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72 hours in Antigua, Guatemala

72 hours in Antigua, Guatemala
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Antigua is an endlessly fascinating city – flowers tumble out of every crevice, Spanish songs float out of windows, and brightly-coloured walls dilly dally with ornate doors. 

It is bound to seduce you the second you step foot in its cobble stoned alleyways. If you’re planning a trip to Guatemala, you should definitely put Antigua on your itinerary.

Santa Catalina Arch in Antigua Guatemala

Antigua is gorgeous 😀

 

Getting to Antigua

Your flight will land in Guatemala City. We suggest spending a day or two here just to absorb the culture and chaos of the capital of Guatemala.Try not to stay out too late in Guatemala City as it tends to have a reputation for being unsafe.  Spend your time exploring downtown – Parque Central and Catedral Metropolitana are the perfect places to start. Walk around, Sample traditional Maya dishes, and pick a souvenir or two. You could also take a day trip to Tikal’s ruins.

Make sure you stay in a historical B&B or hotel – it is the easiest way to acquaint yourself with Guatemalan culture. We stayed at Posada Belen, which felt more like a museum than a hotel. The historical house is crammed with Guatemalan artifacts and furnishings. Rooms are basic but comfortable. Staff is absolutely lovely. We chose it because it is conveniently located in Zone #1 and it’s easy to walk to most prominent sights from Posada Belen.

Posada Belen Museo Inn Guatemala City

Beautifully restored and decorated – Posada Belen hotel

After spending a day in Guatemala city, it’s time to board a shuttle bus to Antigua. Several buses run between the two cities. Choose a reliable and comfortable service, start early, and you’ll be in Antigua within a couple of hours. We booked our transfers with Atitlan Tours and the cost was USD 12 per person to Antigua. You will fall in love with Antigua the second you set foot in its cobbled alleyways. Here are a few of our favourite things to do in Antigua if you are there for a short city break:

 

  • Stay in a gorgeous boutique hotel

It only makes sense to stay in a distinctive hotel in a city that’s bursting with character. Antigua has dozens of hotels but we chose the quaint Hotel Uxlabil. The affordable hotel is less than a 5 minute walk away from La Merced Cathedral, so it makes for a convenient base to explore the city of Guatemala on foot. Its historical rooms aren’t super luxurious but they ooze character. They are equipped with everything you could possibly need for a comfortable stay including toiletries and wifi. But the reason we chose the hotel is the view from its terrace – the terrace offers a gorgeous view of the colourful roofs of Antigua . You can also see the city’s iconic volcanoes from the terrace of Uxlabil Hotel. Sunset here is a sight to behold. We absolutely loved it and would return in a heart beat!

View from the terrace of Uxlabil Hotel Antigua

View from the terrace of Uxlabil Hotel Antigua

 

bedroom at Uxlabil Eco Hotel Antigua Guatemala

Comfortable room done up nicely 🙂

 

Uxlabil hotel Antigua Guatemala Interiors

Gorgeous interiors at the hotel

 

  • Go for an early morning walk in the colonial city

The air of Antigua is peppered with magic early in the morning. There are no cars or people – just the odd Guatemalan kid rushing to school. The city is absolutely different. Set your alarm for 6 am and just go for a walk in the city. We promise you you’ll love it. While the charm of the early morning walk is to go without a plan, you must visit the clock tower (Santa Catalina Arch) – this will be the only time of the day when you’ll find it sans people 🙂

Sunrise at Santa catalina arch and clock tower in Antigua Guatemala

Savi at Santa Catalina Arch – if you want to get this shot, you HAVE to go super early 🙂

 

Antigua centre with Volcano in the backdrop

Antigua is a photographer’s delight 🙂

 

coloured houses in Antigua Guatemala

Colour all around – LOVE 🙂

 

  • Wrap up the morning walk with breakfast at Don Diego Cafe

We discovered this small café, tucked away in one of Antigua’s colourful alleys, because our hotel’s breakfast was served here every morning. But once we discovered it, we went back to it for meals every day. Portions are big and rates are reasonable. But that’s not why it’s so popular. Don Diego cafe serves great coffee and the yummiest Guatemalan breakfasts. Try Huevo Divorciados (literally ‘Divorced Eggs’) – fried eggs that are accompanied by two different kinds of salsa and the BEST Frijoles Negros (black bean paste) we had in Guatemala. Just writing about it is making me drool!

 

Guatemala breakfast divorced eggs

Divorced eggs – YUM 😀

 

  • Visit Cerro de la Cruz (Cross on the Hill Park) for incredible panoramas

If you want a picture postcard shot of your vacation in Guatemala, then head straight to Cross On Hill Park. A long walk from the city centre and a steep climb will get you to this vantage point. Entrance is free and the views spectacular. Expect to see a bird’s eye view of the historical city of Antigua with a volcano, covered by low-lying clouds, in the distance. Cerro de la Cruz is special – no wonder it is popular both with tourists and the residents of the city.

A word of warning – this area used to be quite unsafe. While there is a lot of police presence in the area now and exploring the park feels safe, we would advise you to avoid it during sunrise and sunset. Visit during daylight hours.

