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25 Things to Do in Antigua, Guatemala for First-Timers

25 Things to Do in Antigua, Guatemala for First-Timers

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Are you planning a trip to Guatemala and looking for fun Antigua activities? Keep scrolling to check out the coolest things to do in Antigua Guatemala!
This list of things to do in Antigua Guatemala was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Antigua, Guatemala, is one of the most beautiful towns in Central America, and it’s a must-see for anyone visiting Guatemala.

Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage Site itself, and the entire town is full of historic buildings, good food, and picturesque cobblestone streets.

Fortunately, there are so many different activities, and your entire trip will be packed full of fun from start to finish. From exciting, heart-pumping hikes to sunny afternoon tours at a coffee farm to buzzing local markets.

Keep reading to find all the best Antigua Guatemala things to do for your first trip to the idyllic Latin American country.

25 Amazing Things to Do in Antigua Guatemala

Santa Catalina Arch

If you look up pictures of Antigua Guatemala, one of the first things you’ll see is the Santa Catalina Arch near the city center.

The Santa Catalina Arch is located on Calle de Arco, or “the street of the arch,” on Fifth Avenue Norte. It’s a 5-10 minute walk from the Zocalo (center square).

Image of Marcie Cheung at Santa Catalina Arch in Antigua Guatemala. Photo credit: Fernanda Lacayo
Santa Catalina Arch is the most iconic Antigua tourist attraction. Photo credit: Fernanda Lacayo

The arch was built in 1694 to connect the Santa Catalina Convent to a school on the other side of the street. Back then, the nuns at Santa Catalina had sworn a vow of seclusion, meaning they couldn’t be seen in public.

So, the arch was built with a secret passageway in the arch to bring the nuns to the other side of the street without having to cross the bustling street.

Today, the arch is the most distinguishable symbol of Antigua and is a must-see when you stay in Antigua.

You can take a photo of the arch and browse the local shops and markets along the street for great souvenirs to bring home.

San Francisco Church

Visiting the San Francisco Church is one of the best things to do in Antigua Guatemala. Construction for the cathedral began in 1545. In 1773, the church and surrounding area were wrecked by an earthquake.

Most people moved on after the catastrophic earthquake, but a handful of people from Antigua did. Over the course of the next century, the church underwent some construction and remodeling.

Image of san francisco church antigua Guatemala
This is such an iconic Antigua church.

However, not everything has been rebuilt. Today, there are still ruins right next to the newer church. You can walk through the grounds of the church and admire the beauty of the new construction and the rich history behind the ruins on the property.

There’s also a museum dedicated to the Saint Hermano Pedro de San Jose Betancourt, the first canonized saint in Central America.

Even if you aren’t a fan of visiting churches, this is one of the best things to do in Guatemala because of the unique layout that includes newly remodeled churches alongside ancient ruins that tell an entirely different tail.

In addition to the museum, local vendors sell crafts, snacks, drinks, and, of course, colored candles that represent your prayers.

Iglesia de la Merced Church

Antigua was once the capital and heart of Guatemala until the destructive Santa Marta earthquake in 1767 came and wrecked much of the bustling city, from churches to markets to houses.

Iglesia de la Merced Church is thought to be one of the few churches to survive that earthquake, though it has been rebuilt over the years due to other devastating earthquakes.

Image of La Merced Church, a baroque church in Antigua Guatemala
La Merced Church is right next to the Santa Catalina Arch.

The church is easily recognizable as it’s one of the most photographed spots in Antigua Guatemala. It’s large, bright yellow, and right across the central plaza. The central plaza is a lively place. There are often children and dogs running around during the day.

Local vendors set up shops in the evenings to sell some of the most delicious food, beautiful trinkets, and unique jewelry.

You can walk through the church, admire the incredible artwork, and take photos outside the Spanish Baroque architecture.

Iglesia de la Merced is also popular for weddings, photo shoots, and other events. So, it’s not uncommon to spot large families gathered out front in formal entire.

