5 alternative ways to see Antigua, Guatemala

Posted by on Dec 27, 2015 in Central America, Guatemala | 5 Comments

woman in street

Probably Guatemala’s most famous destination, thousands of travellers flock to the colonial city each year to marvel at the delightful architecture and stunning backdrops. Antigua is beautiful, there’s no doubt about it. But once you’ve had a walk around and have revelled in the charming old buildings and determined which of the overlooking volcanoes is Fuego, Agua and Acatenango, you might be searching for other ways to see the city. Here’s my round up of the best:

  1. Climb up the steps to Cerro de la Cruz

see antigua

Climb up 302 steps to Cerro de la Cruz (or find a tuk tuk that will take you up the incline) and catch an astounding view of the sprawling city below and the volcano straight ahead. And best of all, it doesn’t cost a dime.

2. Take a trip to the local market

If you’re not visiting any of the other highland towns of Guatemala, Antigua’s street market is a must see. It boasts every kind of Central American fruit and vegetables you could think of, at rock bottom prices. The perfect place to find some breakfast!

3. Whizz around the city on a tuk tuk

An Antiguan tuk tuk can take you from the markets, to the parque central, to the steps leading up to Cerro de la Cruz… and anywhere else! Riding in a tuk tuk gives you a unique chance to explore the city: faster than walking and without the responsibility of working out where you are, you can relax (as much as possible in one of these crazy vehicles) and get your bearings of the city.

4. Visit Earth Lodge

See Antigua from the clouds! Earth Lodge is an avocado farm located about 3.5 miles north of Antigua- and 6000 feet above sea level. The lodge focuses on socialising with other travellers and delicious food, and sometimes have live music and BBQs. It’s a great place to gaze down over Antigua and the surrounding areas, whilst snugly located on one of the hilltops.

5. Hike to the top of Acatenango

see antigua

This one is about an hour away from Antigua, but you get the opportunity to see Antigua’s twinkling lights during the night and make out the cluster of buildings that belong to the city in the day. On a clear day, you can even see the whole way to Lake Atitlan! During the 24 hour trip, you hike up to a base camp and stay there overnight, watching Volcan Fuego erupt lava opposite. Then you have the chance to trek to the summit of Acatenango for sunrise. You can read about my experience hiking up it here.

While Antigua is renowned for its colonial grandeur, there are plenty of other ways to see it once you’ve strolled the cobbled streets. With buses leaving from Guatemala City and shuttles direct from the airport, and easy links to Lake Atitlan and further afield, Antigua should definitely be on any Guatemalan itinerary.

Where next? Head south to Honduras (where my footsteps haven’t reached yet… but one day they will!) and Nicaragua or north to Semuc Champey, Tikal and Belize. For some inspiration, check out my ultimate guide to Nicaragua and my Caye Caulker guide!

5 Comments

  1. judy a
    January 14, 2016

    my daughter is 16. i want her to go solo and study spanish with other tees in a supervised manor. i found a program in xzela for three weeks at 1750. expensibe but it is all inclusive with weekend trips etc.. supervised.
    I found a school in pana at the lake that says it takes teens but I dont know if its supervised enough.
    any advise?
    thanx
    judy

  2. Claire
    January 15, 2016

    Hi Judy, I would really advise your daughter to go, it’s an unforgettable experience and learning it at a slightly younger age will mean that she’ll pick it up much quicker! It depends on your daughter really, Xela is safe as any other place if you use your common sense but I can understand you worrying if she is only 16. I personally really didn’t like Pana, and felt much safer in Xela, but that might just be the experience I had! Hope that helps a little!
    Claire

  3. Judy
    January 15, 2016

    I found a teen program thru a high school in Minnesota that organizing a teen excursion.
    They work wirh case xela
    it is all inclusive chaperoned three weeks for 1750
    I realize it’s more then the school cost but it includes supervised activities,
    Weekend excursions and it is all teens in a group.
    She studies 4 hours a day and does activities afterwards with the kids
    I also liked San Pedro at the lake . So pretty there
    She could study there but it’s not a teen program.
    So
    I thought she could go on go that trip for three weeks..
    I could go to Guatemala and half way thru her time there I could start to travel with my fiancé to Tikal and the lake and then hook up with my daughter in Antigua when her trip is over. Then the three of us could hang in Antigua a few days and then go to the lake a few days.
    Your thoughts
    Judy a

  4. Claire
    January 21, 2016

    Hi Judy,

    Yeah that sounds like a really good idea! 4 hours is more than enough time a day to be learning Spanish, I found it really exhausting as the classes are all one on one and it’s very intense. As it’s a chaperoned teen program it doesn’t seem too bad a cost, and she won’t need much spending money as it’s very cheap in Guatemala (Xela in particular is as it’s not very touristy).

    Your trip sounds like it would be a lot of fun too, I am still yet to go to Tikal but i’ve heard great things and Lake Atitlan is one of the most beautiful places i’ve ever been to. I personally am glad I didn’t go to school there though, it’s absolutely stunning but I think i’d get a bit restless as there’s not a huge amount to do there after a week or so. And Antigua is very beautiful too, make sure you stroll up to Cerro de la Cruz for a great view of the city!

    If you’re keen hikers, I really recommend climbing Acatenango volcano. We hiked up it one day, camped on the side and finished the trek the next morning before the sun came up, so watched the sunrise from the summit. It was a once in a lifetime experience and probably the best thing I did in Guatemala.

    Also, transportation around Xela, Lake Atitlan and Antigua is fairly easy. There’s lots of shuttles which are fast and safe, or if you’re feeling more daring there’s chicken buses – which are great fun, a good way to meet locals and very cheap! I’ve written posts about them before on the blog or if you have any questions just drop me a message!

    Let me know if there’s anything else I can help with!

  5. Laura @ Grassroots Nomad
    March 11, 2016

    Oooh I’ve been looking at Earth Lodge – I will have to contact them 😀

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