Upon stepping foot in Antigua, Guatemala, I could immediately feel my heart swell with an overwhelming sense of excitement for this city as I gazed around the historic and colorful streets.
Antigua is known for it's well preserved Spanish colonial architecture and ruins of colonial churches in a midst of volcanoes. Antigua was founded in 1543, and served as the third capital city of Guatemala for roughly 200 years. At the time the country of Guatemala was almost all of present day Central America, extending from the Mexican state of Chiapas, Mexico down to Costa Rica.
There is so much old world charm to be found in this intimate city. In fact, it is UNESCO protected for such reasons.
While in Antigua, here are a few recommended activities.
Walk Around Town
The first thing I do when I arrive in a new city (after checking in and dropping my stuff off) is walk around aimlessly. No map and no destination in mind. Just allowing myself the freedom to stumble upon the unexpected and see the town with no restraints. Antigua is a perfect town for this! So many beautiful buildings, ruins, colors, parks, and courtyards.
Overnight Hike Acatenango
This is perhaps the most popular activity for adventure travelers as it's an intense and strenuous hike to the top of Acatenango Volcano to watch Volcan Fuego erupt.
Sounds amazing, right? But the thing about nature is that you can't guarantee it'll cooperate with you. Many, many groups climb Acatenango in hopes of seeing lava (pictured above) and see absolutely nothing, so please know that this is a big possibility.
TIP: Be careful on this hike, it can be dangerous and often regarded as the most difficult thing people have done since:
- It's incredibly hot hiking up
- The path is sandy at the beginning so every step you take you slide down a bit
- You're carrying 4-6 liters of water and supplies
- It's extremely cold at night and in the early morning when you wake to hike the rest of the way up for sunrise
Hike Pacaya Volcano
This is a much easier, half day hike to Pacaya Volcano but still wows it's trekkers as it's an active volcano. Between the rocks and fog, it feels like your exploring another world!
Walk Up To The Cross
Walk up to the cross for some lovely views of the city and volcano.
Get comfortable in one of Antigua's many cool cafes.
Cruise the Market
The market in Antigua is huge! You'll be able to find amazing food and souvenirs. Be sure to check out the second hand part of the market called El Paca. You can find some serious good deals there! The items on the table are much cheaper than items hanging, often only 3 quetzales (roughly $0.41 at the time of writing).
Visit Small Neighboring Villages
Antigua is home to many ex-pats so it's always fun to get out of town and see a bit more of how Guatemalans live. There’s 16 of them so you'll be able to see a variety of different places near Antigua!
Head to Caoba Farms, just a 10-15 minute walk from the north edge of town for some great food and relaxed vibes. On Saturdays they have a farmers market with live music where you can buy homemade soaps, goat cheese, health food, snacks and much more.
Take Spanish School
Spend a week, or maybe four weeks learning Spanish in Guatemala. It's such a great way to connect with locals when you speak the language! And no better place to learn than in a Spanish speaking country.
During my four months in Central America, Guatemala was certainly a highlight. If you've never considered visiting Guatemala, now is the time to reconsider.
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