Casa Santo Domingo Museums

The Casa Santo Domingo Museums are another of the best things to do in Antigua for history lovers and culture enthusiasts.

The five museums, two crypts, and the chapels are located at the Santo Domingo Convent, or Hotel Casa Domingo.

Hotel Casa Domingo is now a luxury hotel (we stayed there and it’s amazing), but the museums are open to the public and non-guests to explore. And it’s a great way to save money because while there’s a small entrance fee, you can visit all the museums with your admission.

For the price of one through Casa Santo Domingo, you can visit all the museums and sites on the property. There are a total of six permanent museums, two art galleries with temporary exhibits, and other interesting tidbits.

Each museum and art gallery has a different theme and style. But they all have a lot of history and information, making this a great way to learn about the story of Antigua Guatemala.

In addition to the historic buildings and beautiful art galleries, you can walk through the tranquil gardens and admire the great groundskeeping. You only need about an

This place feels like an escape from the rest of the small town, and it’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon visiting Antigua.

Take Photos at the Ruined Churches

As you can see, the church ruins around Antigua are a big part of the history of this incredible city. The ruined churches are one of the many reasons Antigua is such an interesting place.

So, it can be so much fun to walk around, explore the abandoned churches, and imagine what they were like hundreds of years ago.

Image of Arches and ruins in Capuchin convent in Antigua Guatemala
Here are some arches and ruins at the Convento de Las Capuchinas.

Antigua was once called Santiago and was the capital city. In the 1700s, a series of brutal earthquakes struck the bustling city center.

Almost all churches and buildings were left in devastation, and the capital city was moved to present-day Guatemala City. Everyone was forced to move to the new capital, but a few refused to leave and stayed behind to rebuild their home.

Those who stayed behind slowly brought life back to Santiago as they rebuilt and changed the name from Santiago to Antigua Guatemala (“The old Guatemala” in English). Eventually, Guatemala was dropped, now called “Antigua.”

Antigua Guatemala has retained much of its colonial charm and continues to grow. The city and the ruins within are a great example of resilience and determination.

You can admire the ruins around Casa Santo Domingo, near the Santa Catalina Arch, and on almost every corner of Antigua Guatemala.

Go to Starbucks

I know this sounds like a cop-out answer, but I swear this is the prettiest Starbucks I’ve ever been to. And that says a lot since I’m from Seattle (the home of Starbucks).

Image of Marcie Cheung holding a Starbucks cup in front of a mural at Starbucks in Antigua Guatemala.
This is my favorite Starbucks that I’ve ever been to! Photo credit: Fernanda Lacayo

Not only are there several incredible murals but they have an expansive courtyard as well as indoor seating. Each of these areas is decorated beautifully. It’s totally worth a stop!

Join a Free Walking Tour

A walking tour is one of the best ways to see the city and certainly one of the best things to do in Antigua Guatemala. There are so many hidden gems among the cobblestone streets, and different points of interest are scattered around this tourist destination.

You can join a free walking tour to find all the best spots and learn more about the city’s history. This is highly recommended as the history and culture are very complex, and it’s worth diving into on your first visit to Antigua.

This type of tour is also one of the best ways to use your time. Even though Antigua is relatively small and quiet, it can be hard to map out your day while hitting all the best spots in the right order.

Several tour operators offer walking tours around the city. Many people recommend this free walking tour, which begins in the heart of the town near the Fountain of Mermaids in the Parque Central.

The tour takes about 2.5 hours and visits all the famous spots, including Hotel Casa Santo Domingo, the Santa Catalina Arch, the Church of la Merced, the Palace of the General Captains, and ending with Mayan Jade.

Throughout the tour, you’ll learn all about the city’s vibrant cultural scene and history, which goes back to its foundation in the 16th century by Spanish conquistadors.

Remember, when you join a free walking tour, it’s also expected to tip.

You can also book an Antigua Cultural Walking Tour instead of the free one. The cultural tour is a bit more in-depth, with time to visit the museums and walk around the different sites.

It also includes admission fees for the churches and museums, making it easier than planning alone.

De La Cruz Viewpoint

The viewpoint at Cerro de la Cruz is one of the best things to do in Antigua Guatemala. The hill, which translates to “The Hill of the Cross,” has the best views overlooking Antigua below and Agua Volcano beyond.

A large cross overlooking the city is at the top of the hill. You can see this cross even from the streets down below. There are also benches, good photo spots, and vendors around the park at Cerro de la Cruz.

Image of Marcie Cheung in front of the cross at Cerro de la Cruz in Antigua Guatemala.
The hike up to Cerro de la Cruz is totally worth it! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

It’s the most picturesque thing you’ll find on a clear day in the city. And it’s also very easy to get.

You can walk from Parque Central to the De La Cruz Viewpoint. You’ll walk through the back streets of Antigua Guatemala for about 20 minutes. You’ll get to a steep staircase that leads straight up to the top of Cerro de La Cruz. It takes another 20 minutes to walk from the base to the top of the stairs.

If you don’t want to walk, you can take a tuk-tuk, taxi, or Uber straight to the top. It only takes about 10 minutes to reach by car.

Another popular option is to visit Cerro de la Cruz with an ATV tour. The backroads leading up to the De La Cruz Viewpoint are fun, and there are a lot of other nearby villages and Guatemala attractions worth visiting on an ATV Tour.

The Antigua ATV Sunset Tour is a fun tour that first goes to Cerro de la Cruz and then to Hobbitenango. Hobbitenango is a Lord of the Rings Eco-Park.

The tour takes about five hours, with 15 minutes for the Cerro de la Cruz summit and an hour at Hobbitenango. Much of the trip is driving through backroads on your ATV, which is a really fun experience overall.

Nerd Out at Hobbitenango

Whether you visit Hobbitnenago on an ATV tour or not, this is one of the best things to do in Antigua Guatemala, so you can’t miss it either way.

Hobbitenango is a Lord of the Rings Eco-Park with an enchanted forest, an onsite restaurant, and incredible views of the mountains and volcanoes around the Antigua region.

Hobbitnenago was founded by a love of nature and a desire to help others disconnect from electronics and reconnect with the environment.

Given the foundation, it’s no surprise there’s no WiFi here. All the electricity comes from solar panels or a windmill on top of one of the restaurants. So, this is the perfect place to escape life for a day or night.

There are 26 distinct areas in Hobbitenango, including little casitas modeled after the hobbit homes. There are also two restaurants, with board games and other fun activities.

Visitors can also enjoy several great photo spots, making it a very picturesque place from Antigua Guatemala.

Two of the most well-known spots are the massive hand jutting out from the side of the cliff and the swing overlooking the valley below. At the time of construction, the swing here was one of the largest swings in the country!

Hobbitenango is only about 20 minutes from Antigua Guatemala. The last stretch of the road is only accessible with a 4X4. You can either visit on an ATV tour from Antigua or organize transportation directly from the city center through the owner of Hobbitenango.

Hobbitnenago usually offers a shuttle bus from Antigua to Hobbitenango, though you’ll have to contact them in advance to make sure the shuttle is running.

Try Guatemalan Food

Guatemalan food is not the most well-known cuisine in Latin America, but there are some authentic dishes to try when you visit Antigua Guatemala. Here are a few of the best traditional meals to try:

  • Pepián is Guatemala’s national dish. It originated in Mexico, was created by the Aztecs, and was tweaked by the Spanish. However, it’s more popular in Guatemala. The dish blends a stew and curry and is loaded with filling ingredients, like pumpkin seeds and peppercorns. Although the recipe changes from family to family.
  • Kak’ik is a local Mayan cuisine that’s popular amongst local families. It’s a turkey leg cooked in a tomato broth and loaded with spices and seasonings.
  • Desayuno Chapin is a traditional Guatemalan breakfast. It’s fried eggs, refried black beans, a slice of crumbly cheese on the side, caramelized plantains, and fresh tortillas.
  • Elotes Locos is a really fun street food around Guatemala. It’s corn on the cob, either boiled or grilled. It’s topped with mayonnaise, cheese or queso, cilantro, and chili powder. You’ll find it in local markets and amongst street vendors.

