HEADING TO GUATEMALA AND NOT SURE WHAT THINGS TO DO IN ANTIGUA?
Antigua. Probably the most popular destination in Guatemala. Attracting backpackers, holidaymakers and retirees. We spent 2 weeks in this fabulous city and it wasn’t hard to see what all the fuss is about.
Antigua lies in a valley surrounded by volcanoes and forest-covered hills. Its imperfect cobbled streets create a unique charm and unlike most cities, no building is more than 2 stories tall (mostly ‘thanks’ to frequent earthquakes making it impossible to go higher).
As charming as Antigua definitely is, it is worth mentioning it is not the true Guatemala. The city is heavily built for tourism and it shows. You don’t need to look far to find a Starbucks, Mcdonald’s or Burger King. But they’ve done a fantastic job of blending them in.
15 Best Things To Do in Antigua
You also don’t have to look too far to find some local culture. And that’s where we can help! During our 2 weeks there we did plenty of exploring and came up with this list of 15 BEST things to do in Antigua to hopefully give you some inspiration for your trip.
1. Take Spanish Classes
Antigua is known to be one of the best places in Central America to learn Spanish. There are multiple schools and they all charge really reasonable prices.
We chose to take a week of lessons with Spanish Academy Antigua, and we were so glad we did! They have the most beautiful gardens where all the classes are held and the teachers we had were both brilliant.
We had 5 days of classes of 4 hours a day. Both were with our own separate teachers and the cost was $125 USD each.
You can also decide to do a homestay with a local family for $100 a week including meals. This is great if you’re travelling on a budget and the best way to submerge yourself in the language!
2. Visit Earth Lodge
Earth Lodge was recommended to us by multiple people, so of course we had to go check it out for ourselves. It is essentially a hotel and restaurant high up on the side of one of the mountains that surround Antigua.
To get there you can call their shuttle driver, for free (the calling, not the drive), from Old Town Outfitters. He will then come and get you for around Q50 per person.
We ended up taking a tuk-tuk up instead as we were already in town and this cost us Q90 (€10). It’s around a 15-minute drive up the mountain and the tuk-tuk dropped us off by the edge of the track leading to Earth Lodge.
You only need to walk along the track for about 20 minutes and you’re there. The whole way along the track you will be spoiled with some amazing views down over the city.
Earth Lodge is a beautiful Eco Farm with Avocado trees as far as the eye can see. The restaurant has picnic tables lined up so you can eat with the best view of the city and volcanoes in the distance.
We had lunch there and the food was also super yummy and not expensive.
When you’re ready to go back down, just ask their shuttle driver to take you. We paid him Q25 each, for the return journey.
3. Join a free walking tour
This is something we are really glad that we did. The tour started at 3.15 pm and it was around 2 hours long. In that time we saw so much and learnt a lot of interesting information about the history of both Antigua and Guatemala.
Walking tours are a great way to get to know a place better. Technically they are free, but it is expected that you tip the tour guide at the end whatever you would like to give them.
You can find the same tour we did on this website.
4. Hike the Acatenango volcano
This is quite possibly the highlight of our Central America trip.
The hike up the Acatenango volcano is an absolute MUST. Well, if you can fit it into your budget and if you’re feeling physically fit enough. Tours range from $60 per person and up.
In a nutshell, it is a hike up the Acatenango volcano, which is inactive. You then camp near the top and watch its neighbouring volcano Fuego erupting all night long. Getting to witness the power of nature, so close up, is a feeling you won’t be forgetting any time soon.
A truly magical and rewarding experience that I would one thousand per cent recommend. You can check out our blog on the hike for more information.
5. Visit Caoba farm
A visit to Caoba farm is something else that was recommended to us by a few people. They absolutely loved it, so we figured we should check it out! Caoba Farm is an organic and sustainable farm, just on the edge of the city. It is roughly a 20-minute walk from central park.
It is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon. You can go and have a guided tour of the farm and have lunch in their cafe with all their locally grown produce.
If that sounds like just what you need then you can find out more about them on their website.
6. Visit San Juan village
Just a short 15-minute ride away from Antigua on a local ‘chicken’ bus, you will find yourself in the very quiet and picturesque village of San Juan. On our trip to this little village, we stopped by to have a tour of the local monastery.
If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of busy Antigua and remove yourself from the touristy feel of the town, San Juan is perfect.
7. Visit a chocolate factory
We visited a chocolate factory in San Juan and were given a mini tour of the facility. We got to see how the cacao beans are roasted and split open. Pretty much the whole process from start to finish, before trying some of the best hot chocolate ever!
However, you don’t have to go all the way to San Juan to learn about the process of making chocolate. There is also a chocolate factory right next to central park in the centre of town, called ChocoMuseo. We also got to check out this one on our walking tour of the city. We can safely say both are great to try out if you’re a chocolate lover like I am.
8. Hang out in the Central Park
In the 2 weeks we have been in Antigua, every time we have visited the central park (which is most days) there is always something happening. Whether it’s local craft stalls selling their handmade goods, or bands putting on a show, there’s never a dull moment.
It is the perfect place to grab a coffee and just sit and watch the world go by.
9. Visit Museo Nacional de Arte de Guatemala
On one side of Central Park is the National Art Gallery/Museum of Guatemala. It is a large building full of art and cultural history and we think it was worth a visit. All of the information on the art is also presented in English which was really helpful. Plus from the upper floor of the building, you come out onto the balcony and have a great view down over the park.
When we visited on Jan 1st 2023 it was free to enter since it just opened. Not sure how long this will be the case, nor what the price will be
10. Walk up to the Hill of the Cross
Interestingly, this is exactly what it says on the tin. From the streets of Antigua, if you look up, you can see on the side of one of the hills a large white cross. This is a viewing point out over the city that you can walk up to.
We went for a wander up and they were finishing off some construction to make it wheelchair accessible. Even with all the building work going on, we could see the views are pretty awesome and it was worth a short walk up the hill to see.
11. Watch the sunset from Cafe Sky’s rooftop
One of the best ways to watch a sunset in Antigua is from a rooftop. If you don’t have access to one where you are staying then you could check out Cafe Sky. This place was highly recommended.
12. Try some street food
Every day after lunch one particular park fills up with multiple street food vendors all selling yummy homemade food. The Park is Parque la Merced and you will find it if you walk from Central Park down the street with the Arch, all the way to the end.
Every day this park is filled with locals and tourists all enjoying the atmosphere and good food.
13. Visit the Market
We love a trip to a local market and Antigua has two pretty much back to back. One is the more touristy market selling local crafts and then just behind it, you have the market selling fruits and vegetables where the locals do their shopping.
Both are located right next to the bust station and are well worth a visit.
14. Explore the many churches
To say that Antigua has lots of churches would be an understatement. There are so many you could fill an entire day just wandering the streets roaming in and out of all the churches and monasteries. They were all free to enter if they are open.
Our favourite was probably the larger complex housing the Museo del Hermano Pedro. An interesting mix of old and new, ruins and renovations, this site was really interesting to walk around.
15. Take a picture with the famous Archway
Last but not least, we couldn’t miss out on the famous archway. All day long this arch sees tourists and locals passing by and stopping to take selfies. We could see the appeal, especially on a clear day.
When there are no clouds, behind the arch (looking toward central park) you are treated to a view of the volcano which makes for an awesome photo.
As always, if you want a picture with no people in it, you’re going to need to wake up bright and early to beat the crowds. We went out at 7 am one morning and there were already people striking a pose.
We also learnt the purpose of the arch was to serve as a bridge for nuns to pass from a convent on one side of the street to one on the other side, without being seen. Both convents are now restaurants or hotels, so the bridge is no longer in use. Who doesn’t love a little bit of local history?
Where to stay in Antigua
Antigua has some great accommodation options for every budget. Here are my favourites:
📍 Budget option: Hostal Morenos
Hostal Morenos Antigua is a cosy and affordable hostel located in the heart of Antigua Guatemala, offering comfortable accommodations and a laid-back atmosphere.
Great for those on a budget!
📍 Mid-range option: Selina Antigua
Selina Antigua is a stylish and vibrant hostal and co-working space located in the heart of Antigua Guatemala, offering comfortable accommodations, a range of amenities, and a lively social atmosphere.
The perfect place if you have to work while travelling
📍 High-end option: Hotel Boutique Los Pasos & Spa
Hotel Boutique Los Pasos & Spa is a luxurious and serene hotel located in the heart of Antigua Guatemala, offering elegant accommodations, a high-end spa, and beautiful gardens for guests to relax in.
Amazing for a more relaxing stay.
When to Visit
Antigua Guatemala can be visited year-round, but the best time to visit is during the dry season which runs from November to April. During this time, the weather is sunny, dry and comfortable with temperatures ranging from 18°C to 28°C. (65°F to 85°F).
The rainy season, from May to October, brings more humidity with sometimes heavy rain, making walking on the cobblestones streets less fun.
However, visiting during the rainy season can be rewarding as the greenery is lush, and there are fewer tourists than during the dry season. The best time to visit depends on your preferred activities and travel style after all.
Are you heading to Antigua from Flores? Check out our post on how to make that journey.
How Long Should You Spend in Antigua Guatemala?
There is SO MUCH to do in Antigua. Just a couple of days won’t be enough. We’ve spent 2 weeks here, and although it might be a little long, we could’ve stayed even longer.
Ideally, you should spend AT LEAST 5 days here, knowing that the famous Acatenango volcano hike takes 2 by itself.
Even if you don’t plan on doing the hike, I’d recommend staying at least 3 nights. You 100% need the time to see all the highlights!
Is it Safe to Walk Around Antigua Guatemala?
Antigua Guatemala is generally a safe city. It is always smart to stay aware of your surroundings, but I and Callie have felt absolutely safe in Antigua.
We did not notice a single thing that didn’t feel safe – and we walked almost everywhere. Even going to our Spanish class on the outskirts of the city, we did on foot.
Things to Do in Antigua Guatemala – Final Thoughts
That concludes our list of 15 things to do in Antigua. Hopefully, this has given you some ideas on how to spend your time in the city.
Antigua is easy to fall in love with. We spent 2 weeks, but some people stay for 6 months learning Spanish. Our neighbour was a digital nomad who had lived there for 8 months. That being said, we think 5 days is a bare minimum to get the most out of the city.
Read more about Guatemala:
- Guatemala Vs. Mexico Culture: Key Similarities & Differences!
- Lake Atitlan Guatemala – All You Need To Know in 2023
- Acatenango Volcano Hike – Guatemala – Complete Guide
- 15 Best Things to Do in Antigua – Guatemala
- Mini Guide To Tikal Ruins – Guatemala
- Does It Snow In Guatemala? Here’s What You Need To Know