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Guide To Visiting Antigua Guatemala For First-Time Travelers

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If you’re considering visiting Antigua Guatemala after seeing stunning images of the city nestled between two volcanoes, this ultimate guide will help you make the most of your time there as a First-Time Traveler to this wonderful location.

Whether this is your first time traveling abroad or you’re looking for new unexplored destinations for your trips, this guide will provide you with everything you need to know to travel confidently, safely, and without sacrificing all your savings.

So, if you’re ready to plan your first trip to Antigua, Guatemala here’s my complete travel guide.

Antigua Guatemala Travel Guide

Throughout this guide, I’ll share my top Guatemala travel tips that helped me have an enjoyable trip, the best activities, places to visit, and how to get around the city like a pro – including things that nobody tells you about Guatemala!

Is Antigua Guatemala Worth Visiting?

Antigua is a small town in Guatemala and has been one of Central America’s most underrated yet fascinating destinations for a long time. Some of the things that make Antigua so unique are its charming colonial architecture, impressive volcanoes, and rich history and culture.

Tip: Depending on where you’re from you may be struggling with the altitude, so I recommend drinking a lot of water and bringing something like liquid IV to drink everyday. 

There are so many things that make Antigua an excellent tourist destination. Not only is it an incredibly beautiful place, but it is also affordable, easy to get around (even if you don’t speak the language),  and full of interesting gems to discover.

Languagesanta catalina arch things to do in antigua antigua guatemala trave guide

Guatemala’s local language is Spanish, although you can find a few people who know English. Don’t worry if you don’t speak the language, most locals are nice and patient with tourists and you can use apps like Google Translate to help you communicate. However, if you’re visiting Antigua Guatemala with zero Spanish, I would recommend learning just a few basic phrases and greetings to be polite.

Fun fact: There are 21 Mayan Communities that speak their own Mayan language and oftentimes don’t even understand Spanish!


The currency in Guatemala is the Guatemalan quetzal (GTQ)

1 USD = 7.8 Quetzal

Fun fact: The currency is named after their national bird the Quetzal!

While US dollars are commonly accepted in Guatemala and some places like restaurants and shops even accept card payments, I highly advise against it as they are charging extra fees and you’re likely about to step into a tourist trap! 

So, make sure to pull out enough cash to have on hand for things to do and food.

You can find many ATMs in Antigua to get cash, especially in the center and the main square. They usually charge a fee for foreign credit and debit cards – however, it’s 10000x better than what you’d get if you would exchange your currency into QLZ at the airport or pay with a card. 

Nonetheless, if you really need to you can also exchange money in the banks which are easily accessible throughout the city – make sure to have your passport in hand.

Tip: The greatest meal you can get will be street food, and it will cost you anywhere from 5 to 20 QLZ (paid in cash) and will be WELL WORTH it!

Guatemala is one of the most affordable countries in Central America, which makes it the perfect place for when you’re traveling on a budget unless you want to spend a little more for some luxuries – you can expect to spend between $20 and $70 a day depending on the kind of trip you’re looking for.

Tight budget? Find out how to travel on a student budget like a pro.hidden gems in antigua guatemala things to do in antigua visiting antigu guatemala

How To Get To Antigua, Guatemala

The cheapest way to get to Antigua Guatemala is to get a tourist shuttle that takes you directly from Guatemala City’s airport to your hotel in Antigua. These shuttles are safe and can even take you to most tourist destinations in the area during the day.

Here are some shuttle companies that I recommend:

I suggest you book your shuttle online in advance so they’re already waiting for you when you land at the airport. They’ll also give you instructions on where to meet and how to find them.

Another way (my preference) is to get to Antigua via Uber, which will cost you around $30-35it will be the fastest and equally safe way to get to Antigua.

flowers visiting antigua guatemala antigua guartemala travel guide

Best Time To Visit Antigua, Guatemala

The most popular time for visiting Antigua Guatemala is between November and April, which is the dry season and the coolest time of the year in Guatemala. But keep in mind that the city and hotels will be full and it might be more difficult to get accommodation and tours. 

Whereas during the rainy season, from May to November, you can get lower rates and the city won’t be as crowded – I went in May and had a blast with amazing weather.

Tip: I found that the ‘sweet spot’ is right after the peak season in May and June, while you can still enjoy the good weather and get better prices.

How Many Days In Antigua?