For local cuisine, Rincon Tipico is one of the most popular spots in downtown Antigua Guatemala. It has a variety of local meals and dishes, including a great portion of Desayuno Chapin.

Image of a bowl of pepian stew
I got to try Pepián at a local coffee farm and it was super tasty! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

And while you should try as many local cuisines as possible, there’s a lot of variety in Antigua Guatemala. The small town has a great vegetarian and vegan scene, with many restaurants and cafes serving this crowd.

Toko Baru is a popular Indian and Middle Eastern restaurant near the city center in Antigua. They only use fresh ingredients and have great falafels and sauces to go with it. Cafe Samsara is another great vegan spot, with filling bowls perfect after a long day of exploring or hiking.

And if the local and vegetarian food doesn’t catch your eye, there are also a lot of American fast food chains around. You’ll find Taco Bell, Burger King, McDonald’s, Caesars Pizza, Dunkin Donuts, and other chains.

Many of these places have very nice dining options. For example, McDonald’s has a large garden in the center of the building. Taco Bell also has outdoor seating next to fountains and art.

Pollo Campero is a Guatemalan fast food similar to KFC with fried chicken, fried chicken nuggets, french fries, and the usual.

If you want to make the most of your time in Antigua, try a food tour. The Street Food Evening Tour in Antigua is an excellent food tour of all the off-the-beaten-path street vendors around the small city.

Take a Cooking Class

If you want to immerse yourself in Guatemalan cuisine, one of the best things to do in Antigua Guatemala is try a cooking class. There are plenty of cooking classes to choose from in the colonial city.

You can cook alongside a local family, who will explain the ingredients, the relevance of that dish, and how to make the meal yourself.

Many people in Guatemala are very proud of their history and culture, and sharing their recipes is a great way to connect with others.

Most cooking classes will include a portion at the local market together, as well. This is a great way to explore the market, learn about the ingredients, and how to identify the best ingredients for your dish. Overall, it’s an authentic experience that allows you to connect with a local family and learn more about their culture.

This Guatemalan Cooking Class and Market Tour is a private tour of the market and cooking class.

The activity begins with a market tour, where you’ll learn about the local fresh fruit, vegetables, and ingredients. From there, you’ll head to the kitchen to make your favorite Guatemalan dishes.

Coffee Tour

The region around Antigua Guatemala is perfect for coffee production, with its rich soil and abundant land.

According to World Coffee Research, Guatemala’s global export rank is 10th, and almost half of all coffee production in Guatemala is produced by smallholders. Additionally, the coffee industry employs more than 125,000 local families.

Image of Marcie Cheung holding a basket to pick coffee cherries in Guatemala.
It was cool to get a hands-on experience at a local coffee farm. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Some of the oldest coffee estates are located around Antigua Guatemala, and coffee farms are often passed on through the generations. So, it’s beneficial for the local economy and the continuation of this part of Guatemala’s history and culture to support the local coffee farms.

It’s no surprise that many coffee plantations around Antigua Guatemala, make fresh and delicious coffee. In fact, one of the best things to do in Antigua, and arguably all of Central America, is to visit a coffee farm, learn about the process, and taste the delicious brew for yourself.

We visited the La Familia Del Café coffee farm on a tour from Antigua. We got to meet the family and they took us into the coffee fields where we picked coffee cherries that we later peeled, roasted, and ground into coffee.

This was part of their seed to cup tour and it was such an amazing experience.

Taste Chocolate at the Coffee Shops

Believe it or not, Guatemala isn’t only known for its homegrown coffee. It’s also one of the best places in Latin America for a chocolate lover.

Chocolate can be traced back to the Mayan civilization, and some say Guatemala is one of the birthplaces of the cacao bean. So, you should also try to make some time to sample some of the delicious chocolate.

Coffee shops line the city center, often with various fresh chocolate bars and bags of coffee. The local coffee shops are some of the best places in Antigua Guatemala to taste the final product of the cacao bean.

However, if you want to delve more into the history and production of local chocolate, you should also visit Fernando’s in Antigua.

We did a chocolate-making workshop and then got to taste a bunch of different chocolate. It was a fun way to get a little bit dirty while enjoying some of the world’s finest chocolate!

Picnic at Central Park

Central Park, or Parque Central in Spanish, is a large park in the city center. It’s right across from Catedral San Jose. The Fountain of Mermaids is in the center of the park.

There are usually a lot of families, street vendors with fantastic food, and sometimes even exhibits and parades starting at the park.

Image of Marcie Cheung in front of a fountain in Central Park in Antigua Guatemala.
Central Park is an easy place to walk around. Photo credit: Fernanda Lacayo

Around the park are shops, an artisan market, and coffee shops on all sides. You can grab some food at one of the restaurants or cafes, sit in the park, and enjoy the hustle and bustle all around you.

While there isn’t much else to do, you should try to set aside some time for this while you visit Antigua Guatemala. It’s a great spot for people-watching and enjoying a sunny afternoon.

In the evenings, the park comes to life at night with a little outdoor market. So, you can watch them set up or stick around long enough to do a little shopping.

Acatenango Volcano Hike

The Acatenango Volcano hike is the most popular overnight hike in the region and one of the best things to do in Antigua Guatemala for adventurers.

The hike takes you up to Acatenango Volcano, an active volcano that offers beautiful views of an erupting volcano. The hike covers about 5.2 miles (8.5 km) going up and takes six hours.

Image of Acatenango Volcano in Guatemala erupting.
This is a great option for avid hikers.

It’s also a high-elevation hike, with an elevation gain of 5,250 feet (1,600 meters) and a peak elevation of 13,050 feet (3,975 meters).

The hike is a bit challenging, given the distance and elevation, but it’s possible with a good base fitness level and determination.

If you decide to go on a day tour to Acatenango, you’ll leave Antigua early in the morning. From there, you’ll take the shuttle bus to the base and begin the straight-up climb up the volcano. You’ll spend the night at a campground, which will likely be in a position to watch El Fuego erupting every 20 minutes or so.

You can usually climb to El Fuego to get even closer to the eruptions, or to the peak of Acatenango for an equally breathtaking view, or possibly to both if weather permits.

While this hike is not for the faint of heart, it’s an incredible experience worth every minute if you decide to join along.

While technically, it’s possible to hike Acatenango on your own, it’s highly recommended to go on a tour. They prepare everything for you, from camp to food to navigating the complex trails. Some even provide extra layers for the cold weather at the top.

Acatenango Volcano Tour with Overnight from Antigua is one of the most popular tour guides in Antigua. The tour includes hiking and camping gear, three meals, transportation, and an excellent guide.

One unique characteristic of this tour is that they have cabins at the top, which are rather comfortable compared to the crammed tents that most have.

Pacaya Volcano Hike

Pacaya Volcano is another great day hike from Antigua. It’s much easier than Acatenango and one of the most popular hikes in Antigua Guatemala.

The hike takes you up the ridge of an active volcano and ends in an active, lava-spitting volcano (although you’ll always be a safe distance away).

Image of Marcie Cheung on a volcano hike pointing at Fuego volcano erupting.
I’m pointing at Fuego Volcano erupting during the hike. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

The journey takes about 90 minutes each way, and while certain parts of very steep, it’s considered a moderate hike. There are horses for hire at the beginning of the trail that will also take you most of the way.

One of the best things about this adventure is the unique volcanic landscape you’ll pass through. The hike begins through lush scenery with great views overlooking Antigua and Volcano de Agua. And at the top, you’ll roast marshmallows over the steaming lava rocks.

Remember that Antigua Guatemala has high elevation, so hiking Pacaya Volcano, Acatenango Volcano, or anywhere else will feel much more difficult compared to lower elevation hikes.

