Antigua, Guatemala, is truly an amazing place that is often overlooked as a travel destination. Explore this Historic Spanish Colonial city nestled in the heart of Central America. Start planning all the best things to do in Antigua, Guatemala, during your visit.
Discover ancient Mayan history and see astonishing 360 volcanic views. This hidden gem is not only budget-friendly, but you also get to experience a rich culture firsthand that is fused with Spanish characteristics and indigenous influences. Guatemalan culture values family and is known for its brightly colored textiles, agriculture, the song of the marimba, which is the national musical instrument, and friendliness.
With this guide, you will know exactly how to spend each day in Antigua, Guatemala. What to do, where to stay, and the best food to eat. Discover family fun activities and create memorable moments.
Book unique outdoor adventures that you can’t miss, plus find out how to get to Antigua from the airport in Guatemala City.
Table of Contents
- Unforgettable Things To Do
- Getting Around
- Exchanging Money
- When To Visit
- Family Fun Activities
- Amazing Tours
- Unique Places To See
- Architectural Ruins
- Day Trips From Antigua
- Where To Eat
- Where To Stay in Antigua
Unforgettable Things To Do
This bucket list of inspirational experiences in Antigua, Guatemala, will ensure you have the ultimate trip of a lifetime. From outdoor adventures for the adrenaline junkie to relaxing moments and family recreational ideas.
Here are the top things to do in Antigua that you absolutely don’t want to overlook and that you will remember for years to come.
Hike an Active Volcano
If the idea of seeing a volcano erupt appeals to the thrill seeker in you, there is one volcanic hike in Antigua that you and your family will love. The Pacaya Volcano Hike! This hike is best when booked as a guided tour.
Strap on your hiking boots and explore lava fields as a family. Pacaya Volcano is a great easy hike for families, including teens and younger kids. If you prefer not to walk, there is also an option to do Pacaya Volcano on horseback.
See lava and smoke flow out of the volcano crater as you hike along the ash-covered volcanic rock. You can even roast marshmallows in the hot lava. Pacaya Volcano is 2552m in elevation and takes 6-7 hours to hike in its entirety with a guide. You can book a half-day family excursion here.
If you would prefer to hike a more challenging volcano, one that would require you to be an advanced trekker, then book your overnight tour to climb and camp on Acatenango Volcano, which is one of the highest Volcanoes in Central America.
Acatenango is also an active volcano but hasn’t erupted since 1972. However, this beast of a volcano offers direct views of Volcan Fuego, which directly translates to Fire.
Fuego is an overly active volcano putting on an amazing display of Fire erupting from the top of the crater every 20 minutes or so. To see Fuego erupt from the top of Acatenango is to see something spectacular. This hike roughly costs $90 dollars per person and lasts two days. You can book your overnight tour here.
Plan your vacation around Easter, also known as Holy Week. You will have the opportunity to celebrate Semana Santa, a roman catholic celebration, and see the world-renowned street processions on the Thursday and Friday before Easter and on Easter Sunday.
Semana Santa is an extravagant Easter festival throughout Guatemala and in Antigua specifically. During the festivities, the entire town and every member of the family participate in the world-famous religious ceremonies, including marching bands, incense, offerings, and processions.
This is an unparalleled celebration like no other. From grand and lavish religious floats to intricately designed alfombras, which are elaborate “carpets” on the streets designed by hand with sawdust. Semana Santa combines culture and tradition that you will remember for a lifetime. You can book a Semana Santa tour here.
It is great if you speak Spanish or have a basic understanding of the language, but in Antigua, it is not a requirement. Speaking Spanish does make getting around easier; however, many car services are bilingual.
After you land in Guatemala City, you will want to have pre-booked a car service to drive you to Antigua. Some Hotels offer this service. The trip is about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on traffic, and costs about $45 one-way.
You can pre-book your shuttle service from Guatemala City airport to Antigua, Guatemala here.
The best way to get around the Old City is to walk. Antigua is a very walkable and friendly small city. If you prefer not to walk, you can grab a Tuk Tuk, a small 3-wheeled taxi. Tuk Tuk’s are readily available all over town and cost about q20 or $3 for a one-way trip in town.
If you are going a bit further, taking a Uber is always a good idea. You can take a chicken bus, a remodeled school bus, and Guatemalans’ main form of transportation. Still, I’d recommend only doing that once and more for the experience than using it as a way of formal transportation. The drivers are known to be careless.
