Antigua is the former capital of Guatemala. Surrounded by active volcanoes and prone to earthquakes, it almost got completly destroyed several times and the capital was shifted 100 km away to Guatemala city.
How to get there
You can easily book transport from an agency in Atitlan on a mini van. The ride costs 7 dollars and lasts 3 hours.
How to move around
The center of Antigua is not very big and you can easily move on foot.
We stayed 2 nights in a hostel called San Carlos. This hostel was formelly known as black cat, just changed hands and was completely refurbished. The dorms were brand new and the matresses very comfortable. We took bunk beds in 12 a person dorm for 10 dollars each. There are very few lockers and we were lucky the dorm was almost empty. The hostel has no breakfast included and no kitchen. It is however very charming and the owner has a lot of plans on how to make it better. If we had stayed longer we would probably have looked for another hostel with a kitchen as food in Antigua is expensive. “El Hostel” seems to be another good option.
Our rating for this hostel is 4/5.
Antigua has a lot of very good restaurants. They are however a bit expensive and, with our limited budget could not try them. Here are some cheap options:
La canche: from the outside it looks like a little store. There is however a small passage in the back that leads to another room with tables. You will find there an old lady that will give you a choice of two typical Guatemalan dishes. It is quite basic but authentic. Plus, at 2 and a half dollars for a meal and drink, it is excellent value.
El faro: this restaurant is in front of the hostel and will make decent tacos for a dollar and a half (for 3) or a gigantic burrito for 3 and a half. They also make a good breakfast.
The bagel shop: this restaurant has expensive bagels at 5 dollars but they show a movie everyday at 6:30.
The town has a lot to offer. Unfortunately, we felt that most activities were too expensive for our budget. Here are a few options that were free or worth it.
The town: the center is very charming and walking around town makes for a nice day. The main plaza will certainly have something going on. While we were there, there was a climbing competition.
Santo Domingo: this very beautiful and expensive hotel is constructed on ruins. Although you may break the bank if you stay the night, visiting it is free and very pleasant.
volcanoes: one of the main activities you can do in Antigua is climbing volcanoes.
Fuego is the active one you see from the city with smoke coming out of it. Its ascent is challenging and feasability will depend on its level of activity.
Acatenango, peaks at almost 4000 m and overlooks fuego. Its ascent is hard and can be done in one or two days for about 70 to 100 dollars. It is however the most rewarding on a clear night as you may see lava bursting out of Fuego from its summit.
Aqua is the huge volcano towering Antigua. Unfortunately, as it was very cloudy while we were there, we did not have the chance to view it fully.
Pacaya is the easiest way to experience an active volcano and the tour you will mostly find. This cannot be seen from the city as it is an hour and a half away. It costs 11 dollars and is only an hour and a half climb to the top. Unfortunately, it was raining so much when our tour was booked that flooding blocked the road and we never reached it.
The crowd is mixed in Antigua. During the weekend, you get a lot of people that come from Guatemala city to party or relax, you also get a lot of mainstream tourism and backpackers.
Antigua is an awesome town and has a lot to offer if on a regular budget. If you are however on a tight budget, it may be too expensive to enjoy for more than a couple of days.