Antigua is a UNESCO-listed city based in southern Guatemala, surrounded by volcanoes, a vibrant green rainforest and home to Mayan ruins and beautiful Spanish colonial architecture. You will hear alot about Antigua even before you step foot in Guatemala. It is a place people easily fall in love with and a place people could easily get stuck. Whether you are brushing up on your Spanish, volunteering in one of the many hostels, exploring Hobbitenango or using Antigua as a gateway to climb the world renowned Volcano Acatenango, Antigua has it all. This is definitely not to be missed off your Guatemala itinerary, and you should set aside at least four days for this incredible city, but be aware, you could easily stay for a lot longer….
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Please be aware, that when researching your trip to Antigua in Guatemala, there is also an island in the West Indies with the same name ~ don't get the two confused... easily done as I found out!
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Antigua is where most people will migrate to after flying into Guatemala City airport, as it can easily be reached by bus in 2 hours. if you are checking out flights, head to Skyscanner, as they offer great flight details at super low prices.
The bus terminal in Antigua is located on the west side behind the market (depending on where you’re staying you might want to get a tuk tuk if you have all your bags, as it can be a 20-30 minute walk). Taking a cheaper and less touristy Chicken bus from the bus terminal is straightforward and does not need to be pre booked (read our article on Chicken buses). Also note that there are shuttles at Guatemala City airport that will drop you off directly at your hostel in Antigua which cost 80Q ($10 / €9). You can easily hire a shuttle from baggage claim at Guatemala City airport to Antigua with no advanced reservations.
A lot of hostels in Antigua will book your transport for you via tourist minibuses/private shuttle, and these will pick you right up from your hostel. Whilst they are a little bit more expensive than the Chicken buses, they are still budget friendly (around 80Q / $10 / €9), and they are much more comfortable and extremely efficient. You can arrange these with your hostel in Antigua, just ask at reception.
You’ll be pleased to hear that Antigua is a compact city, so you can easily walk from one side to the other. It is an enjoyable place to walk around with its beautiful cobbled streets, all of which are laid out in a numbered grid system. Be slightly weary at night, whilst Antigua is relatively safe, the surrounding areas are not.
There are always tuk tuks available in Antigua to get you back home which provide a quicker and safer end to the evening.
Located next to the bus terminal at the West side of Antigua (at the end of 3a Calle ‘street 3’), there is a Handicraft market aimed at tourists, which is nice for souvenirs and jewellery, close by is a fresh fruit market, where you can buy all of your fresh fruit and veg. You can also get smoothies made right in front of you, pick up some bags of nuts or buy some tasty fried chicken for lunch.
However, behind these markets is probably Antigua’s best kept secret ~ the “Paca” ~ a giant second hand clothes market where you are SURE to find some gems. Although at first glance the Paca might look like a landfill of old clothes and shoes, it’s got a lot of quality pieces shipped from the US with tags still on. With a bit of rummaging you can find brands like Adidas, Fila and Tommy Hilfiger. Don’t go hungover and be prepared to spend a bit of time to find the bargains ~ I bought a 10Q (€1 / $1) Tommy Hilfiger halterneck and a 50Q (€6 / $6.50) fleece.
Go Travel and Talk's Top Pick! EcoFarms is a community-based eco-project that utilises ancient Mayan farming techniques ~ farming in spirals and in connection with the moon, to cultivate high vibrational veggies. This Antigua Eco Farm have a mushroom growing facility, a puppy sanctuary, a horse sanctuary and a farm. They offer fascinating tours where you can learn about ancient Mayan beliefs and techniques and see how EcoFarms puts them to practice. They also offer mushroom workshops and various volunteer opportunities.
Caoba farms hosts an amazing farmers market every Sunday with local vendors of Antigua and live music. After sampling homemade kombucha, goat cheeses, and salsa, you can sit down at Caobas delicious organic restaurant for one of the best brunches you’ll have in your life. Check out their website here.
Climbing Volcano Acatenango is a must do activity when in Antigua and a big highlight of Central America. Trips to climb Acatenango Volcano go daily from Antigua, last 2 days and 1 night and cost around Q400-Q530 (€45-€60 / $50-70) depending on which company you go with. It really is something that you’ll never experience anywhere else. The climb is tough, about 6 hours up a steep volcano, but when you reach the top, dinner is served looking out onto an active volcano and you will see the sunset amidst neighbouring active volcanoes.
