23 Incredible Things to Do in Antigua, Guatemala

Last updated Sep 2, 2021 | Guatemala | 0 comments

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With its charming cobblestone streets, colorful Spanish-Baroque architecture, and jaw-dropping skyline made up of three immense volcanoes, Antigua is truly Guatemala’s most-adored city. Classed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 16th-century colonial gem of Antigua boasts an incredible amount of things to do for anyone with a sense of adventure and love for history, art, food, and culture!

Actually, my favorite things to do in Antigua involve all of its epic outdoor adventures, namely, hiking active volcanoes. If that sounds like your kind of fun, then definitely add Antigua Guatemala to your bucket list!

After spending one month in Antigua as a digital nomad, I can honestly say that there is so much to do and see that not even a few weeks could spare us enough time to explore around. That’s why, if you’re planning a trip to Antigua, I’d recommend at least a week or more.

But whether you have only a couple of days or have a flexible month-long itinerary, this guide for the best things to do in Antigua, Guatemala will act as your mini bucket list journal so you can start exploring on day one!

Best Things to Do in Antigua Guatemala

1. Roast Marshmallows Over Lava on Volcán Pacaya

roasted marshmallows from the Pacaya Volcano lava flow

lava flow from the active pacaya volcano in guatemala

One of my most favorite (there were several) things to do in Antigua was getting to see a real-life lava flow spewing from an active volcano, and getting to roast marshmallows over the hot volcanic rocks! Not only that, but getting to trek up Pacaya for sunrise and seeing the Fuego volcano erupt in the distance all made for a memorable experience. (Make sure to watch our YouTube video!)

If you get the chance to hike or camp on Volcán Pacaya, you’ll be rewarded with insane volcano views (not just of Pacaya, but also of Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango volcanoes), and the incredible scenery of the valley. The hike itself is fun and slightly challenging, with somewhat steep inclines and soft volcanic soil (near the end). All in all, it takes about 40-50 minutes to hike to the top via La Corona Trail. Read more details on my guide to hiking Pacaya.

You can take a sunrise tour to Pacaya or go on an overnight camping trip. Our sunrise trek started early (2 AM from Antigua!), but it was worth it to have that once-in-a-lifetime experience. 10/10 highly recommend it!!

 

 

2. Climb Up to Antigua’s Best Viewpoint

view over the city of Antigua Guatemala from atop Cerro de la Cruz

Cerro de la Cruz offers an awesome view of both the city of Antigua and Agua Volcano from atop a hill laden with a stone cross and trails.

If you are wanting to prepare, let’s say, for a volcano hike, then you should test yourself by hiking up to Cerro de la Cruz. It’s not a hard hike at all, and there are steps, but it’ll be enough to clue you in on whether or not you’d want to do a strenuous volcano trek during your time in Antigua!

You can also drive up to the cross via backroads, but what’s the fun in that?

hiking trail up to cerro de la cruz viewpoint in antiguaCerro de la Cruz hiking trail

Church of la Candelaria ruins in Antigua GuatemalaChurch of Candelaria Ruins

The trail to climb up to Cerro de la Cruz is very accessible and isn’t far away. You can find the entrance, which is free, just past the Church of Candelaria ruins (which you should stop to marvel at quickly on your way up/down!). Since it’s not far from the historic center, and the famous Santa Catalina Arch, there’s no reason not to go!

Go for sunrise or sunset for best views and light! At noon, it gets overcrowded and fairly hot (on a sunny day).

3. Photograph the Famous Yellow Santa Catalina Arch

yellow Santa Catalina Arch in Antigua Guatemala with Agua Volcano in backgroundSanta Catalina Arch and Agua Volcano

Did you know this famous yellow archway was once used by nuns from the Convent of Santa Catalina in the late 17th century to safely and privately cross the street without being detected? Yep!