There is so much to explore when visiting Antigua Guatemala that you could easily spend a full week in this little town. I suggest staying at least two-three days if you want to see everything and get the most out of your trip.

Tip: Make sure to wander through Antigua yourself or hire a tour guide (well worth it & affordable) as you may otherwise wander into tourist traps.

Where To Stay In Antiguacasicasa hostel in antigua where to stay in antigua guatemala visiting antigua guatemala

I personally stayed at Casi Casa Hostel and loved it! It is a gorgeous property with an excellent location near the city center and great volcano views. The pool, sauna, and coffee bar were amazing as well. This hostel is nestled in between the busy town of Antigua and the mountains, making this a one-of-a-kind hostel with direct access to everything you could possibly want – including a rooftop with direct views of Volcano Agua. 

Tip: There’s a restaurant/hotel right next to it that has an even better rooftop lounge – simply ask at the front to go upstairs and see it to experience Antigua’s magic. 

Hostels in Antigua are truly exceptional and you don’t need to spend a lot on accommodation to be in a nice place with all the comforts. 

Other Suggested Hotels In Antigua

Where To Eat In Antigua

One of the best things about visiting Antigua Guatemala is all the different food and places to eat you can find. From street food and little cafes to fancy restaurants and bars here is something for all tastes and budgets.

Here are some of my favorite places:

Tip: You can find the BEST food in Antigua at the Parque de la Merced with FRESH food served daily from 4.30 PM to 10.30 PM – for as little as 5Q (~ 60 cents).

Things To Do In Antigua

Let’s get to the interesting part. What can you do while visiting Antigua Guatemala? There is something for everyone here whether you like to look around places by yourself or you want to go with a tour guide that shows you everything!

Wander Antigua’s Cobblestone Streetsruins in antigua visiting antigua guatemala things to do in antigua

Of all the places you could think of to take beautiful photos, Antigua should definitely be on that list. Every street has something interesting to see, from imposing historic churches from the 1500 and ruins to cute, colorful cafes, and little shops. I think the best you can do on your first day in Antigua is to grab your camera and take a walk around town – Explore every corner!

Or if you want to get a walking tour by a local guide so you don’t miss anything, check out this free walking tour in Antigua!

Tip: While it says free, the tour guide expects a tip of around 100-150/P QLZ, so make sure to carry cash with you.

Parque Central (Central Park)

Parque Central is a small town in the city’s main square. It’s a very nice place to encounter both locals and tourists, buy some handcrafted Mayan souvenirs, and enjoy close-up views of surrounding buildings like Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, a Cathedral, and Museo del Libro Antiguo.

You will find tons of vendors and also some street food here, what’s more interesting is the National Museum across the street that you can visit for free!

Royal Palace of the Captains General – National Museum

Beautiful views of the park may be had from the free-to-visit national museum (the big and long building across the park). They stay open late and have an extensive collection that ranges from modern art to ancient Mayan artifacts from Guatemala – worth the visit! 

Best part? It’s FREE!

Convento Santa Clara

The Santa Clara convent was founded in the early 1700s, and its remains from several devastating earthquakes have become one of the most popular spots for tourists visiting Antigua Guatemala. It’s a very calm and mystic place to have a peaceful afternoon exploring the courtyard with a well-maintained garden and a fountain, the ruins of the convent, a church, and underground tombs.

The admission fee is 40 quetzals and you can take food to have a picnic inside while admiring the marvelous views.cerro de la cruz and volcanos in antigua guatemala things to do in antigua guide to visiting antigua guatemala

Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross)

You can hike up (or take a tuk-tuk) to the top of Cerro de la Cruz, where you can find an observatory with a stone cross and benches. If you’re visiting Antigua Guatemala, make sure to take an hour of your day to take this walk. It is such a pleasant spot to rest and take photos of an amazing view of the town and the majestic volcanoes in the background. There are also public restrooms and vendors selling drinks and snacks in case you want to stay longer.

Museums In Antigua

With such ancient culture and history, museums are a MUST when visiting Antigua Guatemala. 

Casa Santo Domingo Museum

For Mayan culture, you can visit the Casa Santo Domingo Museums, located inside the Casa Santo Domingo hotel property that used to be a Dominican monastery in the 1500s before the earthquakes. You can access the galleries for free or pay Q40 to enter the several museums displaying all kinds of archeological objects, sculptures, paintings, and so much more.

