Antigua is one of the most popular destinations in Guatemala- for good reason! This beautiful little town is filled with colorful, colonial-style buildings set along cobblestone streets, surrounded by volcanoes. And- it’s only 1 hour from Guatemala City!
If you only have 2 days in Antigua, I recommend spending one full day exploring the town of Antigua, and then doing a day trip to hike the Pacaya Volcano on your second day. It was such an amazing experience! Keep reading for more details on the best way to spend 2 days in Antigua.
Getting To Antigua, Guatemala
Antigua is about 38 miles (1 hour) from the airport in Guatemala City. There are 3 options for transportation from the airport to Antigua:
1. Private Shuttle- Pre-arrange a ride from the place where you are staying (~$30)
2. Uber (Yes, they have Uber in Guatemala!). This is the recommended option. Make sure that you have a phone plan with internet capabilities so that you are able to order the Uber once you land. (~$15).
3. Taxi (~ $30)
Where to Stay in Antigua, Guatemala
There are many hotels, hostels and Airbnb’s in the area. I highly recommend staying at Adra Hostel– they have the cutest courtyard and common areas complete with string lights, lounge chairs and hammocks, making it the perfect place to relax or socialize after your day exploring Antigua. They also have a bunch of board games and books, and great local beer on tap! The staff is super friendly and was able to help us book our day trip to the Pacaya Volcano, as well as answer any other questions we had about the area. They have both private rooms and dorms. We stayed in a dorm ($18/night), and it was the nicest and comfiest bed we slept in the whole trip! It’s also very centrally-located- only 2 blocks from Plaza Mayor (Central Park). See below for pics:
Things to do in Antigua
1. Plaza Mayor
Your first stop in Antigua should be Plaza Mayor (Central Park). This cute, simple park is in the heart of Antigua. Not only is this a great reference point, but it’s also next to the beautiful San Jose Catedral. It’s also near a few ATMs- don’t forget to get cash out!
2. Santa Catalina Arch
This famous, picturesque arch is a short walk from Plaza Mayor, and is surrounded by cute shops and restaurants!
3. Cerro de la Cruz
Walk to the outskirts of town up a short trail to the Cerro de la Cruz lookout point for a great view of the city! If you put “Cerro de la Cruz” into Google Maps, it will take you straight there. This is a great place to get a birds-eye view of the city!
Head to Shakti Shala if you are interested in taking a yoga class while you are in town. They also have a cute bar in the lobby where they serve tea, coffee and kombucha, and healthy snacks (they make these really good, organic granola energy bites, pictured below!) The staff is super friendly and inviting.
Best places to eat in Antigua
Looking for the best restaurants in Antigua? Check out my list of favorites below (in no particular order):
1. Rincon Tipica
This super authentic spot is great for cheap and delicious Guatemalan cuisine. There were lots of locals eating here when we were dining, and you even pass by a lady making the fresh tortillas by hand on your way in to the restaurant. So good!!
2. Dona Luisa
This cafe/bakery is known for their banana bread. I opted to sit in the cafe and sit down to enjoy, but there’s also a to-go bakery attached if you are on a time crunch. A half-loaf costs about $1.70 USD.
This upscale Mexican restaurant is a great spot for dinner and drinks. The food is delicious, the atmosphere is trendy and fun, and they have live music on some nights as well! The restaurant is named after artist Frida Kahlo, and features some of her artwork throughout the restaurant decor.
This is a vegan/vegetarian restaurant is SO good! Even if you’re not a vegetarian, if you’re looking for a fresh, healthy meal- this is the spot. They have great smoothies and delicious falafel!
Best bars in Antigua
Looking to grab a few drinks in Antigua with your friends? Check out my favorite bars in Antigua below (in no particular order)
1. Antigua Brewing Company
This brewery has great beer and a rooftop terrace to soak in the beautiful sunset views! The Fuego IPA was my fave.
2. Cafe Sky
This rooftop bar has great views, cheap beer, and delicious nachos!
3. Adra Hostel
Even if you aren’t staying here, head to their bar in the courtyard for a drink to experience the chill vibes this hostel has to offer. They’ve got couches, hammocks, games, local beer on tap and great people- what’s not to love?
4. Cafe No Se
This dive bar is one of the most popular in Antigua- for good reason! It’s more of a late-night drinking spot that has live bands, great drinks, and lots of character! Inside is dimly lit, and has a tiny room upfront, a main bar in the back, and a “secret” mezcal bar- you enter through a tiny fridge door.
Antigua Part 2: Hike the Pacaya Volcano
Hiking a volcano in Guatemala is definitely a “must-do” on your trip. It is such a cool experience! Antigua is surrounded by volcanoes, and one of the most accessible to hike on a day trip is the Pacaya Volcano. You can only access the hike with a guide, and you can book a tour through your hostel/hotel in Antigua for about $10-15 USD. This may or may not include the entrance ticket to the actual park, which is about $6 USD.
You will likely have an option to pick either an early morning or a later afternoon tour. I recommend choosing the early morning tour, as there is less of a chance of rain in the morning! It was cloudy for us once we got to the top, but then luckily it cleared up and we were able to enjoy the beautiful views!
The bus will pick you up around 6am at your hotel, filled with a bunch of other people also taking the guided hike. The trailhead is about an hour drive from Antigua, and there is a bathroom and a cafe at the entrance. There will be local kids selling walking sticks for 5 Quetzales (about $0.65). I definitely recommend getting one- although the hike is only about 2 miles, it’s steep and moderately challenging!
There will also be horses at the trailhead, which you can ride for 100 Quetzales (about $13 USD) up the trail if you don’t feel up for the steep hike! The funny thing is that, even if everyone in your group declines, a few men with horses will still follow you up the trail and ask you again if they see you struggling! This kind of made me even more motivated to make it to the top.
Note that you don’t actually get to see red, flowing lava on this hike (you used to be able to hike to that section of the volcano back in the day, but they don’t allow it anymore). However, you do get to walk down to the solidified lava, where the rocks are still so hot from the lava flowing underneath that you can roast marshmallows on them! It was such a cool experience.
You’ll return to Antigua around 3:00, leaving plenty of time to relax, go to happy hour, and eat dinner on your last night in town!
Where to next? Check out my post 6 Days in Guatemala for the full itinerary, which takes you to the beautiful Lake Atitlan from Antigua.
Thank you to Adra Hostel for hosting me during my stay. As always, opinions expressed here are entirely my own.