Pacaya Volcano is only open for tours, so you’ll have to visit with one of the local tour operators. From Antigua: Pacaya Volcano Trek is a great six-hour tour from Antigua to Pacaya Volcano. It includes transportation, a guide for the hike, and marshmallows to roast at the peak.

Corazon de Agua Trail

Corazon de Agua Trail is a beautiful, hidden gem around Volcan de Agua, or Agua Volcano. This magnificent volcano can be seen from any corner of Antigua, so being able to hike trails along the volcano is the perfect activity for nature enthusiasts.

Compared to Acatenango and Pacaya, this is one of the lesser-known hikes around Antigua Guatemala. There are no tour companies up here and little to no tourists. This makes it a nice escape from the chaos of the small city at times.

However, because there are no tour guides, you’ll have to either get here on your own or hire a personal guide. The trail begins in the town of Magdalena Milpas Altas, which is about 20 minutes by car from Antigua. You can take a bus from Antigua to Magdalena Milpas Atlas, but there’s no set schedule, which can be unreliable.

The easiest way to get there is by tuk-tuk, taxi, or Uber.

The hike to the top of Agua Volcano is a full day and challenging. However, several trails up the base of the volcano treat you to beautiful views.

The problem with hiking Volcan de Agua is that there are reports of robberies on trails. And because few tour guides and tourists are going up El Agua Volcano, being alone might make you a target. If you do decide to do this hike, do so with caution and only bring what’s necessary.

Learn Spanish

Knowing Spanish to enjoy your trip to Antigua is not required, but it can help a lot. And even further, Guatemala is one of the best Spanish-speaking countries to learn Spanish because of its neutral accent.

So, if you have the time and interest in furthering your Spanish skills, you should consider taking a private class when you visit Antigua.

Spanish is an important part of the culture here, but speaking at least basic Spanish can show the locals your appreciation for the beautiful country and people. It can also be beneficial to know the basics, have a starter conversation, or ask a simple question if you need something.

If you’re taking a longer trip to Antigua and have at least a week to learn Spanish, Antigueña Spanish Academy is one of the most reputable schools.

It offers weekly programs with four-hour-long classes. You can also also choose a homestay for your stay in Antigua. They also offer transportation options from Guatemala City airport. Of course, this is a very comprehensive option.

A week-long crash course might not be the best option for everyone, so you can choose the 1-on-1 Spanish Language Class in Antigua. This is a short, one-hour session with a certified Guatemalan teacher.

Shop at the Local Markets

One of the best things to do in Antigua is to shop at the local markets, where you’ll find beautiful fabrics, unique souvenirs, and much more.

There are several markets in Antigua, but the largest is Central Market on Alameda Santa Lucía and 4ta Calle Poniente. This is about a 10-minute walk from Parque Central.

Image of Guatemalan worry dolls
You’ll find lots of worry dolls at local markets in Antigua.

Central Market has everything you could want, with rows and rows of stalls decked out with beautiful gifts, souvenirs, clothes, and necessities. There’s even an entire section for food, with some great street food and local cuisine options.

If you’re shopping around Antigua, remember you’ll likely have to haggle for your final price. The seller will often tell you an absurdly high price to start with, where you’ll have the chance to counter with a price you think is more appropriate.

Eat at a Rooftop Restaurant

As mentioned, Antigua has an incredible food scene. Whether you’re looking for local street food, filling vegetarian food, or other international meals. But one of the best places to visit in Guatemala to enjoy a meal is at one of the many rooftop terraces.

There are at least a dozen rooftop restaurants around Antigua, in all corners of the city. And many of them have incredible views of the city and the beautiful volcanoes beyond.

Antigua Brewing Company is an excellent spot for families and those who want to enjoy a fresh, local beer.

The restaurant and terrace are relatively small, with only a handful of tables. But the atmosphere is very inviting, and they have good views from the rooftop dining area. On weekends, they even hold events and often have good live music.

Aqua Antigua is another excellent option, with arguably the best rooftop terrace and dining menu. The restaurant is slightly above the other buildings, giving it an unparalleled view of the city and Volcano el Agua beyond. It’s a great spot, and even a swimming pool is on the ground floor.

Take a Few Days Trips

If you’re struggling to fill up your Antigua itinerary or have limited time to go to other regions of the country, you should consider one or two of these Antigua day trips.

While Antigua is a beautiful city, many other places are within driving distance, with abundant culture and unique opportunities.

Guatemala City

The capital city is nothing special compared to other parts of the country, but it’s worth spending an afternoon around if you have the time to spare. It’s also an easy day trip from Antigua, making it all the better.

Guatemala City Airport, located right in the city, is about 24 miles (40 km) from Antigua. Depending on traffic and road conditions, it takes an hour to drive from Antigua to Guatemala.

While the bustling city isn’t as cultural and quintessential as Antigua, there’s still a lot to do there. For example, it’s one of the best places for museums and shopping.

The Museo Nacional de Historia Natural (National Museum of Natural History) is an interesting place to learn about Guatemala’s biodiversity, history, and natural science.

The Palacio National de la Cultura (National Palace of Culture) is the best place to learn about Guatemalan culture.

Since the chicken bus or local transportation, can be unreliable in Guatemala, the easiest way to get between Antigua and the city is to take an Uber or taxi or organize private transportation.

This Private Ground Transfer from Antigua to Guatemala City is a good option if you’re looking for a private shuttle. Otherwise, almost all tour agencies in Antigua offer shared shuttles.

Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is another great day trip from Antigua if you don’t have more time to dedicate to the magnificent lake. You should try to spend at least two or three days at Lake Atitlan, but if you can’t make it work, you can always go on a one-day excursion.

You’ll definitely want to take a boat to explore the villages around Lake Atitlan. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Lake Atitlan is about 53 miles (86 km) and a 2.5-hour drive from Antigua. The most accessible starting point for a day trip is Panajachel on Lake Atitlan.

From Panajachel, you can take a boat tour to other villages and points of interest.

The lake is one of the most beautiful spots in Guatemala, and there is so much to do in Lake Atitlan. It’s a gorgeous, natural lake formed by volcanic eruptions approximately 85,000 years ago. It’s surrounded by stunning mountains and towering volcanoes.

You can catch a shared shuttle bus from one of the many tour agencies in Antigua city center, leaving every day. The shuttle will drop you off in Panajachel, where you can walk around, explore, and catch a boat to any other villages that catch your interest.

You can also join a tour from Antigua, making transportation to and around the lake easier.

This Lake Atitlan Day Tour From Antigua is a great private option. You’ll visit Panajachel, San Juan, San Pedro, and Santiago. However, since it’s a private tour, the itinerary is flexible based on your preferences and interests.

Chichicastenango Market

Chichicastenango Market is known as the most colorful and vibrant market in Guatemala. It’s beautiful, full of culture, excitement, and great shopping.

Chichicastenango Market is in the town of Chichicastenango. It’s 65 miles (105 km), or a 2.5-hour drive from Antigua Guatemala. And it’s also very easy to get to from Panajachel, Lake Atitlan.

Mayan wooden masks for sale at Chichicastenango market in Guatemala.
Chichicastenango Market is a great day trip option.

The market days are only Thursdays and Sundays, so you’ll have to plan accordingly. But if you can make it, you will surely be in for a treat. You can find almost anything here, and it has a long history of being a prominent trading post in Guatemala going back to the Mayan civilization.

You can get to Chichicastenango by shuttle bus, private transfer, or tour. It’s not as popular as other day trips, so there are fewer transportation options.

This Chichicastenango and Panajachel Day Trip from Antigua is a great tour option for those available on Thursday or Sunday. You’ll first visit Chichicastenango, where you’ll have two hours to explore the market and town.

Afterward, you’ll head to Panajachel for some great views of Lago de Atitlan. You’ll also learn about the history and importance of both cities from your guide.

Iximche Ruins

Iximche Ruins is a lesser-known tourist destination near Antigua. These are ruins dating back to Mayan civilization. The ruins were once the capital of the Late Postclassic Kaqchikel Maya kingdom from 1470 to 1524.

