The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.

Saint Augustine


Antigua as a travel destination

After my two weeks in San Pedro La Laguna, in the amazingly beautiful landscape of Lake Atitlán, I took a shuttle bus to Antigua, the other destination I wanted to check out in Guatemala. Of course, there are many more spots than only San Pedro with the Lake Atitlán and Antigua. I could at least spend another 1-2 weeks just to check out the ruins of Tikal next to Flores and the beaches (which are known to offer great surfing opportunities).

However, the día de los muertos is a very big thing across Central America, and I wanted to check out the big Kite Festival happening on November 1st close to Antigua. This festival deserves its own article.

Shuttle Buses

Antigua seems to be the tourist-hub within Guatemala, as there are many shuttles to the airport of Guatemala City (approx. 1 hr drive). All tourists I talked to stop over in Antigua, either only for Antigua or to get to other places within Guatemala. Antigua offers the widest range of shuttle services across the country, the Airport only provides a shuttle service to Antigua or Guatemala City.

When you consider a shuttle service, don’t expect any type of “primera clase” bus like in Mexico or tourist buses in central Europa. I was lucky to have caught a “big bus” which is a little more comfortable. Well, the tiny buses are rather vans with a few seats in them, and the luggage might be fixed on the roof of the car (similar to Chicken-busses). I would be worried that stuff falls off and gets lost… However, in the “big bus”, our luggage was loaded behind the rear seats. This bus could transport approx. 15 people.

Bumpy Roads

Streets in Guatemala have many speed bumps, so any journey is like a speed-break-speed journey. Moreover, there don’t seem to be any traffic lights. On busy crossings, you might find a police officer regulating the traffic. Otherwise, as in most of the cases, the cars just organize themselves. Apparently, there don’t seem to be any rules like “right has right-of-way”.

I was wondering why there are so many SUVs in and around Antigua. However, considering the “quality” of streets, I’d prefer driving an SUV myself. No matter in which vehicle you sit, it’s really bumpy! While walking around, I often caught those little remarks on the side-walks regarding “Antigua without borders” and a wheelchair. Well, it might be possible to follow the sidewalk next to the current block. However, you need to cross the bumpy road after each block, so lucky you if your wheelchair can handle that.


Where to stay

Antigua is quite touristy, as such, there are plenty of hostels and hotels available. You might find the widest range of comments regarding “hostel vibes”, “traffic”, “cleanliness” etc. I would like to point out that no matter where you go, you are likely to hear the “noise” from the streets. Within the center of Antigua, where the huge majority of hostels and hotels are located, the streets are quite busy.


I recommend picking a hostel or hotel close to the Central Park of Antigua, especially if you consider eating out for dinner or checking out bars. The center is highly frequented by people, so it is less likely to be robbed etc. during dark hours. Keep in mind that the sun sets quite early, before 7pm, so any dinner most likely includes “dark hours”.

I stayed in Tropicana Hostel, a party hostel for backpackers which also offers plenty of tours and activities. This hostel contains an own rooftop-bar, so don’t expect it to be very silent during the night. However, it’s located conveniently close to the Central Park and has a great hostel vibe. You may get in touch with plenty of other travelers sharing their experiences and hanging out with you. I’d like to highlight that you may also participate in tours or activities from Tropicana if you don’t stay at that hostel.


Sights in Antigua

There are some famous sights of Antigua which are well-known (or sometimes also photo-shopped and combined in ways which don’t exist in real life across social media). It’s quite easy to orientate within Antigua as the streets are structured similarly to Washington D.C., just numbers counting from the center including the cardinal direction.

  • Parque Central (Plaza Mayor)
  • El Arco de Santa Catalina
  • Calle del Arco
  • Royal Palace of the Captains General
  • San José Cathedral
  • Convento Santa Clara
  • Union Tank
  • Iglesia de la Merced
  • Convento Capuchinas

There are different museums to check out. However, the entrance fees differ enormously between locals (proof by ID card) and tourists, they might charge tourists even 10 times as much as locals. I didn’t get any discounts even with my Disability Card, so I rather skipped the museums. A little more would have been acceptable to me, however, not as much of a difference (since I am not really a museum-person anyway).

If you would like to enter a church, keep in mind that they expect knees and shoulders covered and currently, masks are mandatory as well. There are plenty of churches all around Antigua, and if you would like to check out a church as a tourist, you need to wait until no mass is celebrated. I figured that there are not many time slots per church which are not blocked through masses, so it’s rather difficult to plan.

Places to eat out

Check out the restaurants for the combos they offer. I found some surprisingly good and still affordable restaurants:

  • La Fonda de la Calle Real
  • San Martín
  • Café Boheme (good brekkie, affordable, plugs, Wi-Fi, view on the volcanoes!)

You might also enjoy: