Things to do in Antigua Guatemala
Antigua Guatemala is a tourist town located 40km outside of Guatemala City and is a popular location for backpackers and mountain climbing enthusiasts. If you’re wondering about things to do in Antigua this place is actually packed with plenty of cool stuff for tourists ranging from food, bars, volcano hiking, and entertainment. I absolutely loved the few days I spent there and it made for the perfect jumping-off point for my trip exploring the rest of Central America on my way south to Panama.
Antigua is a small city known for the incredible active volcanos surrounding it in Southern Guatemala. It’s also renowned for its Spanish colonial architecture, most of which have been restored since the devastating earthquake in 1773 after serving as the capital after 200 years. Depending on the time of year, you can also enjoy Semana Santa or Holy week which is a week full of religious rituals and parades. No matter when you decide to come, you should find the town captivating and enjoyable, drawing in more ex-pats and tourists than many other places I visited during the rest of my trip. It’s unique charm, relaxed atmosphere, colorful history, and affordability make it an excellent place to visit.
The Santa Catalina Arch is one of the most famous and distinguishable landmarks in Antigua Guatemala and is located on 5th Avenue. It was Built in the 17th century, the clock on top wasn’t added until the 1830’s during the Central American Federation era. It’s most popular for pictures facing the Acatenango Volcano.
While there’s no shortage of various ruins to explore in Antigua, The Temple of Our Lady of the Pillar of Zaragoza or more popularly known as Capuchins Monastary really stood out for me. It was also surprisingly empty, allowing me to capture some pretty awesome photos with no one else around. It was originally built in 1725 for the Nuns of the Roman Catholic order who lived here in rather severe conditions to demonstrate their sacrifices for their religious beliefs. Today, the monastery’s well-preserved cells, gardens, and courtyards are open for public viewing and are worth checking out.
Iglesia de Merced
La Merced Church is a baroque church in Antigua Guatemala. Its front facade is covered in elaborate decorations and adorned with very detailed designs making it a photo-worthy place to visit.
Cerro de la Cruz
Antigua Guatemala Cathedral
The Antigua Guatemala Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church in Antigua Guatemala which was originally built in 1541 but suffered several earthquakes throughout its history, and was eventually demolished and then rebuilt. Located across the street from Central Park where many locals and tourists hang out making it an excellent place for people watching or just to relax in the afternoon.
For some of the absolutely best local Guatemalan food for unbeatable prices, you need to check out Rincón Típico. Located on 3a Avenida Sur and offering incredible meat and non-meat dishes along with handmade tortillas and fresh horchata style juice with every meal. I went here a few times before leaving and it was one of the best meals I have in the 6 countries I visited on this entire trip.
Acatenango is an imposing volcano located outside of Antigua Guatemala and is a well-known landmark and backdrop for the small tourist town. The volcano has two peaks, Pico Mayor and Yepocapa which are also known as Tres Hermanas also joined with Volcán de Fuego and collectively they create a volcano complex known as La Horqueta. These are popular for overnight hikes and camping ventures and can regularly be seen puffing smoke with live lava near the top of Volcan de Fuego.
Pacaya Volcano Hike
The Pacaya Volcano Hike from Antigua was a great day trip adventure that can be relatively easy and fun activity for the whole family. At 2552m Volcan Pacaya is less challenging than other hikes like Acatenango and doesn’t require an overnight stay, and although you shouldn’t expect to see the active lava (unless you pay the tour guide extra since it’s off-limits), it still makes for great pictures and views. I had a really good time and would definitely recommend this.
Don’t forget to stop by the local street market on the west side of town or try these amazing tostadas made by some lady street vendors near the Iglesia de Merced. They offer meat and vegetarian options with additional toppings and salsa as well as coming together to exhilarate your taste buds with incredible flavors and freshness.
How to get to Antigua Guatemala
If you flew directly into the capital of Guatemala as I did then you’re probably wondering how to get to Antigua directly from Guatemala City’s airport which is 40Km away. Read on below to see the top 5 ways to get to Antigua Guatemala from La Aurora Airport in Guatemala City. I would recommend taking an Uber over a Taxi to Antigua which should typically cost around $20-$30 or (Q150-Q225). You can also take a private shuttle service for around $40-$50 (Q300-Q375) and should have multiple trips a day from the city. Another option here and throughout Central America is taking a Chicken Bus for around $1.25 (Q10) but can end up being a hassle and even a little dangerous, especially at night.
Things to do in Antigua
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