Updated: Dec 24, 2021
After reading up on Guatemala we knew that we had to include it on our travel itinerary for Central America. What we didn’t know at that time was just how much we would fall in love with it. The city of Antigua has been a serious highlight of our time in this part of the world, so we wanted to share our experiences to inspire you to visit too.
Check out our list of 12 best things to do in Antigua (all tried and tested!) so you can start planning your trip.
Travelling to Antigua during the Pandmic? Click for tips & regulations.
1. Get baking at a Chocolate Making Workshop
Besides its colonial architecture, dramatic scenery and UNESCO World Heritage status, Antigua is also celebrated as the birthplace of chocolate. And what better way to connect with this sweet side that Antigua has to offer than to make your own?!
EK Chua hosts an excellent workshop where you will learn all about the history of chocolate, its connection with the Mayan culture, and most importantly, how to make the glorious stuff.
The cost of a class is around Q150 (USD $20.)
2. Visit the quirky town of Hobbitenango
The quirky mountain-top destination is located just a 20-25 minute drive from the town of Antigua which you can reach either by shuttle or Uber. Spend the day exploring the beautiful outdoors, sipping on potion cocktails, or stay the night in one of the hobbit-style cabins!
There was a small fee of around Q50 (USD $7) when we entered as day visitors on the weekend, although their website mentions weekdays are free.
3. Take a traditional Guatemalan Cooking Class
After reading online reviews of a cooking class hosted by La Tortilla Cooking School, we knew we had to sign up for one. What doesn’t sound great about unlimited wine as you tipsy-ly attempt to cook 5 local dishes?
Well, it was great. The chef herself couldn’t speak English but another employee was there to translate everything for us. Not only was the end result insanely tasty (especially for 2 slightly-drunk amateurs) but we had a lot of fun learning how to make something new.
4. Drink more for less at Tabacos y Vinos
Yes, you read that correctly.
This marvelous concept is thanks to Tabacos y Vinos. The intimate wine bar will charge you Q35 (USD $4.50) for your first glass which will gradually get cheaper the more glasses you order.
5. Bar Hop down and around 5a Avenida Norte
Down the same street as Tabascos y Vinos and around the area you’ll find an array of other cool drinking spots to spend an evening.
We particularly enjoyed the cocktails at Restaurante Fridas and live music at The Antigua Arms (now that we’ve recovered I guess we can say the Jägerbombs were pretty good too…)
6. Hike to see the most active volcano in Central America
This is without a doubt one of the most amazing experiences of our life and we recommend it as a MUST to do when visiting Guatemala.
Volcán de Fuego is the most active volcano in Central America. You can get front row seats to the eruptions as you hike Volcán de Acatenango, with the option to later hike onwards to Fuego for an even closer experience - if your legs can take it of course.
There are a selection of companies you can go with for the excursion and your hostel will probably be able to recommend you a few. We would highly recommend SOY Tours - especially after we heard of other travellers experiences with different agencies. What sets these guys apart from others is they have a unique camping spot away from the other groups with unbeatable sights of the erupting volcano.
Our group commenced the hike around 9:30am and got to base camp around 3:45pm. The lunch break in between lasted 45 minutes with a number of water breaks along the route as well.
Just to reiterate - this will be one of the most magical experiences of your lifetime. It is a tough hike though, so take lots of water and some mini bottles of wine in your backpack to reward yourself at the top!
7. Satisfy cravings for a Roast Dinner at SKAL
This might be the most British thing we’ve ever said, but 6 weeks without a roast dinner is pure hell. Thankfully, there is a spud and gravy heaven in Antigua!
SKAL is a Danish restaurant offering a hearty menu of meats, potatoes and pickles (sometimes on the same plate.) Granted this isn’t your typical British Roast, but it’s incredibly tasty. That tasty, that we have no shame in admitting we ordered it twice in the same sitting. (Don’t judge us until you’ve hiked a 13,000 ft volcano alright?)
8. Quench your thirst at Café Sky’s Rooftop
Rooftop bars are up there with the pyramids and waterfalls as wonders of our world. This particular spot in Antigua is absolutely no exception. Enjoy an extensive menu of beverages and food all the whilst taking in the best views in the city!
9. Spend a morning at Caoba Farms
From farm to table is this place’s ethos, and we loved eating at theirs.
Just a 20 minute walk away from the city you’ll find this green paradise that’s home to fresh organic plants and several types of animals like ducks and rabbits. These little guys help provide natural fertilizer for the farm. There’s also a butterfly garden accessible for an extra small fee.
Entrance to the farm itself is free and there are a bunch of activities including yoga and a restaurant onsite to extend your experience. You can check out the Caoba Farms website for details on prices and schedules for these.
10. Enjoy city views from Cerro de la Cruz
If hiking Volcán de Acatenango didn’t make you want to live on a hammock for the rest of your life, then definitely take your walking boots up to the viewpoint of Cerro de la Cruz.
Just be mindful that the point is reached by a series of stairs which aren’t lit. Although there was a large group there at the same time as us, we decided to head back before it got too dark.
11. Grab a pocket-friendly pastry breakfast at Panaderia La Merced
All of this fun can make a dent in the wallet, but you can earn those pennies back at Panaderia La Merced. For just 3 Quetzals you can bag yourself 3 mini pastries (that’s less than 40 cents!)
Tip: the bakery isn’t able to heat your food for you, so carry your goodies back to your hostel and heat them up in the microwave for an even better bite.
12. Head to Lake Atitlán
So many travellers spoke about Lake Atitlán during our time in Antigua, and we learnt that there were 3 main towns famous for different things:
San Marcos - the hippie town
San Pedro - the party town
San Juan - the textile town
We actually decided to base ourselves in Panajachel (a.k.a Pana) as there are boats that take you to the other towns on the lake during the day. Whilst we didn’t stay in any of the other towns overnight, so we can’t provide any recommendations, we would agree that staying in Pana is a great choice thanks to its selection of restaurants and bars, plus its accessibility.
During our time at the lake we spent the majority of our time in Pana and San Marcos. If you know us by now, you’ll know that we would have been the first people on the boat to the party town of San Pedro. Annoyingly the last boat from there back to where we were staying was at 5pm (and we prefer to party a little longer than that…) We also didn’t hear raving reviews from other travellers, so we chose to skip it.
San Marcos has lots of cute boutiques for fashion and jewelry. There are also heaps of healthy restaurants, plus daily doses of yoga, so it is definitely worth a visit during your stay at Lake Atitlán.
Tip: when arriving by boat there is one main avenue and at the end you’ll find a notice board full of advertisements for yoga, sound healing and other lovely hippie stuff. Be sure to check out what’s on offer when you first get to San Marcos so you can plan your stay/visit.
Antigua is one of those places that we felt instantly connected to. Equally homely as it is intriguing, there is something to be enjoyed by everyone. Whether you are a cultural seeker or a cocktail sipper, write this place down on your bucket list now!
Travelling to Antigua during the pandemic?
At the time of writing: all permitted visitors must either provide their vaccination certificate or a negative PCR test when travelling by air.
Masks are mandatory on transport and other public places. We noticed that not everyone wears them and we never witnessed police enforce the rule, however you might come across certain “activists” that politely ask you to wear them.
Bars and restaurants were to stop serving alcohol at 9pm, but this was extended to 10pm and in some places 11pm during our visit.