14 Ideas For What to Do in Antigua, Guatemala

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Antigua is one of the most captivating destinations in Guatemala. It has a unique blend of colonial charm and natural wonders, making it a dazzling sight to witness no matter when you visit.

From walking the city’s cobblestone streets to marveling at ancient churches and bustling markets to hiking active volcanoes and diving into the city’s gastronomic delights – there is no shortage of things to do in Antigua, Guatemala.

But if you’re not sure what to do in Antigua, Guatemala, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve listed some of our favorite attractions and activities so you can plan the perfect trip.

Is Antigua Worth Visiting?

colonial buildings in antigua with volcano in background

Antigua is the last true Colonial City remaining in Latin America. It’s small enough to walk around and yet brimming with attractions and things to do.

You can have the cheapest Spanish lessons in the world here, and the locals are so friendly and welcoming. The Mayan culture still breathes deep for the local people, which intermingle with the foreigners.

The cobblestone streets, colorful houses and huge Central Park offer the perfect backdrop for photos, as well as a quiet spot to watch the local life go by.

tuk tuk and people standing outside building in antigua

Not only is the city beautiful, but Antigua is surrounded by three gorgeous volcanoes (one of which is VERY active and gives off smoke daily – but more on that later).

If you’re wondering if Antigua is worth visit, the answer is a resounding yes. Not only do you get history, beauty, and surrounded by nature’s ferocious tenacity, but you simply get SO much more for your money with hotels, restaurants, souvenirs and other stuff because Guatemala is a cheap country to visit.

What to Do in Antigua

1. Admire The Ruins of Antigua

front facade of La Ermita de la Santa Cruz
La Ermita de la Santa Cruz

Antigua experienced two severe earthquakes; in 1843 and 1974. These quakes caused a lot of damage and destruction, and you can visit hundreds of ruins all around the city that are preserved to bring you back to those moments.

The most notable ruins are the churches. These were built during the colonial era and were not built to last the magnitude of earthquakes.

One of the most famous is of the La Ermita de la Santa Cruz, which was built in the colonial era and has stunning Baroque architecture.

One of my favorite ruins is that of Convento Capuchinas, which is a former monastery that features both European and Mesoamerican architecture.

This former santuary home features the ruins of a church, cloister, and the nuns living quarters, as well as a striking central courtyard with a fountain.

Along with the ruins of churches and cathedrals that once were, there are still 35 active churches in Antigua as well. The most popular one stands along Antigua’s famous Parque Central (Central Park), known as Catedral San José, which retains much of its 16th century beauty.

2. Try Guatemalan Coffee

people tending to crops Guatemala coffee plantation —
Guatemala coffee plantation | Deposit Photos

Coffee is one of Guatemala’s most priced commodities and some of the best coffee plantations are just a few minutes outside of Antigua.

If you want to try the freshest beans, then you will find it here in Antigua.

I highly recommend you take a Guatemalan coffee tour to find the best cafes and coffee shops.

Combo Tour: Colonial Antigua & Guatemala City Explorer Tour: Enjoy 2 wonderful cities, ancient colonial city of Antigua, a UNRSCO World Heritage Site, and Modern Guatemala City at the same day. Learn more here!

3. Try the Street Food!

Street Food Stand antigua guatemala
Street Food Stand

Antigua is probably one of the best places in Central America for restaurants. You can find everything from typical Guatemalan restaurants to internationally known chefs cooking up gastronomical masterpieces.

However, it’s the street food that will give you the best flavors and is so cheap. There are street vendors all around Antigua, mainly by the parks and churches.

From the savory Chuchitos, which are flavorful tamales wrapped in a corn husk, to the aromatic and rich chicken pepián, the street food scene offers a diverse culinary experience.

Look out for tantalizing options like Atol, Rellenitos, and Tostadas with guacamole, beans, or tomato sauce, each providing a unique taste of the region’s gastronomic heritage.

Want to learn about street food from a local? Check out this street food tour at night!

4. Hit The Markets

a woman in a market
Handcraft Market
a market on a street
Handcraft Market

If you want to do some shopping and bring home souvenirs, there are three places you can shop; Arc Street where all the best Jade is sold, Central Market (Central Mercado), which is close to the bus terminal (this is more of a local market with a handicraft market attached to it), and Capuchinas Ruins Market.

Antigua is world known for the best jade. This was a sacred stone to the Maya and is sold in stores all over the city.

One word of advice, for good quality Jade get it in the stores, not at the markets.

Jade Mask antigua guatemala
Jade Mask

For souvenirs, I recommend Capuchinas Ruins market. This is a year round market of great handicrafts. Market days are every day, but during the week it’s only indoors and on weekends they have more vendors sit outside.

