The Best Of Antigua, Guatemala. Where To Eat/Drink, Stay and Day Tours
One of the things I learned during my time backpacking is that having no plans is the best plan. That's exactly how my Antigua trip went, completely unplanned and last minute. Getting to Antigua from Oaxaca City was long and a bit rough. How most backpackers travel to Guatemala is by taking a shuttle from San Cristobal which is probably the cheapest way if already in Mexico. After being in Mexico for over two months, I was ready to explore a different country. But, what I didn't know was how touristy Antigua was. The city of Antigua is stunning, but I think it lacks in culture. Not only that, but it was also a bit expensive, compared to other cities in Guatemala. Nevertheless, Antigua is a beautiful city. It's quite small but has great nightlife and two hours away from one of the best lakes in the world, Lake Atitlan. What I liked most about the city is how colonial it is, old buildings that make you feel like it's the 1600's.
**Disclaimer: Although some of this post contains sponsored links, all opinions are my own. **
THINGS TO DO
Churches And Convents
There isn't much to do around the city, but I do recommend exploring some of the abandoned churches and convents. Antigua has over 35 churches, some demolished after the earthquake in the 1770's. Some churches have an entrance fee of about $6 USD, which is a bit of a stretch if traveling on a budget but worth it.
I think we can pretty much agree that Mexico has some of the best markets out there, so does Antigua. If you're looking for traditional Guatemalan clothing, crafts, or accessories, you can find little shops or people selling on the streets ( pictured above). Mercado De Artesanías is the best and biggest craft market in the city. You can find everything from bags, bracelets, dishes and much more. But, the local market is my favorite, this is where you'll find fruits, vegetables, and great market food. I loved coming here for the food and a second-hand store called The Paca. This thrift shop is probably the best and cheapest one I've seen. Brands like Vans, Northface, Nike go for as little as $2 USD.
Where To Eat, Drink & Party
Eat- It's hard for me to say this because I loved Antigua so much, but the street food isn't great. There aren't very many food stands around this city besides the local market and in front of the church. After trying a few of those stands, only the local market had good food. I found that restaurant food in Antigua was a bit expensive, almost the same price as you would pay in the States. Since I was on a budget, I only ate from the market and a restaurant called Rincon Tipico. Breakfast at Rincon costs about $3 while both lunch and dinner cost about $4 in USD. Their menu stays the same, with options of either chicken, beef, pork, or all three. Their meat is either grilled to perfection or stewed with sides including rice, salad and always tortillas. Another place I liked was Mama Joes( pictured above) which has some of the best breakfast in Antigua in breakfast.
Drink/Party- At this point, if you're heading to Antigua, I'm sure you've heard of the " Pool Party." I will briefly explain what the pool party is without giving out too many details. Think over 100 people in a large space with some inside an empty pool partying until 8 am. The pool party may not be for everyone but highly recommend it as an experience. Best of all, all guests staying at The Doozy Koala get in for free. When it comes to nightlife, Lucky Rabbit is probably the place you'll be going to. They play great music have happy hour, pool table and multiple bar areas. Keep in mind that all bars close at around 1 am in Antigua, but you'll always find someone else's house to party for the "after."
Where To Stay
The Doozy Koala is the best hostel in Antigua. Although going through a renovation at the moment, it's fully functional with many beds both private/ shared, a fully stocked bar and organized tours. The Doozy, which you can only book on their Facebook page, is the perfect mixture between a party hostel and the opposite. The bar closes at around 11 pm leaving enough time for those who'd rather be sleeping even though it seems like no one sleeps in Antigua. Unlike other hostels, Doozy has an in-house chef and super cheap drinks with happy hour. Another reason why this hostel is so great is the staff/owners. Everyone is awesome, fun, and willing to go out their way to show you the best of Antigua.
One of the blessings of being in Antigua is how close it is to Lake Atitlan, one of the best lakes in the world. Although you can get to the lake on your own, I also recommend taking a day tour with Guatemalan Adventure. Not only do they have Lake Atitlan tours, but also volcano tours, Tikal and much more. The Lake is not only the deepest lake in Central America, but also considered one of the best and only 2 and a half hours away from Antigua. Guatemala has over 20 different Mayan ethnic groups, with the Tz'utujil and Kaqchikel who call Lake Atitlan home. The tour starts at about 7 am, getting to Panajachel at about 9ish, where you'll get on a boat ride to one of 14 towns around the Lake called Santiago Atitlan. The boat ride is nothing short of amazing, thanks to the three volcanoes surrounding the Lake. While in Santiago riding on a tuk-tuk, you'll see many Mayan people in their traditional clothing. After strolling around Santiago, hop on the boat and head back to Panajachel for lunch, shopping and exploring. The tour then heads back to Antigua/Guatemala City late afternoon giving you more than enough time to see the Lake. Guatemalan Adventure's tour guide Jorge was great, he not only shares stories about the Lake but also about the history of Guatemala and the Mayan culture. Sometimes, most tours seem very rushed and overwhelming, but Guatemalan Adventure gave us more than enough time to thoroughly explore.
I'd like to hear your thoughts on Antigua, did I miss anything? Comment below.