View from Cerro De LA Cruz in Antigua Guatemala

Cerro De La Cruz – amazing views over Antigua

 

  • Shop at Mercado de Artesanias

If you want to buy just a few souvenirs or click photographs of colourful Guatemalan handicrafts, then there’s no better place than Mercado de Artesanias

. The covered market place is well-planned and boasts of dozens of shops. It is a lot less intimidating than larger, open-air marketplaces in Guatemala. Just walk around, bargain for items that tickle your fancy, and take home a colourful Guatemala shawl, necklace, or poncho. This isn’t the place for wholesale shopping but it’s perfect for picking up bits and bobs in a safe environment. 

Mercado De Artesanias in Antigua Guatemala

Hanging out with locals at Mercado De Artisanias 🙂

 

  • Visit La Merced Cathedral

This iconic church is the focal point of life in Antigua. Its pale yellow exteriors make it the perfect subject for photographers. But it’s not just the exterior that’s special. Devote a few hours to exploring the historic interiors as well – it will leave you spellbound.

The area is always bustling with activity but make sure you drop by La Merced in the evening – you will spot several ladies selling home-cooked delicacies just outside La Merced Cathedral. It’s the perfect excuse to sample local food straight from the horse’s mouth.

Iglesia De La Merced in Antigua Guatemala

La Merced in all its glory!

 

  • Ruins of San Jose Cathedral

If historic buildings tickle your fancy, then don’t forget to drop by the ruins of San Jose Cathedral. San Jose Cathedral dates back to the sixteenth century and has undergone several refurbishments. Both the imposing exterior and intricate interiors are impressive but we love the ruins at the South Entrance. These are still used by Mayans for special prayers and provide a rare insight into times gone by.

Horse drawn carriage in front of San Jose Cathedral Antigua Guatemala

The facade of San Jose Cathedral – beautiful

 

The ruins of San Jose Cathedral

The ruins of San Jose Cathedral

 

  • Ride a chicken bus

No trip to Guatemala is complete with setting food in this kitschy and colourful mode of transport. Locals use these heavily decorated buses to travel in Guatemala, so it’s super cheap to buy a ticket and experience a ride. Definitely one for the bucket list, especially if you like bright colours and adventure.

riding a chicken bus in Antigua Guatemala

A ride in one of these – yes please 🙂

 

  • Wrap up your visit with a traditional Guatemalan meal at El Rincon Tipico

If you want to sample traditional Guatemalan fare on a budget, then head straight to El Rincon Tipico. This rustic restaurant is extremely popular because it offers set meals at affordable rates. There isn’t much choice on the menu but Rincon Tipico’s set meals are the perfect excuse to sample local delights such as hand-rolled tortillas, Guatemalan style grilled chicken,  hecho con lenna (wood-fired chicken), and carne adobada (marinated pork).

Beautiful people, amazing food 🙂

We LOVED our stay in Antigua – it’s one of those cities that urges visitors to get lost in its coloured alleyways and local markets. Have you been to this gorgeous city?

 

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18 Comments

  1. I’m always drawn to Cathedrals when I travel, they tell so many stories and they are always so stunning. The pictures you have featured here are just fabulous, they really capture the area. I also adore the workmanship on some of the furniture, no doubt handmade.

    • Hi Lynne, we are so glad you liked the pics we clicked. And yes, Cathedrals the world over, are reservoirs of history and hence have a lot of stories to tell.We enjoy visiting them, wherever we go.

  2. I haven’t been but it looks amazing – so colourful and full of life.

    • Yes Jenny, it indeed is a really amazing place..we sure are glad we could plan a trip there:)

  3. The colours are incredible! It looks like a fascinating holiday.

    • It actually was a really fantastic holiday Keely-might just top our list of travels!!

  4. I have never visited but would really love to! It looks an absolutely breathtakingly beautiful place. Lovely post and fantastic photos. Kaz x

    • You really made our day Ickle Pickle…we love it when we get feedback like this:) And yes you must plan a visit to Guatemala soon!!

  5. What a colorful, beautiful place! Guatemala sure is pretty!

    • Ya sure Adele, Guatemala was really beautiful. We wish we could have spent some more time there-perhaps next time we will.

  6. The place seems to be laden with oodles of old world charm 😍😍😍. Thankyou Bruised Passports for always taking us along with you such beautiful places through your vivid style of writing and such gorgeous pictures. 😊😊😊❤❤❤

    • Thanks so much Avantika, for going through our travel write ups and enjoying them too…you just made my day!

  7. I loved reading your post about this beautiful city! I was fortunate to live and volunteer in Antigua during the summer of 2009, then return with my husband for Semana Santa (Holy Week) in 2014. We look forward to, one day, returning with our son…maybe even to live! Thanks again for triggering so many special memories.

    • Lori we too would just love to go and spend some more time at Antigua- its so beautiful! We are glad our write up brought back fond memories for you 🙂

  8. Stunning photographs, this place looks incredible! So colourful! xo

    • Hi Rachel! Our trip to Guatemala was actually awesome and we loved every bit of it. We explored all over while absorbing the colors and taking pictures of the beautiful city.

  9. Great suggestions guys! Guatemala is a beautiful country full of colour and culture. What a magical experience to sit on a terrace and have a drink watching an active volcano slowly erupt. Latin America´s volcanoes are fascinating…I had an incredible time climbing an active volcano in Chile!

    • Oooh we need to get ourselves to Chile sometime soon – can’t believe we still haven’t visited 🙂

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