The beautiful Antigua in Guatemala
Our shuttle from Semuc Champey dropped us off in the central plaza of Antigua in front of the beautiful St. Joseph Cathedral.
This is a small colonial city that sits in the shadow of the imposing Volcán de Agua (Volcano of Water), so named for the the lake that sits at its peak. Full of cafes, panaderías (bakeries), and restaurants with international cuisine, Antigua is more of a place to take a leisurely stroll or to sip on a latte than to rush around trying to see all the “sites”. Being in the mountains keeps the weather relatively cool. So take a sweater, some comfy shoes, and your camera and spend the day wandering through its cobblestone streets and admiring its well-preserved colonial buildings against the backdrop of the huge volcano.
Recommended to do in Antigua:
For a beautiful view, hike up 25 minutes to the mirador (look-out) at Cerro de la Cruz.
Visit the Hotel Santo Domingo: Built at the site of an old monastery, this beautiful hotel’s gardens, museums, and chapel are open to the public. Visit it’s grounds for free, or stay in a room for between $300 and $500US per night!
Catedral de San José (St. Joseph Cathedral) located on the Central Plaza
The market, located a few blocks from the central plaza, offers everything from fruits and veggies to artesan goods to bootleg CD’s
Hike one of the nearby volcanoes:
Pacaya: Active volcano, ½ day trip from Antigua includes only 1.5 to 3 hours total hiking on easy trails. Roast marshmellows over one of the hot pockets near the top!
Acatenango: Full day or overnight (recommended) camping trip. Total of 8 to 10 hours hiking on challenging trails up to the 4,000 meter high summit above the cloud line. Views of Volcán de Agua and Volcán de Fuego from the top.
Lago de Atitlán
Antigua’s a popular tourist destination among backpackers and other travelers alike, so you’ll find everything from hostels to 5 star hotels here. If it’s budget accomodation you’re after, there are a wealth of options within a few blocks of the central plaza.
We stayed at Hostel Villa Esthela for 45Q ($6US) per person in a dorm with four beds. The hostel has a fully-stocked kitchen, a comfy living room with TV and movies, and a rooftop terrace with hammocks, a bar, and a great view of Volcán de Agua! Add to all that a helpful staff and low-key, friendly guests, and you have a pretty great hostel! The only issue we had is that it was a little farther than we would have liked from the Central Plaza (it’s a 10 minute walk while there are many other options within 2-3 blocks of the plaza).