A Chicken Bus isn’t a taxi but a town-to-town shuttle. To catch a chicken bus to a nearby village, you can go to where they pick and drop people off in Antigua, which is right between Pollo Campero and the outdoor market on the main road called Calzada Santa Lucia.
There is one dominant airport in Guatemala City, which is the nearest airport to Antigua. When you fly into La Aurora International Guatemala Airport, it is a good idea to exchange $50 for Quetzals or Q’s to have some cash on hand.
When exchanging more money, I recommend using a Guatemalan bank like BI or Banrural because they typically have a better exchange rate than the airport and are easily found downtown in Antigua.
Another option is to use a travel-friendly credit card that doesn’t incur international fees. Credit cards are widely accepted in Antigua, or you can withdraw from an ATM machine, which is an excellent idea if your bank at home doesn’t charge an international atm withdrawal fee, which is incurred in addition to the exchange rate and the usual atm fee.
When using an ATM, always use an atm inside of a bank to decrease the risk of your card being compromised. The banks have full-time security, and the ATMs within the banks are a safer option than using ATMs on the street.
The exchange varies by small amounts given the date, and you can check the current rate of exchange here.
When To Visit
One of the best things about Antigua, Guatemala, is the weather. The climate is always pleasant, which is why Antigua Guatemala is referred to as the land of eternal spring, and for that reason, it is a great travel destination year around. However, there is a dry season and a rainy season.
The dry season is from November to May. The rainy season is from May until November when it is typically nice during the day but usually rains most evenings. Although most people tend to visit during the dry season, one of the benefits of visiting during the rainy season is flora and fauna are vibrant.
I recommend visiting during the dry season if you are interested in all-day outdoor excursions like hiking the volcanoes that require good weather. However, suppose you are skipping the volcano hike and want to sightsee. In that case, the wet season really is beautiful because the flowers and greenery are so bright, and there is typically a lot of time early in the day to do fun activities before the rain sets in.
Family Fun Activities
Stroll Central Park
This isn’t your average park. This is the center of the community and is usually bustling with smiling vendors colorfully dressed in traditional attire. The city often hosts free festivals here, and the park is encircled by gorgeous trees around the central water fountain.
The Parque is surrounded by city buildings of unique architecture, shops, and cafes. Antigua Central Parque has a backdrop of volcanos and is considered one of the most beautiful parks in Guatemala.
Play at a Finca
The Fincas or Farms are plentiful and offer family fun activities. At La Azotea, you can rent bicycles and bike around the grounds, which include dirt pathways through coffee plantations and gardens.
At Finca Colombia, you can pay a small fee to participate in a soccer match, swim in their indoor pool, and hike around the pathways.
Authentic Guatemalan Cooking Class
Learn the history and significance of local cuisine and learn how to make typical Guatemalan food as a group. Taste and create your own traditional dishes using the creative flavors of Guatemala. Book here!
Take a Walking Tour of This Ancient City
The architecture in Antigua, one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, is ultimately very unique. You do not want to leave without experiencing a walking tour of the architecture, including famous landmarks like the Santa Catalina Arch and numerous cathedrals, ruins, and parks.
These tours are an excellent option for the entire family. Walk along cobblestone streets, take pictures and learn fun facts about the region’s history. Book your walking tour here:
Make Your Own Chocolate
We aren’t talking about baking a cake. Instead, this family fun workshop at the Chocolate Museum is all about the history and process of making chocolate from the Cocoa Bean like ancient Mayans.
This workshop is so fun not only because you get to eat the purest chocolate, but you also get to take some home. The classes typically last 2 hours and cost about $25 per person, and you can tour the Chocolate Museum for free. Book it here.
Coffee and culture are what you can expect when you book your guided coffee plantation tour at Filadelfia, a coffee farm that has been around for over 150 years. Learn about the cultivation of coffee from its origins and sample the automatic flavors. Filadelfia has been roasting coffee beans since 1866 and they are happy to share their passion with you. Book through their Facebook Page.
At The Museum of Colonial Art, you can begin to understand the complex history of the region and the building in which the Museum sits. See wood sculptures and art and tour the galleries. You can book your museum tour here.