You are woken up at camp at 4am the next day to trek the remaining 1 hour to the very top where you are blessed with the most spectacular sunrise, before walking (or running) back down in roughly 3 hours. I would recommend going with Tropicana hostel for Q510 (€60 / $70) as they are they only tour operator to have their own private campsite at the top of Volcano Acatenango and you get free breakfast included! Check them out here.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Bring layers and warm clothes! You may feel like you are boiling in the heat of Antigua when you first start the trek, but at the top of Acatenango, it is icy cold and you feel like you’re sleeping in the arctic! Most places in Antigua hire out hats, gloves and coats, but remember that clothes market I was telling you about? Bag yourself some trousers, jumpers, hats, scarf, gloves, socks and a coat for dirt cheap and you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience. Also please note that the views at the top are weather dependent ~ clouds can cover alot!
The Pool Party is Antigua’s biggest after party and it happens every Saturday night. It is basically a big rave in an abandoned pool, but it is actually very well-done with a bar, bouncers, and the most beautiful volcano view. While raves aren’t for everyone, this event will at the very least be an experience you won’t forget. Entrance is 50Q (€6 / $6.50). To get there, be outside the bar Lucky Rabbit by 12.45 am. From here, taxis and shuttles will be waiting to take you there. There will be a huge crowd of people so you will know you are in the right place. The ride should cost 20Q (€2 / $2.50) a person. To get home, the pool party offers safe, reliable shuttles every hour from 3am on for 20Q (€2 / $2.50) per person.
The PIKNIK hosts Antigua’s newest favorite hangouts, including their Sunday Funday event featuring live music, DJs, games, beerpong and volleyball tournaments, swimming pool, shopping area, and a selection of tasty food and drinks.
Growing startup company Sílekta Events, run by two British girls who fell in love with Antigua ~ Guatemala, has teamed up with all the local hostels to provide transportation directly from your door. Entrance is free, you just pay Q50 (approx €6 / $6.50) for a wristband that gets you on the guestlist and covers your two-way shuttle!
Look out for PIKNIK's Electronic PIKNIK and exclusive PIKNIK Soireé events while you're here too. Sílekta Events is always hosting quality parties in Antigua and Guatemala City - follow them on Instagram to see what they've got coming up next! @silektaevents
Every night is ladies night in Antigua! No seriously though it has been called the ‘world’s capital of ladies nights’ more than once.
- Las Vibras: Antigua’s biggest dance club with ladies night every Wednesday-offering free manicures and massages between 8 and 10pm.
- Lucky Rabbit: Another popular dance club in Antigua. Usually playing your classic mix of raggaeton music and also featuring the infamous “rave cave” side room bringing the techno. Thursday night is your ladies night here
- Las Palmas: Most popular place to dance some salsa while you’re in Antigua. Las Palmas boasts amazing live salsa music most nights of the week and is especially popular on Fridays.
- Coffee shop san Simón: Antigua’s favorite “speakeasy” featuring delicious, high quality crafted cocktails and always bumping electronic music ~ see photo!
- El Barrio: El Barrio is a square of four bars in Antigua, with an open layout so you can mix and mingle all night long. Within El Barrio you’ll find The Whiskey Den, VuDu shot bar, Ocelot, and Lava Bar.
Antigua (and Guatemala in general) is famous for teaching tourists Spanish. This is for a couple of reasons: The lessons are cheap, they are 1 to 1, you learn a lot in a short space of time and Antigua is an enjoyable place to learn for a few weeks, with lots of great cafes to do your homework in. You should be looking at about Q40 (€4 / $5) per hour for lessons and you can choose the amount of hours you want to do in a day and for how many days you would like to do in total. There are also options to pay weekly for lessons and board and food which is a good option if you’re really serious about learning Spanish and it works out a little bit cheaper.
There are many different Spanish schools in Antigua, all with a similar reputation ~ excellent! So I would advise choosing one near your accommodation in Antigua and that has space at the time you want. You can usually book when you arrive to start the next day, but if you are specific about dates and the school you would like to study with, then I would book ahead. Check out La Union.
