After a few years since I lived in this beautiful city, I decided to write this Antigua Travel Guide to give you some tips on how to move around, things to do, and where to stay. Antigua Guatemala is a colonial style and small city declared as world heritage by UNESCO in 1979. You will find baroque facades and ruins almost in every corner. Nothing to complain about that, it is a very enchanting city. When I first arrived in Antigua, the plan was to stay only for a few weeks that ended up being months!
The weather, the friendliness of the people, and the slow pace make you feel as if the world stops.
It is easy to move around. It is a tourist city, so you will find hotels, restaurants, transportation, Spanish schools, yoga studios, and all sorts of things that make it very easy to make you not want to leave.
If you are planning a journey to Central America, you will go through Antigua at least one time since from here you can get bus tickets to almost everywhere in Latin America. You also can’t miss these 13 Things to Know Before Visiting Antigua Guatemala I have prepared, and this Can I Travel to Guatemala Right Now? where you will find information about the things you need and the things you should consider if you want to travel to Guatemala during Covid-19 times.
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that us travelers should be prepared for anything.
Travel insurance has always been high on my list of things to organize before I travel but now more than ever it’s at the top of my list.
I’m pretty sure we have all had travel plans messed up because of COVID and not all insurers covered this. So you need to find an insurer that covers travel disruption due to COVID-19, World Nomads, Safety Wing, or Travel Insurance Master are the ones to go for.
World Nomads is great for incidents that happen prior to your trip, so if you get sick or are unable to travel due to travel restrictions some of their policies will cover that as cancellation cover.
I also use Travel Insurance Master for some short vacation-type trips as they are cheaper than World Nomads a lot of the time.
If you are doing shorter trips or a longer backpacking trips then WorldNomads or Travel Insurance Master are the best options. If you are a digital nomad or planning travel of at least 6 months then go for SafetyWing.
The perfect activity for a new arrival. You can choose to explore the small city on your own, or you can go to the central square where all the local guides gather. You can hire one of them for a walking tour of Antigua. Though, I would recommend that if you pay for a walking tour, you book it in advance at a tour agency since it is a little more reliable this way.
There are a lot of good restaurants in Antigua. For a nice breakfast, I would recommend Café el Portal which is at the central square. The mornings are often quiet in Antigua and the view of the square is very relaxing.
For lunch and dinner, there are tons of options to chose from. Take a look at the list of Food in Antigua below!
Over the past few years, artisanal beer has become quite of a big deal in Antigua. The places you would be looking for are Antigua Cerveza, Antigua Brewing, and Cerveceria 14. All of those have a great ambiance and the beers are really nice.
If you travel through Central America and don’t try chocolate the way the Mayan lords used to before the cocoa was exported outside the continent, you would be losing a big deal of history, deliciousness, and fun (there are also alcoholic beverages made with cocoa.)
I have created a walking tour of all of the key ruins in Antigua. You can download the map at Walkli and it starts at Cerro De La Cruz. You will need to pay a small fee if you want to enter some of them, but for most of them, you can have a great look only from the outside.
I have written an entire article about this because there are so many good things to say about the Yoga community in Guatemala. You can read here my Guide to Yoga in Guatemala.
You may have heard about Guatemalan coffee before. Antigua is the perfect place to let your senses go wild when it comes to coffee. There are great coffee shops in almost every corner. This is not a weird thing after all, since the coffee from the Antigua region is well known worldwide for its chocolate, sweet, and citrus notes.
There are many activities the tour agencies offer, from cooking classes, coffee tours to the actual coffee plantations, village tours in four weels motorcycles. There are plenty of activities to choose from. Though it is good to mention that the tourist activities are once again back in business, but the tour agencies have taken safety protocols such as accepting a fewer number of participants for each tour, this means that the prices of the tours have increased in order to cover the costs.
No matter how nice the Antigua life is, Guatemala is still a third-world country that receives a lot of help. There are very interesting NGO’s in Antigua where you can volunteer for a day. One very interesting NGO is Niños de Guatemala that works to provide education to children of low resources towns around Antigua.
This is a Texan-style restaurant for all sorts of barbecue and smoked pork meat lovers. The perfect place to hang out with friends and have a beer.
An Indian/Middle East type of restaurant with very tasty food excellent for lunch or dinner.
If you are searching for good Italian food, this is your place!
If you are looking for authentic Guatemalan food, this is your place.
Once upon a time there were two excellent restaurants. Then, Covid-19 happened and the owners of the two restaurants joned forces and now the menu is a mix made in heaven that includes stakes, and gourmet dishes.
Turns out 90% of the restaurants I visit are vegetarian and vegan places. So here’s a list of my top ones:
Owned by an Argentinian couple, this is a restaurant filled with vegan options. Their signature dishes are vegan burgers. To be honest, this is the type of place you go for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or only for a snack! Also, if you are looking for mate tea, this is the place you are looking for.
You can guess by the name that you can get healthy juices here. They also have a small menu with delicious food and friendly staff.
