Antigua is the former capital of Guatemala and one of my favorite places in the entire country! The colorful old buildings, views of the surrounding volcanoes and the diverse culinary scene make this city unlike anywhere I`ve ever been. Keep reading for a list of our favorite things to do in Antigua and why you`ll love them too!
Summit Acatenango Volcano
Completing this overnight expedition is one of the most thrilling and challenging adventures that Guatemala has to offer and one of the best things to do in Antigua. I`ll be honest with you.. this hike is not for the faint of heart. Picture hours of climbing up steep shale pathways in the Guatemalan sun. For every step forward you will slide back about half that distance.
The first day ends with spectacular views of Fuego Volcano erupting right from your camp site. At 4 am the next morning you begin; racing the sun to the summit. After climbing to an elevation of 3976 m you will be rewarded with views of Volcano Fuego spitting fire as the sun rises in the horizon with a panoramic view of Guatemala.
Visit The Santa Catalina Arch
Arco de Santa Catalina is one of the most recognized landmarks in Antigua. It was originally built in the 17th century to connect the Santa Catalina convent to a school; allowing the nuns to pass between without going onto the street. This beautiful piece of architecture stands tall above the cobblestone streets and if you go on a clear day you can see Volcan de Agua behind it.
Hike to the Viewpoint at Cerro de La Cruz
The stairs to Cerro de La Cruz are accessible from the north end of Antigua. After about a 10-15 minute climb you will have a view of the entire city with Agua Volcano towering in the background. The area is safe(even policed) and we recommend going early in the morning to beat the heat!
Explore the Town
Antigua is full of culture and history making it a fantastic city to walk around and explore. There are multiple old churches and museums around the city and a beautiful park in the center!
Roast Marshmallows on an Active Volcano
If climbing Acatenango Volcano doesn`t interest you; don`t worry! There are many other volcano based activities you can do. Pacaya Volcano is known for having eruptions that are far less violent than Fuego; making the experience a lot more laid back. The hike is much easier and once you reach the lava field you can roast marshmallows over the hot lava!
Shop at Caoba Farmers Market
Caoba Farmers Market in Antigua was one of my favorite places to go in the entire city. They are open from Tuesday to Sunday and offer different classes and markets depending on which day you visit. From our experience Saturday is the best day to go as most of the booths are full and live music is playing all day! They have a farm, animals, and a phenomenal restaurant (seriously… go hungry!)
Take a Spanish Class
Antigua attracts people from all over the world who want to learn Spanish. There are numerous Spanish schools offering classes from 1 week to a few months in duration. It is also very popular to take part in Spanish immersion opportunity by living with a local family who will teach you all about the local culture and language. Two of the most popular Spanish schools in Antigua are Antiguena Spanish Academy and Don Pedro de Alvarado.
Be Amazed by The Antigua Guatemala Cathedral
The Antigua Guatemala Cathedral (AKA San Jose Cathedral) was built in 1680 and the town celebrated for eight consecutive days once it was finished. In 1773 a massive earthquake lead to the collapse of the roof and for a for a short time after; the church served as a makeshift cemetery.
Since then; the front entrance has been restored with access to the first section of the church. Although this section of the cathedral is beautiful, my favorite spot was the ruins behind the church. For a small fee you can walk through these massive arches and into the crypts underneath the main halls.
Eat Some Chocolate!
The Chocolate Museum in Antigua has a free chocolate museum, a number of workshops and tons of great chocolate products to purchase. Since chocolate is one of is Guatemala’s main exports; it`s really interesting learning about the process! My favorite chocolate shop in Antigua is Pachamama where they offer homemade chocolate, tea and coffee!
Happy Hour at Zoola
The roof top hot tub at Zoola hostel is the best place to go if you want to sit in the sun and have a few drinks. They`ve got a lively atmosphere and a great view. You don`t need to be staying there to use the facilities.. just as long as you utilize the bar!