Hobbitenango is a Go Travel and Talk Top pick! Hobbitenango literally translates to “land of the hobbits” and this mythical masterpiece is a little oasis just outside of Antigua. It has a restaurant and bar, the best view in maybe all of Guatemala, as well as little “hobbit homes” you can stay overnight in. Come for an afternoon and lose yourself in the world hobbitenango has created, explore gardens and trails, and treat yourself to a delicious meal while watching a gorgeous sunset ~ or turn it into a mini vacation and stay for a few nights. Definitely worth checking out if you are in Guatemala! You can easily hire an UBER to get there or they also offer a shuttle from Antigua every two hours from their office located at: 1a Avenida Norte #36, Colonia Candelaria, Antigua Guatemala. You can call this number for more information about the shuttle: 3090-8812
Earth Lodge: Earth Lodge is a bar, restaurant and avocado farm with amazing views! This is a popular hangout just outside Antigua and great place to grab some food and clear your mind. The easiest way to get there is to contact them via their website the day before you visit to schedule transportation pick up. Their driver will collect you in Antigua and bring you straight to Earth Lodge. The cost of the ride goes directly to the driver, not to Earth Lodge.
Shakti Shala is probably Antigua’s most popular yoga studio. They offer yin, ashatanga, mysore yoga and more. They have a wonderful community vibe that is energetic and encouraging. Visit their website to view a schedule of their classes.
Om where you Roam: Om Where You Roam is another great option to get your yoga practice in and is super unique! Om Where you roam is a new type of yoga community- comprised of “nomadic, and passionate” yoga teachers. Their yoga studio is equally nomadic with classes taking place in different venues- sometimes at farms, sometimes at hostels, and sometimes parks. You can find their schedule of classes on their Facebook page. @omwhereyouroam
Three Monkey's Hostel is a beautiful, small and very friendly hostel in Antigua with the option of private rooms. It has a great social vibe but is calm and tranquil during the day and not too crazy at night. It has a kitchen, a terrace with a garden and amazing view of Antigua's volcanos, a Netflix room and themed nights such as open mic (with free drinks for performers), quiz night and a 60Q (€7 / $8) BBQ night. Here you’ll find the best mix of guests. Even if you don’t stay here, their Tuesday Night Open Mic night is an amazing showcase of local and traveler talent and always a fun, chill place to socialise. Expect to pay around Q75 (€8.50 / $10) per night for a 6 bed mixed dorm (Female only dorm options available). Follow them on Instagram: @threemonkeyshostel.
Tropicana hostel is is definitely more of a party hostel with a rooftop bar, swimming pool and music until the early hours of the morning. It is very popular with backpackers, sociable and a lot of fun. Expect to pay around Q85 (€10 / $11) for a 10 bed mixed dorm. Check out their Instagram: @tropicanahostelantigua.
Luna Maya Hostel and Wellness: For those looking for a relaxing style of travel, this is a great accommodation option. It is wellness based with a yoga studio and tranquil living room area with a collection of interesting books that will be sure to stimulate your mind. The rooms are gorgeous shared dormitory style rooms with very comfy beds! You can expect to pay around 90 Q (€10.50 / $12). (Female only dorm available).
- La Merced: In the Parque La Merced (right next to the big church Inglesia La Merced, off 1a Calle) there is an abundance of Antigua street food to choose from. From tacos, fresh chicken subs with all the extras, and El Salvadoran Pupusas (pork and cheese stuffed tortilla), this is flavoursome, big eats on a budget.
- Rincón Típico is the tastiest for a big plate of classic Guatemalan cuisine featuring homemade tortillas and horchata for about 30Q (€3 / $3.50). Definitely worth a visit while you’re in Antigua!
- You will be able to find licuados, tamales, and paches (basically like a tamal but made with potato) all over Guatemala. The market sells licuados for 7Q (€0.80 / $1) and gamal for 3Q (€0.30 / $0.40).
Go Travel and Talks Top Pick - Wachuma!
