Antigua, Guatemala is nothing if not dramatic. The vibrant colors of centuries-old architecture punctuate green hillsides and blue skies while imposing volcanoes loom in the distance as a constant reminder of the unpredictability of nature. It’s a contrast you have to see – and feel – to believe.
Planning a trip to Guatemala’s most enchanting town, long considered among the best cities in Latin America for travelers? This ultimate guide to Antigua, Guatemala includes all the travel tips and recommendations you need, from where to stay in Antigua to the best things to do in this unforgettable city.
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Candy-colored colorful architecture and towering volcanoes make Antigua Guatemala a destination worth traveling to experience. Despite being repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt after earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and floods, Antigua holds firm – with just enough grit to balance out its incomparable beauty.
After years of political turmoil and repression in the 1970s and 1980s made Guatemala more of a destination to be avoided, a beautiful travel renaissance has transformed Antigua into a bonafide travel hotspot in the Americas. It’s now a favorite city in Latin America for remote workers, backpackers, and increasingly even luxury-minded travelers looking for a new adventure.
Spend your days wandering cobblestone streets and ducking into shops and cafes. Hire a local guide to explore hiking trails through lush forests or conquer one of the endless volcanoes in Guatemala that punctuate the earth. End the day at one of Antigua’s new restaurants before retreating to a historic Airbnb or heritage hotel.
You’ll love Antigua – we promise! This is a beautiful destination that meets every type of traveler right where they are with a memorable experience. Whether you’re looking for a thrilling trip filled with hikes and adventure sports, a luxury experience complete with delicious cuisine, or a tour of some of the region’s most important historical landmarks, it’s all right here in Antigua waiting for you.
Is Antigua Guatemala Worth Visiting?
Antigua Guatemala is well worth visiting! Most visitors to Guatemala consider this city the highlight of a trip, and it’s certainly a must-visit destination on any Guatemala itinerary. Plan to spend at least a few days exploring before heading on to other destinations in Guatemala like Lake Atitlan.
Is Antigua Guatemala Safe?
Antigua, Guatamala is safe! While certain areas of Guatemala are not currently considered safe for visitors, this is not the case with Antigua – you can feel safe here, though you’ll want to take care of petty crimes like pickpocketing.
As is the case for any travel destination, take care and follow a few straightforward but easy travel safety tips when out and about in Antigua. Keep your belongings close and bags closed tightly at all times. Be careful when taking out your phone and/or camera for photo ops – don’t be afraid to use them, but put them right away, safely, when you’re one.
Things To Do in Antigua Guatemala
Plan to spend at least three days exploring Antigua. Nearby hiking trails, expansive local markets, modern boutiques, and an impressive culinary offering means there is plenty to fill your time in Antigua. These are our recommendations for the absolutely can’t-miss things to do in Antigua.
1. Explore Historic Antigua
Part of the appeal of visiting Antigua is simply wandering through its historic, cobblestone streets, taking in the colorful architecture and mountain views along the way. This compact town is perfect for a self-guided walking tour, though affordable walking tours of Antigua are always a great way to explore with the advice of a local and make sure you visit all the best sights.
These are some of the must-see sights in Antigua to visit as you explore.
Santa Catalina Arch
The Santa Catalina Arch is the most iconic building in Antigua for its cheery color and its dramatic framing of the imposing Volcán de Agua that looms over the city. Grab your photos of this famous arch – it’s a must for every visitor to Antigua.
Iglesia de la Merced
There are a number of historic churches scattered throughout Antigua, but Iglesia de la Merced is one of those that is worth calling out for a special visit. Its shocking yellow color with ornate white carvings feels truly one of a kind.
Parque Central (Plaza Mayor)
Surrounding Antigua’s central plaza are some of the most important landmarks in the city. The Real Palacio de los Capitanes Generales is a historic building turned museum with free entry you’ll want to visit. Even more impressive is Antigua’s cathedral; it was partially destroyed by earthquakes in 1773. Both the existing church and the ruins behind it are worth a visit.
2. Climb Acatenango Volcano
Antigua is surrounded by some of the most impressive volcanoes in Guatemala, which adds incredible beauty – yet significant risk – to life in the city. There are plenty of volcanoes in Guatemala and near Antigua that provide an incredible hiking experience, though none so dramatic as the hike to the summit of Acatenango.
The journey to the summit of Acatenango, which sits at more than 13,000 ft, is challenging but doable. The experience involves a stay at the volcano’s base camp before an early morning summit push.
The highlight of submitting Acatenango is, for most travelers, the incredible view of Volcán de Fuego from the top of Acatenango. This active volcano frequently spits ash and lava and puts on a dramatic show as best seen from the sides of neighboring Acatenango.
Reviews and Bookings: Acatenango Volcano Climb Excursion from Antigua
3. Take a Day Trip to Chichicastenango
There are plenty of things to do in Antigua, but it’s also a perfect location to use as a base to explore nearby destinations like the market town of Chichicastenango. This small town in the western highlands of Guatemala is known for its incredible and authentic markets on Thursdays and Sundays. Intricate weavings and impressive handicrafts are on sale at what is considered one of the most impressive markets in Latin America.
The market is nearly three hours away from Antigua, and it’s most easily accessible via guided excursions (the chicken buses are prohibitively slow to rural Chichi, as it’s called). Day trips from Antigua to Chichicastenango are both affordable and the most hassle-free way to travel.
You’ll also find excursions to Chichicastenango that include a visit to the Iximche Pyramids along the way, which are important ruins of the Kaqchikel Maya people. This is an excellent option if you’re a history buff!
