Top 21 Things To See In Antigua, Guatemala, When Visiting For The First Time

If you’re visiting Guatemala, you need to spend just enough days exploring all the amazing things to do in Antigua. 

If you’re visiting Guatemala, you need to spend just enough days exploring all the amazing things to do in Antigua. 

My personal suggestion is to know about all these things and places, and then you can decide which activities are for you and which you will leave for another visit. As always, I won’t recommend trying to do it all in 2 or 3 days in Antigua because you will feel burned out by the end of your trip. 

Remember that this is a holiday, a time to explore and wonder, but not to the point of exhaustion.

So now that we have that out of the way, here are my personal recommendations for the top things to see in Antigua, Guatemala. 

Things to see in Antigua Guatemala

21 Things to see in Antigua, Guatemala

I visited Antigua, Guatemala, in March 2024 as part of my 10-day itinerary in Guatemala. I also drove all around the country, so make sure to read the post with all my best tips for driving in Guatemala, if you’re planning on doing the same.

Note that Antigua is a very walkable city, so you will be able to reach almost all these places by foot. If you prefer a more guided visit to discover all these places in Antigua, I recommend joining a walking tour in Antigua

Either way, for the day trips or more complicated locations, I will mention how to get there. 

Antigua walking tour

The best way to discover Antigua, the former capital of Guatemala, is by joining a walking tour in Antigua. There’s no better way to interact with the local traditions and customs than by learning about them from a local. 

I suggest you do this as one of the first things in Antigua, so then you have time to go back to the places that you really enjoyed and spend more time there. 

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If you don’t want to go on a walking tour, then don’t worry and keep reading this list of the top things to do in Antigua, Guatemala, as I list all the places to visit in Antigua, and you can do it all at your own pace. 

guatemala 10-day itinerary things to do in antigua, guatemala

Arco de Santa Catalina

One of the most photographed landmarks in Antigua, this iconic 17th-century arch was built to allow cloistered nuns to cross the street without being seen. It’s especially beautiful when framed against the backdrop of the Volcán de Agua.

Nim Po’t Centro de Textiles Tradicionales 

Right next to the famous Santa Catalina Arch, you will find this amazing craft market. This extensive marketplace is the place to explore and purchase traditional Guatemalan textiles crafted by local artisans using age-old techniques.

I loved that the market is so huge, and you can spend hours exploring it, and vendors leave you to it. All products sold there have a price tag, and you may pay with a credit/debit card. After a long day of exploring, I actually enjoy shopping for souvenirs in peace. 

La Antigua Guatemala Central Park (Parque Central)

This bustling square is the city’s focal point, surrounded by historic buildings like the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales and the Antigua Guatemala Cathedral. 

It’s a perfect spot to start your visit, absorb the local vibe, and enjoy some people-watching.

Antigua Guatemala Cathedral

Located on the north side of Central Park, this cathedral, originally constructed in the 16th century, offers stunning architecture and a glimpse into the city’s religious history. Its ruins are particularly enchanting in the evening light.

La Merced Church

Famous for its Baroque architecture and intricate façades, La Merced also features lovely courtyards and a fountain, reputed to be the largest in the Hispanic world. It’s particularly stunning when lit up at night.

San Francisco Church and Convent

This is one of the oldest churches in Antigua and the resting place of Saint Hermano Pedro. It combines religious significance with beautiful architecture, including well-preserved ruins and a museum.

Casa Santo Domingo

Formerly a monastery, this has been transformed into a five-star hotel, museum, and cultural centre. It hosts several museums that display ancient and modern art, a crypt, and archaeological remains.

Pacaya Volcano

If you don’t want to hike the famous Acatenango volcano, then a half-day hike on the Pacaya Volcano might be more suitable. 

Just a short trip from Antigua, this active volcano offers adventurous hikes with rewarding views and the unique experience of seeing molten lava flow up close (when active).

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antigua guatemala road trip itinerary

Acatenango Volcano

Many adventure seekers travel to Antigua, Guatemala, just to hike on the Acatenango volcano

This towering volcano offers one of the most challenging and rewarding hikes in the region. 

A trek to the summit allows you to camp overnight and possibly witness the active Fuego Volcano erupting nearby. 

It’s a must-do for avid hikers, and it does provide some of the most breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes and other volcanoes. However, I must warn you now that by hiking up Acatenango, you will reach an altitude of over 3,976 meters (13,044 feet), which will feel difficult when breathing. 