- Wachuma is a newer vegetarian restaurant in Antigua whose concept is all about putting a spin on fast food and making it healthy with a focus on probiotics. Everything on the menu is probiotic rich or has had probiotics added to it. Stop by wachuma for an amazing coffee or matcha with added superfoods or a tasty veggie and tempeh bowl. It is one of our favorite places in all of Antigua!
- Samsara is Antigua’s favorite vegetarian restaurant and cafe. Its vibe is calming and inviting making it a comfortable place to sit peacefully with a book, gather with friends for a meal, or anything in between. They offer deliciously prepared wholesome vegetarian food, tasty coffee drinks, superfood smoothies, and energy boosting elixirs.
- Toko Baru is one of those lunch/dinner places where you will find it hard to just go once while you’re in Antigua. The baskets of falafel (veggie option), chicken, pork with potatoes, lettuce and rice or pitta are next level middle eastern food, not to mention the generous portion of garlic dip. I haven’t heard anyone say a negative word about Toko Baru - it’s a must.
- Fat Cat Coffee House is great little café to relax in and maybe do your Spanish homework. It has real coffee too!
- Central Park Pizzeria is the best slice of real New York style pizza. They make their dough and sauce all from scratch, and complete their pizzas with a garlic butter finish. It is absolutely delicious! And they deliver!
The GOD’S CHILD Project is an organisation that works with children and families in extreme poverty to provide essential care that they are lacking. In addition, The GOD’S CHILD Project’s Institute for Trafficked, Exploited, & Missing Persons (ITEMP) attempts to prevent and rescue persons affected by human trafficking.
The “DREAMER Center” is The GOD’S CHILD Project’s Central American base and is located in Antigua, just a 10 minute walk from Central Park (Carretera a San Felipe #106, La Antigua Guatemala). It is a 6-acre campus that hosts several operations that offer medical, dental, psychological care, education, disaster relief, crisis-intervention, and community-connection services to thousands of people living in extreme poverty in the surrounding villages. Among these various operations, and a project I can personally vouch for, is Casa Jackson, a residential recovery care center for malnourished babies. They look for volunteers to offer love and care in the form of feeding and skin to skin contact. Other operations you can get involved with at The DREAMER Center: The Atkinson Family Medical Clinics, DREAMER School and the Santa Madre Homeless Shelter. Check them out on Facebook and Instagram: @godschildproject
A message from the GOD’S CHILD Project:
“Today, the GOD’S CHILD Project cares for and educates 5,000 orphaned, abandoned, and poverty-stricken boys and girls, in addition to providing health and community-based serves for 8,700 widowed, abandoned, and single mothers and their dependents in Guatemala, El Salvador, India, Malawi, and the United States. One of the things that makes The GOD’S CHILD Project so special is its dedication to sustainable and permanent changes. Through clinics, schools, social work, homeless shelters, drug rehabilitation, and human trafficking advocacy, The GOD’S CHILD Project is able to get to the underlying causes of poverty instead of merely treating the symptoms. Children who were once homeless and abandoned are no professional adults with families of their own because of the work done at GOD’S CHILD.”
The DREAMER Center accepts all kinds of volunteers-whether its just visitor volunteers for a day or someone living in the area looking to volunteer for a year! All volunteers can get involved in all areas and are given a tour of the project upon arrival. The GOD’S PROJECT can also coordinate service trips and group projects or help you join an “open enrollment team” so you can join a construction-based service project. No Spanish is necessary! Anyone interested in volunteering can send an email to: Sandra.Urrutia@GodsChild.org or info@GodsChild.org to start coordinating your involvement!
EcoFarms is a community-based eco-project that utilizes ancient Mayan farming techniques to cultivate high vibrational foods, activities, and events for a healthier community. EcoFarms has a horse sanctuary, puppy sanctuary, mushroom growing facility, and spiraled gardens and accepts long term or short term volunteers to help with any of these projects. EcoFarms also accepts volunteers in the form of yoga teachers, artists, or any other type of skill you’d like to share with the community. Follow them on Instagram: @ecofarmsgt and check out their Facebook page here.
How to get involved when in Antigua?
EcoFarms accepts all kinds of volunteers, from day visits to longer term and more permanent volunteers. You can send a message on Instagram or Facebook and Emilio will direct you with how you can best get involved. They are very open and flexible and willing to work with you!