Image of Marcie Cheung at Iximche Ruins in Guatemala
It was really cool to learn more about the Mayans at Iximche. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Historians believe Iximche was one of the last Mayan city-states to fall to the Spanish conquistadors. And you can learn so much history here while walking through the several structures, pyramids, and plazas.

The ruins are 55 miles (88 km) from Antigua, and the drive takes about an hour from Antigua. The easiest way to get there is to take an Uber or taxi or join a guided tour.

You can take a bus from Tecpan, a nearby town, and then a taxi to the ruins. But as mentioned, local transportation isn’t the most reliable and convenient option.

This Iximche and Antigua Day Tour is among the best cultural tours. You’ll first join a walking tour of the city, visiting many important spots like Santa Catalina Arch and Hotel Casa Santo Domingo. Then, you’ll head straight to Iximche, where you’ll get a guided tour of the impressive archeological site.

Tikal National Park

If you’re interested in Mayan ruins and don’t mind catching a short flight, you should consider visiting Tikal National Park.

Tikal is an ancient Mayan city buried deep within the eastern jungle of Guatemala. It’s near the Belize border and relatively far from Antigua. However, you can get a direct flight from Guatemala Airport to Flores, a nearby city, to Tikal.

Image of Marcie Cheung at Tikal National Park in Guatemala
Tikal National Park is one of the coolest places I’ve ever visited. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

There isn’t a whole lot around Tikal and Flores, so many people don’t want to venture that far out of the central tourist hubs or simply don’t have the time. If you can’t fit in a few days in the region, you should definitely consider visiting on a day trip.

Tikal is a large archeological site with pyramids you can climb, jaw-dropping archeological feet, and endless history. It was considered a central cultural hub and one of the most important Mayan city-states in the region.

This Tikal Day Trip Including Round Trip Flights from Antigua is a great tour if you want to visit Tikal from Antigua Guatemala.

This is a long, 17-hour tour that leaves very early in the morning and gets back in the evening. However, it’s comprehensive and includes a detailed tour of Tikal National Park. It’s perfect for big history lovers.

Antigua Guatemala Things to Do FAQs

What are the most popular places to visit in Guatemala?

Guatemala is a beautiful country with a diverse landscape. You can enjoy the beaches on the West Coast, the cultural cobblestone streets of Antigua, or lounge by a large lake formed by a volcano. You really can’t go wrong with any of these options.

Some of the best places to visit in Guatemala for tourists are Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala City, Chichicastenango Market, and Flores. But if you have the time, dozens of other notable places exist. For example, Lake Semuc Champey is another adventurous and action-packed destination.

What are the top Guatemala tourist attractions?

Many of the top Guatemala tourist attractions are the volcanoes and exciting hikes that come along with them. Acatenango and Pacaya Volcanoes near Antigua are some of the best tourist attractions in Antigua Guatemala. San Pedro Volcano is another great hiking spot in Lake Atitlan.

Tikal National Park is the biggest tourist attraction on the West Coast and is also worth a visit if you want to immerse yourself in Mayan history and culture.

Things to Do in Antigua Guatemala Wrap-Up

There are so many great things to do in Antigua Guatemala, you won’t be bored for a second. The small city has a long history connected to both Spanish and Mayan culture.

You can visit abandoned churches left after a series of devasting earthquakes. You can also spend several afternoons hiking and exploring the incredible views from one of the nearby volcanoes.

Additionally, several great day trips and adventures are just a short drive or flight from Antigua Guatemala.

No matter what you do, you’ll surely have an excellent time learning, eating, and traveling around the beautiful city of Antigua Guatemala.

Looking for more Guatemala travel resources? Check out 10 Helpful Guatemala Travel Tips for First-Timers, 39 Incredible Things to Do in Lake Atitlan Guatemala, 24 Things to Know Before Visiting Tikal National Park in Guatemala, 5 Best Hotels in Antigua Guatemala Worth Booking, and 23 Best Places to Visit in Guatemala for the First Time!

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