5. Check Out Day of the Dead Kite Festival

a mural
Day of the Dead Kite Festival

The Day of the Dead Kite Festival is a vibrant and poignant celebration honoring departed loved ones. This ancient tradition, held annually on November 1st, brings together families to fly exquisitely crafted kites adorned with intricate designs and vibrant colors.

The kites are on average between 10 – 30 feet in diameter – they are huge!

As the kites soar into the sky, it is believed that they carry messages to the spirits of their loved ones.

The festival blends solemn remembrance with artistic expression, serving as a beautiful symbol of the enduring connection between the living and the departed.

6. Attend Semana Santa – Easter/Holy Week

final carpet product
Semana Santa Carpet

Semana Santa is a vibrant celebration that commemorates the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This annual event, held from Sunday, March 24 to Saturday, March 30 in 2024, is a deeply cherished tradition in Guatemala, and is filled with elaborate processions, colorful street carpets made of flowers and sawdust, and religious reenactments.

Semana Santa Carpet antigua
Semana Santa Carpet

It holds immense significance for the local community and attracts over a million visitors each year.

The festivities blend both indigenous Mayan traditions with Catholic rituals, creating a unique cultural tapestry.

No where in the world will you see alfombras (carpets) and processions as you would in Antigua. The two main days are the Thursday and Friday before Easter Sunday.

7. Go On A Volcano Hike

Fuego erupting in Guatemala, views from Acatenango
Fuego erupting in Guatemala, views from Acatenango

Antigua is surrounded by volcanoes. Not just dormant ones, but active ones too. The most famous is Fuego, the notoriously active volcano responsible for causing much devastation, including in November 2018 when the eruption took the lives of 4,000 people.

If you want to see Fuego spit it’s firey flames into the air, then you’re better off hiking Acatenango Volcano, which offers an amazing view of Fuego but at a safe distance.

The hike is pretty challenging, not going to lie to you, and you’ll need to prepare for the altitude of 3,976 meters above sea level. The altitude is tough but the trail is tougher, since you’re hiking up volcanic ash and sand. Hiking boots and poles will help you a lot here.

If you want to see a volcano without a difficult hike, Pacaya is a good alternative. The hike can be done in half a day and takes you up the side of this active volcano, where you can gaze upon lava flows and toast marshmellows over hot spots. You can also do ATV tours of Pacaya too if you don’t want to hike.

8. Take a Day Trip to Lake Atilan

jetty in Lake Atitlan

One of the most breathtaking natural wonders in Guatemala is Lake Atitlán, which is nestled amidst towering volcanoes and surrounded by charming Mayan villages.

This is a volcanic lake, which was formed 84,000 years ago after a volcanic eruption, and sits at 1,500 meters above sea level.

It’s a huge lake spanning 18 kilometers, and is also the deepest lake in Central America.

You can go kayaking in the shimmering waters or relax at one of the lake-side restaurants, go for a swim (though we wouldn’t recommend it – it’s said that waste and sewage run off into the lake. Though it’s pretty to look at!) or you can explore the vibrant markets brimming with local crafts.

It’s the perfect day trip to take if you want a serene escape from the bustling Antigua.

9. Take A Trip to Tikal

ancient stone pyramid of Tikal

Possibly the most famous Mayan ruins (aside from Machu Picchu) is Tikal. Tikal isn’t close to Antigua, however it’s one of the most unmissable attractions in Guatamala, so you can many tours that include flights to this iconic archaeological site easily in Antigua.

The beauty of visiting Tikal from Antigua is that the flight allows you to gaze upon the ruins from above, offering a bird’s eye view from the plane.

Nestled in the depths of the Guatemalan jungle, this UNESCO World Heritage Site spans for miles, with the occasional temple ruin perched beneath the trees.

Tikal is still an ongoing archaeological site, so with each visit there is something new to explore. It’s estimated that it dates back to the 1st century A.D., and was once a thriving citadel and city with temples and palaces, but was later abandoned and left to ruin.

Some of the most notable sites in the park include the Lost World Pyramid (Mundo Perdido) and the Temple IV, which is a staggering 70 meters tall. This makes it the tallest pre-Columbian structure in the whole of the Americas.

10. Take A Photo of Santa Catalina Arch

Santa Catalina Arch over road

One of the most iconic scenes in Antigua is of the Santa Catalina Arch, which could be considered an artistic ode to the city’s vivid narrative.

This architectural masterpiece, adorned with vibrant yellow tones and intricate details, allows you to capture the iconic cobbled streets and colonial heritage, set against the backdrop of majestic volcanoes.

