[ what i loved ]
Antigua, Guatemala really is an incredible place, filled with culture, history, religion, and so much color! When I had the opportunity to visit Antigua, I was impressed by the way this historic city had found a way to balance both ex-pat living, luxury, and tradition...something which I really value when traveling.
Nothing bothers me more than visiting what once was an incredibly traditional location, only to find that it has been overrun with ex-pats and luxury resorts to the point where the original culture is barely visible. However, I did not find this to be the case at all throughout any of my Guatemala travels.
With Guatemala being a very religious and spiritual country, I found the city to be dedicated towards maintaining cultural traditions. While it absolutely is a tourist destination, and there are plenty of luxury resorts to stay at, immediately when stepping outside your door you are hit with the authentic nature of this place, its people, and its culture...and they are wonderful!
[ must see experiences ]
One of the first things we did in Antigua was actually drive up to Cerro de la Cruz, from here you can see a beautiful vista of Guatemala as well as a large cross that reminds you of this cities Christian routes. It doesn't take long to get to and in my opinion the view really can't be beat. We also decided to take a ride slightly outside of the Antigua where we wanted to visit an authentic organic coffee plantation.
Now as some of you may know, I wasn't really a coffee drinker before I went to Guatemala and then everything changed! Guys I cannot begin to explain how incredible the coffee is. Since coffee is one of Guatemala's biggest crops, I knew that it was a pretty great place to begin my road to coffee drinking, and I boy was I right. The coffee in Guatemala has this almost mocha flavor to it, and honestly if you go you have to make sure to visit this incredible family owned coffee plantation, and enjoy a cup of this magic goodness.
Because the coffee plantation is organic, when you tour the plantation you also get to see some absolutely beautiful gardens, and plants, as well as understand the whole process that goes into growing and producing coffee, not to mention this family is absolutely amazing and are all around fun to hang out with for a few hours.
After touring the coffee plantation, we also went to tour a macadamia nut farm. Once again this farm blew me away, and the nut butter was incredible (I was heart broken when the nut butter I purchased got taken at customs, be careful how you pack!). Here we were able to see once again the process that goes into making macadamia butter, all the ways it is used, and how it supports the family who owns the farm. I also was able to get an incredible facial here where they used organic macadamia oil right from the farm!
[ where to stay ]
- Stay at the Porta Hotel ($200 per night) if you are looking to splurge a little bit this hotel is absolutely stunning, and the staff were so kind and helpful. I also appreciated that they would speak either English or Spanish with me. I only came to this hotel to visit friends and relax by the pool for the day, while staying in Antigua.
- You can also use Airbnb to book housing, which in my opinion was the most affordable way to enjoy our time spent in the city.
[ where to eat ]
- Eat at the Rainbow Cafe: Words do not express how much I enjoyed this restaurant, everything was vegan/vegetarian/gluten free friendly. The prices were also very affordable and the food was authentic and delicious!
- Epicure Restaurant: Lovely decor, with a European style cuisine, offering many gluten free options.
- Traditional Tiendas: Never underestimate how incredible the authentic homemade tortillas can be from a small, hole in the wall tienda. By the end of my time spent in Guatemala I could hear the patting of tortilla making from a mile away and loved every delicious bite.
[ fun activities ]
- Walk around the entire city! Antigua is incredibly walkable and tourist friendly, so just take a day/half-a-day to walk around all the old monuments, buildings, coffee shops, stores, and be sure to purchase some homemade tortilla at a local tienda.
- Hike Pacaya Volcano! There are so many tour companies that you will find walking around Antigua, so make sure to walk around and find the tour that best fits your needs. We bought our tickets which included transportation to the volcano, as well as a tour guide. We were with a group of maybe 10 other people. Trust me when I say that it is a pretty tough hike, I wouldn't try it if you have never hiked before or aren't in decent shape. Make sure to wear good shoes and bring a light jacket, water, and a snack.
- Visit the Choco Museo: This place was so much to hang out it, taste some chocolate, and drink some chocolate tea. You can also take a chocolate making class if you would like, but they only offer it a few days/times of the week so make sure to sign up ahead of time.
[ how to make the most of your trip ]
Most of all I truly recommend trying to learn as much Spanish as you can before traveling in Guatemala, many people do not speak English, and even if they do you will have a better experience if you are able to communicate somewhat in Spanish.
With that said, it is not a necessity to speak Spanish in order to have an enjoyable experience in Antigua.