Disclaimer: This is more of a “What we did in Antigua” recap than a travel guide.
First and foremost, if you are considering going to Guatemala, DO IT! I can’t speak for all of Guatemala since we were only in Antigua, but oh my what a beautiful city that was. Antigua has a lot to offer, volcanos, good food, rich culture, lakes, and beaches etc. We were only there for 5 days so we didn’t have time to explore it all, but I was really happy with the stuff we did. I hope reading this guide will give you a better understanding if you should visit Antigua or not ♥
Antigua is a small city located in the southern part of Guatemala, surrounded by tall and majestic volcanos. The population here is only 45,669 people. It’s supposed to be one of the best preserved Spanish colonial cities in Central America. Make sure you get a piece of that culture, eat with the locals, walk around and look at all the old cathedrals and houses, and make sure you go for a hike to one of the lookout points to get the best view of the city.
1. How did we get to Antigua?
– We left from New York. It’s a little hard to say exactly how much our tickets cost because we booked a package deal with a bunch of flights all the way to Bangkok. But when we looked at individual tickets, they were not that expensive. You can get tickets from $350 for a round trip from New York to Antigua. There are also a bunch of different airlines flying this route, United, American, and Spirit are just some of them. We flew with Spirit to Fort Lauderdale, then had a layover there for about 1 hour, then we flew to Antigua. The total length of our trip was 7 hours, but there are direct flights that will get you there in about 4 hours. We landed in Guatemala City, then we took an Uber from the airport to our Airbnb in Antigua. That car ride took approximately 1 and a half hour and cost 231 Quetzal, which equals $30.
2. Where did we stay?
– After some research, we decided on an Airbnb rental. However, Antigua has a lot of nice and cheap hostels, but we figured since we were 5 people with valuable luggage we needed our own place. When it came to picking between a hotel or an Airbnb, we had to factor in price, size, and location. Basically, Airbnb was cheaper than a hotel, and you pay less for a bigger place, so it made sense to book an Airbnb.
I found an Airbnb in the heart of Antigua (see the house tour here: www.fashion-cam.com), it was located right next to the main market and cathedral. Our Airbnb host Ricardo was super nice and the staff of housekeepers was so friendly. The only downside about our Airbnb was the slow/ intermittent wifi.
Our Airbnb cost $310 total for 5 days. So when you divide that among 5 people it’s only $62 each ($12 a night), which is a pretty good deal if you ask me. Here is the link to the listing: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/11015758
Regarding prices for hotels and hostels, it starts at $15 to $100 per night. They have a lot of cheap options, so it all depends on what you prefer. To be clear, the plane and housing accommodations are pretty affordable, it’s living expenses that can quickly become expensive.
3. Where to eat in Antigua? Vegan and non-vegan options.
– The food was a big part of our trip, and we all left a few pounds heavier. But man was it worth it! The food in this city is so incredibly good. I could write about this for a long time because I’m such a hardcore foodie. But I will try to keep it short and precise for you guys.
I. Cafe Estudio – Address: 2da Calle 4ta Avenida # 2-A 2 Calle 4 Avenida Norte Antigua Guatemala.
This is where we got coffee every morning. Since Jon is a former barista, he’s very picky about his coffee. So after finding this place, he was very happy, and my sisters were pleased too. Even if you don’t drink coffee, it’s worth a visit. The staff is really nice, and the coffee is super good.
When you walk out to the backyard of the coffee shop, you will immediately enter a beautiful garden. Since I don’t drink coffee, I was mostly hanging out here taking pictures.
II. Wachuma – Address: 5a Avenida Norte 9, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala
This was our favorite vegan place in all of Antigua! Mex the owner is super welcoming, knowledgeable and nice. He let me try the new desserts they were putting on the menu and let me just say, I’m still thinking about that taste. Their food is super fresh and very tasteful, and they also have a lot of gluten free options. We had the crackers, with tofu and mushroom, cheesecake, sourdough toast, and chia seed pudding. It definitely took my taste buds on a wild adventure! I can’t recommend it enough ♥
III. Los Tres Tiempos – Address: 5a Avenida Norte, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala
– This was also one of my favorite places we ate. I mean, just look at the food! The atmosphere was cozy and warm with a Latin twist. They have live music once a week, unfortunately, we missed that. I think it’s on Wednesdays. Anyways, the food here was really good, and the staff was super smiley and helpful. They also had a few vegan options on the menu, like corn on the cob, guacamole, enchiladas, and some other stuff. I, of course, ate too much, you can see my 3 plates in picture number 6 below…
IV. La Cocina de Paula – Address: 3a Calle Poniente 31, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala
– If you want some cheap local food, go here! Eating here was a fun experience in itself, it was only old locals and us. The food does not look amazing, but the boys said it was good. For $3 you can get a full authentic meal. It was a bit hard to find it because like most places in Antigua, they’re not allowed to have outdoor signage.
V. Samsara Restaurant – Address: 6 Street West # 33, Antigua 03001, Guatemala
– Samsara is Wachuma’s sister restaurant, so yes this is a vegetarian place too. Samsara is one of the largest vegetarian restaurants in Antigua. Their menu is out of this world, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a vegetarian menu that big. They also had a lot of vegan and gluten-free options, so again I ordered way too much. I forgot to take pictures of the food because my sister and I were too hungry to think about anything else.
VI. Frida’s – Address: 5a Avenida Norte #29, Arco de Santa Catalina, La Antigua Guatemala, Antigua Guatemala 03001.
– This is where we went for Fabiola’s birthday after we had hiked Volcan de Pacaya! You can only imagine how hungry we were after that hike… My sisters Fabiola and Charlotte LOVE tacos, so we went to Frida’s. Their kitchen was about to close when we got there, so we were only able to taste the tacos and guacamole, but it did not disappoint! They also had live music on the second floor.
4. What did we do in Antigua?
– As I mentioned above, there is so much cool stuff to do in this city, but we had to be smart with our time since we only had 5 days or 3 full days and 2 travel days. The main thing I knew I wanted to do was to climb a volcano, I did not care which one, I just had to see one up close, and if it had lava, then sign me up. We also had an awesome market and some of the main attractions right by our apartment.
I. Volcán de Pacaya – This hike was the highlight of our trip! I made a blog post and a vlog about this experience, so click here for my video https://youtu.be/HyCKhks-O0M. The total length of the hike was about 8 hours including transport. It took about an hour and a half to drive to the meeting point, then 2 hours up and 2 hours down and then back home. The very start of the hike is pretty steep/exhausting, which seems to be on purpose so that they can sell you a horse ride to the top, so be prepared. Our guide was very nice, and he made a lot of stops for us so we could catch our breath.
We used an agency called Ecotour travel agency. We literally just went to the closest hostel next to our apt and asked them about the tour, and it cost about 400 Quetzales per person, which equals 50 dollars. We got picked up in a minivan and driven back and forth.
II. Viewpoint Cerro de la Cruz – This is one of the main lookout points in Antigua. The trail starts at a hill not far away from the main market, it’s very easy to find. You can see the viewpoint from a lot of places in the city center. There are steps most of the way up, and it’s really not a hard hike. But I’m in such bad shape that I struggled lol. It took about 15 ish minutes to walk up, and the view at the top is breathtaking, it’s totally worth the hike.
Advice: They say you should not hike there after 6 pm because of high crime in the area. We, of course, did not know this and were hanging out there a bit after 6. It was mostly just us, a few tourists, and locals packing up their things they had been selling that day. When we got back down around 7 pm, the police was standing by the entrance gate making sure nobody else went up. So to be safe, just go a little earlier ♥
III. The Market – We literally had the market right outside our door. It was a beautiful market they had set up early in the morning, I think it’s there every Sunday. But even if you don’t make it to this exact market, there are a lot of similar ones all over Antigua. It’s where the locals sell things they have made themselves or bought for a good deal. You should try to bargain on everything they sell because some of the prices they give you are just way too much. I’m guessing some tourist don’t bargain, so they can say whatever price they want and people will by it. I mean, good for the locals, they get more money, but some things are not worth as much as they say. I’m not saying, “not to buy anything”, you should always support the local businesses, just make sure they don’t rip you off.
IV. Arco de Santa Catalina – If you have ever seen pictures from Antigua, then you’ve probably seen this archway. It’s the iconic yellow “clock tower” that dates back to the 1600s. It has some beautiful architecture and you need to see it if you are there. It’s almost a bit hard to miss it because it’s right in the city center, where the markets and the cathedrals are.
V. El Carmen Church Ruins – I’m not sure why the yellow arch is the most famous landmark in Antigua when this gorgeous ruin is a 5 minute walk away. It was built in the 17th century but was destroyed in an earthquake a century and a half later. There’s not much to see inside, but the surviving facade is a gem, and there is a great street market out front on Sundays.
Conclusion: It’s pretty affordable to fly here from New York, and to book a place to stay. The thing about Antigua is that you can choose how expensive you want it to be. We had a good mix of cheap local food and more expensive restaurants. Since we were only staying there for 5 days we did not pay too much attention to how much things cost. But If you are staying there longer, you definitely need to keep control of your spendings. Most of the restaurants and corner delis have the same prices as in New York, which means pretty expensive.
As I mentioned above, there is so much more to see and explore, we just didn’t have enough time. But next time I return to Guatemala I really want to check out Semuc Champey, Lake Atitlan, Tikal ruins, more volcanos, and Guatemala City.
Had you heard of Antigua before?
Guatemala was so good.. Take me back 😀