I would say that this is one of the main reasons for which this hike is usually done as a 2-day hike. After every 300 meters climbed, you will need a breeder of at least 20 minutes. The hike is mostly steep. Then, you will wake up before sunrise for the last stretch and witness the volcano erupting just as the sun rises. The views are out of this world. 

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I have to say that some hikers decide to explore some of the trails around Antigua on their own. This is not really recommended, as some cases of robberies were reported on the trails. No cases I have personally heard of, but some of the online reviews mentioned them. Everyone recommends going hiking with a guide. If this is something that has to do with the tour agencies or that simply happens to tourists, I don’t really know, but you should know this before making any plans. 

However, the weather conditions and the volcanic eruptions are never a given. On some occasions, there were clouds covering the volcano, so the visibility wasn’t as good. I guess it’s better to know all these things than to feel disappointed later. 

ChocoMuseo

For a couple of fun hours, you can visit the ChocoMuseo, where you can learn about the chocolate-making process from bean to bar and participate in chocolate-making workshops.

I actually enjoy learning about cacao beans and the process of making chocolate. Did you know that there are only a few countries in the world where cacao grows?

They have about three workshops per day, and you can book and pay for your spot there. It’s right next to the park, so you will pass by it anywhere you go in Antigua. 

Capuchinas Convent

Another architectural gem, this 18th-century convent is one of Antigua’s most significant and well-preserved ruins. Its unique design includes a circular courtyard and extensive living quarters that provide insight into the lives of the nuns who once resided there.

Santa Clara Convent

By far, one of the best things to do in Antigua, Guatemala, is to pay a visit to the Santa Clara Convent. Visit this ruin to see a beautifully restored church and convent with tranquil gardens and stunning archways. It’s less frequented than some other sites, offering a peaceful escape.

Even if you don’t have much to do for anything else in Antigua, please reserve at least 30 minutes to visit this convent in Antigua. You must pay at the entrance, and there’s rarely any crowd (unless you visit at the same time with a huge group). 

The gardens are perfect for pictures, and you will love it.

Museo de Arte Colonial

Located in the old Universidad de San Carlos building, this museum houses an impressive collection of colonial art and provides a deeper understanding of the region’s history and cultural heritage.

Antigua Brewing Company – For a taste of local craft beer with a view, head to this brewery located on a rooftop, offering a spectacular vista of the city and the volcanoes beyond. It’s a great spot to relax after a day of sightseeing.

Paseo de los Museos

Located within the Hotel Casa Santo Domingo, this path offers access to several small museums that showcase everything from pre-Columbian artefacts to modern glass art.

El Carmen Ruins

The ruins of El Carmen Church offer a quiet spot to reflect amidst some lesser-visited ruins, with a charming craft market held there on weekends.

Antigua Street Food Tour

Immerse yourself in local flavours by trying street foods like pupusas, tostadas, and plantains. 

Joining a guided food tour in Antigua will enhance your experience as you learn about the food’s history and significance. It is not always the case to find a food tour as the top thing to do in Antigua, but this one is worth it and super safe (health-wise).

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Guatemala Cooking Class

Participate in a cooking class in Antigua to learn how to make traditional Guatemalan dishes such as pepian or jocon, adding a hands-on cultural experience to your visit.

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Coffee Resort and Tours

While in Antigua, you shouldn’t miss a coffee plantation tour. Guatemala is a world-famous coffee producer, and Antigua is one of the regions that produces quality coffee beans.

Of course, as I coffee enthusiast myself, I couldn’t miss this opportunity to take a deep dive into the coffee-making process. The lush landscapes and rolling hills make this a visually rewarding visit.

ATV tour of the Antigua mountains 

ATV tours are a thrilling way to explore the rugged terrain and natural beauty surrounding Antigua, Guatemala. These tours offer adventurers an opportunity to navigate through mountain trails, coffee plantations, and local villages, providing a different perspective on the area’s landscape and culture.

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The tour might take you through the lush surroundings of Antigua, including the foothills of volcanoes, hidden valleys, and panoramic viewpoints. The route can offer a mix of moderate to challenging paths suitable for various skill levels.

Day trip to Lake Atitlan

If you want to explore more around Antigua, then do not miss a trip to Lake Atitlan, the largest volcanic lake in Central America. Located at an altitude of 1,562 m (5,125 feet), the lake is surrounded by three glorious volcanos and countless charming villages.

You can visit Lake Atitlan as a day trip from Antigua, and let a guide take you to the best spots around the lake.

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However, if you have more time in Guatemala, then only book a transfer from Antigua to Lake Atitlan and then spend a few days around the lake, taking the boat to explore the different villages.

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Viewing points (miradors) in Antigua, Guatemala

Cerro de la Cruz

Location: https://maps.app.goo.gl/NGd2iCcPf8cAez9p7

This hill north of the city offers the best panoramic views of Antigua and its surrounding volcanoes. I went up on foot from the centre of Antigua to this viewing point (mirador) by myself. It’s completely safe, and many locals go to walk around there.

It shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to get t here from the centre. Just remember to follow the signs and take the stairs, not the road, to get there faster. 

things to do in antigua guatemala, cerro de la cruz

It’s a short hike and absolutely worth it for the photo opportunities, especially early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Hobbitenango

Location: https://maps.app.goo.gl/54x3L1efSXKuUFjg7 

This eco-park and lodge offer a unique experience with its Hobbit-themed architecture and attractions. Located high above Antigua, it provides some of the best views of the city and the volcanoes. It’s perfect for families and anyone looking for a fun day out with a fantastic backdrop.

Where to stay in Antigua, Guatemala?

I found many lovely hotels for our stay in Antigua.

You can choose between a lovely old colonial building located within walking distance of all the main attractions in Antigua, or you can opt for a hotel with a view of one of the many hills around. 

Ultimately, choose a hotel that feels comfortable for you because you will need to walk a lot to get to all these things to do in Antigua, Guatemala.

Hotel Luna Maya Antigua

I stayed here for 3 nights and the location is just perfect. Hotel Luna Maya is located in a beautiful old colonial building, very secure, with a inner courtyard where you can safely park your card. The hotel has 2 terraces, each offering the most breathtaking view of the volcanos around. 

The interior is tastefully decorated with Mayan motifs, and they left some Antigua coffee for us to make in your room. I would definitely stay here again. The staff is lovely, and they sell beer at the reception and make on-demand breakfast, which is served on their lovely terrace. I loved it here. 

Earth Lodge 

This eco-lodge located in the hills outside Antigua is known for its avocado farm, rustic treehouses, and spectacular views of the volcanoes and valleys below. It’s a great spot for a day visit or a peaceful overnight stay.

How do you get to Antigua from Guatemala City?

You can easily get to Antigua from Guatemala City by booking a shuttle that can pick you up even from the airport.

Many travellers do just that, as Guatemala City isn’t seen as touristy, it’s mostly very crowded, and some parts are even dangerous for foreigners.

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Another option is to rent a car from Guatemala City airport and drive to Antigua yourself. Contrary to the popular opinion of the internet, this is achievable, as I have done it myself. In fact, I drove all around Guatemala in a rented car, and it was a blast. Of course, driving in Guatemala isn’t something I would recommend to everyone. But I prefer to rent a car when I can. That’s because it allows me to avoid public transportation and get to less accessible places, such as the Tikal ruins in Guatemala.

Before you decide if this is something you could handle, make sure to read my blog about driving in Guatemala.

Then, head over to my YouTube channel to watch the detailed video I made about what it’s like to drive in the beautiful country of Guatemala.

FAQ

Is Antigua, Guatemala, safe?

YES, Antigua is very safe, and you shouldn’t worry too much. There are many things to see in Antigua, Guatemala, and you can do most of it by yourself, so don’t be too stressed about it. As always, don’t do anything stupid, and be respectful to the locals.

I find Antigua to be one of the safest places in Latin America (after visiting Guatemala, Costa Rica, Peru, Argentina and Brazil). I walked on the streets of Antigua at all hours, and nothing bad happened. I also didn’t hear anything weird happening. All the tourists were walking on the streets at all hours. I walked to the viewing point by myself, and it was all very safe. 

Is Antigua Guatemala worth it?

Yes, Antigua is so worth a visit. There’s so much to discover in Antigua – culture, history, nature. Even if you decide that you can’t hike up the volcano, you can still see the volcanos around Antigua without much effort. With all these things to see in Antigua, Guatemala, you will definitely not be bored, and you will want to spend more time here than originally planned.

Iulia Vasile

Iulia is a travel expert, blogger, engineer, freelance copywriter, and a curiosity-driven personality. She sees travel as the ultimate tool for self-improvement and personal growth, and that's the main topic of her blog, Juliasomething.com.

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