I learned about Antigua, Guatemala through a photo I saw from an acquaintance’s trip through Central America. The picture, of the Arco de Santa Catalina, was enough to convince me that this place belonged on my travel bucket list.
My husband and I visited Antigua in January 2018. We absolutely loved our time here, and have declared it the best trip we’ve ever taken. We tell everyone they need to visit this gem, and I think you should too.
Whether you’re stopping through on a backpacking trip or planning a long weekend getaway, Antigua, Guatemala should absolutely be on your travel list.
You’ll likely fly into La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City. If at all possible, arrange private transportation with your accommodations before arriving. Our Airbnb host arranged for a gentleman to pick us up at the airport and drive us the slightly under an hour it took to get to Antigua.
We stayed at an incredible Airbnb between the Arco de Santa Catalina and Parque Central. All of Antigua is extremely walkable, but this location was truly ideal. There are plenty of hostels and small hotels in Antigua to choose from as well.
After checking into your accommodations, spend the rest of the afternoon walking around. Antigua has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, and for good reason. The incredible architecture, brightly painted buildings, and natural beauty that can be found around every corner are truly incredible. Make sure to stop for fresh mango from the fruit carts on the streets and pop into a café for some amazing Guatemalan coffee to refuel after that flight you just took.
While you could walk up and down the cobblestone streets of Antigua for three straight days, there’s more to do than just that. Make your way to the Mercado near the bus terminal for some market shopping. This is a great place to grab some fresh produce if you’re staying at a place with access to a kitchen, as well as grab some souvenirs while having a unique (and perhaps slightly chaotic) cultural experience.
Once you’ve dropped off your market finds, head to a rooftop bar to grab a drink and watch the sun set over one of the volcanoes surrounding Antigua. Once it’s dark, be sure to walk back to your accommodations by way of the street taking you under the Arco de Santa Catalina. If you think the arch is beautiful by day, wait until you see it lit up at night.
Grab another cup of Guatemalan coffee and some more fresh fruit to start your day out strong. If it’s a clear morning, head up to Cerro de la Cruz for stunning views of Antigua and the three main volcanoes that surround it. While it’s possible to hike to the top, it’s a fun experience to take a tuk tuk instead. We took a tuk tuk to the top, then walked back down when we were finished.
Convento de las Capuchinas isn’t far from the bottom of Cerro de la Cruz and is a peaceful place to wander through for a bit. These ruins of an abandoned convent from the 18thcentury provide a gorgeous step back in time, complete with stunning gardens and old architecture.
Walk a couple of blocks to the gorgeous Iglesia de la Merced for a bit more exploring. You can usually find street food vendors in the plaza here as well. Walk back towards the Arco de Santa Catalina and stop in the shops along that street for more great souvenir shopping.
Finish your afternoon by listening to live music and people watching in Parque Central before grabbing dinner and heading out to enjoy Antigua’s nightlife scene.
While Antigua itself is an incredible place, there are also several great day trip options nearby.
As big coffee fans, we opted for a coffee farm tour and highly recommend it for anyone who loves a great cup of coffee and is interested in how it gets to your mug. We booked our tour through De La Gente and highly recommend it.
Other day trip options include hiking Volcan Pacaya, a quick trip to Lake Atitlan, or visiting a nearby macadamia nut farm.
Once you get back to Antigua, I’m sure you’ll spend your evening soaking up your favorite parts of this incredible place one last time, and will already be planning your next trip back.