Ask me my favorite place in Guatemala. Go ahead; just ask. It’s Antigua! I spent a week in Antigua and really loved every minute of my time in this little town. With so many things to do in and around Antigua, it’s impossible to be bored. Whether you’re on the Gringo Trail in Guatemala, making your way to or from Guatemala’s Garifuna area near Rio Dulce, or just in the country for a quick visit, you can’t miss out on discovering all there is to see in Antigua.
Hike a nearby volcano
Antigua is located near the volcanoes Agua, Acatenango, Fuego, and Pacaya. Volcán de Agua can be seen from the center of Antigua itself. You can’t visit Antigua without checking out one of these volcanoes. Hiking Volcán Acatenango was easily one of the coolest things I did in Guatemala, especially because I got to see Volcán de Fuego erupting!
Visit a coffee farm
Guatemala is known for its coffee. Why not see how it’s made firsthand at a coffee farm? There are a few coffee farms nearby that arrange tours with pick-ups right from downtown Antigua. Coffee tours usually include a walk around the farm grounds and learning how coffee is grown, harvested, dried, milled, and roasted. Of course, the best part is tasting the final product!
Eat at the street markets
The street food in Guatemala is so good, not to mention, affordable. The food market outside the La Merced church offers up delicious street eats like roasted corn, chiles rellenos, and tortillas. I easily bought chiles rellenos every time I saw them in the street; I loved them so much!
Photograph the city’s building ruins
Antigua used to be the capital of Guatemala until a damaging earthquake caused a switch to Guatemala City. As harrowing as the earthquake must have been at that time, some of the remains of Antigua’s stunning colonial buildings still stand today. It’s easy to stumble upon building ruins if you walk anywhere around Antigua. Although they might be a sad reminder of Antigua’s history, they are still beautiful to photograph.
Hike to Cerro de la Cruz
Cerro de la Cruz, or “Hill of the Cross”, is the best place to capture a glimpse of Antigua from above. The walk to the top of the hill is fairly easy and the view of Antigua with Volcán de Agua in the background is just remarkable. This is also a quiet place to get a break from the hustle and bustle down below.
Explore the café culture
Although most Guatemalan coffee is exported, there are still a few awesome cafés in Antigua. The café culture appears to be an up and coming thing in Antigua as locals realize how much everyone loves their coffee. I tried a few different places during my week, including The Refuge Coffee Bar, Fat Cat Coffee House, and Bella Vista Coffee. Just make sure you’re following the suggestions on how to tip in Guatemala.
Peruse the handicraft markets
Aside from food markets, Antigua is known for its handicraft market on Sundays. This is the place to buy vibrant Guatemalan handicrafts and souvenirs. My favorite market was in town near the main square, but there is also a larger market west of the city. The people watching is also great at the handicraft markets, there
Take a Spanish course
¿Hablas español? ¿No? ¡No hay problema! Antigua is known as one of the best places in Central America to study Spanish. There are many language schools that offer accommodation and lessons for students wanting to dive in and learn the language. Actually, most of the foreigners I met in Antigua were taking Spanish courses. I certainly wouldn’t mind spending a month in an amazing city like Antigua while learning Spanish!
Taste a menu del día
The best thing about Antigua is that you can eat an entire meal for cheap. I’m talking like $3 cheap. The city is all about the menu del día at lunchtime. A set menu that changes every day, most restaurants offer soup as a starter, the main course which usually includes some type of meat, a dessert and juice. I did a little research to see where to eat but usually just followed my nose if I smelled something delicious in the air. You really can’t go wrong here.
These are only 9 of the many things to do in Antigua – you’ll just have to go there to discover the rest!