After a quick flight on Volaris Airlines (highly recommend for Central American travel. Very nice airline and reasonable compared to other flights I saw) I arrived in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Now, most people try to avoid staying in Guatemala City because it is known to be somewhat dangerous. While this is true because there are pockets of the city that are very dangerous, as a whole if you stay in the safe areas and avoid the sketchy ones you will be quite fine. Guatemala City has been improving more and more and also has many up-and-coming restaurants, galleries, etc.
Guatemala City aside, I went directly to Antigua, which is a simple 1 hour ride from the airport. There are shuttles that you can arrange beforehand or you can pick one up at the airport. The choice is yours but since during this section of the trip I was traveling solo I decided to grab one at the airport. The danger with this is that you have to wait until your shuttle is full (only 3 people in the car usually) but sometimes that can take some time. However, mine left immediately after I booked it at the airport!
So Antigua is really a lovely little town! My shuttle dropped me off right at my hotel, which was Hotel Candelaria. It is the most charming and historic hotel that I stayed in in Guatemala without a doubt! It is from centuries ago, I think, with several modern day updates to make it a mixture of a boutique hotel but still very very historic!
As you can see, their rooftop garden and courtyard areas are gorgeous! Plus, the amenities include a home cooked breakfast each morning and tour services around the city and surrounding areas. Not to mention this hotel’s proximity to basically all of the main sites in Antigua!
The main square is basically the heart and soul of this city, and no matter what time it is their is bustling activity in the form of locals, street vendors, or tourists!
Another main attraction is this bright yellow church with a gorgeous facade! This is one of the many churches throughout the city, but I think that it has to be my favorite! Plus, this photo is the view from the rooftop of my hotel, so have to say I love Hotel Candelaria for that reason too.
Throughout my time in Antigua I walked around and tried to see as much of the city as possible. You have tons of options for things to do both in the city, as well as outside. There are several tours you can take around Antigua, one of which includes hiking and camping out on a volcano. For me, I didn’t want to camp and go to another volcano since I more or less just came from one, but people do rave about this tour! I simply wanted to enjoy the city of Antigua and the extent to which its history is integrated into the city with historic structures like the one pictured above scattered all around the city.
Another thing I love about the city is how colorful it is! So many of the buildings have bright hues, like these, and it makes it seem like a new discovery every time you find a colorful new building.
I also fell in love with Antigua because of the tremendous coffee scene that is has! We are all aware that Guatemalan coffee is some of the best in the world and because of its colonial past the city is also home to wonderful bakeries and patisseries! I sampled so many of these over the days, as well as the wonderful food scene around Antigua.
This city also comes alive at night time! It is shockingly a pretty big party hub. Plus, it is incredibly safe! In fact, every Saturday once the bars close at 1 am the afterparty is actually held at an abandoned swimming pool that lasts until 5 am or so. So yes this sounds moderately sketchy. But I can guarantee that it is 100% safe! It is a very established party with legitimate DJ’s, a bar that you can use credit cards at, and designated transportation to get there.
Now for my last favorite thing about Antigua, there are more than I’ve listed in this post but this is the last I’ll discuss in depth.
The markets there are really wonderful! There is another area of Guatemala called Chichicastenango that has the biggest market in the country. It is only a few hours from Antigua, however, I chose not to go because really the only thing to do there is go to the market. And most of the things you’d find there you are able to find in Antigua. The markets in Antigua aren’t nearly as busy but have pretty much everything you want! There are different areas for different types of products, such as fruits and foods.
Then you can make your way to the areas that sell clothes and souvenirs once you’ve had some delicious street food and snacks!
I think that this is a great place to find souvenirs for everyone on your list! They have everything from clothes to trinkets, and I was actually able to find everything that I needed to bring back home! My favorite finds were actually two Guatemalan shirts that are super fashionable and very in style right now!
Now, much like every market you have to make sure that you haggle while you’re there. Haggling isn’t as much of a thing here as it is in Asia but it is still perfectly acceptable. I actually found that they up charge tourists much more here off the bat than they do in Asia. So you need to make sure that you at least make 1 or 2 counter offers. For example, the vendors tried to charge me 140 Quetzals for 1 shirt. That’s about $20, which is very much an American price. I haggled with them and got both shirts I ended up buying for 140 Quetzals total.
So those are some of the things I loved about Antigua. But beyond what I talked about there is just such a good feeling I had when I was in Antigua! The city is relaxed but not boring, beautiful but still bustling, and the people are all friendly, helpful, and warm! I completely understand how people can end up staying here for months because of how relaxing it is! This is a must visit for me if you’re in Guatemala, and coming to Antigua has the added bonus of it being relatively easy to get to your next destination since it is a major travel hub.