In the heart of Guatemala is the ancient city of Antigua. While most of Central America remains a rough place for travelers because of unreliable transportation and questionable safety, Antigua makes for a convenient hub for exploring all sorts of activities. Whether you are the adventurous type or the romantic type, there is something for everyone. Here are 12 easy activities that will make you never want to leave.
1. Book a tour to just about anywhere
Let’s face it, traveling by chicken bus is no fun. Fortunately, once you are in Antigua, you can book tours to all the desirable destinations near and far. There are one day hikes up Volcán Pacaya, overnight camping trips to Volcán Acatenango, or multiple day tours to Lago de Atitlán or the ruins of Tikal. No matter what your time frame is, there is a tour for you. Two highly rated tour companies are Adrenalina Tours and Rainbow Travel Center.
Rainbow Travel Center
Address: 7th Avenida Sur No. 8. La Antigua Guatemala
Opening Hours: Hours Monday through Friday, 9:00 am - 6:00 pm Local Time (GMT -6) Lunch Time 1:00 to 2:00pm. and Saturday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm. Lunch Time 1:00 to 2:00pm.
Contact: (USA dial 011) +502 79 31 7878
Near by Food: Rainbow Cafe
Website: Rainbow Travel Center
2. Hike up to Cerro de la Cruz
If you prefer to just stay in town, you can hike up to Cerro de la Cruz. It is about a 45 minute walk from Parque Central. At the peak is the landmark giant stone cross and a breathtaking view of the whole city. In the distance is Volcán Agua. It is a nice place to have a picnic while you take in the view. There are vendors selling local fruit so you can grab a bite right there.
Cerro de la Cruz
Address: 1 av. Norte, Antigua, Sacatepéquez, 03001, Guatemala
Opening Hours: 9am - 6pm. Closed on public holidays.
Duration: 45 minute hike from center of town.
Access: Head North on 1 av. Norte, Antigua
Near by Food: Food Stands
3. Walk the garden at Hotel Casa Santo Domingo
This luxury hotel rivals the extravagance of those in any major city but you do not have to be a guest to wander the grounds. There are art installations and macaws in the garden so there is no need to shell out any cash to enjoy the place. If you do want to spend a little more time and money, there are multiple restaurants and museums on the premises. You can find local Guatemalan cuisine or experiment with fusion dishes. You can enlighten yourself in their archaeology museum or just appreciate the Pre-Columbian art and ceramics.
Hotel Casa Santo Domingo
Address: 3a Calle Oriente No. 28 “A”, La Antigua Guatemala
Price: from 184USD
Contact: +502 7820-1220
4. Explore the art and food at El Tenedor del Cerro
From Hotel Casa Santo Domingo there is a free shuttle departing every hour that takes you to their restaurant up on the hill. Both the shuttle and the restaurant have a canopy roof design so you cannot miss it. This place is not just a restaurant, it is an extension of everything Santo Domingo embodies. You will find more art installations up the hill, including the oversized fork sculpture that is the namesake of this place. If that is not enough, there is even a chocolate store and a zipline.
El Tenedor del Cerro
Price: From about 80 GTQ
Opening Hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday Breakfast 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Lunch – 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Dinner – 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Access: Free shuttle from Casa Santo Domingo
Contact: +502 7955 8314
Website: El Tenedor del Cerro
5. Have a Mezcal at Cafe No Sé
Situated adjacent to a Libros Dyslexia bookstore is Cafe No Sé, but this is no cafe. This is the most well-known bar in Antigua. The front room looks like any typical dark grimy dive bar. However, concealed behind a refrigerator door is a speakeasy serving up Mezcal, a once-illegal liquor smuggled in from Oaxaca, Mexico. Grab a drink here and enjoy live music any night at this venue. It is the one place that has it all: books, music, culture, and alcohol.
Cafe No Sé
Address: 1a Avenida Sur, Antigua Guatemala
Opening Hours: 2pm-1am Daily
Access: 3 blocks east from Parque Central
Contact: +502 5501 2680
Near by Food: Toko Baru.
Website: Cafe No Sé
6. Have a Cup of Guatemalan Coffee
The elevation of the Guatemalan highlands are supposed to make for good coffee beans. Antigua proves that with cafes everywhere. Right across from the Parque Central is Cafe Condesa which, despite the touristy location, is enjoyed by locals and tourists. If you are booking a tour at Rainbow Travel Center, they also have a Rainbow Cafe next door. Don’t disregard the cafe so readily just because it is next to the travel center, they actually serve good food and coffee. However, if you want the most highly rated coffee, go to Fernando’s Kaffee. They serve food, coffee, and chocolate. You can take care of all your gift shopping here too, by picking up some coffee or chocolate to bring back.
Address: 7a Avenida Norte #43 D, Antigua Guatemala
Opening Hours: 7am - 7pm Daily
Contact: Telephone: +(502) 7832-6953 Email: [email protected]
Website: Fernando’s Kaffee
7. Sample chocolate at ChocoMuseo
The chocolate in Guatemala is as highly regarded as its coffee. If you want to explore all the chocolate products available then hit up ChocoMuseo. It is more of a shop than a museum despite what the name might imply. They do have a separate room with some information about chocolate. The minute you walk in they greet you with chocolate tea and other samples. You can basically purchase chocolate in all forms here including chocolate soap. If you are afraid chocolate bars will melt in your luggage, then you can purchase whole cacao beans or cacao nibs and try to make chocolate back home.
Address: 4a Calle Oriente, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala
Opening Hours: Monday - Thursday : 10:00 AM to 6:30 PM Friday - Saturday : 10:00 AM to 7:30 PM Sunday : 10:00 AM to 6:30 PM
Access: 1.5 blocks from the central square of the colonial city.
Contact: Telephone +(502) 7832 4520 Email: [email protected]
8. Shop for local arts and crafts at Nim Po't.
If arts and crafts are your thing, there is definitely no shortage of that here in Antigua. There are vendors everywhere from the bus terminal to the street vendors surrounding Parque Central. The big question is where to get the most authentic goods? Nim Po’t is supposedly where the artisan products are sold. However, you will pay a little more and they do sell some common goods so shop carefully. At the very least, it is more organized than the street merchants and much less pushy. You will probably find hundreds of postcards and paintings of the landmark Santa Catalina Arch. This is an iconic piece of architecture and is located right outside Nim Po’t, so be sure to take in the sights of this area.
Address: 5a Avenida Norte #29, Antigua Guatemala, Sacatepequez 03001
Opening Hours: 9am - 9pm Daily
Contact: +(502) 7832-2681
Near by Food: Fernando’s Kaffee
Website: Nim Po’t
9. Visit shrines for Saints and Sinners including the Infamous Maximón
Churches are abundant in this religious town. There is the unavoidable San Jose Catedral across from the Parque Central. There is the rustic ruins of Iglesia de San Francisco El Grande. You can spend a good amount of time visiting ancient buildings if you are into architecture and religion. Each church is deeply rooted in history and beautiful in their unique way. However, if you want to see something truly unique, then visit the shrine of Maximón, a pre-colonial Mayan deity often dressed in gangster suits. Legend has it that he slept with the wives of all the villagers while they were at work and he is worshiped for his sexual prowess and other dark vices. You can find his shrine conveniently located in Nim Po’t and the path leading up to it is filled with sexually explicit images telling the story of Maximón.
Address: 5a Avenida Norte #29, Antigua Guatemala, Sacatepequez 03001
Opening Hours: 9am - 9pm. Daily
Access: Walk all the way through to the back of Nim Po’t
Near by Food: Fridas
10. Peruse the Parque Central
Parque Central is the unavoidable heart of the city. A popular place for couples publicly displaying too much affection and busy vendors selling food and crafts. Parque Central is the go-to place for people watching or to enjoy a cup of coffee. Banks, ATMs, and money changers are readily nearby. You can catch the game with a big platter of nachos at Monoloco restaurant or grab a bite while watching a movie at the Bagel Barn. With shops and restaurants surrounding the park, you are never short of options here.
Address: 4 Avenida Sur, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala
Opening Hours: 24/7
Contact: +(502) 7832 4801
Near by Food: Cafe Condesa, Bagel Barn
11. Go on a hike up a Guatemalan volcano
When you find yourself in Guatemala, hiking through a volcano is among the activities that you can tick off your bucket list! It’s not as scary as it sounds. Although considered an active volcano, Pacaya is quite safe for tourists who are curious about volcano tours. The hike up usually takes several hours on average depending on one’s pace so make sure to choose a trail that you can handle. Horse rental is also available for those who might not think they can hike up. Make sure to inform your guide beforehand so he can take the necessary preparations. A great day trip from Antigua, don’t miss out on this chance to get up close and personal with one of Guatemala’s famous volcanoes.
Volcan de Pacaya
Price: from 80 USD
Website: Volcan de Pacaya
12. Learn to cook Guatemalan food
Canada and Colombia sharing recipes of their traditional meals while cooking Guatemalan food. #latortillacookingschoolPosted by La Tortilla Cooking School Antigua, Guatemala on Sunday, 15 July 2018
What’s a vacation without sampling the local cuisine, right? Visitors to Guatemala can take this one step further by actually learning how to make the local dishes! La Tortilla Cooking School offers short courses on cooking for both locals and tourists who are interested to try their hand at cooking. It’s a great way to meet new people, make friends, and eat your way through a vacation!
La Tortilla Cooking School
Address: 3 Calle Poniente, #25 Antigua Guatemala
Website: La Tortilla Cooking School
So much history to explore
This is just a small sample of what is available in Antigua. Around the corner of every cobblestone road are unique shops, aromatic restaurants, or ruins of an ancient city. In this city filled with history, everyone and every place has a story to tell. So, go out there and explore all the hidden gems of Antigua.
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