About an hours’ drive from Guatemala City lies the charming city of Antigua. Surrounded by volcanoes and the highlands, Antigua is best known for its Spanish architecture dating back to the colonial era more than 200 years ago. In fact, this former capital of Guatemala is such highly regarded for its heritage that the city itself has been named a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite the 1773 earthquake, much of its historic buildings have been restored. Set in the backdrop of a landscape of volcanoes, Antigua is a city like no other. Wait no more, it’s time to come forth and explore the many things to do here in Antigua, Guatemala!
Guatemalans do not just drink coffee. Instead, this beloved drink has become a way of life for many here. As one of Guatemala’s main export crop since the early 1800s, it is no surprise that there are plenty of coffee plantations and local coffee farmers here. This makes it the place to go all out discovering the humble sources of this well-loved drink. Riding on your own personal ATV, head on a plantation tour at La Azotea, a local coffee plantation. At this plantation, witness the coffee-making process from its seed all the way to the coffee mug. While you are at it, enjoy a good cup of locally produced Guatemalan coffee before riding off to complete your day at other iconic Antiguan sites like Music Museum and El Cerro de la Cruz.
Antigua ATV Coffee Tour
Duration: 3 hours
Put on some comfortable walking shoes and grab a bottle of water for a day out on the cobblestone-clad streets of colonial Antigua. As a melting pot of many different cultures, it is no wonder that Antigua is a highly deserving cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hop over to landmarks like Ayuntamiento (City Hall Palace), Palacio de Los Capitanes Generales (Palace of the Captain’s General), the main cathedral, Santo Domingo, Cathedral de Santiago, and many more.
La Antigua Cultural Walking Tour
Duration: 3 hours
Get your hands dirty with a chocolate making class at ChocoMuseo Arco. Through this two hour workshop, you will get to go behind the scenes to learn about the chocolate production process. From cacao bean to chocolate bar, an instructor will be there to give you a crash course on how to make your very own chocolate from scratch. Once completed, the end product would then be yours to take home and enjoy!
Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Workshop in ChocoMuseo Antigua
Duration: 2 hours
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Go beyond the dining table and learn about the cooking process of some of Guatemala’s local delights. Through a cooking class, acquire cooking techniques and gain cultural awareness as you are guided to replicate a few local dishes. Alongside the chefs, you can choose to make different well-known Guatemalan dishes, such as pepián, jocón, kak'ik, subanik, tamales, chiles rellenos and the typical Guatemalan desserts. After all that hard work, enjoy the fruits of your labour on the rooftop terrace which will surely make you feel right at home.
Authentic Guatemalan Cooking Class
Duration: 3 to 4 hours
Coming close to an active volcano is sure to be a surreal experience. Step out of your comfort zone as you watch, from a safe distance, the volcanic activity of Pacaya Volcano. Despite first erupting over 23,000 years ago and being currently one of the most active volcanos in Central America, the frequent eruptions usually only spew small amounts of ash. These are just enough to make the rocks around hot enough to toast some marshmallows on. Get ready for a hike up the volcano, though you can also rent a horse or purchase a walking stick to help you on your way. If not, there are frequent rest stops strategically placed along the trail.
Pacaya Day Tour
Duration: 4 to 5 hours
Go on an evening street food tour to eat to your heart’s content without burning a hole in your wallet. Sample various local dishes from stall to stall as you eat like a local. Head to Antigua’s bustling market, which is where many in the local community get their groceries from. The best days to go are on the official market days (Monday, Thursday and especially Saturday) when villagers from the vicinity gather and spread their goods around the main market building. Besides food, you can even find textiles, jewellery, clothes and Mayan crafts for reasonable prices at this permanent outdoor marketplace. This is a chance to put your haggling skills to use too.
Street Food Evening Tour
Duration: 3 hours
7. Explore the winding alleyways of Mercado de Artesanias El Carmen
Mercado de Artesanias El Carmen is a market with stalls selling all sorts of items. From food to clothes, traditional crafts, textiles and other sorts of knick-knacks, the market is transformed into a hub of life where both locals and tourists flock to when it is opened for business. Do check this market out for various local goods while you are here - you might even score a great bargain.
Mercado de Artesanias El Carmen
Address: Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala
Opening hours: 8am - 8pm (daily)
8. Learn about environment sustainability at Caoba Farms
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Consisting of two fully operating farms in an area of about 45 acres (18.2 hectares), Caoba Farms is a producer of a variety of fresh and organic agricultural produce and livestock to supply businesses in Antigua and Guatemala City as well as to its own in-house restaurant, Caoba Café. Besides this, the farm also aims to raise awareness on sustainable farming, providing learning opportunities where visitors can embark on tours, and even find volunteering activities. Doing their part to ensure sustainable farming, one such initiative the farm has adopted is the use of a water catchment system to make the most of the water used. Just head there to see it for yourself and learn all about the farm’s environmentally friendly techniques from their passionate community of farmers.
Address: 5 Avenida Sur Final, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala
Website: Caoba Farms
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 8am - 4pm (closed on Mon)
Take in the natural beauty of Antigua while having an adrenaline-pumping and adventure-packed journey on an ATV, motorcycle, or scooter. Explore the unbeaten path as you ride on the vehicle of your choice, be it in the front seat or on the back seat. There is nothing more convenient and accessible than this method of discovering a city. After all, when in a city surrounded by such wonderful natural sights and volcanoes, the thirst for adventure and discovery is surely hard to resist. Be sure to head to Cerro de la Cruz, located just north of Antigua. At the top of this hill stands a stone cross and offers a panoramic view of the city of Antigua while the shape of the volcanoes, Volcán de Agua, towers over the vast landscape.
Antigua Mountain Adventure Tour on ATV, Motorcycle, or Scooter
Duration: 5 to 6 hours
You do not need to be a daredevil to experience the thrills and wonders of Acatenango Volcano, a stratovolcano close to the city of Antigua in Guatemala. The volcano has two peaks, Pico Mayor and Yepocapa which are collectively known as Tres Hermanas. Embark on a guided trek to the summit of Acatenagno Volcano where you will not only be rewarded with the scenic view of the valley beneath but also come face to face with the active Volcan de Fuego located less than 1 mile (1.6 kilometre) away.
Acatenango Volcano Tour
Duration: 2 days
Guatemala's cultural gem with a view
Even though Antigua is no longer Guatemala’s capital, the city still shines when it comes to its cultural sites and natural views, making it the perfect combination for any traveller. The complexity of this city of fewer than 50,000 people runs deep into its history and its definitely one of the most worthwhile spots to go to in Latin America.
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