The Santa Catalina Arch has a lot of history, but what makes it so special to Antiguans today is that it’s withstood countless earthquakes. It was one of the few monuments and colonial gems to withstand the devastating 1773 earthquake and the 1976 earthquake that shook the city.

woman walking across 5a Avenida street with Santa Catalina Arch in Antigua Guatemala

Tip: Depending on which side you’re standing, the Santa Catalina Arch frames the Volcán Agua or the decorated La Merced church. When you go, make sure to take it in from both vantage points!

You’ll find the Arco de Santa Catalina located on the bustling 5a Avenida. It’s one of the main streets traversing the city with plenty of restaurants, shops, markets, and more.

4. Get Lost in the Maze at the Central/Artisanal Mercado (Market)

Mercado de Artesanias in Antigua Guatemala (Market)Mercado de Artesanías in Antigua

The local market (mercado) in Antigua is not to be missed! Sprawling with vendors, artisanal goods, street food, fresh produce, and just about anything else you can imagine, the market is the go-to place to get a glimpse into local culture and daily life.

You can shop for all kinds of treasures at the market too — from hand-sewn wallets and traditional huipiles to worldly fragrant spices and flower bouquets, and much more.

The best way to visit the market in Antigua is to just show up. There are different sections for different items (produce, dairy/meat, textiles, etc), so if you have a goal in mind you can try to head straight there. Otherwise, just get lost in the maze and see what you find!

You’ll find the market by heading to the Central Market or Artisanal Market in Antigua on Google Maps. It’s located near the cemetery west of town.

5. Trek Up Antigua’s Explosive Volcanoes (Acatenango & Fuego)

volcanoes Acatenango and Fuego seen from rooftop terrace in Antigua GuatemalaVolcán Fuego erupting and Volcán Acatenango’s dual peaks

An overnight trekking and camping trip up Volcán Acatenango is a must-have adventure while traveling in Antigua!

Volcán Acatenango is the volcano on which you’ll trek and camp overnight at the base camp (3750m or 12,300ft). It is conjoined with Volcán Fuego, the one that you’ll likely see exploding lava (or ‘ashing’) from Antigua.

The 2-day overnight trek is not for the faint of heart. You’ll experience four different ecosystems, intense inclines, challenging terrain, and changes in weather. But Fuego will put on a mesmerizing fire show at night, and in the morning you’ll be able to witness sunrise atop Acatenango’s summit.

Fuego Volcano exploding ash in the distance, as seen from AntiguaFuego putting on a show during the day! 

That said, if you plan on doing the Acatenango Volcano hike in Antigua, make sure you are well-prepared both mentally and physically! Altitude sickness isn’t likely at that altitude, but you can experience breathing problems nonetheless.

If there’s one thing you must do in Antigua, it’s trekking on a volcano!!

For tours, I would recommend either OX Expeditions, Trek Guatemala, or Wicho & Charlie’s.

6. Eat an Organic Brunch at Caoba Farms & Market

organic chicken burger and fries at caoba farmers market restaurant antigua guatemala

Caoba Farms is an organic farm, restaurant, and market all in one! Going and chowing down on organic, delicious farm-to-table food is one of the best things to do in Antigua, especially on Sunday around brunchtime.

Caoba is truly a hidden gem; the plant-filled outdoor restaurant has straw-covered floors; local live music accompanies you while you eat and drink, and cute farm animals, plus a butterfly sanctuary, await just around the corner for you to visit! You can also partake in sunrise yoga sessions or aerial silk classes here! It’s really a community of its own.

While the best day to go is for Sunday brunch, it’s also the busiest. Luckily, Caoba Farms is open every day from 8am to 4pm (closed Mondays), so you have plenty of opportunities to go.

7. Wander the City’s Historic Church Ruins

Church ruins of La Recolección in Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala has more church and convent ruins than any other city that I’ve been to! There are at least 10 that I can count, and probably several more that aren’t on my radar.