This is a vegan option with delicious food. Honestly, the staff is not the friendliest but if you are having a good day and don’t mind the attitude of the staff, my recommendation is to try the dumplings.
There is nothing to say about this place other than good things. Owned by a French couple, the french pastry is excellent. They also offer vegetarian options, delicious tea blends, and coffee to spend a nice afternoon on their terrace.
The list wouldn’t be complete without a good Japanese restaurant.
Antigua is a small city, which means that you can walk everywhere you go and save money on moving around while you stay there. If you want to visit one of the nearest towns, you can call an Uber.
At the local market, you will find all sorts of fresh fruits and veggies at much better prices than at the supermarket. Take your hand sanitizer and go to the local market which is open every day.
Guatemala is called the country of the eternal spring for one reason. In Antigua, the weather is nice all year round. The coolest nights range in 55 F°/13 C° and during the day 80F°/27C° or 86F°/30C° on the warmest days. The rainy season is from May to October, so keep this in mind.
In terms of shoes, you will need very basic things. A pair of sandals, sneakers to walk around, or in case you want to do a volcano hike, bring some hiking boots. The sneakers are fine too but maybe they won’t work after the hike anymore.
Now, for clothing. Anything you feel comfortable with and a raincoat. The rainy season is from May to October but you never know, pack a raincoat if you have space in your bag.
Since the weather is relatively warm, bring some mosquito repellent. Those buggers are a pain. Also, don’t forget the sunscreen!
Checkout Claire’s Backpacking in Guatemala Packing List here.
If you are planning on visiting Antigua because you have a wedding, you are making your way through Central America, or like me, you are a slow-paced traveler, Antigua offers an option for pretty much everyone. Here are some of my recommendations:
I don’t know how many times I have received emails of people asking this question. That is why I wrote an entire article about How To Get From Guatemala Airport To Antigua Safely And Cheaply, and if you ask me about how to move around from Antigua to other places in Guatemala, my recommendations would be the same.
There are only three places on this list, nonetheless, these places are really nice:
This is another big theme in the emails I receive, and I can understand why based on the news you see everywhere about Guatemala. I remember the first time I arrived, I didn’t know what to expect. The truth is that I ended up staying in Guatemala for nine months and felt really safe during the entire time. There was only the time I thought I was going to die from a scorpion sting, you can read all about that story here The Night I Thought I was Going to Die from a Scorpion Sting in Guatemala.
Other than that, nothing ever happened to me in terms of having my belongings stolen or being in a dangerous situation. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean that you should not be precautious, here is my Safety Advice For Solo Female Travelers In Guatemala. You’re welcome!
This is a tricky one. Antigua is a very small city with great weather, so if you are only visiting Antigua I would say that the least appealing time to visit is during the rainy season. This is because this is a colonial city that has been standing since 1543, and the drainage system is still the same… yes. The population and touristic affluence have increased considerably over the last ten years, not to mention the last 478 years! So this causes some of the streets to flood during the rainy season.
If you are visiting Antigua to hike a volcano, the best time to do this is from November to January. It is really cold camping up at Acatenango during this time (about 23F°/-5C°) but the views are really worth it. If you are camping in Pacaya, it is not that cold (about 41°/5°). BUT make sure to take the proper gear up there.
If you want to see the Holy Week activities, due to the sanitary crisis of Covid-19, the processions were canceled in 2020 and again in 2021. It is still too early to know anything about 2022.
PIN FOR LATER!
I couldn’t not include this Lonely Planet Guide to Guatemala in the reading list.
I’m not always a fan of these kind of travel guides as they are oftern out of date. I learned this more than once the hard way! But they do serve a purpose and it’s always nice to have one actual book that you can use to plan before your trip as well as having something to read when the battery dies on your kindle!
Although you can also get most of these Lonely Planet Guidebooks free as part of a kindle unlimited subscription.
Rigoberta Menchú is quite possibly the most internationally well known Guatemalan. She is a indigenous feminist and human rights activist who won a Nobel Peace Prize.
Her book I, Rigoberta Menchú is now a global bestseller and she has dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of the Indigenous people in Guatemala both during and after the civil war.
This book is a reflection on her personal experiences during the civil war in Guatemala when her mother, father, and brother were murdered by the Guatemalan military.
If you have an interest in the history of Guatemala then read this book. It’s both heartbreaking and inspiring in equal measures.
I was given this book to read while I was dog sitting in Lake Atitlan and I can’t even tell you how much I loved it. I knew the Lake well by then so reading this book really brought those places to life for me.
The book is based on the life of the author Martin Prechtel who somehow found himself on an incredible journey from New Mexico in the USA to a small Mayan Village in Guatemala where he became a shaman.
Read this book. You won’t regret it!
Ok so maybe A Short History of Guatemala isn’t the most riveting read. But it really is interesting, especially for all of you history buffs out there.
It’s easy to read and gives you a good overview on the good, the bad, and the ugly of Guatemalas history.
The book mostly focuses on the ninetieth and twentieth centuries. It is a little dates now, but it still does the job!