Parque Central Plaza Mayor Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala Flag

There are so many things to do in Antigua Guatemala! In this post we share our Top 5 things to do in Antigua Guatemala, from sampling Guatemalan food and visiting the Choco Museo to scaling volcanoes with the Acatenango Volcano Hike! There is no shortage of fun activities on offer, so make sure you put Antigua on your bucket list when visiting Guatemala.

Short on time? Here are our Antigua Guatemala top recommendations:

Activities: book your Guatemala Tours with Get Your Guide.

Accommodation: we loved staying at Casa de Leon. We use to find the best hotels.

Flights: find cheapest flights with cashback on WayAway.

Airport Lounge Access: start your holiday the right way with Priority Pass.

Travel Medical Insurance: SafetyWing Nomad Insurance is the ideal choice for long-term travellers and digital nomads.

About Antigua Guatemala

Woman Under Santa Catalina Arch Antigua Guatemala
Under Santa Catalina Arch

The beautiful UNESCO Heritage Site of Antigua Guatemala is a must visit destination for any Central America holiday. Antigua is a great place to base yourself when visiting Guatemala. We loved it for its moderate climate, its charming cobblestone streets with colourful and neatly presented buildings, its spectacular views of the nearby volcanoes, and its wide variety of cafes and restaurants on offer.

Come for a few days or a few weeks, you will be sure to have plenty to things to do in Antigua Guatemala!

Getting to Antigua Guatemala

Local Bus Antigua Guatemala, Red Old School Bus Central America
Colourful Local Bus

The nearest airport to Antigua is in Guatemala City, which is an hour’s drive away. So you can either fly in from there or make it part of a broader Central America trip. The country is well serviced with minivans, colourful local chicken buses as well as private tour operators. Keep in mind that due to the mountainous terrain of Guatemala, travel times are long and you should generally allow a day for travel between one place and the next. We came here by minivan from Semuc Champey, which took a full day of travel. After staying in Antigua and Lake Atitlán for a week, we took another minivan to the beachside town of El Tunco in El Salvador, that also took another full day.

Getting around Antigua Guatemala

Exploring Antigua Guatemala is best done on foot. The streets are clean and well paved and most places of interest are within a 10 to 15 minute walk. And we felt perfectly safe walking around the town.

What to do in Antigua Guatemala

We absolutely loved our time in Antigua, and no matter what you’re interested in, you’ll find plenty of things to do in this beautiful city. Here is our Top 5 List of things to do in Antigua Guatemala:

Santa Catalina Arch

Woman Standing In Front Of Santa Catalina Arch Antigua Guatemala
Santa Catalina Arch

The most iconic structure in Antigua is the beautiful Santa Catalina Arch. It’s over 400 years old and was originally built to connect the nunnery with the school so that nuns could move freely between the two without breaking their vow of seclusion from the public. The clock and tower on top of the arch were installed in the 19th century. The clock still needs to be wound up every 3 days!

A trip to Antigua wouldn’t be complete a photo under this arch. And don’t forget to capture a shot with the Volcano Agua in the background.

Eat your body-weight in chocolate!

Ek Chuah Chocolateria Antigua Guatemala
Ek Chuah Chocolateria

Guatemala is the birthplace of chocolate and chocoholics will delight in the artisinal stores that sell locally made products. There are even chocolate museums such as Ek Chuah and Choco Museo which are dedicated to the history and culture of the cacao bean and chocolate. For a more hands on experience, you can do a chocolate making class. There more chocolate cafes around Antigua as well, so make sure you check them out too.

Hike Acatenango Volcano

Man standing at summit of Acatenango Volcano looking at Fuego Volcano at sunset, Man standing above the clouds
The view from the summit is otherworldly!

For lovers of adventure, the best adventure experience in Guatemala is the Acatenango Volcano Hike. We did the Acatenango Overnight Volcano Hike with Wicho and Charlie’s and it was one of the highlights of our Central American adventure. The 4 hour hike up Acatenango Volcano was one of the most physically demanding things I’ve ever done in my life, but it was worth the pain to be able to sleep overnight on an active volcano and be able to witness majesty of volcanic eruptions of Fuego Volcano at night. Keep in mind, that if you decide to do the Acatenango Hike you will need 48 hours to acclimatise at either Antigua or Lake Atitlán in order to avoid altitude sickness. For more on this amazing experience, check out our Acatenango Volcano video.

If you don’t have the time or energy to do the overnight hike, you could alternatively do a day hike up Volcano Pacaya. We met someone on our travels who did that hike and they thoroughly enjoyed it, especially toasting marshmallows in the vents up the top!

Check out the food scene

Couple dining at Rincon Tipico Antigua Guatemala
Local Dining at Rincon Tipico

One of the things that we really loved about Antigua was its great food scene. Travelling through Central America, you tend to eat a lot of rice and beans, so it was refreshing to come to a place that had such a wide variety of cafes and restaurants on offer. For local cuisine, we were recommended Rincon Tipico by our hostel host. This place was inexpensive, no fuss and delicious. La Casa de las Sopas was another local, more upscale, restaurant that we enjoyed. Their specialty that you must try is the Papian soup. It’s filled with ingredients and makes for a hearty meal!