No tourists visiting Antigua can leave without capturing a photograph of the Santa Catalina Arch, which is the backdrop that says “I’ve been to Antigua!”.

11. Admire Views from Cerro de la Cruz

Views from Cerro de la Cruz

Overlooking the colonial splendor of Antigua, is the Cerro de la Cruz. This enchanting vantage point is the perfect place to go for sunset or to get a unique perspective of the city.

The ascent to this hill of the cross unveils a mesmerizing panorama, offering sweeping views of the city’s iconic architecture, nestled amidst the breathtaking backdrop of Volcán Agua.

12. Relax on One of The Rooftop Terraces

View on Antigua and Volcano de Aguaby Cerro de la Cruz in Guatemala
View on Antigua and Volcano de Aguaby Cerro de la Cruz in Guatemala

One of the best places to relax in Antigua is from a seat at one of the city’s rooftop bars. This is the best place to see the incredible volcano vistas and colonial rooftops that make Antigua so unique.

My favorite rooftop bar is Café Sky, which has a lovely rooftop terrace with incredible views. The menu serves up traditional Guatemalan dishes and a few international favorites, but it’s the view you come for.

It’s the perfect place to relax after a day of adventure and sightseeing.

13. Learn About Craft Beer at Antigua Brewing Company

The Antigua Brewing Company is a craft brewery, housed within a captivating colonial house, which offers a delightful fusion of handcrafted artisanal beers and delectable cuisine in a vibrant atmosphere.

Indulge in the rich flavors of their meticulously brewed beers, whilst admiring the historical charm of the setting.

The Antigua Brewing Company is one of the most bustling places to be in Antigua, and should be high on your list of things to do in Antigua at night.

14. Take a Chocolate Making Workshop

As well as coffee beans, Guatemala also has rich soil perfect for growing cacao beans, used for making chocolate.

You can visit The Chocolate Museum in Antigua where you can make your own chocolate with a chocolate making workshop.

This is not only a memorable activity, but a great way to bring home a unique souvenir from your trip.

Best Time of Year to Visit Antigua

yellow colonial building

The best time to visit Antigua is during the dry season, which is when you have the best weather of the year. This runs from November through April, and June until August.

If you want to come for Semana Santa, then Easter week is the best time.

The low season is May (the weather is still great) and also September and October (but it can get rainy during those months).

My advice, if you’re not coming for the major festivals, coming off season is the perfect time to be here. It hardly rains, certainly not enough to put a dampen on your trip. Plus, you have Antigua for yourself!

Getting To And Around Antigua

To get to Antigua, Guatemala you need to fly to Aurora International Airport (Guatemala City Airport) in Guatemala City which is about 45 minutes from Antigua itself.

To travel within Guatemala you will need to do either private or collective shuttles to other destinations such as Lake Atitlan, Chichicastenango, Tikal and other areas of interest.

Antigua is small enough to be able to walk everywhere you have to. However, if you want to get somewhere fast or are tired there are hundreds of Tuk Tuk’s and taxis.

The public buses take too long and are more for getting to the surrounding areas rather than Antigua center.

When you want to explore more of Antigua, such as Lake Atitlán, you’ll need to look out for one of these…

a chicken l bus in guatamela
Public Transportation – Chicken Bus

Where to Stay in Antigua

a woman standing in front of a building
Luxury Hotel in Antigua

Antigua has some of the most gorgeous colonial hotels in this part of the world. You can stay in a luxury hotel for less than other countries.

Although, there is no shortage of the hundreds of hostels with dorms and private rooms for backpackers, too.

One hotel stands out above all else; Casa Santo Domingo. Staying here is more of an experience rather than just a place to sleep. It doubles up as a museum and is one of the most historic hotels in the city.

Chances are if you don’t stay here you will definitely visit it at one time or another during your visit to Antigua.

Final Thoughts

Antigua is so special and unique on every level. It’s small enough, yet big enough to have everything you need.

The people are humble and kind and they love kids. The food selection is amazing. Best of all, there is always something to do.

We hope that this guide gave you some inspiration for what to do in Antigua and helped you plan your trip!

Bio: Marina K. Villatoro is an expat living and traveling in Central America with her family for over 10 years. She blogs all about her family’s adventures and life at TravelExperta.com. With all their miles under their belts, she’s written a useful family guide book for traveling to Guatemala with kids – tested and approved by her family. Join Marina on Twitter for more fun Central and Latin American fun.

More Guatemala Travel Tips

Need more inspiration for your trip to Guatemala? Here are some other helpful guides…

Do you have any tips on what to do in Antigua Guatemala? Let us know in the comments!

