when I’ve been: briefly in march 2012 & the entire month of july 2021

Antigua, Guatemala is a small city and UNESCO Heritage Site a little over an hour outside Guatemala City. It’s known for it’s colorful buildings and quaint (but not fun to walk on) cobblestone streets, and is a great place to get outdoors, learn about Mayan culture, and take Spanish lessons. I was able to live there during my Remote Year trip for the entire month of July 2021, and for me it was a month of simultaneous relaxation and growth. Read on for my overview! 

where to stay 

It’s a tiny city—you can walk from one end to the other in like a half hour—so find an Airbnb or hotel that works for you. The Santa Catalina Arch and Parque Central are considered central points in the city, if that’s important to you. 

We stayed in this Airbnb, named “Casa de las Ollas” AKA “House of the Pots,” while we were there and it was a dream. It’s on the edge of town, but since it’s such a small place, it truly didn’t matter. Good Hotel was nearby + also looked adorable. 

top 3 things to do

Hike Volcan Acatenango 

My friend and I did the overnight trip up Acatenango and it was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve ever done. We went through Wicho & Charlie’s, which I would recommend because they give you all necessary gear (hiking backpack, Nalgene water bottles, layers, globes, hats, etc.) and you sleep in weatherproof huts instead of tents (they’re still freezing cold, but it’s not a tent, so there’s that). 

Cerveceria 14

Not nearly as difficult as hiking a volcano is taking a 15 minute Uber to this brewery in Ciudad Vieja, one town over. This is a sprawling brewery with lots of seating, green space, food options, and a gorgeous view of the highly active Volcan de Fuego. 

ATV tour to Hobbitenango 

An ATV tour is a fun way to see some of the sites all around Antigua. This one visited Hobbitenango, an eco-friendly village with “several hobbit-style homes and restaurants, all styled after our favorite fantasy genres and meant to inspire playfulness and wonder in adults and children alike.” We also ATVed over to Earth Lodge for a peaceful lunch, and to the famous Cerra de la Cruz for an amazing view of Antigua. 

if you’re settling in for a while…

Take Spanish classes at La Union 

Fun fact—one thing Antigua is known for is its Spanish schools. Guatemalan Spanish is known to be spoken a bit slower than some other dialects and is easier for beginners to understand, and the price of classes is very affordable for visitors. I started taking classes at La Union and was able to continue them via Zoom when I left. I still take classes there online to this day! 

Rent an ATV to get around town

I might’ve crashed my moped the first time I drove it but that doesn’t mean you will! Hahah but in all seriousness, if I had to do it again I would’ve rented an ATV, which is much easier to drive and a really easy way to get around. Most apartments and hotels have areas to park them, and there’s lots of street parking. While Ubers exist, the wait times can be long and for such a small city, sometimes it’s easier to just go by foot or hop on an ATV. 

Hang at Aqua by the pool 

This isn’t a very “local” activity but then again, almost nothing within the city limits of Antigua is. Aqua is a pool, restaurant, and bar owned by a guy from the States and when we were living there, it became one of our go-to places to just relax. You can sit by the pool (and order food/drinks) for no additional charge, but if you get in the pool it’s about $13 USD. My friend got a drink made and named after her there—make sure you order the Dulce Pecado! 

what to eat 

Caoba FarmsThis is a farm and restaurant at the southern tip of the town, about a 20 minute walk from the center. They cook with the food that they grow right there, and you’re able to walk around the grounds to take it all in. Highly recommend you go for brunch!

Hector’s Bistro → Good Italian in a nice outdoor courtyard. Sometimes they have live music, too. 

Frida’s → Good Mexican food right near the famous arch. 

Tartines → Delicious French food with an awesome view of the active volcano from their roof terrace. Make sure you make a reservation. 

Saul → This is a Guatemalan chain that I would call both a café and a restaurant. It has breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, and was right near our Airbnb so we were here all the time. It had good Wifi, too, so it became one of my go-to “office” spaces. 

Artista de Café → Cutest café with great coffee. They only have a few food options but they’re good! They also have Wifi. Make sure you get there early, it gets busy with people working later in the day. 

El Bosque → A hidden gem of a beer garden with a firepit, lots of seating, and food trucks. 

things to know

Water → Don’t drink the tap water. A lot of restaurants do have water filters, and will give you water with your meal for no cost. Just ask for “agua filtrada.”

Ubers → Exist and are cheap, however can take a bit of time to get because traffic moves slow and the streets are all cobblestones. 

Safety → Guatemala has a reputation for being unsafe, but Antigua is incredibly safe, particularly due to the fact that it’s almost all tourists, and it’s a protected UNESCO site. Take your normal precautions that you would anywhere else. 

Money → Credit cards are widely accepted. ATMs are a little hard to find; the main reliable one is on the north side of Parque Central. I always had some cash on me, but not much. 

Tipping → 10% is standard if the service is good. You’ll have to tell them to add it before they swipe your card, or you can leave cash. 

Rain → Always have an umbrella on you. Particularly during the rainy season.

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