This is a MUST!

Casa Del Jase

Another absolute gem is Casa del Jade or Jade Maya Museum, located only a block away from Casa Santo Domingo. Here you can learn so much about the importance of Jade in Mayan history since ancient times. This stone was an invaluable possession that they crafted into different adornments and jewelry. You’ll find many beautiful exhibits and see artisans crafting stones by hand. There’s also a shop with authentic, high-quality Jade pieces that you can buy and take home – or you can even make your own!


Last but not least, you can’t miss a visit to ChocoMuseo. This chocolate museum offers a very fun experience at its workshop, where you can make your own chocolate bars and chocolate tea. Informative and friendly instructors talk you through the entire process while you sample delicious chocolate at the different stages of the cooking. 

If you’re thinking about visiting Antigua Guatemala during the rainy season, this would be a perfect activity for gloomy days!

Sounds fun? Book your class at the workshop here.

cathedral of san jose antigua guatemala things to do in antigua antigua guatemala travel guideChurches

Antigua is well-known for its stunning colonial architecture, and its churches are no exception. This town is home to more than 30 churches, convents, and monasteries; some of them look more deteriorated due to a series of destructive earthquakes in the past, and others have been rebuilt. But they’re all equally imposing and with so much history behind their walls.

Cathedrals like Catedral de San Jose and Iglesia de La Merced have been restored with incredible front facades. However, you can see that the interior of these buildings is older and has been well-preserved.

Visiting Antigua Guatemala is pointless without venturing into spectacular ruins such as Iglesia de San Francisco El Grande and Catedral de Santiago. These places are so peaceful to walk through, observing all the little details on the walls and ceilings in the sunlight.

Explore The Local Market

Antigua’s local market is an excellent space to be in close contact with Guatemala’s culture and discover new food and products you’ve probably never seen before.

It is a huge place and you can find everything you can imagine, from clothes and handmade Mayan crafts to fresh fruits, vegetables, artisanal food, and so much more. Personally, I found that the market has the best food in the area, especially the grilled corn and Pepito!

Climb Pacaya Volcano

Not only can you see volcanoes in Antigua, but you can climb one! Although there are many volcanoes in Antigua Guatemala, Pacaya is usually the most popular one for having a relatively easy trail for less experienced hikers and the variety of tours you can find. Even if you’re not used to hiking, I still recommend you try this half-day trip. I can assure you that having a chance to walk through lava fields and see them erupt in the sky with your own eyes is an incredible experience you can’t miss.

Keep in mind that this can be a challenging trip and you should take a tour with guides that know the trail and are well-equipped to keep you safe. 

You can try some of these tours from Antigua to Pacaya Volcano:

Tip: Consider going very early in the morning to have the best views of the dawn, or right after lunch so you get to see the dusk on your way back. Depending on which hostel you’re staying at, they may even offer their own tours.

Take a Day Trip To Lake Atitlan

Another must-do if you’re visiting Antigua Guatemala is Lake Atitlan. This one-of-a-kind destination has captivated visitors that go to enjoy its breathtaking nature, walk around the stunning little villages while tasting amazing traditional food, and have fun doing many different activities like hiking and parasailing. You can even stay at a hotel or guest house for a few days if you want to take more time to explore the whole place and each of the villages.

Imagine waking up with a view of the sunrise reflecting on the turquoise water and all the lush mountains surrounding the lake!

Wanna know more about this lovely lake and villages? I share everything about them in this post.

How To Get To Lake Atitlan?

Lake Atitlan is approximately 2.5-3 hours away from Antigua if you go on a tour or by shuttle. Here are a couple of tours that take you from Antigua to Lake Atitlan:

And if you would like to book other tours and activities to do once you’re there, check out TripAdvisor’s best tours in Lake Atitlan.

Casi Casa offers their own shuttle. I paid about 98Q per person one-way.

Mountain ATV Tour by Simoon 

My personal recommendation is to take this mountain tour by Simoon which takes you on a full-day adventure on a motorcycle or scooter. It’s a great opportunity to see more of Antigua’s outskirts, such as Cerro de la Cruz, small farms, and a Mayan village and market – they pick you up from your hotel and then take you back safe and sound!

