Ten (Plus One!) of Our Family Favorites in Antigua
A walk in Antigua, Guatemala’s Spanish colonial crown jewel, feels like a step into another world. Pastel-hued colonial-era buildings line the cobblestone streets, opening to flower-filled gardens, shops, boutique hotels, and restaurants. Nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains and three volcanoes, Antigua’s mild temperatures are always spring-like. It’s easy to see why couples fall in love with this romantic old city, but families also find it charming and full of activities. Below we’ve rounded up ten (plus one!) of our active family favorites:
1. Climb a Volcano
What could be more memorable than walking on an active volcano? Pacaya Volcano offers a relatively easy hike where, on a clear day, you can see smoke curling from the crater and even toast marshmallows over steaming hot fumaroles. Don’t feel up to the hike? You can also do much of the climb on horseback. For a much more strenuous challenge, summit the steep Acatenango Volcano, with views as far as the Mexico border and directly into the Fuego Volcano’s highly active crater, just 4 km/2.5 mi away.
2. Make Your Own Chocolate
This tour is a can’t miss for every family member, combining education, fun, and mouth-watering chocolate! Learn all about the history and process of chocolate making, then tie on an apron and whip up your own chocolate delights to take home.
3. Taste the Culture
Take a guided “Streets and Eats” tour of Antigua, to sample the heady flavours of Guatemalan street food, like chuchitos (Guatemala-style tamales), pupusas (cheese-filled corn tortillas), rellenitos (plantain dough filled with beans and fried), and even pigs’ feet. Stroll through the busy market where Maya vendors, wearing their finely embroidered traditional clothing, sell the produce and herbs used in this unique cuisine.
4. Soar Above the Forest Canopy on Zip-lines
When you and your kids ages five and above are ready for excitement, Antigua’s zip-lining tours await. Some lines extend more than 500 m/1,700 ft, while another option challenges you with a series of 11 lines where you can opt for a “superman style” harness.
5. Ride a Bike or a Mule
Active families love pedaling on Antigua’s cobblestones, rolling past church ruins and pastel-hued buildings, or biking along the mountain trails of a coffee finca (farm). For a more relaxed amble along the shady trails, try a fun finca mule ride.
6. Explore the Community
Immerse your family in Guatemala’s culture with coffee or macadamia nut tours led by local farmers, cooking classes where you’ll discover the secrets of traditional dishes like pepian, or artisan tours where local artists teach you to make crafts.
7. Get Splattered in a Paintball Battle
Gear up with high-quality equipment and plan your strategy for an adrenaline-filled paintball battle in the lush hills surrounding Antigua.
8. Discover Guatemala’s Diverse History
Inside Casa Santo Domingo, a former convent, you’ll find several excellent museums featuring artefacts from its pre-Hispanic and Spanish colonial history. Across town, the Museo Casa de Tejido displays examples of Guatemala’s exquisite embroidery, and you can even arrange an artisan workshop to try your hand at traditional weaving.
Antigua is world renowned for its opulent Sunday street processions during Lent and the Thursday and Friday before Easter. Other popular celebrations include the All Saints’ Day giant kite festival (Nov. 1), with its brilliant handmade kites that can exceed two storeys tall, the Dec. 7 “burning of the devil” tradition, when flames engulf an effigy of Satan, and the New Year’s Eve’s street festival and 360-degree fireworks display.
10. Take a Day Trip
Antigua is just a few hours away from day trips to breathtaking Lake Atitlan, the sprawling Chichicastenango (Chichi) Market held on Thursdays and Sundays, the tranquil Mayan ruins of Iximché, and the black sands of the Pacific Coast. Multi-day trips will take you to exotic locations to experience Tikal’s soaring pyramids, Río Dulce’s river wildlife, or Semuc Champey’s emerald-green pools.
Any family holiday should include plenty of time to kick back and unwind. Hotel Porta Antigua, an elegant boutique hotel only a short walk from the central square, is just right for families, with its lush gardens, a refreshing pool, a children’s play area, first-rate restaurant featuring international and local cuisine, and full-service spa.