Things to do in Antigua That Don’t Involve Volcanoes
Antigua is one of the most popular destinations in Guatemala. This Spanish colonial town attracts travelers who want to learn Spanish, people on church missions, and quite often, people who want to climb a volcano. Several of them sit close enough to the city to be easily seen, and trips to hike up them, especially Picaya, are very popular activities in Guatemala. But that’s not what Andy and I had in our plans.
Central America is one of the regions of the world where chocolate originates, so what better place to taste it? We ended up in a mediocre guesthouse for our first two nights, but it was right across the street from a cafe called Sabe Rico that, along with serving full meals, had an amazing display of chocolates. I was in there almost every day, even after we switched hotels, to buy chunks of white chocolate with almonds.
Check out Sabe Rico here.
A few blocks away, we found a chocolate museum that runs workshops. We signed up for one and learned about the history of chocolate and how its grown and processed. We also got to taste tea made from the husks of the cacao beans and hot chocolate made from the beans themselves. And of course, we also got to make our own chocolate to take home. Yum.
Check out ChocoMuseo here.
Antigua Coffee Tour
Andy found a coffee farm called De La Gente that runs tours. It’s actually a co-op, which was started with the idea that the farmers would be better off handling as many steps of the process as possible. Instead of simply picking the coffee beans and selling them to someone else at terribly low prices, these farmers shuck, roast, bag, and everything in between. It means they earn a decent living and keep the profits, which they then reinvest in the farm. They also run tours, like the one Andy took, to show tourists what the process is like and to spread the word about what they’re doing. These kinds of tours are just one way to support sustainable tourism.
Check out their coffee tours and the other tours they run here.
Antigua Traditional Mayan Bag Workshop
Since I wasn’t interested in coffee, I sent Andy on his own. But the co-op also runs several other tours not related to coffee, many of which are ways of getting other family members involved in improving their situations. So I signed up for a workshop where I got to make a bag out of traditional Mayan fabric. Well, I didn’t do much of the sewing, but I did pick out the fabrics and the style I wanted, and I did maybe 5% of the sewing. But that’s ok, I was more interested in having a purse than sewing one that, let’s face it, probably wouldn’t have turned out as well if I had done most of the work.
The woman who runs the workshop doesn’t speak English, but for an extra fee you can get a translator. I opted to skip the translator, which gave me a fun chance to practice my Spanish. It was probably half the reason I signed up anyway.
Check out the bag making workshop here.
Antigua Food and Relaxation
Since we weren’t after an action-packed experience in Antigua, we spent several afternoons relaxing in a cafe around the corner from our hotel. Sometimes just being in a cafe, reading or chatting, in another location, is just the vacation we need. The place was called Ganache, and it was wonderful. Andy tried local beers with some pastries while I enjoyed super tasty lemonades.
My expectations of Guatemalan food were kind of low because of what other people had told me, but we lucked out in Antigua. We ended up at a restaurant called La Fonda de la Calle Real and enjoyed the food so much, we went back two more times. I loved this chicken and rice soup that came with little bowls of chili powder, onions, oregano, cilantro, and lime wedges to adjust the flavor of the soup.
Another favorite wasn’t even Guatemalan food. While looking for lunch one day, we passed a Texas BBQ restaurant and had to give it a try. Again, it was so tasty, we went back again the next day.
Check out Ganache, La Fonda de la Calle Real, and Pappy’s BBQ.
Antigua surprised us. Aside from what I mentioned above, we also spent some time wandering through town to admire the architecture and ruins, we relaxed on park benches, and we explored the local market. We fell in love with the town within minutes of arriving, and I’m really glad we were able to spend six nights there. And we didn’t even get any blisters from climbing up volcanoes.
You might also enjoy:
- How Much We Spent Traveling in Central America: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador
- How Much We Spent Traveling in Central America: Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua
- Where to Stay in Central America
- Visiting the Tikal Ruins in Guatemala