Antigua is probably the most famous place for tourists and backpackers alike in Guatemala!
It was once the capital of the country, until a volcanic eruption ruined the city and they had to move it to what is now “Guatemala city”.
Antigua is a colonial style city that’s bursting in culture, amazing views, delicious food and incredible nightlife. Not only that, but the geological landscapes in this area are incredible.
If you’ve always wanted to see a volcano erupt, but not be in danger, then this is the place to achieve that!
The city has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and upon your arrival, you'll see why...
Bradley and I spent 3 nights in Antigua and below we discuss some of the best things to do in Antigua (Guatemala) alongside some practical information that will help you plan your trip.
Guatemala in general doesn’t have the world’s best transport links by any stretch of the imagination, but getting to Antigua is fairly easy.
But chicken buses don’t have air con, and they tend to be even slower, so I think it’s worth just getting an organized shuttle. It’s not expensive for what it is!
Antigua is one of the most compact cities in Guatemala so the best way to get around is simply to walk!
This is actually the case for many locations in Central America, as you'll find that most of the tourist attractions are located close together.
In Antigua you'll find that plenty of the tourist spots are located in an 8-by-8 block, and it only requires a 15-20 minute walk to get from one side to the other.
Just make sure you're cautious of your surroundings as the cars seem to whizz by quickly, and the cobblestone streets are very uneven! Not only that, but there are endless potholes which can become a problem - especially if it's been raining.
Here are some other ways to get around the city if you don't wish to walk:
Antigua has lots of great places to stay, and there is literally something to suit every budget.
Actually I've written a whole post on where to stay in Antigua with hotel recommendations and how to save money.
We booked one night at Casa De Leon which is a guesthouse that offers a brilliant breakfast on the rooftop with a view of the volcanoes, a wonderful comfortable bed and good WiFi. It’s about a 15 minute walk to all the sights.
Then we used Airbnb to find an awesome colonial style house that had large rooms, free washer/dryer use, and it had a fire inside!
You can check out all the hotels in Antigua Guatemala on Booking.com.
Why not check out our post on all the best places to stay in Antigua for inspiration!
Okay, let’s get right down to it, my list of the top things to do in Antigua Guatemala!
This is one of the most visited and photographed parts of Antigua and it’s become a significant religious and cultural centre for the whole region!
It attracts a large amount of the local population due to the shrine that can be found inside; the shrine of Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur.
San Francisco Church (or Iglesia de San Francisco as it's known) has been around since the 16th century, although not much of the church remains from this era.
Due to multiple earthquakes in this region, the building has had to be reconstructed over the years. However, it's still just as important today as it was back then.
In fact, many of the churches and convents in Antigua are a little worse for wear due to earthquakes, but a lot of them are still used!
We stayed in an Airbnb which was minutes away from this famous hotel. It was actually a Canadian couple who said we should definitely go visit!
Even if we weren't’ eating, it’s the historical significance of this place that draws people in (Although according to our Canadian friends, they do an awesome Sunday brunch!)
Hotel Casa Domingo is a 5 star hotel and museum that's located on the grounds of the Santo Domingo Monastery. This monastery was once one of the most significant and grand convents in all of the Americas.
The hotel is well known for it’s baroque architecture and there are a number of treasures on display.
Of course if you want the full experience, you could stay here too.
Volcano Fuego in Guatemala is a very active volcano and still currently pushes out ash and lava sometimes. It’s last big eruption was in 2018 where up to 70 people were killed.
You can’t hike that volcano, but you can hike the Acatenango volcano which will give you a few of Fuego up close, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see Lava coming out.
Two friends we met in Antigua managed to see Lava from the volcano and it looked bloody amazing-- I was super jealous.
Our friend has actually wrote a post on all you need to know and how to book your trip!
Now, this volcano hike isn’t for the faint hearted or the unfit.
It’s pretty much a direct incline and once you get to the top, it can feel like you could topple over at any stage. It’s a two day, overnight hike.
Prices vary and I know someone who got the experience for 250Q per person, but others pay more such as around 350-400Q for a tad more luxury.
What that basically means is they give you an air bed to sleep on instead of a mat!
Your rental will include your food, your equipment and all you need for an overnight hike up a volcano.
It’s truly a lifetime experience, and you should definitely go for it, if you’ve got the time, and the fitness level.
A great tour option is this Overnight Volcano Hiking Adventure!
This is one of the coolest things to do in Antigua Guatemala so make sure you check out this Pacaya Volcano Trek!
I mean, not everyone can say they’ve got to make smores on a volcano!
So, this is an active volcano that can be climbed (to a certain extent) in Antigua.
Pacaya volcano is located around an hour and fifteen minutes from the city and it’s an easier hike than the one above.
This volcano frequently erupts, but only with ash which makes it hot enough to roast marshmallows.
Lots of people do this trip with a tour as they organise the transportation and bring the marshmallows for you. You'll just need to pay the entrance fee to the national park in which the volcano is contained, and you have to have a guide with you by law.
Pacaya Volcano stands 8,373 feet tall and it will probably take you around 2 hours to hike up and down, and due to activity at the moment, you can't reach the actual peak of the volcano, but you can get close enough. It’s a relatively short hike, but it is steep.
If you wish you can rent walking sticks to help, although you'll get plenty of rest stops along the way anyway. This gives you the chance to get some awesome pictures and roast your marshmallows!
You can even head to the souvenir shop after and buy a piece of lava to take home with you as a memory if you wish.
Take your time when hiking and don’t feel pressured to go quick. It is a high altitude, so if you have type 1 diabetes (like me), my guide on dealing with altitude with type 1 diabetes might be of use here.
You will not see LAVA! So if you are told you will, they are lying.
Lake Atitlan is about 2.5 hours from Antigua, Guatemala and it feels like you’re being transported to another beautiful world.
Lake Atitlan is known as the “eternal spring” because it’s always a constant temperature of 25 degrees Celsius, but due to the high level of the place, this is still very warm!
About 98% of the population surrounding the lake are indigenous, so it’s an awesome chance to meet local people and experience different cultures. Some of the lake towns include San Pedro, and Santa Cruz.
If you don’t have time to stay overnight at the lake, you can take a day trip from Antigua.
There are plenty of tour organizations who will offer you a package deal that will include your transport there and back, and your lunch and transport on the lake.
Or, if you want to do it alone, just book a shuttle bus there and back and explore on your own.
Shuttles start at 6 am and it’s a standard cost of around 85 Q ($10). Don’t pay more than this, and if you get it for less, then even better!
If you do decide to stay at Lake Atitlan, then we can recommend the Sunset Lodge for breathtaking views on the lake.
The Santa Catalina Arch was built in 1694, and it's purpose was to connect the two convents that were located on either side.
Although this isn't the case today, it's probably still the most iconic area of Antigua making it a popular photography spot!
When the sky is right, you can get a picture of the arch with Volcano Fuego in the background perfectly, and it's truly something else.
The sky wasn’t perfect when we were there, so I didn’t get that “iconic” picture, but I did take a picture of the arch!
There are “professional” photographers there who can take your picture for you, which is cool if you don’t have a high quality camera and want a cute souvenir!
Here's a brief history of the Santa Catalina Arch if you want to know more!
This “Hill of the Cross” is only a short and easy 30 minute “hike” upwards from the centre of Antigua. It offers stunning views across the city and it’s a great place to catch the sunset.
When you arrive you’ll have awesome views of the volcanoes that surround you, and there are people selling drinks and snacks.
Also, you can legally fly a drone here, so it’s a good opportunity to get some AWESOME footage of the volcanos!
I’d actually say this is one of the romantic things to do in Antigua as you can just relax together and reminisce on your trip so far.
Antigua is BURSTING with bars and opportunities to drink. Alcohol is very cheap, and you can get shots of tequila (no thank you) for 5Q which is like 50 pence, and Cuba Libres for 10Q which is £1.
There are actual bar crawls that are arranged and you can go.
Or you can do what Bradley and I did and create our own bar crawl! We were there for Bradley's Birthday, so we wanted to create a cool list of places to go. Here is where we recommend:
There are lots of really cool artisan markets in Guatemala and I love a good souvenir, so that’s why it’s made the list of the best things to do in Antigua.
I collect shot glasses from every country I visit, alongside travel bands, and Brad collects flag patches for his rucksack. There is a market located next to the famous arch and it has everything. Everything is quite cheap too, which is surprising for such a tourist thriving area.
You can also buy little bags of Guatemalan coffee and chocolate which make great gifts for family and friends back home.
Trust me, you'll want to spend some time (and save some cash) to wander around this market during your trip.
Speaking of coffee, Guatemala is a rich coffee region, and it’s well known. I loved the coffee here and this was one of my highlights in Antigua.
So, if you love coffee as much as I do, then take a coffee tour.
There are different types of tours available, but try and get something authentic and in English (if you don’t speak any Spanish) so you can truly learn about the process.
You’ll always get to try a delicious cup of coffee after your tour too.
Any travel agent in Guatemala can organise a coffee tour, but it's far cheaper to do it yourself.
We visited the La Azotea which is just 10 minutes from the centre, so an uber is a couple of quid, or you can get the chicken bus for $1. Entrance is only 50 Q and includes a coffee tour, tasting and a tour of the music museum which was pretty cool!
It was only Brad and I, so it was basically a private tour which was awesome and our guide was lovely. I purchased some delicious coffee at the end too.
A tour company will charge you about 25 dollars, when it only costs around 7 on your own...so do it yourself and use the money you saved to buy some coffee instead!
Central Park is basically like the hub of Antigua, which I just call 'the middle'. It’s got lots of activity and restaurants surrounding it, and there are a few cool water fountains too.
Lots of people will be selling ice cream here, so it’s the perfect place to sit on a bench and people watch! This place is a cultural hotspot as it's a popular attraction with both locals and tourists alike.
You can also grab a coffee at one of the surrounding coffee shops if you wish as there are plenty to choose from.
Although there are plenty of things to do in Antigua, sometimes it's just as important to kick back and relax!
Spanish is my favourite language in the world.
It’s beautiful to read, write and listen too, yet I know very little. I know enough to communicate and ask questions, and I’ve taken online courses to try and learn more, but I do wish I could speak fluently.
There is no better place to learn a language than the country in which it is spoken. Antigua offers lots of Spanish speaking classes, so if you are there for a week or more, then try your hand at some lessons!
It’s great to know another language and Spanish will be super useful to you not only when backpacking Central America, but if you find yourself backpacking South America, or Spain itself!
Sometimes it’s nice to just wander around a city, as I often find that it's the best way to explore!
Although you'll want to hit up all the popular tourist spots, just walking around Antigua will allow you discover some hidden gems. This includes beautiful buildings, quirky little stores, and authentic restaurants.
Not only that, but you'll get to see how the locals live and go about their everyday life which is always a bonus.
Just don’t wear any dodgy shoes or you might break your ankle - I’m not even joking! The cobbled streets here are absolutely lethal, especially if you've had a drink or two!
If you’re a chocolate lover, then the ChocoMuseo needs to be on your list of things to do in Antigua, Guatemala.
Not only will you learn how the chocolate is made, but you can also make it yourself which is an awesome experience!
If you decide to do the chocolate making tour, then you'll get to learn about the different cocoa beans and how they're processed. You'll also get to taste samples and of course, have some delicious treats to take back with you.
The classes vary in length, so just check what's included in each tour before you book.
