This vibrant colonial town with it’s cobbled streets, churches, busy plazas and three volcanoes within it’s vicinity – is one of Guatemala’s most charming cities. On the outskirts of the city lies beautiful village towns and coffee and macadamia plantations that are worth exploring.
After an activity packed stay at Rio Dulce, we were looking forward to see what activities there are in Antigua. The options don’t disappoint with a multitude of things to do, your’e only wish is more time!
One of the first activities was a cycling tour with a local tour company. I was so pleased they offered mountain bikes with added suspension – requirement for the bumpy cobbled streets. Following our guide we rode out of town, the first stop was a small chocolate firm.
The sweet aroma circulated around the kitchen, we couldn’t wait to sample some of their products with interesting flavours; from chilli, coconut to rice. However, more on chocolate later…
We cycled through different towns, and went through lively streets filled with markets and shops, seeing locals going about their daily lives.
We visited a Macadamia farm, aptly named Valhalla from Norse mythology. The owner, Lorenzo moved from the States in the 1970s who later meet his wife – together they bought a plot of land in Guatemala and grew Macadamia. The green fruit which contain the valuable nut can be seen all over the grounds. Lorenzo showed us the sorting harvesting and sorting process, he’s very eco minded using sustainable and green methods where possible.
Once they are sorted, they’re taking off site for various uses – the oils can be extracted for beauty and personal cleaning products and to foods where they are roasted or added with chocolate. Valhalla has a restaurant which I recommend if you visit here, skip straight to desert page of the menu and order the Macadamia pancakes!
One of the most fun acitivities I did in Antigua was the Chocolate workshop at the ChocoMuseo, where we made our own chocolates. After seeing some of the process from our cycling tour we were edger to make our own and understand the process further.
We have the Mayans to thank for introducing us to chocolate – in the early days chocolate was consumed as an energising drink, exclusively drunk by the elite. In it’s heyday, cocoa beans were used as currency to trade for goods.
Our workshop leader spoke English and she explained the whole process and origins of chocolates. From cocoa to bar – different moulds to choose from, I created Toblerone style chocolates sprinkled with different flavours to make it stand out more.
The final evening in Antigua ended with a group Salsa class…
In need of a caffeine hit? Other group members went to a coffee plantation, organised by local tour companies. Feeling brave and adventurous? Conquer one of the country’s most difficult volcano hike Acatenango Volcano, 3976m in height. A couple of our group members did an overnight hike to reach the top, just in time for this beautiful sunrise view! Thanks to Max for sharing his incredible photos.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at La Quinta Santa Lucia Hotel, conveniently located and a short walk to the main sights, it’s opposite the main market and bus station. For more accommodation, check out this list from Booking.com (offered at the best rates – click here).
WHERE TO EAT
Antigua is a city geared towards tourism and there are endless resturants, cafes and bars. Inadvertently, American fast food chains are slowly making their way here. For budget eats, try the market and lookout for resturants filled with locals than tourists. If the chocolate (and Macadamia pancakes) isn’t enough to satisfy your sweet tooth – ice cream parlours are dotted around town the most notably a chain of Sarita Ice Cream stores – offering tantalising flavours at very cheap prices.
- Many of the activities mentioned can be done independently and more cheaply without a tour company e.g. the Macadamia farm – simply catch a chicken bus from the central bus station and ask for ‘Macadamia’.
- Take care whilst walking alone at night especially for female travellers – although the city is generally safe it is still wise to take caution and be vigilant.
- If you fancy any of the volcano hikes, ensure you do it with a reputable tour company who will offer an experienced guide. Safety must be taken in account, especially at high altitudes – this is not something to attempt yourself.
- For a less strenuous hike, go to the top of Cerro del la Cruz (Hill Of The Cross), the views of Antigua city are spectacular and even more so when skies are clear with Agua Volcano at it’s backdrop.
Gallery Preview – for more photos of our Antigua trip, click here.