Antigua is one of the larger cities in Guatemala and has a distinctly relaxed and small town feel to it. Unlike Guatemala city, Antigua has retained much of it’s charm and has more of a sense of security than the larger and more crime ridden Guatemala City.
With it’s offical name of Antigua Guatemala (or Old Guatemala), the small city is comprised of charming cobblestone streets set within a group of mountains that are visible form anywhere in the city. The entire area is quite enjoyable and is packed with winding streets, galleries, bars and restaurants.
Souvenirs & Shopping
Be sure to stop into the many shops in Antigua to check out the local art and jewelry. In particular be sure to visit one of the Jade factories to check out the black jade, which Guatemala is very well known for, being one of only a few places on earth that have this particular stone. Since there are so many places in Antigua to purchase Jade be sure to shop around. You may also be able to negotiate the price down slightly, particularly if you can pay in cash rather than by credit card.
Nightlife & Dining
Antigua has a huge variety of bars and restaurants that offer both local fare and more international dishes. The nightlife in Antigua is great, as it has an atmosphere of excitement with a crowd that is on the younger side. Stop into one of smaller bars that are popular with the locals and unlike many small cities you are likely to be welcomed by a friendly staff that is happy to struggle through your broken Spanish to figure out what it is that you want.
Weather permitting, Antigua also has some great rooftop bars and resturants that are perfect for the late afternoon when it is no too hot but you are able to take in the sunsets over the mountains with a fantastic view of the city.
Because Antigua does bring in a large number of tourists there are many options for hotels. Rates are quite cheap so you can splurge for an expensive hotel, but for about $75 per night you should be able to get a fairly nice place in a safe location – check out Hotel Entre Volcanes as a good choice. It is clean, comfortable and very reasonably priced. They will also offer safe parking if you have brought a car with you.
Getting to Antigua
From Guatemala City travel to Antigua is about an hour via car or bus. Busses are quite cheap, with a private bus being only $7 – $12 per person. There are also regular buses from Antigua to other locations within the area including Lake Atitlan, about 2 hours drive.