One of the most stunning cities in Central America is Antigua. Antigua is surrounded by powerful volcanoes and oozing with beauty from old baroque cathedrals and a colonial vibe.
It is a vibrant town with cobblestone streets, adorable cafes, and volcanoes. It is very easy to fall in love with this city. So, if you want to know the incredible things to enjoy and explore there, here is a list of the 15 super cool things to do in Antigua.
Most Interesting Things to do in Antigua
Let's find out the ways you can enjoy yourself in Antigua.
1. Hike up to a Volcano
Antigua is surrounded by several mysterious volcanoes waiting to be hiked. Test your strength and run out of breath climbing to the top if you're up for it.
Volcán Pacaya, about one hour outside of town, is the most famous volcano to hike. A one-and-a-half-hour trek will easily bring you to the peak, which offers amazing views of the surroundings.
The more physically fit among us can hike either the active Volcán Fuego, which is spewing lava or the dormant Volcán Acatenango, which is Guatemala's tallest volcano.
2. See the Arch of Santa Catalina
The Arco de Santa Catalina is at the top of the list of must-see attractions in Antigua. Any tour guide to Guatemala will most certainly have an illustration of the arch on the front page. It's undeniably the most recognizable representation of Antigua, especially when the nearby Volcan de Agua can be seen peeking through the clouds.
The Santa Catalina convent and the school across the street were connected by this beautiful white and yellow arch constructed in the late 17th century.
3. Visit Caoba farms
Caoba Farms is a place you should plan to visit while you are in Antigua. It is only a short distance from the city center. They have achieved their ambition by constructing a learning center that offers volunteer opportunities and permaculture classes, in addition to supplying local restaurants and households with fresh organic vegetables.
Stroll through the lovely gardens to observe the food's growing process. Have dinner at their farm-to-table restaurant to try the delectable, fresh food.
4. Taste Quality at a Coffee Farm
If you are in Guatemala, visiting a coffee farm is a must because it produces some of the greatest coffee in the world. Many farms near Antigua offer tours of their coffee factories.
However, we strongly advise you to check out De la Gente. It's a modest, family-run farm where you can speak with actual Guatemalans who can give you a firsthand experience of what it's like to be a coffee grower. You'll have the opportunity to visit coffee plantations and be welcomed into the farmer's home, where you can learn more about coffee-making in Guatemala.
5. Try out the Local Food in Antigua
Eating at restaurants shouldn't even be a consideration if you want to try traditional Guatemalan cuisine, especially because many of the eateries in Antigua have nothing to do with Guatemala, such as McDonald's, Wendy's, Thai or Austrian Restaurants.
You may try some authentic Guatemalan cuisine prepared by Guatemalans, and it's inexpensive and delectable. The market or park area is the finest place to find street food. Rellenitos de Plátano, Pupusas, Chuchitos, Enchiladas, Elote, Arroz with Leche, Chile Relleno, and the traditional full-course dinners like Pepian, or grilled meat with rice and tortillas, are some of our favorite street foods.
6. Admire the Church of Iglesia de la Merced
The canary-yellow church of La Merced is one of the most striking churches and arguably one of the prettiest sights in Antigua, Guatemala. It was finished in 1767 after a 15-year construction.
Because of its twin bell towers, bright yellow exterior, exquisite white stucco decorations, and saint statues, you will love to explore it. The interior is equally impressive, with statues and frescoes. The entrance fee to the church is completely free.
7. Roast Marshmallows At Volcano Pacaya
The climb to the Pacaya volcano, about an hour and a half from the city, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You can toast the marshmallows when the volcano erupts, and the temperature is raised to a point when there is ash. Pay the entrance fee to the national park that contains the volcano, and you are required by law to have a guide with you.
The Pacaya Volcano is 8,373 feet tall and will probably take two hours to hike up and down. Although there are many rest spots along the way, you can rent walking sticks as well.
8. Visit the Central Market
Visit the Central Market in Antigua, Guatemala, for a more authentic and less touristy experience.
Excellent traditional meals and a wide range of crafts, apparel, and other goods are available in the Central Market. You can enjoy shopping at bustling markets and interacting with locals, and getting a true sense of the country.
You may either buy something to eat at the same central market, or you can cross the street and head to Cevicheria Brisas del Mar if you are craving an amazing meal.