Special thanks to our guide Diego, and Fredy the manager for how amazing they made the day for us. They will go out of their way to ensure satisfaction and an amazing experience 🙂

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If it sounds good, here are other tours you can try as well:

I highly recommend a private tour, so you can spend the extra time taking pictures or exploring. It’s well worth it on this one-of-a-kind trip. 

Some More Recommendations & Tips

To ensure you have the best experience while visiting Antigua Guatemala and everything in your trip goes smoothly, I’ll leave a few more travel tips that might save you from unexpected inconveniences.

Is Antigua, Guatemala Safe?

It’s common to hear about safety concerns in Guatemala because of its high levels of crime, but that is usually the case in Guatemala’s capital, Guatemala City, which has a reputation for being quite dangerous.

Being only one hour away from Guatemala City, you would expect Antigua to be just as unsafe. However, Antigua is one of the safest cities in Guatemala, even for tourists; it has a bigger police presence and more security in frequently visited tourist spots.

It’s always good to be cautious wherever you go since crimes and robberies can happen everywhere, but I’m sure most travelers who have been to Antigua would agree that they’ve felt safer walking Antigua’s streets than in many other cities. 

Weather In Antigua & What To Packmuseums and ruins in antigua guatemala things to do in antigua antigua guatemala trave guide

Antigua is generally warm during the day and then it gets rather cool at night. Central America is a tropical region, so the climate also tends to be pretty humid.

Most importantly: a LOT of sunscreen!

I suggest packing light, comfortable clothes as well as walking shoes since Antigua is a small city and you can easily get anywhere on foot. The sun is quite strong in this region, so a hat and sunscreen would be ideal too – And don’t forget a sweater or hoodie for the chilly nights!

And if you’re like me and want to be prepared for everything grab my ultimate list of travel necessities here!

Paying & Tipping

Something very important to know if you’re visiting Antigua Guatemala is that cash rules here. You will need cash for some things like tours, food, and tipping – even some hotels and hostels are cash-only.

In my experience, if cards are accepted somewhere, it’s most likely to be a tourist trap and you will be paying American expensive prices, where also the food and things will be rather mediocre. 

Tipping in Antigua is not a must but it is very common and appreciated to leave a small tip for restaurants, tour guides, and hotel services. Some nicer restaurants already include a 10% tip on your bill.

Tip: Negotiate literally everything as they will try to overcharge you – you can easily negotiate 40-60% of the price down.

Don’t Drink Tap Water

Guatemala’s water is not safe to drink, so try to avoid it unless it is filtered. Guatemalans have their own filtration method using ceramic jug filters. These devices are incredibly effective at eliminating parasites and bacteria from the water. So, as long as the tap water that’s been filtered, you’ll be okay. Otherwise, you can carry a bottle with you and ask for a refill at guesthouses.

Stomach Sickness

Due to Antigua’s altitude, it’s not unusual to get stomach sickness and dizziness, especially if you hike volcanoes – make sure to bring Liquid IV with you!

Bacterial/parasitic infections are also normal as a tourist in a foreign country. The simplest solution is to go to the pharmacy, they will know all about it and give you antibiotics for it. They will cost around 100 QLZ ($10 USD approximately), and that will do the trick. You’ll get rid of it all really fast.

Tip: Believe me, Liquid I.V. is a MUST on this trip. Consider bringing enough of these supplements to mix them up with your water. They’ll help a lot with elevation sickness and will keep you hydrated while you do a lot of things in the heat.

Final Thoughts About Visiting Antigua, Guatemala

Now you probably understand why Antigua is becoming such a popular destination. It’s the perfect combination of beautiful nature, nice weather, awesome photography spots, great food, and affordable prices – everything a traveler could wish for!

Hopefully, this Antigua Guatemala travel guide makes you feel more confident and excited about your upcoming adventure. I’m sure that if you follow these recommendations, you’ll have a very enjoyable experience and you won’t need to worry about a thing during your stay.



I may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay, it helps me keep the blog up :) Listed prices are accurate as of time of publication.

Anna is a traveler, blogger, and entrepreneur who can’t keep herself still. She’s always on the move, whether working hard on a new passion project or exploring a new city as a part-time digital nomad. Dare to keep up? Check out The Tatted Nomad for everything digital nomad, social media marketing, mental health, and travel (and to see her latest addition, Novah, her service dog and travel companion). As a psychotherapist (to be) she also offers insights about your mental health related questions – anything you see that isn’t covered but you have questions about? Let her know!

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