4. Climb to Cerro de la Cruz
There are no better viewpoints of Antigua than this. Cerro de la Cruz – the hill of the cross – is located to the north of Antigua and offers vistas of the entire town, with Volcán del Agua looming beyond. The cross on the top of the hill adds drama to this photogenic spot.
While the walk up from Antigua to the viewpoint is relatively short and doable, it is steep; consider taking a taxi if it’s a hot day or you’re not up for a workout. Either way, it’s one of the best things to do in Antigua.
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Where To Stay in Antigua, Guatemala
You can’t go wrong with any of the endless hostels, hotels, or guest houses in Antigua. Most travelers stick to accommodations close to the center of town for easy access to Antigua’s best restaurants and top attractions. These are our top recommendations for where to stay in Antigua, Guatemala.
Maya Papaya ($)
There are numerous affordable hostels in Antigua, and they seem to be getting better and better with every visit. A favorite with backpackers is Maya Papaya, which offers 4-bed, 8-bed, and 14-bed dorms, as well as nine private rooms. Maya Papaya is located just four blocks from the main square in the heart of Antigua, making it an incredibly convenient base from which to explore Antigua.
Reviews and Bookings: Maya Papaya
Selina Antigua ($ – $$)
Backpackers, digital nomads, and savvy budget travelers alike know that Selina is famous for its comfortable and beautiful accommodations, which are part hostel and coliving / coworking space all in one. Selina Antigua is a stunning example of a Selina property, with dorm rooms and private spaces to choose from. A number of free events and a central location make it perfect for travelers ready to explore.
Reviews and Bookings: Selina Antigua
Posada del Angel ($$)
Once a Spanish colonial casona, Posada del Angel is now a favorite boutique hotel hidden among the cobblestone streets of the most beautiful area of Antigua. It is home to just seven individualized rooms, each thoughtfully decorated for a memorable guest experience. It’s welcomed an unending list of celebrities, politicians, and other distinguished guests over its history.
Reviews and Bookings: Posada del Angel
El Convento Boutique Hotel ($$$)
Hidden behind the walls of a heritage building in the heart of Antigua, El Convento Boutique Hotel is a stunning example of preserving the age-old architecture of Antigua. This luxurious boutique hotel boasts stunning exterior and interior spaces and personalized service and attention; it’s everything you’d want out of a luxury stay in historic Antigua.
Reviews and Bookings: El Convento Boutique Hotel
Where To Eat in Antigua, Guatemala
Prepare to be shocked by the incredible dining options that Antigua has to offer. You’ll find everything from trendy third-wave coffee shops and fine dining tasting menus to shockingly inexpensive yet filling Guatemalan meals from the local market – all within just a few blocks of each other. These are the best places to eat in Antigua.
The menu at a fan-favorite restaurant and bar Hector’s Bistro is a crazy mix of everything from pizza and craft beer to classic Guatemalan dishes, omelets, and even pancakes. It somehow works perfectly and is one of the most popular restaurants in town. The outdoor courtyard is a highlight, especially when lit up at night with fairy lights.
Caoba Organic Farms
The secret is out about Caoba Organic Farms. It’s now listed on every travel guide to Antigua, but with a good reason: delicious farm-to-table cuisine and a bustling weekly farmers market make the journey just outside of town well worth the excursion. With live music, garden dining, and friendly service, it doesn’t get any better than this.
Por Qué No? Café
The unpretentious Por Qué No? Café is a staple for travelers visiting Antigua. Everything from burritos and pizza to steak and pasta are menu staples at this tiny (truly tiny!) corner restaurant in the heart of Antigua.
Luna de Miel
Strong coffee and breakfast staples make Luna de Miel a favorite among breakfast and brunch spots in Antigua. The outdoor terrace seating with breathtaking volcano views will make you keep coming back for meal after meal.
For giant portions of classically Guatemalan dishes, head to the heart of town and plop down at one of the endless market stalls at Antigua’s Mercado Central – you won’t be disappointed. Pepián stew served over rice and tortillas or jocón, a chicken dish made with green tomatillos, are personal favorites, though you can’t go wrong with trying a bit of whatever looks the best here.
Getting To Antigua, Guatemala
Guatemala City to Antigua
Hiring a private taxi or car for the 1.5-hour journey between Guatemala City and Antigua is easy and generally costs around $25 per car. We recommend booking a private car online in advance for a hassle-free experience. Alternatively, you can take an Uber, especially if you’re traveling directly from the Guatemala City airport.
Buses depart frequently from the Guatemala City bus terminal to Antigua, and cost just around $1.50 per ride, making this the most affordable way to get to Antigua. However, even locals generally do not recommend taking the bus to Antigua. The route is the number one route targeted by pickpockets and thieves, as Antigua is such a popular destination with travelers.
Antigua to Lake Atitlan
Many travelers travel to Lake Atitlan after a stay in Antigua. At just over two hours west of Antigua, Lake Atitlan is an easy next stop on your Guatemala itinerary.
You’ll find endless options for private transport between Lake Atitlan and Antigua, whether it be from taxis on the street or recommendations for drivers from your hotel. We recommend booking a private car to Lake Atitlan online in advance – it’s the safest option and means you won’t have to haggle about prices!
Travel from Antigua to Lake Atitlan by bus is easiest if you travel to the lakeside town of Panajachel on the lake’s eastern shores. If you’re headed to another lakeside town, it’s easiest to take a speed from Panajachel rather than booking a ticket directly there – you’ll save hours!
Taking a chicken bus to Panajachel is possible, but it’s not a direct journey (you’ll have to take three different buses) and takes hours. For a better option, book the tourist shuttle bus, which is direct and much more comfortable.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.