9. Go ATVing in the Mountains
One of our favorite travel activities is riding an ATV. The Antigua ATV Sunset Tour will take you into the mountains, stopping at some fantastic lookout points along the way, and will end in Hobbitenango to catch the sunset. It costs USD 59 per person.
Even if you've never operated an ATV, you won't have any trouble finishing the tour because the road isn't at all difficult. Your group will have guides, and they will provide you with a wealth of knowledge about the city's past and the volcanoes, which is something everyone will love while traveling.
10. Learn Spanish
Antigua is a great place to learn Spanish and, indeed, one of the best things to do in the city. Knowing a little bit of the language is helpful if planning a vacation to Central America.
One of the top Spanish schools in Central America is the Antiguena Spanish School. They have several packages, and you can even make a direct reservation with them. They provide individual apartments and private rooms shared with local Guatemalan families.
11. Have Lunch With a View of the Rooftop
If you are tired of hiking and exploring the city, take a break at the rooftop cafe or bar in Antigua and enjoy the city’s stunning views. There are a lot of rooftop bars and cafes where you can have great food. Some famous ones are Antigua Brewing Company, Cafe Estudio, Rooftop Antigua, Cafe Sky, and Cafe Boheme, with wooden terraces and spectacular views.
12. Wander Around the Convent of las Capuchinas
Las Capuchinas Convent is another old ruin that you will love exploring. The convent de las Capuchinas suffered significant damage in the earthquake of 1773, and like so many other colonial structures in Antigua, it was abandoned soon after.
It now consists of a chapel, gardens, cloisters, and courtyards, in addition to a picturesque maze of chambers. Also, you can see the nuns' living quarters to see what life was like there.
13. Get Lost in the Mercado
No trip to Antigua is complete without stopping by the Mercado near the bus station. The market is divided up into various sections. You can find almost anything here. Enjoy purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables here since they frequently cost less than what they would at a supermarket.
It's also a terrific way to support regional farmers instead of big-box retailers. Monday, Thursday, and Saturday are the ideal days to visit because you will get more for less money.
14. Buy Gifts at Nim Pot
Nim Pot may have the largest gift shops in Antigua. It's next to El Arco de Santa Catalina, making it impossible to miss. They sell a wide range of souvenirs and goods inside, from little miniatures to various apparel sizes.
This is where you can buy all kinds of souvenirs you could want, including wallets, ceramics, t-shirts, postcards, coffee, cacao, and traditional clothing. You will get a good bargain because prices are reasonable and the same for both locals and visitors.
15. Visit the Charming La Esquina Antigua
You probably did not expect to find La Esquina Antigua in a colonial UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you've ever been to New York City, it has the same vibe as one of those pop-up stores.
This lovely place is a food court with some of the best eateries and cuisine.
La Esquina is a must-visit site if you're seeking a place to capture beautiful photos and enjoy delectable food and one of Antigua's hippest locations.
16. Visit Cerro de la Cruz (Hill Of the Cross)
One of the most iconic pictures of Antigua is the cross on the hill with Antigua to the south, with the mighty Volcan de Agua sitting in the background.
After visiting the wonderful city of Antigua, you can climb to the top of the hill where the cross sits and overlook and see the magnificent city and all the things you have seen so far. At that time, you could take many photos with that iconic cross and the volcano in the background. It is a great way to end a trip to Antigua.
Best Time to Visit Antigua, Guatemala
Winter through Spring are the ideal seasons for travel to Antigua. Antigua experiences nice temperatures and comparatively little rainfall from mid-December to early April. The months of May and June are also favorable for travel to Antigua, despite a modest increase in temperatures and a spike in rainfall.
Come Check it Out
Travel to Antigua and live the best days of your life. Have amazing food, explore beautiful sites, and discover the ancient side of Guatemala. A lovely city with great people, and your trip is going to be a fantastic one. The list of super cool things to do in Antigua here will not let you get bored.
I’m Steve. I’m an English Teacher, traveler, and an avid outdoorsman. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@thefrugalexpat1). Many of my posts have been written to help those in their journey to financial independence. I am on my journey, and as I learn more I hope to share more. And as always, thanks for reading The Frugal Expat.