If you’re looking for a fun and free thing to do in Antigua, go on a self-guided ruins tour! (Most are free except for some of the more popular ruins). You can split these up across several days or check them all off your Antigua bucket list in one go.

Must-visits are:

  • La Recolección ruins (Q40)
  • Church of Candelaria ruins
  • San José Cathedral
  • Church of Santo Domingo
  • Convent of the Capuchins
  • Church of Santa Rosa
  • San Jéronimo Convent
  • Church of the Society of Jesus
  • Santa Clara Convent & Church (Q40)
  • El Carmen Church ruins

Here is a fantastic walking guide of the Antigua ruins. It explains all of the ruins’ history better than I could! You can download the app or the PDF file, too!

8. Make Your Own Chocolate – Take a Cacao Workshop

bean to bar chocolate workshop in antigua

credit: ChocoMuseo

When in Guatemala, you gotta eat chocolate! With a chocolate workshop, you can learn about the history and process of turning cacao beans into delicious chocolate and even make your own chocolate bar!

Cacao has been an integral part of Maya and Guatemalan culture for millennia (and important in Mesoamerican ancient cultures at large, beginning with the Aztecs in South America). But Guatemalans get to tout a unique title — the title of having made the first-ever chocolate bar.

Best chocolate/cacao workshops in Antigua:

Fernando’s: This sweet and unassuming coffee shop has been making handmade chocolate for 15 years. Their workshop costs Q180 per person and lasts for 2 hours. You take home 2 chocolate bars, 5 chocolate-covered cacao beans, and 5 mendiats. Workshop hours are M-F from 10am-12pm, 11am-1pm, 1-3pm, and 2-4pm.

ChocoMuseum: The ChocoMuseum workshop is a popular place to visit in Antigua with an upfront chocolate shop and a back area for learning the history and process of cacao from start to finish.

9. Get Lunch with a View on a Rooftop Bar or Café

rooftop terrace with a view in antigua guatemala with agua volcano in backgroundBrunch with a view on Agua Volcano

rooftop terrace in antigua guatemala with view on fuego and acatenango volcanoesViews of Fuego Volcano and Acatenango Volcano

Have achy feet from hiking and exploring around? There’s nothing better to do in Antigua than just relax and marvel at the volcano views from a rooftop bar or café.

Whether you want to grab breakfast, lunch, dinner, or drinks, Antigua has plenty of hidden rooftop gems from which to enjoy the surrounding scenery.

Some of my favorites:

  • Antigua Brewing Company (cozy outdoor bar/terrace with awesome views on Agua Volcano)
  • Cafe Estudio (pictured above — the BEST rooftop terrace in Antigua with views on all three volcanoes!)
  • Rooftop Antigua (terrace for coffee and drinks with a view of the church ruins downtown)
  • Cafe Bohème (cozy wooden terrace with distant views on Acatenango and Fuego volcanoes)
  • Cafe Sky (unhampered views of the backside of La Merced Church and Agua Volcano in the background)

10. Visit the Ornate Iglesia La Merced & Park

the yellow ornate facade of La Merced church with indigenous woman on stepsThe beautiful facade of La Merced

The Iglesia La Merced is a gorgeous pale-yellow Catholic church. Iconic of Antigua’s Baroque-style architecture, La Merced is a testament to the beauty — and resilience — of the city. The church has withstood two major earthquakes since its last rebuild in the 18th century.

Both the church itself and the green space around it is definitely worth visiting while in Antigua. The park is a hub of local activity with street food vendors setting up for incoming and outcoming churchgoers in the evenings.

You’ll also find myriad cafes serving up authentic Antigua coffee, inviting restaurants, and handicrafts markets right around this area, with the popular Avenida 5a (street of the arch) just a stone’s throw away.

bustling corner of the parque la merced (park) in Antigua Guatemala

During Holy Week (Semana Santa) each spring season, this plaza and church come even more alive with festivities as the main procession begins here and traverses the town.

Every walking tour of Antigua includes a visit to La Merced! It’s simply a must-see in Antigua Guatemala.

11. Chow Down on Guatemalan Street Food

guatemala street food vendor at La Merced park in Antigua GuatemalaStreet food and textiles abound in La Merced Park

Speaking of La Merced park, it’s here where you’ll find some of the best Guatemalan street food! If you want a budget thing to do in Antigua, then chowing down on some cheap eats is a great way to have fun and explore the local culture via your tastebuds.

Street food in Antigua is pretty cheap, so make sure to bring small change with you! You can eat tamales for as little as Q5! The best way to approach street food in Guatemala is with a sense of curiosity.

Here you can try:

  • Rellenitos (fried mashed plantains stuffed with refried beans, meat, cheese, etc)
  • Shucos (Guatemalan hot dogs)
  • Atol de elote (sweet corn and milk drink)
  • Panitos de pollo (chicken fingers)
  • Taquitos (rolled tacos)
  • Enchiladas

Make sure that vendors are keeping ingredients covered, fresh, and that everything looks clean. Go where the locals go! That’s usually a good indicator that the food is safe and delicious!

12. Grab a Creative Cocktail in This Secret Speakeasy

creative coktail from Ulew Cocktail Bar in Antigua GuatemalaMy creative and pretty cocktail from Ulew! 

A speak…what? Did you know that Antigua has its own little speakeasy? That’s right! There is a bar hidden out of view… It has no exterior entrance, you can only get to it once inside another building.

Hint: walk through the British red telephone booth inside the brewery…!

What I love about this place is that there is no menu. You simply show up and the bartenders will ask you what you like! Then, based on your taste preferences, they’ll make you a creative cocktail and serve it in a unique glass.

I had a spicy mezcal with a Mayan chocolate-covered ice cube and complemented with gold shimmery glitter (pictured above). Paul had a sweet, gin grapefruit cocktail that came in a honey hive pot!

I found this bar on Instagram, so it’s not like they don’t want to be found. Check out Ulew Cocktail Bar and see for yourself how creative their drinks are!

13. Spend a Few Days Lakeside at Lago de Atitlán

digital nomad girl standing on wooden pier overlooking lake atitlan guatemalaLake Atitlán and its three volcanoes of Tolimán, Atitlán, and San Pedro

While the majority of this guide is about things to do IN Antigua, I can’t go without mentioning a few incredible places to visit AROUND Antigua. One of them being none other than the most beautiful lake in all Latin America — Lake Atitlán!

There are so many awesome things to do in Lake Atitlán!

  • Paraglide over the lake with views on Tolimán, San Pedro, and Atitlán volcanoes
  • Hike up to Indian Nose mountain for sunrise
  • Sit in thermal hot spring baths
  • Make your own scarf with a weaving workshop
  • Explore colorful Mayan villages
  • Kayak or stand-up-paddle
  • Meditate or do sunrise yoga
  • Trek on an ancient volcano
  • AND SO MUCH MORE!

A day trip to Lake Atitlán from Antigua on a guided tour would mean adventures from sunrise to sunset! That said, I’d highly recommend carving out some time from your Antigua itinerary to spend a few days lakeside. But if you have little time to spare, then a day trip would be enough just to see it and skirt around to a few of the towns around Lake Atitlán.

14. Take a Day Trip to Hobbitenango Theme Park

woman knocking on hobbit door inside Hobbitenango theme park near Antigua GuatemalaPsst… Bilbo! You in there?

Any fellow Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans here??

If so, then you’ll love spending a day pretending to be in The Shire at the hobbit-themed park in the hills outside of Antigua called Hobbitenango!

