- Everything to do with volcanoes
Antigua is a city literally surrounded by volcanoes. They tower over the city, giving such a sense of security and providing stunning natural beauty. It would be a shame to leave Antigua without climbing one. If you’re pressed for time you can do a 1-day hike up Volcan Pacaya, but if you have more time I definitely recommend doing an overnight hike up Volcan Acatenango to experience watching the sunrise and sunset from the viewpoint of the top of a volcano.
Also, be looking out into the distance at night while staying in Antigua. I was here for 2 weeks and I got to see volcanoes go off at night 4 different times! It’s unlike anything you’ll ever see in your life, and it’s worth keeping an eye out for.
- Walk through the city center and enjoy the colorful houses and colonial architecture
Being a World Heritage site, everything is done to preserve and protect Antigua’s history, especially the colonial architecture of its buildings. The city is a bright array of colors that make walking around and getting lost the perfect opportunity to take the most stunning photos, since you never know what color combinations you’ll stumble upon next.
- Get a great view of the city
And where better to watch volcanoes erupt than from an incredible vantage point?Whenever I get to a new city I always want to find where I can get the best view of the entire city. Since Antigua is a city in a valley there are few truly incredible views (unless you spend the day hiking up a volcano), but my top 3 for Antigua are: Zoola, Sky Café, and Mirador del Cerro de la Cruz (i.e. the cross on top of the hill to the north of the city). From the two bars you can’t see the entire city, but you get pretty spectacular views nonetheless. The cross to the north of the city is the best for an overall view of the city, but it’s best to go during the day since it’s still relatively dangerous to hike to at night (at least by yourself, if you’re with a large group I imagine it would feel much safer)
4. Caoba farms restaurant and Saturday market
Just south of the city is Caoba Farms. Just take 5 avenida (the opposite direction of the yellow arch) for about 20 minutes – if you’re walking – until you see Caoba farms on your left. Caoba farms is a beautiful farm that serves only the freshest ingredients at its restaurant, which is open every day of the week. It’s honestly the best restaurant in all of Antigua, and is even a restaurant that is comparable to any I’ve been to in LA. The food is organic, fresh and delicious.
Furthermore, there is a farmer’s market of artisanal crafts and other homemade goods (I bought the best coffee/chocolate body scrub there that I wish I had bought more of!) every Saturday at the farm. You can shop for souvenirs and eat the best lunch in Antigua all in one go.
5. Satisfy your sweet tooth
The best bakery in Antigua is hands down Canela bakery. It’s run by an American expat named David and has some of the best cookies around. Literally, his crazy cookie is probably my favorite cookie of all time – with choclate chips, toasted coconut, walnuts, oatmeal, and even cornflakes it’s literally the most delicious combination. You can find his bakery on 1 avenida only one block north of the Impact Hub. Just look for “casa azul” with a Canela bakery sign in the window. *Since I was in Antigua he’s added a new cookie to his bunch – the Mega cookie – and he’s also begun to sell cookie ice cream sandwiches and lunch options! This place is a no-brainer!
If you’re looking from something colder, the best ice cream can be found on 4a Avenida Norte (between 3a and 4a Calle Oriente) at Sobremesa. Sobremesa is technically a restaurant, but right next to the entrance to the restaurant is a small opening where they sell ice cream to people walking down the street. This ice cream shop sells some of the most unique ice cream flavors I’ve ever tasted – or seen! The owner comes up with the flavor ideas himself and then executes them in small batches, so the flavors change daily (except for the most popular which he typically makes and sells every day). My favorite flavor was a peach and ginger sorbet that was already gone by the next day. But I also greatly enjoyed the rum, walnut, and caramel concoction.
My greatest regret is that I did not get to visit these last two locations while I was in Antigua. My friends went and their pictures and stories were envy-inducing. Next time I’m back in Antigua I’m absolutely going to make sure to dedicate enough time to both of these day trips.
- Day trip to Lake Atitlan
I cannot believe I didn’t make time to go to Lake Atitlan. After I left Guatemala, so many people that I met on the road showed me their pictures and made me so insanely jealous that you can bet I’m going to use this as an excuse to go back to Guatemala again. Lake Atitlan is absolutely gorgeous, and the small towns that are scattered around the perimeter all have their own unique charm. Although the most popular for tourist tend to be San Pedro La Laguna and Panajachel, I recommend heading to San Marcos for a much more relaxed vibe. If you’re an adrenaline junkie like me, you won’t want to miss jumping of the platform (built onto the Cliffside) and into the Lake. It’s a 10 meter drop and something I’m extremely looking forward to when I come back to this beautiful country.
Again, this is another place that I can’t believe I missed out on. Hobbitenango is a hidden gem just 45 minutes outside of Antigua. High up in the mountains near Antigua, this small community boasts some of the most incredible views of the valley and nearby volcanoes. While you CAN make a day trip out of Hobbitenango I absolutely recommend staying at least one night in an eco-casita (all of which literally look like LOTR hobbit houses) so you can experience the sunset and the sunrise from what feels like on top of the world. The entire community is extremely eco-friendly, and completely run on solar and wind energy – it’s extremely remote. The restaurant and bar is typically open from 8am-6pm, although it stays open later on the weekends.
*To get to Hobbitenango (if you don’t have your own car) you can call their shuttle service. The Number is 5781-6623 and as long as there are 6+ people in your group it will only be Q30 per person. Any less than 6 though and the ride (roundrip) will cost Q200 for the entire group – however many that may be.