Go on an ATV mountain tour through the small villages on the outskirts of Antigua to wilderness trails. See more of the rural landscapes of Guatemala off the beaten path.
The tour costs about $70 per person and is typically 5 to 6 hours long. You can drive your own ATV four-wheeler, or you can be a passenger. Book here!
A cool way to see ruins that are unfrequented is to book a half-day mountain bike tour. This tour offers views of earthquake-crumbled churches and agricultural surroundings. This tour is best for ages 13 and up.
Unique Places To See
Hobbitenago is an eco-park that sits in a valley and spans 26 different areas to traverse with stunning views. This special place is true to its name, with several hobbit homes you can explore. I recommend spending at least a half day here, if not an entire day.
They host live music events, have restaurants in the hobbit homes, musical play areas for kids, Instagram-worthy photo ops, and miles of trails to walk through nature.
Hobbitenago is about 30 minutes outside of Antigua and requires a 4×4 shuttle from the parking lot, which they have available all day. The entrance fee is Q50 which equates to under $7 for adults, and Q30 for kids under 10, which is about $4. This entrance fee includes the 4×4 shuttle to and from the eco-park to the parking lot.
Cerro de la Cruz
This is an overlook point to the ancient city below. It is reachable by car or hiking up a stairway at the bottom of the mountain on the edge of the city.
Once reaching the top, you are rewarded with vendors, volcanic views overlooking Antigua, and a large white cross that is said to guard the city.
The Outdoor Market Place
Visit the Mercado de Aetesanias, the Artisan Market open daily. These local markets are located on the main street called Calzada Santa Lucia, nearby the Pollo Compero fast food restaurant.
The outdoor market has hundreds of vendors selling everything from fresh fruit and veggies to electronics, clothing apparel, toys, and fresh meat. Weave your way through the stalls and find something special to buy and bring home with you.
Something to remember is the market is cash only. If you want to learn even more history about locally grown food, this Gastronomic and Cultural tour starts in central park and extends into the marketplace.
Santa Domingo Ruins
See ancient buildings planted around gardens, including a church and monastery.
El Carmen Ruins & Sunday Market
Be sure to visit these ruins downtown on Sunday to take advantage of the colorful vendor market. The ruins sit in front of several dozens of vendors selling colorful mementos and trinkets on market days.
Antiguo Colegio de la Compañia de Jesús
This fascinating ruin sits in central Antigua and can be viewed from the road. If you would like to get a closer look, you can pay a small fee to go inside the gates and take pictures.
Catedral de San José
These ruins are my favorite. Walk amongst huge crumbled blocks and view the deep blue sky through the vaulted holed ceilings.
Day Trips From Antigua
If vacationing for a week or longer, a day trip to the coast is a must! Leave Antigua, the old city, early and take a shuttle that can be booked at any agency around Antigua, and head to Monterrico to see the black-sanded beaches of the Pacific coast. The drive one-way is about two and a half hours. Here is a recommended booking service.
When planning your day trip and booking a shuttle inquire about releasing baby turtles into the ocean! From September to February, every day, turtles are released, typically once in the morning and once in the evening. With some hotels, you can release baby turtles in Monterrico during the season by paying a fee or with the Conservation Center.
Hotels in Monterrico that release baby turtles are Johnny’s Place, Hotel el Delfin, Atelie del Mar, or the Conservation Center of Tortuguero. The experience of releasing a tiny baby turtle is something extraordinary for everyone, from children to adults. Avoid using a flash while taking pictures, and be gentle with the tiny creatures.
Located in the department of Sololá, Lake Atitlan is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. The drive from Antigua one-way is about 3 hours. The massive blue lake is surrounded by the “three giants” Volcanos, Atitlán, Tolimán, and San Pedro, making the views absolutely breathtaking.
The villages surrounding the lake offer different environments to tourists, from the peaceful aura of Santa Cruz la Laguna and San Pedro to the festive atmosphere of Panajachel, a town known for its colorful parties.
The best way to visit the small villages after arriving at the lake is by small boats called lanches, which are readily available, similar to a boat taxi or just book a tour that takes care of everything, even your shuttle from Antigua! See 3 unique Mayan Villages via guided tour, book here.
Where To Eat
Antigua is especially nice for having diverse food options. You can find a large variety of morning cafes that serve the best Guatemalan coffee, outdoor lunch spots, local cultural cuisine, and fancy steakhouses. The variety of dining in Antigua is unlimited.
