 minutes. We wrote an extensive blog about climbing the Acatenango, including practical tips, costs and a packing list.
Camping at the Pacaya volcano
Immediately after descending the Acatenango, we continued to the Pacaya, an active volcano near Antigua. Of the three active volcanoes in Guatemala, the Pacaya is the only one that you can safely climb to near the crater. We found the evening hike in the dark one of the most spectacular things we have ever done. The huge lava flows from the top down, the lava splashes from the crater and the thick clouds of smoke. Wow! When it was a bit foggy, it definitely didn’t spoil the fun. The mist turned bright red because of the light and the color of the lava. Also about camping on the Pacaya we wrote a blog, including practical tips.
Tip: the volcano hikes are not organized every day. The Acatenango is visited with the greatest frequency, but unfortunately the Pacaya is not. Camping trips to the Pacaya sometimes only take place twice a month. So check this carefully with your travel preparations, so that you can adjust your travel route accordingly.
We have often been asked if we would recommend the Acatenango or the Pacaya. Actually, we are especially happy to have climbed both. The Acatenango was a lot heavier, because the tour takes longer and altitude sickness can play a role. The hike is also a lot more beautiful, along various ecosystems and the camping spot with a view of the Fuego is phenomenal. So the Pacaya is a lot better to do. It is especially cool to get so close to the natural forces of a volcano. You feel the heat, you see the lava and you hear the eruptions.
Food and drink tips: the best hotspots in Antigua
We already mentioned that Antigua is so full of nice places for food and drinks. You can find all our tips on our city map. But these are our absolute favorites:
- Luna de Miel for the best crepes, sweet and savory. Choose a spot on the roof terrace.
- Fridas for Mexican food in a colorful interior with the famous artist of the same name all over the wall.
- Fat Cat Coffee House for top quality coffee.
- Rincón Típoco for local and cheap food between the locals.
- Antigua Brewing Cafe for locally brewed and international beer in a cozy pub. There is regular live music in the evenings. The audience mainly consists of expats.
- Bella Vista Coffee in front of a roof terrace with a view of the volcanoes.
- Artista Cafe for coffee, breakfast and cake. There are mainly expats with their laptop and the wifi is good.
- Samsara for vegetarian and vegan food.
- Rustik for the best burgers ever.
- Cactus Taco Spot for fantastic tacos. We even came back here again.