The quaint colonial town of Antigua, Guatemala is one of the true gems of Central America. The cobbled streets are lined with colorful historic buildings which are overlooked by active - yes very active - volcanoes.
Antigua is an adventurer's paradise with so many things to do you could spend months exploring the area and still have plenty left to do. Whether you're looking to hike a volcano or dive deep into the rich Guatemalan culture, there are so many unique things to do in this town that you'll never want to leave.
We visited Antigua two times in 2022 because once simply wasn't enough. Here is our guide on all things wild and wonderful about our favorite Guatemalan town, Antigua.
Quick Facts About Antigua Guatemala
Elevation: 5,029 feet (1,533 metres)
Best time to visit Antigua: "Best" in subjective. Weatherwise, Guatemala's Dry Season is from November to April and is considered best for hiking. However, May to October is the Wet Season and experiences less tourism and generally cheaper prices.
What volcanos surround Antigua:
- Aqua (12,335ft / 3,760m)
- Acatenango (13,044ft / 3,976m)
- Fuego (12,346ft / 3,763m)
- Pacaya (8372ft / 2,552m)
Language spoken: Spanish
Protection Status: UNESCO
Where To Stay Antigua, Guatemala
Finding a place to stay in Antigua is pretty easy. There are hotels and Airbnbs everywhere and range considerably in price and quality. Both times we visited Antigua we stayed at a nice place in the center of town called Hotel La SinVentura. This place is by no means the flashiest hotel in Antigua, however, you can't get a better location and the amenities and staff are excellent - it's also budget-friendly! If you're looking for somewhere a little fancier, you can check out these options.
Is Antigua Safe For Tourists?
Yes. Antigua is generally a very safe destination for tourists with low levels of crime and violence. As with traveling anywhere, usual precautions apply. When venturing outside of the city make sure to do your research and avoid night travel when possible Overall, though, Antigua is a very safe place to travel and explore.
Best Things To Do In Antigua, Guatemala
Antigua is truly what you make it. In our opinion, the top things to do in Antigua involve getting out of your comfort zone, putting on your hiking boots, and exploring the great outdoors. However, the historic town has more to offer than its surrounding volcanos, with breweries, restaurants, and museums that'll be sure to keep everyone happy.
1. Hike Acatenango Volcano & Watch Fuego Erupt
The number one thing to do in Antigua is hike a volcano - and if you're up for it - trek the challenging, but rewarding Acantenango & Fuego volcanos. For the best experience, you'll want to book an overnight tour and sleep atop Acantenago and watch Fuego erupt, spewing lava out every 10 or so minutes. It's an experience that cannot be beaten.
We booked the double Acantango & Fuego hike through Ox Expeditions which was great. While we don't generally enjoy hiking tours, this felt warranted and the guides were necessary. Just note, that the hike is tough, especially if you do Fuego. You'll hike in the dark with steep inclines on loose volcanic rocks - trust us, it's one hell of a challenge. But to watch Fuego erupt up close is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and is highly recommended.
2. Enjoy City Views From Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross)
Just a short walk outside of town and you'll find the popular spot to take in views of Antigua and the majestic Agua Volcano. The hike is easy to find and it's possible to walk from town or catch a tuktuk or taxi. The best times to visit the area are around sunrise and sunset times, although you'll want to note that Cerro de la Cruz is not open 24 hours and is only open between 7.00am to 6.00pm. Many online blogs say to avoid this area after dark as there have been reports of muggings. We visited in daylight and the area was busy and felt safe.
3. Roast Marshmallows Over Pacaya Volcano
If you're looking for a less challenging hike or you want to prep for Acatenango, Pacaya Volcano is perfect. Hidden behind the enormous Agua volcano, Pacaya offers a relatively short and moderate climb with some beautiful volcanic sceneries at the top. The best part of hiking Pacaya is you can toast marshmallows in the natural volcanic ovens created by the lava. Many tour guides will provide the marshmallows, however, we brought our own gelatin-free marshmallows and roasted them in the most spectacular way. Our Pacaya hike was fraught with rain from start to finish, but the volcano still provided enough heat in the cold damp weather to toast marshmallows. It's really one of those experiences you'll never forget.
4. Enjoy a Rooftop Craft Beer at Antigua Brewing Co.
This brewery in the center of town is a real find. They often host events and have live music. The rooftop is one of our favorite places to enjoy a cold one while taking in the views. As Antigua has height limits for its buildings, so any rooftop has incredible views over the city and its surrounding volcanos.
5. Eat Local Guatemalan Dishes
Antigua is full of local and international restaurants. While it's generally a pricer city than the rest of Guatemala, you can still find affordable local meals in town. We couldn't get enough of their traditional plantains, avocado, rice, and bean plates in Antigua. The local meal works for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A great, but slightly chaotic local restaurant is La Cuevita De Los Urquizu where you order from the street and then your plate is served to you upstairs. They do a variety of veggie-friendly meals too if you ask.
6. Explore The City Before Everyone Else
In our humble opinion, Antigua is best explored early when most people are still asleep. By getting up before crowds you'll see a calmer, more charming side to Antigua - not to mention your photos will be incredible. Grab a coffee at one of the early bird cafes and You might even have popular tourist hotspots like the Santa Catalina Arch all to yourself.
7. Photograph the Santa Catalina Arch
The Santa Catalina Arch is one of the most iconic landmarks in Antigua. It's a beautiful example of Spanish colonial architecture, and it's a popular spot for photographers. If you're visiting Antigua, be sure to snap a picture of the arch! No visit to Antigua is truly complete without stopping by and snapping a photo of the incredible Arch - it's kinda a must.
8. Shop the Local Markets
If you're looking to buy a gift or simply want to check out the organized chaos of the local markets in Antigua, then this is a must. With so many different stalls selling fruit, clothing, souvenirs, and Guatemala-themed gifts you'll easily spend an hour+ getting lost in one of Antigua's many markets.
Note: prices are generally high here, and if you're a tourist from a western country, you need to haggle your way to fair prices at most stores - that's just the way it is. Speaking Spanish definitely helps here.
Our favorite markets in Antigua were:
10. Get Your Geek On At Antigua's Hobbiton (Hobbitanango)
Hobbitenango is a small town about 20 minutes outside of Antigua. It is known for its Tolkien-inspired name and its connection to J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional world of Middle-Earth. The town was founded by comic-book enthusiasts who recreated Hobbiton in Guatemala, and today it is a popular tourist destination with many activities like ax throwing, archery, and a variety of restaurants and bars to choose from.
11. Get an Instaworthy Giant Hand Shot
Inside Hobbitenango, you'll find the Insta-Famous giant hand. The popular spot gets very busy and lines can take more than 1-hour just to get a shot. This is because a worker is placed by the Giant Hand and takes photos for you. Each person or group about 3-5 minutes to get their ideal shot before moving on. While this does make the line move slow, it reduces the chaos, and of course, stops those desperate influencers from falling off the edge! We waited for about 45 minutes to get our shot (see above) because when in Hobbitenago, right?
In conclusion, there are plenty of things to do in Antigua, Guatemala. From exploring the city's colonial architecture and history to exploring its active volcanos, visitors will find plenty to keep them occupied. So if you're looking for an adventure in a new and exciting place, be sure to add Antigua to your list - you will not regret it!