28 thoughts on “14 Ideas For What to Do in Antigua, Guatemala”

  1. I just picked up a book on Guatemala a few days ago and was captivated by the photos of Antigua – it looks like such a beautiful city with some incredible architecture.

    1. I had the best coffee here yet at Finca Filadelfia this morning. Delicious!

      I later found out they are a premium exporter of coffee to the likes of Starbucks. Their coffee tour gets great reviews and they even have “Latte Art” classes, which I will take them up on in the future.

      As for Internet access, I wrote a huge post talking about your Internet options. Important if you want to work from the ‘net and stay here for a while.



  2. Ahhh. Antigua. All of these charms, and more, kept us in this deservedly-famous Colonial town for more than a month of our Trans-Americas Journey–long enough to discover a lot of specific food, hotel and attraction finds


    We also got to experience all 7 days of the mind-blowing Semana Santa celebrations and produced a feature about Semana Santa in Antigua for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.


    Read this before you go!

    1. Hey Karen! I’m hot on your trail right now! I’ll be staying here a few more months. There are shuttles to everywhere in the country form here, so it’s a great base for expeditions.

      I’ll keep up to date with you guys in case we ever catch up to you!


  3. I got my hair cut for $2 in Antigua and it was one of the best hair cuts I have ever had. I didn’t speak very much Spanish but the hair stylist had nice hair so I took a chance!

      1. Marina, would you mind telling me the details of your hairdresser? I am desperate to get my hair done here tomorrow. Thanks 🙂

  4. I spent Christmas in Antigua, and it was so much fun to watch a 365-degree fireworks show (unorganized of course) at midnight from the rooftop terrace of my hostel.

    What do you mean by the “last true colonial city remaining in Latin America?” I would categorize Granada, Nicaragua and Colonia, Uruguay as colonial cities. Is there some official designation now?

    1. New Year’s in ANtigua is pretty amazing!

      Granada is teeny tiny and doesn’t really have the official ‘Colonial city’ it once was. A lot of it was redone. THe same with Uruguay. It’s mostly redone. Antigua, still keeps it’s buildings from when it was built back in the day, even the ruins. And it’s probably one of the larger ones.

  5. Jeremy Branham

    This is fantastic! I don’t know a lot about Antigua or Guatemala but this was a great read. I had no idea the city was so interesting and beautiful. I love the kids restaurant, Easter Week, and the variety of activities.

    Honestly, I had never really considered Guatemala before but I love this post. Thanks for the information Marina.

  6. Very comprehensive post Marina! I’ve followed your blog off/on for a bit now. Thanks!

    I’d visited to Guatemala in the past, a country unknown to me until I met the love of my life. Due to legal reasons, she was unable to join me in the US, so I decided to pack everything up and live as a digital nomad.

    The goal is to “slow travel” the continent by land, eventually reaching Patagonia… some time in the future!

    I fell in love with Antigua the most while visiting Guatemala and chose it as my first stop on my “slow travel” tour. There’s so much to see and do that it’s taken a while to catch up with pics/posts.

    Will be here a few months and will enjoy it as much as I can. I don’t think there’s a better/easier destination to explore for a first-time English-speaking traveler to Central America. Small enough to be easily walkable, but chock-full of restaurants and things to see. It is a photographer’s dream location.

    Come to learn Spanish, stay for the food/sights!


  7. Thank you for a lovely post! The pics were great and I am adding Antigua to my list of travel wishes right now!

  8. I’m planning to travel to Antigua this year, I was planning on going in September but, reading here that that is the rainy season has made me reconsider the time. Which months in the off season would be the best in terms of weather to travel?

  9. I enjoyed reading this beautiful colorful abstract. Having visited Antigua last summer, it’s nice to see this beautiful part of the country people so little complicated.


  10. Spent a few days in Antigua and I agree with you it is a great place. One of the things I liked the most was that almost everything was in a walking distance and nothing beats walking around to get to know a town or city.

  11. Thanks for sharing. I never thought about going there, but Antigua sounds like a great place to visit. I enjoy outdoor markets and shopping, so it sounds like a great place to visit.

  12. I have been toAntigua many times since 1977. It is a great place. I there are ,other cheaper places to stay.money, but don’t stay at the SantoDomingo as I’ve never had the

  13. Antigua is incredible and I’m happy to hear you share the same love of this wonderful colonial city. The architecture and food cannot be beat anywhere else in Guatemala. My family and I went to Antigua and Lake Atitlán using mayangateway.com and it was worth every penny. I would highly recommend the artisan markers in the city.

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