Black & Abroad had a chance to visit the city of Antigua in Guatemala and we were completely blown away by the great time we had. Knowing very little about what to experience, we were happy to find that Antigua is a wonderful city that should be on everyone’s travel bucket list. With its cobblestone streets, colonial churches, open markets, and traditional feel, it’s not hard to see why people fly into Guatemala City (which is about an hour away) and come straight to Antigua for their entire visit. Antigua is a solid hub for many excursions, such as a day trip to the mayan ruins in Tikal or a visit to Lake Atitlan, and it’s a great place to return to after a long day of hiking and adventure. Even if you chose to only stay in Antigua, you’d still have plenty to do!
Here’s a list of things you’ll definitely want to do:
1. Book a room at the Casa Santo Domingo hotel (or at least hang out there for a bit).
One of the more unique hotels I’ve ever seen is part museum & art gallery, part historical site, and a place where you can zipline while waiting for your table for dinner. This sanctuary is definitely worth the visit if you can’t get a room. It’s also one of the few five star hotels in the city!
2. Visit La Recolección.
La Recolección is one of the few landmarks that doesn’t rope you off from the most interesting part: the ruins! We were able to climb and peruse through the destruction caused by not one, but three separate earthquakes many years ago. Definitely a must-see for photographers!
3. Get a meal from the Mercado.
A great way to get a meal on a budget is to visit the Mercado. Full of fresh fruit and vegetables, it’s also a perfect spot to pick up an entire fried fish and some plantains for cheap! The best days to visit are Wednesdays and Saturdays!
4. Take a Guatemalan cooking class.
You may be surprised that the best meal you'll have in Antigua is the one you took part in! A great way to get a traditional Guatemalan meal is by taking a cooking class. We had the opportunity to take a cooking course at La Tortilla Cooking School and it was probably one of the highlights of our trip. Did we mention the class includes unlimited wine?
5. Hike up the active Pacaya volcano & toast marshmallows.
After eating your way through Antigua, spend a part of the day burning off some calories with a hike up Pacaya volcano (if hiking is not your thing, you can rent a horse to ride). Pacaya is one of the more popular active volcanoes in Guatemala (there are four total). The hike can get strenuous at times, but it’s definitely worth the views once you get to the top! You’ll also visit one of the craters where the ground is still hot from prior eruptions. So hot that you’ll wonder if your shoes are melting and you can actually toast marshmallows with the heat from the rocks! Check out our experience hiking Pacaya!
6. Get some of the best ice cream you’ve ever had (okay, do this at least twice).
Take a visit to Helados Exoticos for some of the most unique, but delicious flavors of ice cream you’ll ever have. Flavors such as Balsamic Dark Chocolate and Pomegranate Mojito are were just a few of the different options available. Trust me, one visit is not enough!
7. Visit the chocolate museum.
Chocolate lovers rejoice! Guatemala is known for its delicious chocolate and the best place to learn about mayan chocolate is the Choco Museum. Visit one of the two locations in Antigua where you can take a tour, join a workshop and learn how to make chocolate, and also get a chance to sample a variety of cacao products such as chocolate tea, chocolate liquor, and anything else you can think of that’s great covered in chocolate, for free!
8. Have a drink at one of the rooftop bars.
Antigua is full of rooftop bars where you can enjoy the great weather and views of the city. Order a drink and kick back as the sun starts to set on the city for a great time! Check out three of the rooftop spots we recommend!
9. Take a walking tour of the churches.
It’s pretty impossible to take a few steps in any direction in Antigua and not run into a beautifully constructed church, many of which have been damaged by time, nature (Guatemala is a hotbed for earthquakes) and civil uprising. It’s beauty is likely why the city is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and recognized as a valued cultural site. Create your own free walking tour by mapping out a route that’ll take you by a few of the sacred buildings in the city. Make sure to visit Iglesias de San Francisco El Grande!
10. Hike up to Cerro De La Cruz.
Though not as tough of a hike as Pacaya, the reward is definitely worth it. Cerro De La Cruz (Hill of the Cross) has the best views of the city (and of Pacaya). After you’ve spent a few days hanging in Antigua, it’s the perfect ending to a great trip!
11. Hang out in Parque Central.
Just as the name suggests, this park in the center of the city is a great place to people watch, grab some food, catch a performance, or do a bit of shopping.
If you’ve been to Guatemala, tell us some of your favorite experiences! Thinking of going to Guatemala? Let us know!