Breakfast & Lunch Spots
A family-friendly Finca or farm that houses a restaurant, organic gardens, flower beds, tropical flowers, a kid’s play area, and palm trees. Eat your eggs benedict or traditional Guatemalan brunch in lush tropical gardens. Note that Fincas typically charge a small entrance fee of $2 or $3 per person.
Unión Café Antigua
This breakfast and brunch spot is known for its healthy delicious food, and vegetarian and vegan options. They serve crisp locally sourced fruits and veggies in their dishes. They offer freshly squeezed juices and delicious fresh fruit and veggie smoothies.
This cafe is excellent and has an outdoor garden seating area and a cat named Lola. Order a homemade bagel breakfast sandwich and a delicious latte. The El Local is located in the back of a small restaurant plaza, La Fuente.
The front of the plaza has overhanging trees and seating around a beautiful and artistic water fountain, which is also a great place to enjoy your breakfast.
Try La Azotea for a relaxing casual lunch or dinner outdoors accompanied by live music. This outdoor coffee farm has bicycle rentals, two cafes, three restaurants, and a beer garden.
Inside Azotea, you can grab a traditional dinner of grilled lomito and chorizo near the entryway at The Carbon Roof. Further inside, you’ll find Azote BG, which has a large outdoor space, a live stage for bands, pizza, burgers, handcrafted beers, smoothies, and more. https://azotebg.com/
Escobar House is a steakhouse located in front of the Antiguo Colegio de la Compañia de Jesús ruins in central Antigua and is an excellent choice for a nicer dining experience. They serve an array of appetizers, soups, salads, and steaks, including sirloin steak and prime rib. The prices at this restaurant are similar to US prices. Expect to pay about $30 for a steak dinner.
La Fonda de la Calle Real
For a purely traditional foodie experience, go to La Fonda de la Calle Real. A restaurant right on Arco street or Arch street where the famous Santa Catalina Arch is located.
They serve Traditional Guatemalan Food. The menu includes the national dish of Pepian y Pollo, a stew of spices cooked with chicken and served with rice and traditional Guatemalan tortillas.
Where To Stay in Antigua
From luxurious colonial vacation rental homes to gorgeous, affordable hotels and inexpensive hostels, you can find a great place to stay in the center of Antigua. Don’t worry about air conditioning or a heater because the weather is a comfortable temperature year around.
Gorgeous 16th Century House
Enjoy an economical stay for under $100 in this colonial 16th Century House. Located in Central Antigua this house is perfectly located in the center of all the action.
Family Friendly Colonial Home
This cozy rental is really your home away from home, and it is affordable too! At approximately $100 a night, you and your family can enjoy a large private yard, a pool table, daily housekeeping service, flat-screen TVs with high-speed internet, and some really cool extras, including the option for airport transfers from Guatemala City into Antigua for an additional $40 fee, which is about an hours drive to an hour and a half depending upon traffic.
Luxurious Vacation Rental
Stay in this extravagant vacation home with a private heated pool and jacuzzi. This four-bedroom vacation dream home includes complimentary breakfast for all family members plus drinks and snacks served by the friendly staff. Sit on the top patio and spend your leisure time taking in the volcanic views. You can pamper yourself for approximately $250 to $350 a night. The price may fluctuate depending on your travel dates and the number of guests included in your stay.
Hotel For Any Budget
Selina Hostal is a low-budget place to stay that is both simple, clean, and beautiful. Enjoy outdoor swimming in a tropical garden. The Hostel does welcome children of all ages. They do host events, and some rooms may be impacted by noise. This location is a steal at approximately $25 to $50 a night! Price does depend on if you book a private room or bunk shared room option.
Family Friendly Hotel
Try a stay at this pet-friendly and kid-friendly hotel Las Farolas. They offer grocery deliveries for an additional fee and have a large picnic and garden area with comfy rooms and an on-site restaurant that serves popular international cuisine. The cost varies but is, on average, $60 to $100 a night.
Casa Santo Domingo. A stay at this 5-star hotel includes a relaxation area, an on-site restaurant, a bar, and a wellness spa. Relax on loungers, book a body scrub or back massage, plus enjoy a full buffet breakfast in the morning. The cost is about $150 a night to $200.
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