Antigua, Guatemala: Top Spots You Can't Miss!
Antigua is a charming colonial town only 45 minutes away from Guatemala City. It was our first stop when we landed in Guatemala. With plenty of things to do it will keep you entertained for weeks. Antigua has something for everyone, from those looking for high end dining and accommodations, to backpackers looking for culture and a good time! In our case, we discovered Antigua on a budget. We enjoyed over a week stay in Antigua. This town is always full of curious foreigners walking the streets and hanging out in the Parque Central. Here are a few of our favorite things!
If you are an adrenaline junkie, you will love the options of being able to hike volcanoes! There are plenty of options depending on your level of physical ability or simply what you’d like to experience. From Hiking Pacaya and roasting marshmallows right on the lava to camping on Volcan Acatenango and seeing Volcan Fuego in full action. We opted for Volcan Acatenango. More details on our experience here.
GET LOST IN ANTIGUA
With a town as picturesque as Antigua, this is our best recommendation. Not only will you be able to get to know the town better, but it's great for photo opportunities.
At this local market you can find vegetables and fruits at a very low price. Take a walk into the market to really find all the local goods. From street food to handmade tortillas (the black corn tortillas are a must) you will find it here. This local market is found near the bus station and near Pollo Campero right by Alameda Santa Lucia.
This artisan market is full of beautiful artisan goods, you can spend an entire morning buying souvenirs. It is located next to the local market, if you can’t find it ask a local. They will be happy to point you in the right direction.
EL MERCADO DE CHICHICASTENANGO
If you love shopping, you can NOT miss this famous market! It is open only Thursdays and Sundays. You can find lots of artisan goods, culture, great food and lots of Mayan culture. Don't forget to visit the church of Santo Tomas. It is said to be over 400 years old. You might be able to catch a Mayan ritual taking place outside the church. The steps going up to the church are always filled with Mayan women selling fresh flowers. A sight you should not miss. To get to the market you can book a shared shuttle that will pick you up early in morning and will have you back at your hotel room by 2 or 3pm. The cost for us was 140Q ($19.08USD) per person roundtrip.
CERRO DE LA CRUZ
A little hike never hurt no body, especially if you get great views of the city with a volcano in the backdrop! This quick hike will give you just that. It also has a large cross at the top of the hill. There are vendors selling food and drinks, but it is highly recommend you bring plenty of water. The hike up to the cerro is well paved. With stairs that take you all the way to the top. There are also benches along the way if you need to rest. We recommend you hike only during daytime and NOT nighttime since there are police guarding the area during the day. We did not feel unsafe once since there are also a lot of tourists and locals hiking the trail during the day.
ARCO DE SANTA CATALINA
This is by far the most emblematic landmark of Antigua. This arch was built in the 17th century and served the purpose of getting the nuns of the Santa Catalina convent from one building to the next without having to go out on the street. Grab your camera and click away. You might be rewarded with a clear day and seeing Volcan Agua in the background of this emblematic landmark.
Plaza Central is THE spot. Here you will find all the locals enjoying an ice-cream in the evening and just simply relaxing. You will also find many artisans selling their goods. This is the perfect spot to sit and enjoy Antigua and its lively scene. You might even make a friend or two. Don’t forget to check out the interesting fountain. Plaza central on a Sunday is a must. You can find local musicians playing their music and the locals happily dancing to it. You might even pick up a few lessons yourself!
VISIT CHURCHES, OLD CONVENTS AND RUINS!
Although Antigua is a small town, it has plenty of churches and convents to keep you busy for a full morning! The following were the ones we were able to visit:
If visiting the Parque Central, you will not be able to miss the Cathedral of San Jose. It lights up beautifully at night.
La Merced Church is located on 1st Street West and 6th Avenue North only 3 blocks from Central Park. This church has extraordinary detail along with a beatiful yellow tone.
Hermano Pedro Church is located on 6th avenue in Antigua. You will notice it by it's beautiful colonial architecture.
Although this next one is a hotel, don't let it fool you. It can still be visited without a fee. Hotel Casa Santo Domingo use to be an old convent, but now also houses a museum. It has beautiful gardens and it's very picturesque.
Although you will find that many people speak other Mayan dialects in rural areas, you won't have trouble finding locals that speak English.
As of this published post: 1USD=7.33Q
Download the XE Currency App to get live exchange rate info anytime, anywhere.
CREDIT CARDS AND BANKS
Cash is mainly used in Guatemala. ATMs are readily available.
VISA REQUIRED FOR US CITIZENS:
None required if you are staying less than 90 days. You will however need a passport valid for 6 months past the entry date. (Make sure to check with your local embassy for visa updates.)
Although Guatemala has had it's rough patches in the past, we felt fairly safe going from town to town. Like in any city, you have to have your wits about you and I am sure it helped that we spoke the language. We do recommend you are extra careful in this country, since it does have some areas that are more sketchy than others. We had no issues in Antigua, Lake Atitlan area (locals recommended to stay clear of some towns - San Pablo), no issues in Flores or Tikal. Opt for the shared shuttles or tourists buses and you should have no issues with safety. Guatemala is becoming a hot spot for tourism so you will see and meet alot of foreigners following the same routes you are.
Transportation is fairly easy in Guatemala. Our route was as follows: landed in Guatemala City airport and took same day taxi to Antigua (pay the $10 for the taxi inside the airport). From Antigua, purchased a shared shuttle to Panajachel, Lake Atitlan (average cost 70Q-80Q/$9.54-$10.90USD per person). From Pana purchased a shared shuttle to Guatemala City (150Q/$20.44USD per person) and got dropped off at Guatemala City bus terminal for Fuentes Del Norte to catch our bus to Flores (260Q/$35.43USD per person). You can coordinate the entire service from Pana to Flores with the same travel agency for easiness.
Some people might tell you that riding the Chicken Buses are a must for the experience. When mentioning this to locals, they clearly warned about not doing this! They stated even the locals purchased shared shuttles to move from town to town in Guatemala due to the rise in assaults and robberies that occur on these chicken buses. If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, save your energy and climb that Volcano!
BEWARE...you might find yourself loving Guatemala more than you expected...enjoy!
Pin Me For Later!