Antigua is the epitome of authentic cities in Latin America. Colored houses, unpaved streets with cobblestones, squares where the population gathers and cozy restaurants and bars, and rooftop terraces with views of the volcanoes that surround the city. The town is a fine, tad overrated and touristy, base to get into the Guatemalan spheres. Most women wear traditional clothing, the atmosphere is friendly and from Antigua you can undertake several cool activities. One of them is also the most famous: climbing the Acatanango volcano, where you then have a view of the active volcano Fuego. An experience never to be forgotten. Antigua is also a good place for a Spanish language course, as there are many language schools in Antigua. Allow at least 2 days for Antigua.
Antigua is a fine base for multiple activities. But even outside of those activities, the city is a fine place to be. The city is old, but feels modern with its array of hip restaurants , bars, stores and ho(s)tels. You can easily enjoy yourself in Antigua for 2 to 3 days. There is a very fine bakery in the center, “San Martin” that sells delicious bread and spreads, as well as sweets. Inside you will find both the bakery and a cafe.
In addition to the squares, museums and antique buildings in the center, you can visit the organic farm ‘Caoba Farms Restaurant’ for a tour of their plantation, visit the butterfly garden and have a drink in their restaurant. You can also take yoga or acro classes, among others. Open from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00/18:00 p.m. and prices vary by activity. The butterfly garden is open from 10am – 4pm and costs Q30/€3.75.
From Antigua you can also do some really cool activities with the surrounding volcanoes. Surely the most famous is the 2-day climb of the Acatenango volcano. Once in basecamp, you have a view of the volcano Fuego. An active volcano that has an eruption about every 15 minutes. An insane natural phenomenon and an incredible experience to witness. The hike is not easy. You start at about 2400 meters and climb to the summit at over 3900 meters. Not only is the altitude difficult due to the lack of oxygen, but the trail is also steep and punchy. It is good to take this into account. The hike takes between 4 and 6 hours, depending on the walking pace. Take your time, and it will be easier to sustain. Once at the top, you’ll have forgotten about the climb when you take in the view. From then on, you have time to rest. If you still have energy, you can choose to climb the Fuego. This is a 4-hour hike and will cost you Q200/€25 extra. You can determine this on the spot. Another option is to hike to the summit of Acatenango early in the morning, around 4:00 am, and watch the sunrise from there.
Climbing Acatanango is done with a tour. You leave in the morning around 8:00 am and return the next day around 12:00 pm. It is best to keep the rest of that day free to recover from the whole trip. There are several providers to climb the Acatenango, but the best known and cheapest are Wicho’s & Charlies (€65, all inclusive) and CA Travellers (€55 all inclusive), for both excluding Q50 entrance fee to Acatenango National Park (paid during the hike). The difference between these two providers is mainly in the sleeping accommodations. With Wicho’s & Charlies you sleep in cabins and with CA travellers in tents. With both organizations, there will be a number of guides to accompany and ensure that no one walks alone. You don’t need to bring sleeping gear, just clothes, food and drink (which is included but you carry yourself), some toiletries and possibly camera/drone. Make up your own mind in which organization you seem most comfortable.
Keep in mind that during the hike the temperature is ordinary and you may be hot due to the exertion. Once at the top, the wind can be good and once the sun has set, the temperature drops quickly and it gets really cold. Take this into account with your clothing. You can borrow and rent (thermal) clothing from the various organizations. It is also advisable to rent walking sticks. You will not only need these during the climb for more support, but also during the descent when you can quickly sink into the loose sand. Despite everything, it is an experience never to be forgotten.
Another volcano you can climb is the Papaya volcano. However, this hike is less intense than the Acatenango. At the Papaya, you have the chance to get very close to the lava, even see it glow, and you can even roast marshmallows over the heat. However, this is not always possible so please check in advance. You walk up in 1 – 1.5 hours and the view from the Papaya is also very nice, because you are at an altitude of over 2000 meters. The day tour has 2 options, leave at 6:00 in the morning or at 2:00 in the afternoon for the sunset and takes about 4 hours and costs about €20. There are several organizations offering the tour in Antigua.
Earth Lodge and Hobbitenango
Outside the city of Antigua you will find two other attractions. The Earthlodge is an eco hotel where you can stay overnight with views of the valleys and volcanoes. You can also go there as a day trip and hike through the hills.
Hobbitenango is a derivative of Hobbittown in New – Zealand. You will find not only the small recreated hobbit houses, but also many attractions such as a tarzan swing, various games and restaurants. You can also spend the night in Hobbitenango. The setting is beautiful, but the whole thing is a tad overrated and commercial. You pay Q50/€6.25 per person for admission. This includes transportation from ticket sales to the park entrance. They are pickup trucks that drive back and forth. Full is full, so you may have to wait a while. You get to Hobbitenango by taking the special Hobbitenango bus from downtown, but it only goes a few times a day. Inquiries can be made at the office they have downtown. The Uber is also an option, just be aware that the prices in the app will be higher in reality, as many drivers are not very keen on driving to Hobbitenango for a bargain due to the distance.