You have likely come across numerous travel articles about things to do in this colonial city. Many of them suggest the same popular places and activities. As a Guatemalan, I offer a different perspective with 7 local things to do in Antigua. Rather than focusing on the usual craft markets, ruins, and museums, I prefer exploring lesser-known, off-the-beaten-path locations and activities. Below you will find all the details necessary to experience this city in a more authentic way.
1. Yoga in Antigua
Yoga sessions in Antigua have become popular, especially among expats living in this small city. Although yoga was not widely practiced by Guatemalans before, Antigua has now become the centre for yoga courses and sessions in the country. As a result, the local community has gradually embraced this development.
There are several hotels that offer dedicated spaces for yoga, where you can also rent mats, yoga bricks, and pads. Some of the top hotels in this category include Selina Antigua, Adra Hostel, Maya Papaya, and Meson Panza Verde.
The top yoga studios in Antigua that are well-equipped and run professionally are Shakti Shala, Calma & Yoga, Earth Lodge, Casa San Juan, and Om Where You Roam. These studios offer packages that are ideal for short stays if you wish to take yoga classes. Additionally, they also provide individual classes with prices ranging from 100 GTQ to 200 GTQ (12.50 USD to 25 USD) per hour. These studios are all part of a welcoming yogi community that has been thriving in Antigua for several years.
2. Hiking in the nearby hills
Antigua Guatemala is a city surrounded by hills that offer stunning views of volcanoes and neighbouring villages. This region is considered the safest for hiking in the entire country. Among the hiking routes in Antigua, the most popular one is Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross). This short trail, less than 1 km (0.6 mi) long from the beginning of the hill to the summit, is frequently visited by locals, especially in the mornings as part of their exercise routine. It is a perfect option for a hike within the city itself.
However, there are hidden hills and nature reserves on the outskirts of Antigua that are not well-known. If you solely rely on guidebooks and do not engage with locals or expats residing in Antigua, it is unlikely that you will discover these sites during your visit.
My favourite hills for hiking in Antigua are:
Length: 4.7 km (3mi)
Difficulty level: moderate
Type of forest: humid
Location: 11 km (7 mi) away from Antigua. You can get there by Uber or by car. There is a parking lot which costs 20 GTQ (2.50 USD)
Entrance fee: 20 GTQ (2.50 USD)
Finca El Pilar / Cerro El Cucurucho
Length: 16 km (10mi)
Difficulty level: challenging
Type of forest: humid
Location: 3 km (2 mi) away from Antigua. You can get there by Uber or tuktuk
Entrance fee: 65 GTQ (8 USD)
3. Dance Classes
One of the top local activities in Antigua Guatemala is to participate in a Latin dance class. The good news is that there are locations in town offering free classes with short programs, making it accessible even for those staying briefly.
As locals in Antigua, we have a strong passion for dance classes as they offer a great opportunity for socializing and engaging with an active community. If you are a traveller seeking to experience one of our favourite activities and be a part of it, here are the top places to do so:
Academia de baile Salsa y mas: This dance academy in Antigua is widely recognized as the best, boasting highly skilled instructors. They offer free group salsa and bachata classes every Monday at 5:00 PM and Fridays at 8:30 PM. Additionally, private hourly classes are available.
New Sensation salsa studio: This salsa studio in Antigua has the longest history and is one of the biggest. They specialize in salsa but also offer bachata classes. The studio holds free classes at their facilities on Mondays at 5:00 PM, at the Selina hostel on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM, and at Las Palmas restaurant on Thursdays and Fridays at 5:00 PM. Class schedules are monthly.
Frank Arango salsa studio: This is a dance school established by a dedicated instructor who is truly passionate about teaching. When you join his classes, you will be captivated by Frank’s infectious energy. He offers free group classes every Monday, Tuesday, and Friday at 7:00 PM. Additionally, you have the option to enrol for weekly or monthly sessions.
4. Visiting Mayan Villages
A great way to explore an authentic region near Antigua is to take a chicken bus and embark on a tour of the various villages. This activity allows you to experience a typical Mayan village untouched by tourism. You will have the opportunity to visit the central squares, explore the local markets, and even get a closer look at the stunning volcanoes in the area.
The top villages to visit by bus on your own are San Juan del Obispo and Santa Maria de Jesus. Both have a unique charm and tranquil vibe. In these places you will encounter a higher indigenous population compared to Antigua along with a more rural scenery.
5. Visiting the food market
Many people believe that food markets are the most authentic aspect in Latin American cities. I completely agree. These markets are bustling with local life and offer Guatemalans the best prices and freshest natural products.
In addition to fruits and vegetables, the food market in Antigua offers a variety of products such as clothes, shoes, accessories, flowers, images of Catholic saints, Mayan ceremonial materials, and even several typical food restaurants. Visiting this place is definitely a top local thing to do in Antigua Guatemala and a must-do for those who are looking for an authentic experience.
You can choose to explore it on your own and wander through its aisles. However, I highly recommend taking a guided tour that will lead you to the most iconic spots and the most popular vendors. The tour concludes with a traditional Guatemalan lunch inside the market. Below you will find the button to book it.
6. Visiting a Guatemalan candy store
One of the most emblematic aspects of Guatemala is its traditional sweets. These delectable treats are a fusion of ancient Mayan and Spanish culinary techniques. They are commonly sold on the streets during the patron saint festivals held in towns all across the country. In Antigua, there are numerous well-established and genuine candy stores that offer a wide range of these delightful confections.
The process of handcrafting these sweets in Guatemala is time-consuming due to the blending of local ingredients like seeds, mild chili peppers, herbs, and grains. There are over 80 types of traditional candies in Guatemala, with some taking up to three days to complete. Many Guatemalans believe that some of these sweets have medicinal qualities, but for me, it is simply a great excuse to indulge in large quantities without feeling guilty.
The most authentic and iconic candy store in Antigua are:
Dulces tipicos Doña Josefina: Doña Josefina is an elderly woman with years of experience selling traditional sweets from a small wooden table at her doorstep. She was taught the art of making Guatemalan sweets in the most traditional manner by her mother when she was a child. Her simple packaging and unbeatable prices make her sweet treats the best in Antigua.
Dulces tipicos Santa Catalina: This is a candy shop located in Antigua with a rich history. It is a quaint, traditional store that gives the feeling of stepping into a typical Guatemalan home. Along with a variety of candies, they also offer a selection of breads that are beloved by locals, especially when enjoyed alongside a cup of coffee.
Doña Maria Gordillo: This store is highly popular among locals who prefer something exclusive. It has been the largest and most elegant candy store in Guatemala for over 150 years. The quality of their products is outstanding and the packaging is charming.
El Sombreron: This is an iconic place in Antigua that is well-known among Guatemalans with a sweet tooth. The store offers a vast array of sweets, and the service provided is top-notch. The staff members are happy to provide detailed explanations about the different sweets and their preparation.
7. Street food evening tour
Guatemalans enjoy indulging in street food during the evening, either at the plaza of La Merced Church or the local market. Many of us have a favourite food stall we like to frequent. Among the locals, there is nothing more satisfying than savouring a corn atole (a Mayan beverage typically made from corn dough, sugar and cinnamon) along with tacos or tostadas (fried corn tortillas) topped with chicken salad or the Guatemalan variety of Chow Mein (a Chinese dish made from noodles, vegetables, species and meat, but in Guatemala we add ketchup and hot sauce).
To find out exactly where the best and most reliable food stalls are, I recommend you take the all-inclusive gastronomic tour. Below you find the button to book it.
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