La Casa de las Sopas Antigua Guatemala
Papien Soup from La Casa de las Sopas

We were particularly impressed with how Antigua catered for vegetarians and vegans. The quality of the vegetarian food in Antigua Guatemala was top notch and they really cater to a western palate. Our favourite vegetarian cafe there was Wachuma. They have amazing green bowls and delicious smoothies. Vegetarian food never tasted so good! Samsara was another option we recommend as well.

Earth and Fire Quinoa Bowl from Wachuma Vegetarian Restaurant Antigua Guatemala
Earth and Fire Quinoa Bowl from Wachuma

Visit the markets

For a more local experience, don’t forget to check out the Antigua Guatemala market. The market is located on the edge of town and is also where you go to catch the local chicken buses. The markets were huge and sell everything you could possibly want, from fresh fruit and vegetables to clothes and electronics. This market was a lifesaver for us when we ran out of space on our phone as we were able to buy USB sticks and adapter cables here so we could continue taking plenty of photos without running out of space.

Man at Central Market Antigua Guatemala
Central Market Antigua Guatemala

Bonus tip – take Spanish classes

If you’ve got more time to spend, we recommend that you do Spanish classes at a homestay in either Antigua or nearby Lake Atitlán.

How long to spend in Antigua Guatemala

We spent 5 nights in total in Antigua, including one overnight hike on nearby Acatenango Volcano. Antigua is a great place to base yourself when visiting Guatemala. You can see most of the major sites in and around Antigua in a couple of days, but keep in mind that there are long travel times between cities and towns in Guatemala so chances are your first and last days in Antigua will be a late arrival and an early departure. Also, if you are planning on visiting Lake Atitlán (which you definitely should!) then we’d recommend staying a night in Antigua either side of your stay in Lake Atitlán.

Where to stay when visiting Antigua Guatemala

Rooftop Garden Casa de Leon Antigua Guatemala
Rooftop Garden at Casa de Leon

For good mid range private rooms we highly recommend Casa de Leon. We loved staying here so much that we booked two extra nights here. The staff are lovely and are very accommodating. For one of the nights we stayed here we were going to the volcano early the next morning, so we asked if they could package up our breakfast for us to have later. They went one step better and made it fresh for us when we returned. Their breakfasts are absolutely delicious and it’s worth it to stay here just for that. Plus you can have breakfast on their rooftop balcony with views of an active volcano, which is super special.

The rooms are very cosy and comfortable. We stayed in two different rooms and preferred the one nearest to the front door as it has a huge television with Netflix. Conversely, the other room that we stayed in had an older style television but two double beds. There is a nice courtyard area in the middle of the hostel, one stand alone toilet and one bathroom with a toilet, sink and shower. They also provide purified drinking water for free. This was a beautiful home away from home and was excellent value. We were sad to leave.

Is Antigua Guatemala safe?

View of Volcan de Agua from Tanque La Union Antigua Guatemala, Street view Antigua Guatemala
Tanque La Union

We found Antigua Guatemala to be one of the safest places to travel in Central America. We walked around the city both during the day and at night and felt perfectly safe.

Altitude sickness in Antigua Guatemala

Antigua is at altitude, so altitude sickness is a risk, particularly if you decide to climb one of the nearby volcanoes.

The signs of altitude sickness are:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shortness of Breath

Natural disasters in Antigua Guatemala

In terms of the risk of natural disasters, Guatemala is on the Ring of Fire and is exposed to the risk of volcanic activity as well as earthquakes. There are two active volcanoes near Antigua – Pacaya Volcano and Fuego Volcano and they have seen increased volcanic activity in 2021.

Other safely considerations in Antigua Guatemala

Other general safety considerations for travel in Antigua:

  • Drinking water – The tap water in Antigua is not safe to drink. Everywhere we stayed while we were in Antigua provided bottled water for guests to use
  • Mosquitoes – One thing we loved about Antigua is that because it is at altitude, there are no mosquitoes. Yay!
  • Road safety – We often travelled standing up in the back of vans or in vehicles without helmets or seat belts. Be aware that this does come with an element of risk
  • Water safety – If you visit any of the coastal areas or lakes, take care when swimming as currents and waves may be stronger than you expect
  • Sun safety – The UV Index is very high in Central America, so sun protection such as sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses is very important to ensure you don’t get burnt.
  • Dogs – In many countries in Central America, stray dogs are common. For more on dog safety while travelling, check out this video.

As with any destination, take all of your normal safety precautions.

Final thoughts on Antigua Guatemala

A trip to Guatemala wouldn’t be complete without a stay in Antigua. This is a stunning city with a mild climate, a good range of food, accommodation and activity options. It has to be one of our favourite places to visit in Central America.

If you want to learn more about visiting Antigua, check out our Antigua video.

Guatemala Blogs

You can find our Guatemala travel blogs below.

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