If you don’t have time to do a tour and make the chocolate yourself, you can simply skip to the visitor shop and buy some delicious chocolate to eat.
This is the market of all markets in Guatemala!
Chichicastenango hosts market days on Thursdays and Sundays where vendors sell handicrafts, food, flowers, pottery, wooden boxes, and much much more.
It’s one of the largest and most well known markets not only in Guatemala, but all of Central America.
Again, lots of tour operators arrange day trips to the market. This isn’t something Brad and I did as basically I can’t buy anything due to space restraints and there is no point in tempting myself further.
However, if you've got room and some extra cash it's definitely a place that you'll want to visit. If you're not easily tempted like me, you can even visit for just the experience!
What better place to learn Salsa than in a country that oozes charm and charisma. Salsa in Antigua is fun and readily available, so get ready to learn some moves!
You can arrange private lessons, or you can throw yourself into the deep end and just head to La Sala on a Sunday night for FREE Salsa lessons.
It’s basically a night where everyone dances with everyone and teaches people the moves. It’s a lot of fun, and if you feel nervous, a couple of Margaritas will help ease your mind!
This is also a great way to embrace Guatemala's culture so make sure you get stuck in and move those hips!
Traditional Guatemalan food is delicious and tasty! Some of the most popular dishes include Kak'ik, Hilachas, and Rellenitos, but there are plenty more to try too.
I always think that taking a cooking class in a new country is a great way to learn a new skill, and embrace the area's traditional dishes.
You'll also be able to recreate your favourite dishes when you return back home so what've you got to lose?
There are a few companies that offer cooking tours in the city, or you can book this Guatemala cooking class tour! It's a 5-hour class that will offer you the chance to make one main dish, two side dishes, and a dessert.
You can rent your own “car”, but not a car, like a buggy car that’s made to handle cobbled roads and head out on your own adventure.
This is one of the more unique things to do in Antigua, Guatemala, and actually we saw lots of people doing it when we were there.
You can fit up to 4 people in them, so I guess if you’re splitting it between 4 people, then it’s a pretty cool deal for the freedom and fun it will bring to explore the area!
Check out this Antigua ATV Villages tour if you'd prefer a guided tour, rather than hiring a buggy for yourself!
This is another one of the unique and cool things to do in Antigua. If you like organic produce, then you’ll love Caoba Farms.
The café serves great meals that are literally farm-to-table, and there is a Farmers Market each Saturday where you can find local artisanal food and drinks, fresh produce, local crafts, and listen to live music as you shop.
You can even request a tour of the farms if you’re interested.
You can volunteer at the farms too which is a great chance to meet other people AND get a large bag of organic vegetables for free as payment!
Now, this is one of the top things to do in Antigua!
Cathedral de Santiago is a Roman Catholic Church that was originally built in 1541. Unfortunately, it's been damaged by terrible earthquakes over the years - especially the earthquake of 1773.
Since then, the Cathedral has been partially rebuilt and it's an interesting place to visit. With a beautiful exterior and interior, this cathedral has to be one of the most charming places in the city.
You'll also get a great view of the volcanoes that are located behind it!
There are plenty of ruined churches and cathedrals in Antigua so if you've got some extra time why not visit some of the others? This includes the El Carmen church ruins, and the Church of Santa Rosa.
Okay, so if you don’t fancy taking a cooking class, then the next best thing is going on a food tour!
You could easily arrange this yourself, but I actually think it’s a better experience with someone else. This way, you'll be told details about the traditional dishes and the guide can answer any questions that you may have.
Plus they will usually know the best of the best Guatemalan food in town, which is always a bonus!
One of the most popular companies is Taste Antigua!
These guys know what their doing and offer a wide range of different tours related to food, so make sure you check them out.
There are lots of opportunities for walking tours in Antigua, Guatemala, and it’s the perfect way to see all the highlights if you’ve only got a short amount of time.
You can opt for a free walking tour, in which you can find out more here.
This free walking tour includes stops at:
If you want a more private experience, rather than a group tour set up, then you can book a tour online.
If you're a fan of volcanoes then you're going to be thoroughly impressed by Antigua!
There are three volcanoes that surround the city; these are the striking Agua volcano, Acatenango, and Fuego.
You can get a fantastic view of them throughout Antigua, but the best way to appreciate them is by heading to a rooftop cafe!
Luckily, this city has plenty of them...
All of these places offer incredible views of the city's surrounding volcanoes so head to at least one of them during your trip.
El Hato is a charming village that's just a 20-minute drive from Antigua. It's easily accessible via shuttle bus or taxi too!
One of the best places to visit here is Earth Lodge which offers quirky accommodation, a restaurant, an avocado farm, and yoga classes with a view.
You'll also want to head to Altamira which is home to a wooden hand viewpoint that overlooks the volcanoes - perfect for photographs.
Last but not least, make sure you visit Hobbitenango which is essentially a fantasy park that's home to hobbit holes, incredible viewpoints, and quirky restaurants.
Although there are plenty of awesome things to do in this area, it's the views that will take your breath away!
So, if you've got some extra time I definitely recommend heading out to this charming village. You'll want to pack your camera too!
The Antigua Mountain Trail (or Finca El Pilar as its known) is one of the most biodiverse spots in not just Antigua, but the whole of Guatemala.
There are a variety of awesome hiking trails here that will take you through the cloud forest, and this is a great place to spot native birdlife. If you're lucky you might even get to spot tiny hummingbirds!
You can also have a go at mountain biking in this area or there's an on-site pool where you can relax.
Finca El Pilar is just a 15-minute drive from the city centre and it's a great place to visit if you're looking to get up close to nature. Just don't forget the bug spray as you'll need it!
There are SO many restaurants in Antigua that it can be difficult to decide, so I thought I’d pop in our favourite restaurants and some photos of the amazing food we tried.
Guatemala has a pleasant climate all year round, so you'll find that you can visit Antigua any time of year. However, the dry season runs from November to April.
Bradley and I visited in February and the weather was warm and pleasant with no rain.
However, even in the wet season, it doesn’t tend to rain more than a few hours a day!
I’d say the perfect amount of time to stay in Antigua would be 4-5 nights.
You could easily stay longer, and if you want to do absolutely everything on this list of things to do in Antigua Guatemala, then you will probably need to!
Especially if you want to hike volcanoes!
Antigua is fairly cheap and really your biggest chunk of money will go on your accommodation, depending on where you have chosen to stay.
Budget backpackers could survive on a budget of around $25 per day, with no tourist attractions etc...
Brad and I averaged at around $35 per day in Antigua because everything was so cheap, and we had a discount for our Airbnb which would have been the most expensive!
A comfortable budget with tours and everything would be around $45-50 per day.
You can absolutely book a day tour for Antigua!
However, just keep in mind that many of the activities and places in this guide won't be included in the walking tours. For this reason, it's best to stay in the city and do a combination of tours and self-guided explorations.
Yes, yes and yes. Not once in our travels throughout Guatemala did I feel unsafe for a second. The people were nothing but friendly and we didn’t have any bad experiences.
You need to take the usual precautions as you would in any country e.g. don’t put yourself in a vulnerable position.
Don’t walk home alone at night (Especially if you are drunk), don’t have loads of expensive things on show, and don’t get involved in political stuff that doesn’t concern you.
If you do this, you’ll have a wonderful and safe experience in Guatemala and Antigua!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide on the top things to do in Antigua which kind of turned into some form of Antigua travel guide!
But, hopefully you have lots of inspiration for your trip. There are lots of incredible places to see in Antigua and I can guarantee that you're going to have an amazing time.
After spending some time in this incredible city, you've got plenty of onward travel options.
If you're planning a trip through Central and then South America, here are some guides that you may find useful: