Antigua is a fairly small city compared to Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything interesting to do. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. There are plenty of fun things to do in Antigua Guatemala and to make sure you experience the best things Antigua has to offer we made a list of some of our most favorites.
1. Lose Your Breath Hiking a Volcano
Antigua is surrounded by handful of mystic Volcanoes waiting to be hiked. If you are up to it, test your might and lose your breath climbing to the top. The most popular volcano to hike, which is located just an hour outside of town, is Volcán Pacaya. The peak can easily be reached on a short, not-so-strenuous, one and a half hour hike and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area. For the more fit among us, you might be interested in hiking either the active and lava spewing Volcán Fuego or the dormant but tallest volcano in Guatemala, Volcán Actenango.
2. Learn How to Cook Like A Guatemalan
It’s one thing to eat a country’s popular dishes but it’s another to learn how to make them the traditional way. In the words of the owner of La Tortillia Cooking School, “What better way of exploring a country and its culture than to explore its cuisine”. We know that there are plenty of cooking school options in Antigua, but we highly recommend La Tortillia Cooking School. Taking Brauilo’s class was by far one of the best things we have done in Antigua! We had a blast, met some awesome people, drank way too much wine, ate and made some delicious food. It was totally worth it.
Popular dishes that are taught: Pepian, Jocon, Kak’ik, Rellenitos de Platano, Tortillas and more. (All dishes are 100% Guatemalan)
3. Taste Chocolate That Was Once Made for Royalty
Guatemala is well known for its delicious Mayan chocolate and traveler’s with a sweet tooth won’t have a hard time finding it or any other chocolate infused products in Antigua. There’s even a Choco Museum in town where one can not only take workshops on how to make chocolate from a cacao bean and learn more about the history, but also get to sample a variety of cacao products such cacao tea, chocolate covered fruits, hot chocolate and more for free. Jazzy and I never took the tour but we loved stopping by after lunch to get our free chocolate fix by eating as much of the samples as we could :D
4. Get Lost in the Mercado
No visit to Antigua is complete without a visit to the chaotic Mercado (“Farmer’s Market”) near the bus terminal. The market is sectioned off into different areas. One area is dedicated to produce while in another they only sell clothes, and so. One can find pretty much everything here, from tooth paste to cellphones to bananas. Think of it as the Walmart of Guatemala … on Black Friday :D We love buying fresh fruits, and vegetables here as they usually cost a fraction of what they would cost in the Supermarket. It is also a great way to support local farmers and not big chain store. The best days to visit are Monday, Thursday and Saturday, as those are market days and you get more stuff for less.
5. Find Your Rhythm in a Salsa Class
Antigua is an excellent spot to learn how to dance salsa and find your rhythm. Many schools in Antigua offer free salsa classes once or twice a week in the evenings. Just walk around town or look at bulletin boards and I am sure you will find a few signs advertising their classes.
For example, New Sensation on 7 Avenida Norte #78 offers free salsa classes on Monday and Thursday at 5pm.
6. Enjoy the View at Cerro de la Cruz
Cerro de la Cruz is located just a short ten minutes walk outside of town and offers a breathtaking panoramic view over the rooftops of Antigua. The walk up is best done in the morning or on a clear day when Volcán de Agua is not covered by clouds as it allows for the best possible view.
Note: Contrary to what many major guide books tell you, you do not need a police escort to walk to the top. There is already police patrolling the area between the hours of 7 am – 6 pm.
7. Improve Your Spanglish
Guatemala is well known for being one of the least expensive countries in Latin America to study Spanish, and Antigua is no exception. Thousands of people come here every year to attend one of the many cheap Spanish schools in town. If you intent to travel throughout Latin America we highly recommend you take a few classes because knowing a few common Spanish phrases can come in handy.
8. Explore the Ruins of the San Francisco Church
There are more than a handful of church ruins in Antigua but San Francisco is the most notable as it is one of the oldest churches in town and still holds regular ceremonies. There is a fascinating museum attached to the church as well as the tomb of Saint Hermano Pedro, who is highly respected by the locals for building a hospital for the poor. The entrance fee is US$2.
9. Taste Quality at a Coffee Farm
Guatemala is home to some of the best coffee in the world and is the ideal place to visit a coffee farm. There are a number of farms around Antigua that do coffee tours. However, we highly recommend you check out De la Gente. It’s a small locally owned farm where you get to interact with real Guatemalans who provide you with an authentic insight into the every day life of a coffee farmer. Not only will you be able to visit the coffee plantations but you will also be invited into the farmer’s house where you will learn more about the machinery used to process coffee. Even if you are not a coffee addict, it is still quite a memorable experience and shouldn’t be missed when in Guatemala.
10. Take a Bite out of Antigua’s Street Food
When you are searching for an authentic Guatemalan food experience, eating at restaurants shouldn’t even be in question, especially since a huge percentage of restaurants in Antigua have nothing to do with Guatemala like I don’t know, McDonalds, Wendy’s, a Thai or Austrian restaurant.
The best way to go is the local way, by ordering and eating street food from street vendors. It’s cheap, delicious and you get to experience some Guatemalan food made by Guatemalans. The best places to find street food is in or near any park area or in the mercado. However, the most popular spots are either in front of the La Merced Church or on Calzada Santa Lucia, the last street before the mercado and bus terminal.
Some of our favorite street foods are: Rellenitos de Plantano, Pupusas, Chuchitos, Enchiladas, Elote, Arroz con Leche, Chile Relleno and of course the typical full course meals such as Pepian, or grilled meat with rice and tortillas.
See also: 7 Cheap Places to Eat in Antigua
11. Experience the Real Guatemala
Have you ever wondered how an old retired North American school bus ends up ruling the streets of Guatemala? What Guatemalans who don’t work in the tourist industry do for a living? Or how the local neighborhoods look like in the outskirts of Antigua? If so, Niños de Guatemala offers tours to local, non-touristy towns where you will visit local workshops, such as a chicken bus refurbish shop and a coffin carpentry, to provide you with an insight into the daily life of many local families. Experience the real Guatemala and get closer to understanding the realities of this beautiful yet complicated country.
Where to Stay in Antigua Guatemala
The guesthouses and hotels below are highly rated and offer the best value in Antigua.
- Three Monkeys Hostel ($)
- Cacao Boutique Hotel ($$)
- Porta Hotel Antigua ($$$)
- Hotel Museo Casa Santo Domingo ($$$)
There are many fun things to do in Antigua Guatemala but above are some of our favorites. What is your favorite thing to do in Antigua? Did we miss anything?