Here, you can try your hand at archery or axe throwing, take photos on a troll hand overlooking the valley and volcanoes, eat in a cozy restaurant, grab a drink at the local watering hole (bar), go on a mini thrill ride on a tree swing, play minigolf, and more!

woman standing on troll hand overlooking valley inside Hobbitenango hobbit theme-park near Antigua in GuatemalaThere are volcanoes hiding behind those clouds… Darn these ‘Misty Mountains’!

hobbit-themed hotel at the Hobbitenango Lord of the Rings theme park in GuatemalaThe yellow door is my favorite!

But the real draw to the park is the actual hobbit holes that you can stay in overnight! They even have the iconic round, painted doors, and hobbit-like furnishings.

If they book out (which they tend to do), and you’d still like to stay nearby, then I would highly recommend the avocado farm and eco-friendly lodges at Earth Lodge! It’s only 0.9 miles away from Hobbitenango and has a really inspiring sustainable property and like-minded community.

15. Go on a Thrilling ATV Ride Around Antigua Valley

Whether you want to visit the surrounding villages, mountains, or coffee farms, you can do so on a thrilling ATV tour around Antigua! ATV tours are an extremely popular thing to do in Antigua Guatemala because they combine adventure with a fun bucket list.

Depending on which tour you choose, you can knock off two birds with one stone. On the sunset tour and mountain adventure tour, you get to visit attractions like Cerro de la Cruz, Earth Lodge, and Hobbitenango, and ride off the beaten path to watch the sunset over the volcanoes and valley.

16. Shop at Guatemala’s Largest Craft Market in Chichicastenango

If you come to Antigua Guatemala, you’re likely going to hear talk of Chichicastenango.

That’s because Chichicastenango boasts the largest craft market in Guatemala (and arguably in Central America). If you want to take home a bunch of handicrafts, textiles, or souvenirs, then there’s no better place to bulk shop!

You can get to Chichicastenango Market from Antigua by chicken bus, but there are also guided tours you can do (private shuttles are also available).

 

 

17. Explore Antigua’s Colonial Architecture on a Walking Tour

Public laundry wash basin in Antigua GuatemalaColonial laundry washbasin in Antigua

Antigua Guatemala doesn’t have a FREE walking tour like many major cities across the world offer. Actually, those types of tours are one of my favorite things to do whenever I first arrive at a new destination. (You can still go your own DIY walking tour though.)

So while Antigua may not have volunteers with white umbrellas departing from its main square each day, there are budget-friendly private and group walking tours of the city that you can do.

Top sights to see on a walking tour of Antigua Guatemala:

  • La Merced
  • Santa Catalina Arch
  • Casa Santo Domingo Museum
  • Ruins of La Recolección
  • Parque Central (Central Park)
  • Ayuntamiento (City Hall Palace)
  • Market
  • Jade Museum

18. Visit the Historic Casa Santo Domingo Hotel & Museum

museum inside casa santo domingo in antigua

hotel casa santo domingo Casa Santo Domingo Museum and Hotel via Booking.com

You may be thinking… Why is a hotel a top thing to do in Antigua Guatemala? Well, it’s not just a hotel!

The grounds of the Casa Santo Domingo Monastery are exceptionally beautiful. It’s housed on a former 16th-century convent, now in ruins, and boasts a lovely garden, restaurant, and museum.

In case you are looking for a unique and memorable place to stay in Antigua, then a stay at the hotel/museum/spa of Casa Santo Domingo is definitely worth considering! It’s one of Antigua’s crown jewels complete with art and archaeological gems.

Already got your accommodation booked? You can still visit and tour the museum with this skip-the-line admission ticket.

19. Stroll Around the Parque Central (Central Park)

Parque Central water fountain in Antigua GuatemalaThe 18th-century mermaid fountain in the middle of Parque Central

indigenous woman vendor in Parque Central in Antigua GuatemalaThe Main Park is a popular gathering spot, ideal for observing daily life in Antigua

The main square, plaza, or park, known as Parque Central is a must-visit! This square-shaped plaza is a popular gathering place among indigenous locals and peoples from all walks of life.

Inside the park itself is a curated garden with trimmed shrubs and trees, benches for resting in the shade, and an 18th-century decorated fountain with mermaids spouting out water.

Tucked away inside charming colonial-style buildings skirting the plaza’s edges are cozy cafes, upscale restaurants, handicraft markets, and a few ornate buildings — notably the Captain General Palace and the elegant Catedral San José (Antigua Guatemala Cathedral).

20. Grab Iced Coffee at Artista de Café

girl holding cold brew coffee inside artista de café shop in antigua guatemalaI miss you caramel iced coffee with oat milk!

When in La Antigua Guatemala, you must try café Antigüeño (or simply, Antiguan coffee). One of my favorite cafes in Antigua is Artista de Café. As the name implies, these guys really know the art of coffee!

If you’re anything like me, you will absolutely be enamored with this cozy, minimalist space. Its inspiring atmosphere and the scrumptious caramel (iced) coffee always hits the spot! I loved to go there and work for a few hours on my laptop while enjoying a drink and a homemade dessert.

📍  5ta Avenida Sur No. 34A (5 blocks down from the Santa Catalina Arch)

⏰  Mon-Fri from 7 am – 6 pm, Sun-Sat until 7 pm

21. Hike in the Finca El Pilar Cloud Forest

Finca El Pilar is a private nature reserve and cloud forest located just outside of Antigua Guatemala in San Cristobál El Bajo. You can go hiking, bird watching (hummingbirds in particular), camping, mountain biking, or relax in an on-site pool.

Finca Colombia and Finca Filadelfia are alternative options, too, with coffee farm tours, restaurants, and lifestyle amenities for guests.

22. Go on a Tasty Coffee Farm Tour

ATV coffee farm tour in Antigua Guatemala

credit: Luz G

On that note, a coffee farm tour is another fun thing to do in Antigua Guatemala that you shouldn’t miss out on! Antiguan coffee is famous all over the world for its strong arabica coffee with chocolate notes.

The Centro Cultural La Azotea in neighboring Jocotenango is a coffee museum and fully operational 150-year old coffee plantation with a 19th-century working coffee mill. Also on-site is a Mayan music museum. You can tour the coffee museum/grounds for around Q75, which includes the entrance to the finca, tour, and tasting.

Guided tours are available on-site and through this ATV coffee tour. You can also go at your own pace as you explore around! La Azotea is only 5 minutes from downtown Antigua, so it’s a great activity to do to learn about the coffee-making process with family or friends!

23. Take an Authentic Guatemalan Cooking Class

Guatemalan cooking class in Antigua

credit: mwforbes

Last but not least on this Antigua Guatemala bucket list is an authentic Guatemalan cooking class! Ever wanted to take home the tasty flavors of Guatemala’s best dishes home with you? Well, now you can. Iconic staples like pépian (stew) and tamales can make their way into your cultural recipe book.

Antigua is home to many educational schools, especially for language and cooking. In this private cooking class, you get to learn one-on-one from local chefs (Carolina and sous-chef Iris). After you prepare your own dinner, you’ll end the night atop a scenic rooftop to sample your dishes together with a view of Agua Volcano!

Enjoy These Things to Do in Antigua!

I hope this guide to what to do in Antigua Guatemala helps plan your trip. I am already itching to get back and add even more adventurous items to this list. La Antigua has become one of my most-adored cities in the world, and I hope the same for you too!

The city has so much to offer in the way of activities — from epic volcano hikes to scrumptious food tours, history walks, and more. If you have any questions about traveling in Antigua such as where to stay, eat, or how many days you should spend there — feel free to reach out!

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Hi, I’m Bri! I’ve been slow traveling around the world in search of new adventures since 2013. I have lived in 8 countries on 4 continents including Nepal, Mexico, Colombia, and parts of Europe! I created this blog to inspire others to live a life of adventure, seek out meaningful experiences, and to travel slowly and mindfully. Join me on this journey and let’s tick off our bucket lists! Read my story here.

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