Soaking up Antigua

The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
52 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
North America
Length of time
1-2 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 150
Time of year visited
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
283rd/372 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 80% SUMMARY RATING: Worth doing


Great history – Antigua was the former Spanish colonial capital of Guatemala from 1543 to 1776, so it is steeped in tradition – traditions they work hard to maintain through, for example, not allowing modern day commercial branding to deface the facades of the beautiful buildings

Great vibe – there are a series of markets selling local goods and plenty of international visitors not just from tourism, but also as many people travel to the host of language schools located here

Nice place to stop and recharge your batteries after travelling or hiking nearby.  One day enough though

If you’re keen for an easy hike and half day trip, you can head up to the Pacaya Volcano.  Unfortunately, the weather was poor the day we went, which meant we couldn’t really see much, but being able to see the lava flowing near(ish) was very very cool


#1 Wandering through the well preserved streets, soaking up the feel for the place and with the backdrop of the surrounding mountains

#2 Walking through some of the wonderful churches and other beautiful buildings that are dotted all around the centre

#3 Checking out the local markets with all sorts of tat to buy

#4 The hike up to the Pacaya Volcano rewards you with sights of the flowing lava just under the recently solidified rock. Very very cool

Travel Tips

  • Really recommend staying at Casa Santa Rosa Hotel – gorgeous small gardens and traditional feel  to the place, very friendly and helpful staff, and walking distance into the main square
  • Restaurants:
    • The Cactus Taco Shop was great
    • Casa Troccoli is worth visiting just for the place itself, let alone the food.  Make sure you sit in the front area rather than round the back
  • For the Pacaya Volcano, you need to be lucky with the weather as I’m sure the views on a good day are spectacular.  My other tip is see if you can hire a private guide as the group tours feel particularly commercialised
  • Be sure to check out Lake Atitlan, a 2 hour drive away and one of the most beautifully idyllic places I’ve seen in  the world.  More details for a trip there see 3 days by the simply stunning Lake Atitlan
  • If staying a bit longer in Guatemala, see my Itinerary for 10 wonderful days in Guatemala and generally for useful tips for your time there

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone