Antigua – a colorful jewel, nested at the foot of an active volcano

Antigua – a colorful jewel, nested at the foot of an active volcano

If you are planning to roam in Central America, there is one place that you’ll see marked as a must go in every travel blog, magazine, guide book or whatever your source of inspiration and information is.

This would be the charming, colonial town of Antigua, situated only 45 km away from the current capital of Guatemala.

If you already have you flight tickets for Guatemala booked, consider skipping the busy and not very friendly capital, and hit the road to Antigua, where you’ll find everything a traveler could wish for – open markets, indigenous culture, magnificent colonial architecture, cobbled streets, hip bars and restaurants (also full of places for local, which are less pricey), street musicians and spontaneous dancing fiestas on the square and all that is located in the foot of not one, but three volcanoes – Agua, Acatenango and Volcan de Fuego.

The city was founded in the 16th Century by the conquistadors and served as a capital city – its whole name is actually Antigua Guatemala, which translated from Spanish means the Old Guatemala. The capital had to be transferred 45 km away to Guatemala City for a couple of reasons – several earthquakes through the centuries almost destroyed the whole city, volcano eruptions are constant danger and the valley, where the city is located is limiting its expansion.

Anyhow currently Antigua is flourishing, generously offering its charms and attracting visitors from all over the world. The city is so vibrant and full of life that you can’t be easily bored if you decide to dedicate it even a week of your precious vacation. Here are our suggestions for a time well spent in this colorful, dreamy town:

1. Give yourself enough time to explorer architecture and history – as mentioned, the city was founded by the Spanish conquistadors, and due to that fact and nevertheless the devastating earthquakes you can still admire its original Baroque splendor – there is a risk of over-churching, but we recommend to check Antigua Cathedral (the oldest, partially preserved cathedral), La Merced Church (famous with its procession during the Holy Week, or in Spanish La Semana Santa), San Francisco Church, Santo Domingo Church and the Capuchinas Ruins (the restored ruins of a convent where nuns lived in extremely modest conditions)

2. Climb to Cerro de la Cruz – this is definitely the best viewpoint towards Antigua with the volcanoes in the background (on a sunny day). It’s a 30 minutes pleasant walk from the center to the top and from here it’s visible how the city is planned and constructed. All the roads are prolonging from north to south and from east to west – same way roman towns were build. There is much written about Cerro de la Cruz to be a not so safe spot, but this information is outdated and now it’s only advisable for tourist to visit the place during day time.

3. Explorer the markets – the largest market is called El Mercado, situated in the northern part of the city. Here you can find anything – from local crafts, textiles, hand crafted souvenirs to second hand clothes and all kind of goods known to the European and American taste.

4. Visit the nearby fincas – Guatemala is known for the best quality coffee in the region. There are various options for daytrips outside of the city to some of the farms where coffee is grown which offer a glimpse to the whole process of coffee production.

These are only a couple of recommendations for a time well spent in Antigua, Guatemala. This city has so much more to offer that we suggest you to put it on your “places to visit in 2019” list right away.

The Lure of Central America

Best of Bulgaria Roundtrip 650 , 8 Days

Best of Bulgaria Roundtrip

Situated on the Balkan Peninsula, Bulgaria is still one of the least explored countries in Europe....
Caucasus Explorer - Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan 1180 , 11 Days

Caucasus Explorer - Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan

The Caucasus - the region where Europe meets Asia, where dramatic nature landscapes meet...
Rodopi Cycling (Bulgaria) 660 , 8 Days

Rodopi Cycling (Bulgaria)

Join us on this amazing cycling trip in the heart of the mystic Rhodope Mountains - home of the...

View all» What people say about us

Gunnar Svensson

Tour: Caucasus Explorer
Interesting trip in a different part of the world. with a possibility to learn a lot. Visit to spectacular churches and monastries, museums, wine producers, nature and beautiful cities. This tour is recommended.


Tour: Saudi Arabia
Fantastic trip with Penguin Travel! Loved all the sights we got to see in Saudi Arabia. Abdulaziz and Lyuben were very helpful, kind, and knowledgeable. Would highly recommend for solo and group travelers, especially those wanting an "off the beaten path" experience. Can't wait to travel with Penguin again!

Milosh Kitchovitch

Tour: Balkan Kaleidoscope
Amazing tour! A great overview of eight Balkan countries with the perfect balance of organized activities and free time. Our guide Anton was the best - organized, calm and has great sense of humor. I highly recommend it. This was my first tour with Penguin and I will definitely be booking more tours with Penguin.

View all»


10.12.2022 15:21

Saudi Arabia - the birthplace of Islam (tips for visiting the country)

It took really long for Saudi Arabia to decide to open for tourists, but now it is finally a fact and Penguin Travel immediately put the destination on its belt. The Kingdom – known as the spiritual birthplace of Islam, now has a new approach to attract visitors and that's why the visa requirements are changed. The changes are so big, compared to the past that they look almost like a...

06.08.2021 17:00

7 Things to do in South Sudan

It’s the newest country in the world and one that a lot of people haven’t even heard of. Those who have, usually associate it with the military conflict that has been tearing up the region for decades. But behind all of that, lies a country of ancient cultural rituals, a myriad of colorful local tribes and raw natural beauty. It is still the most challenging destinations for the...

05.08.2021 08:55

The Little - Known Pyramids of Sudan

Can you name the country with the most pyramids in the world? Nope, it’s not Egypt. The country which holds this record with more than 200 pyramids is actually Egypt’s southern neighbor – Sudan. Though not as big as the Egyptian ones, they are just as impressive and have just as intriguing history, dating back to 8th century BC, to the kingdom of Kush. Since the Sudanese...

01.10.2020 11:45

11 Interesting Facts about Rwanda

  Rwanda is a small African country, whose name is often mostly associated with the horrific genocide that happened here in 1994. It was one of the most tragic events in the history not only of Rwanda, but the world. However, it was also a turning point in the country's history. It has since then embarked on a new path of social, economic and ecological development and deserves to be known...