11 exciting day trips from Antigua Guatemala

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What we talk about in this article

Antigua in Guatemala is an amazing destination to visit. When travelling to Guatemala, you can’t afford to skip this beautiful colonial town. Most visitors use Antigua as a hub to visit more destinations in the area. 

In this article we want to give you a few of the very best day trips from Antigua Guatemala. There are a few obvious ones, and also some others, you might not have heard about before!

So, let’s dive in right away, so you can start booking and dreaming about your upcoming trip!

1. Pacaya Volcano One-Day trek

Pacaya Volcano is located not too far from Antigua and offers an exhilarating day hike experience for adventure enthusiasts. With its active lava flow and stunning panoramic views, this hike promises an unforgettable adventure in the heart of Guatemala.

This is one of the most popular day trips from Antigua, so, you won’t be the only tourist or backpacker on the trail! If you’ve seen the images of travellers, holding a marshmallow over the red steamy lava of a volcano in Central America, it’s probably this one!

Views during the Pacaya Volcano hike
Views during the Pacaya Volcano hike

How to plan this day trip

To embark on this day trip, you can choose between joining a tour or exploring on your own. While joining a tour provides the convenience of transportation, knowledgeable guides, and organized itineraries, it is also possible to hike Pacaya Volcano independently. However, it’s important to note that the trail can be challenging to navigate without prior knowledge or experience.

How to get to Pacaya Volcano

Before venturing on the Pacaya Volcano hike, there are a few essential things to know. Firstly, the distance from Antigua to the trailhead is approximately 15 kilometers, and transportation options include shuttle services or hiring a private car.

Before you take of

The trail itself can be physically demanding, with steep inclines and rocky terrains, so proper footwear and physical fitness are recommended.

When preparing for the hike, it’s essential to bring sufficient water and snacks as there are no vendors along the trail. Sunscreen, a hat, and lightweight clothing are also advisable due to the hot and sunny weather conditions. Additionally, it is advisable to bring a camera to capture the stunning views and memorable moments.

Book a trip to Pacaya Volcano

Booking a tour to hike Pacaya is the best and most convenient way to do this trip. A shuttle will pick you up at your hostel and take you to the start of the hike. In the evening, the shuttle will also drop you back off. 

Plus, there’s a guide who leads the way to the summit and back!

2. Acatenango Volcano Multi-day trek

I know, this post is actually about day trips from Antigua! But, after mentioning Pacaya, I felt like I had to talk about Acatenango as well!

The Acatenango volcano hike is a multi-day hike, two days to be specific, which can be done from Antigua.

Immerse yourself in the stunning natural beauty of Guatemala with a 2-day shared hiking tour to Acatenango Volcano from Antigua. This thrilling adventure takes you on a breathtaking journey through diverse landscapes, from lush forests to towering volcanic peaks. 

On day one, you’ll start your trek at the base of the volcano and hike through a picturesque ascent, surrounded by panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. As you reach the summit, you’ll witness the awe-inspiring sight of Fuego Volcano erupting in the distance, creating a truly unforgettable experience. 

After spending the night camping near the peak, you will be amazed by the magic of sunrise at the Acatenango summit. Day two also gives you the chance to explore the volcano’s rugged terrain and soak in its unparalleled beauty before descending back to Antigua. This shared hiking tour offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature, challenge yourself physically, and create lasting memories in one of Guatemala’s most iconic locations.

Fuego and Acatenango Volcano as seen from Antigua
Fuego and Acatenango Volcano as seen from Antigua

How to do this trip

It is recommended to join a tour for the 2-day hiking trip to Acatenango Volcano from Antigua. The tour will provide you with experienced guides who are knowledgeable about the route, safety precautions, and local conditions. They will ensure you have a well-organized and enjoyable experience, while also taking care of logistics such as transportation, camping equipment, and meals. While it is possible to explore the volcano independently, joining a tour will offer you the best support and guidance, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area.

What you should know before you go

Before embarking on this hiking tour, there are a few important things to keep in mind. The distance from Antigua to Acatenango Volcano is approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles), which requires a moderate level of fitness. The trail can be steep and challenging at times, so it is advisable to be prepared with appropriate hiking gear, including comfortable footwear, layered clothing, sun protection, and plenty of water. It is also recommended to bring snacks, a camera to capture the breathtaking views, and a sense of adventure. Finally, be aware that the weather conditions can change rapidly, so it is important to check the forecast and be prepared for different temperatures and possibly rain.

Book a guided 2 day tour to hike Acatenango

If the Pacaya trek is too mainstream for you, then the Acatenengo overnight hike might be a better idea! Have a look at these tours, offered by local companies who will guide you to the summit and back. They also provide shelter for the night and meals throughout your hike.

3. Plan a trip to the beautiful Lake Atitlán and its Surrounding Villages

While we recommend visiting Atitlan for longer than a mere day trip, you could visit in the span of one day, but only if you’re really short in time. Otherwise. don’t hesitate to plan more time! But, if you’re in a rush, a day trip to Lake Atitlan is a great idea.

A day trip to Lake Atitlan from Antigua offers a special experience surrounded by natural beauty and cultural heritage. The lake, nestled amidst volcanic mountains, is renowned for its pristine waters and picturesque landscapes.

Lake Atitlan actually deserves more time than just a day trip from Antigua :)
Lake Atitlan actually deserves more time than just a day trip from Antigua 🙂

How to visit Lake Atitlan in one day

To go on this adventure, you have the choice to either join a guided tour or explore on your own. If you prefer a hassle-free experience with a knowledgeable guide, opting for a tour is ideal. However, it is also possible to enjoy the trip independently, allowing you more flexibility in your schedule.

When planning for the excursion, there are a few important things to know before you go. The distance from Antigua to Lake Atitlan is approximately 80 kilometers, which can be covered by private transportation, public buses, or you can get a direct shuttle, which is pretty convenient. It takes around 2-3 hours to reach the lake, depending on the route and traffic conditions.

What to do at Lake Atitlan

If you only have one day, you’ll have to choose wisely how you want to spend it. 

You can choose one of these activities, or combine a few: 

  • Explore Panajachel
  • Go zip lining with views over the lake
  • Explore the lake by public lancha
  • Book a boat trip on the lake
  • Check out some of the amazing Lake Atitlan tours

What you should know before you go

To make the most of your visit, it is advisable to carry essential items such as comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen, insect repellent, a hat, and a camera to capture the stunning views. Additionally, bring some local currency. 

Overall, a day trip to Lake Atitlan from Antigua promises an unforgettable experience, showcasing both natural wonders and vibrant cultures. Whether you choose to embark on a guided tour or venture out on your own, preparedness and enthusiasm are key to creating lasting memories.

Booking a tour, or not?

If you don’t have much time, a Lake Atitlan tour is definitely hassle-free. We read stories about people who didn’t feel safe while trying to figure things out on their own, especially since they didn’t speak much Spanish. If your Spanish is ok, you will be fine getting a public lancha and exploring some villages on your own.

Want to read more about the villages around Lake Atitlan or explore the area with a perfect Lake Atitlan itinerary? We stayed in the Atitlan area for quite some time and took the time to explore the region pretty well!

4. Take a Journey to the local market of Chichicastenango

Chichicastenango market, nestled in the highlands of Guatemala, is a vibrant and colourful destination that offers an authentic cultural experience. If you’re staying in Antigua, a day trip to this bustling market is a must-do activity. 

Immerse yourself in Mayan culture, perusing the colourful stalls of handmade crafts, textiles, and local produce. Experience the aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafting through the air and indulge in traditional cuisine at one of the local eateries. The Chichicastenango market offers an enriching and fascinating glimpse into the soul of Guatemala.

Colourful surroundings at Chichicastenango Market in Guatemala
Colourful surroundings at Chichicastenango Market in Guatemala

How to do this trip

To visit Chichicastenango market, you have two options: joining a guided tour or exploring on your own. Going with a tour can be beneficial as it provides convenience and local insights. However, if you prefer a more independent adventure, it is possible to navigate the trip by yourself.

Chichicastenango is around 80 kilometers northwest of Antigua, and the journey takes approximately three hours by bus. It’s recommended to start your trip early in the morning to make the most of your day.

Chichicastengango can both be visited from Antigua and from Lake Atitlan. If you have enough time to do it from Lake Atitlan, we recommend doing that, since those 2 are much closer together.

What you should know before you go

Keep the weather in mind. Weather might be nice when you leave Antigua, but Chichicastenango has a completely different climate. Make sure to have a jacket or even something warmer. The highlands can get chilly, especially in the early morning and late afternoon. Make sure to check our packing list for Guatemala as the local climate changes from one destination to the next.

It’s always best to keep your belongings secure and be cautious of pickpockets in crowded areas. Consider carrying a small bag to hold your essentials, such as a water bottle, sunscreen, camera, and some cash.

Booking a tour or not?

You don’t really need a tour to visit the market, even though you might learn more when someone guides you around. We enjoyed walking around without a guide, but if I had had enough budget, I would have appreciated a local guide as well. 

You do, however, need transportation to get there. You could eventually get there by local transportation, but it’s probably faster to get a shuttle.

5. More local markets: Solola Market at Lake Atitlan

Venturing out on a day trip to Solola market from Antigua offers a fascinating glimpse into the vibrant culture and traditional way of life in Guatemala. Located in the highlands of Guatemala, Solola market is one of the country’s most renowned indigenous markets. It showcases a wide array of colourful handicrafts, textiles, fresh produce, and other traditional goods.

Where Chichicastenango is a popular and touristy market, Solola will give you a more local vibe. So, if you want to feel in the real Guatemala, without listening to the babbling of foreign tourists on every corner, try visiting Solola market in the Guatemalan highlands.

This market can be visited on a day trip from Antigua, but in fact, the village is pretty close to Lake Atitlan, so, you could also visit from there if you have the time.

More local markets: Solola Market at Lake Atitlan
More local markets: Solola Market at Lake Atitlan

How to do this trip

To visit Solola market from Antigua, you have a couple of options.

One option is to book a guided tour that includes transportation from Antigua to Solola. This can be a convenient choice, as it alleviates the stress of arranging transportation and provides you with valuable insights from a knowledgeable guide.

Another option is to make the journey on your own. You can take a public bus or hire a taxi to transport you from Antigua to Solola. The bus journey usually takes around 2-3 hours, depending on the traffic and road conditions.

The trip is easy enough if you get a shuttle to Panajachel first. From there, Solola is only a few kilometres away.

What you should know before you go

Before embarking on this day trip from Antigua, there are a few things you should know. 

Distance to get there: Solola market is located approximately 70 kilometers northwest of Antigua, so expect a relatively long journey. The road can be winding and may have some potholes, so be prepared for a slightly bumpy ride. 

Market days: the market is held only on specific days, with the main market days being Tuesday and Friday. It is advisable to check the market schedule beforehand to ensure that you visit on a bustling market day.

Clothing for the Guatemalan highlands: It is recommended to bring a sun hat, sunscreen, and a reusable water bottle, as the highland region can be quite sunny and temperatures can rise during the day. 

Cash money for purchases: don’t forget to bring some cash, as most vendors at the market may not accept credit cards.

Overall, a day trip to Solola market from Antigua is a rewarding experience, allowing you to immerse yourself in the local culture and take home unique souvenirs.

6. Explore the Ruins of Iximché Maya Site

Iximché is an important Mayan ruins complex, not too far from Antigua. It’s the easiest of the Mayan ruins in Guatemala to visit on a day trip from Antigua. These ruins are what remains of the first capital of Guatemala, and they’re pretty close to the current capital.

Of course, you still need to visit Tikal as well, but Iximché is just so close to Antigua, that it offers a great alternative. These ruins are known to be one of the Mayan cities that survived after the Spanish colonization. It’s also one of the younger cities, as it was founded in the 15th century.

Iximche ruins in Guatemala
Iximche ruins in Guatemala

How to get there

Iximché ruins are not remote, like some of the other Mayan ruins in Guatemala. They’re located about 55 km from Antigua and the journey there takes around 1h20. 

You can either book an organized tour, which usually includes transportation there and back, and a local guide to guide you around the ruins.

Of course, if you like it a little more adventurous, or if you’re on a tight budget, you can also make this trip on your own. A few chicken buses will get you to Tecpan, which is the nearest town to the ruins. 

Alternatively, you can also hire your own car in Antigua and drive there yourself.

What to know before you go

Before you take off, these are a few things to consider.

Opening hours: the archeological site is open daily from 8 in the morning until 16 in the afternoon.

Entrance fee: entrance fee to the park is 50 Quetzales, which is around 5€. This is the price for foreigners (extranjeros). Guatemalan citizen can enter the site for 5 Quetzales.

Bring snacks and water: Tecpan is a rather large city where you can get food and drinks. The park itself doesn’t offer the opportunity to buy food nor drinks. So, make sure to bring plenty of water.

Also bring: Weather can change pretty quickly in the Guatemalan highlands, so you can’t rely on the weather at the minute you leave your hostel or hotel in Antigua. Make sure to take:

  • a warm jacket
  • sunglasses
  • a hat
  • decent walking shoes

Have a look at our Guatemala packing list to find out what to bring during your trip to Guatemala.

Tour or not?

Probably, booking a tour to these ruins is the most enjoyable and stress-free way to visit Iximché. But, if you want to immerse yourself in the local culture, going there on your own will definitely bring you a lot of enjoyment as well.

It all depends on how much time you have and how you want to experience your trip to Guatemala: comfortable or rather adventurous?

7. More Mayan ruins: Mixco Viejo

Mixco Viejo is another Mayan site, located not too far from Antigua. You can visit these ruins on a day trip and this excursion is highly recommendable, especially if you have the time. 

Mixco Viejo was built around the 12th century, so it belongs to the younger Mayan cities in this area. (If you want to see older ruins, have a look at Yaxha, Tikal, and other Mayan ruins up North).

Mixco Viejo has a lot of interesting features. It was built on a hilltop, overlooking the surrounding area, which offers amazing views from the top of the temples. The structures in this city are well-preserved and will give you an amazing experience in exploring how people of the Maya culture lived centuries ago.

The build style of Mixco Viejo is completely different than Tikal and most of the other ruins, so it is truly a special place to visit.

Mixco Viejo near Antigua in Guatemala
Mixco Viejo near Antigua in Guatemala

How to get there

Mixco Viejo is located relatively close to Guatemala City. From Antigua, it’s around 70 kilometers. With your own rental car, it might take you around 2 hours. Public transportation is usually slower, so you can expect a trip of at least 3 hours by shuttle of chicken bus. (Read more about public transportation in Guatemala)

Know before you go

Bring the right clothing: Same as for the other destinations in the Highlands of Guatemala, make sure to bring the right clothing. Bring a warm jacket, as weather can change quite rapidly. 

Opening hours: the park opens around 8 in the morning and closes at 16.30 in the evening. 

Food and drinks: Make sure to bring snacks and water along for the journey. 

Also check out San Juan Sacatepéquez: This old Mayan town is known for the large flower market where you can explore local culture in a colourful way.

One of the 120 stone structures in Mixco Viejo
One of the 120 stone structures in Mixco Viejo

Book a tour, or not?

Even tough you could easily get a local chicken bus or even a shuttle to reach these ruins, your day will probably be a lot more relaxed if you book a tour to go to Mixco Viejo. 

The option to book a tour or travel there on your own depends largely on how you want to experience Guatemala. 

If you want to save time and have a comfortable, convenient visit, then booking a tour is the best way to go. 

If you rather experience the real Guatemala with its local transportation options, practice your Spanish, and meet Guatemalan people, then you should check Google Maps and jump on a chicken bus in the direction of San Juan Sacatepéquez. From there, try to get a collectivo to get near the ruins.

Read our guide on how to use public transportation in Guatemala to learn more about how to do this.

8. Go surfing in El Paredon or Monterricco

If you’re looking into interesting day trips fro Antigua, maybe a day at the beach is a great getaway from your days in the city. El Paredon and Monterricco are two of the most popular, easy-to-reach, and beautiful beaches in Guatemala.

And, on top of being beautiful, these Pacific beaches are also amazing for surfing. So, if you’re into surfing, go out and play! Otherwise, just planning a day (or more) at the beach can be a great excursion.

Sunset at El Paredon - one of the most popular beaches in Guatemala
Sunset at El Paredon - one of the most popular beaches in Guatemala

How to get there

The best way to get from Antigua to the beaches on the Pacific coast, is by getting a shuttle from Antigua. 

You will see most other travellers are taking this trip in order to spend a few nights in El Paredon or the other towns by the sea. That’s because the trip takes a bit of time. Expect to travel for 2 or 3 hours to get from Antigua to the nicest coastal towns.

You can get a shuttle from Antigua to El Paredon or to Monterrico.

Sunset at Monterrico beach
Sunset at Monterrico beach

Know before you go

Planning a trip to the beach is always fun. Take these things into consideration when planning your excursion.

Black sandy beaches: all the Pacific beaches in Guatemala have black sand because of the volcanic surroundings.The beaches are very beautiful, but they just don’t have the light, white sandy beaches you might dream of.

Weather: It can get really hot on this side of Guatemala. You’re stepping out of the Guatemalan Highlands, into the Pacific beach climate, which can get very hot. Make sure to take light clothing, water, sunglasses, … your surf board (you can rent a surf board in both towns)

Consider an overnight stay: Even though we mention this trip in our list of day trips from Antigua, consider expanding this trip into a few days or week trip. That’s because it’s quite a long drive AND it’s just more fun to stay at the beach longer!

Book a tour, or not?

Well, going to the beach doesn’t really get better with a guide. We don’t recommend getting a guided tour to do this. We do recommend taking a shuttle to make your trip more quick and convenient. 

But in the end, it all depends on how you want to travel. If you enjoy taking local transportation, like a chicken bus or a collectivo, that’s perfectly possible.

9. Release baby turtles on a Pacific beach

If you’re already heading to the beach and if you’re travelling in the right season, you might want to combine your beach visit with releasing baby turtles into the Pacific Ocean. This is a quite popular experience in this area and it is an amazing activity to add to your Guatemala itinerary.

Sea Turtles in Monterrico
Sea Turtles in Monterrico

How to get there

To get from Antigua to Monterrico, you can book a direct shuttle. The trip takes quite some time, so you might consider spending a night or 2 in Monterrico (which isn’t that bad at all… Have a look at accommodation options at the beaches of Guatemala)

The trip takes 2 to 3 hours.

What you should know before you go

Releasing baby turtles into the Pacific is not an activity you can just easily walk into . You should prepare your trip. 

Releasing seaso​​​​n: it’s not always the perfect time to release baby turtles into the ocean. This activity is done between October and January each year

Releasing time: Usually, during the right season, baby turtles are released around the end of the afternoon, shortly before sunset.

Where to goLa Reserva Natural de Usos Múltiples Monterrico is the nature preservation centre of Monterrico, where you can engage in activities to help protect and preserve the environment in this area. So, this is where you need to be!

Do you need to book a tour?

You can just travel to Monterrico and visit La Reserva Natural de Usos Múltiples Monterrico. But, there’s always a chance that there are no releases on specific days. The RNUMM is open every day from 7 – 17 o’clock.

There are not too many specialty tours available to this destination. But, if you keep your eyes open while walking through Antigua, you might find a company which offers tours and information about this excursion.

10. Meander through the Coffee Plantations near Antigua

Guatemalan coffee is not only among the best in the world, it’s also one of the most important export products of the country. You can imagine how important coffee is for Guatemala. They take pride in their organic farming procedures and they love showing you around on their plantations and farms.

So, why wouldn’t you go on a coffee tour when you’re in Guatemala? Have a look at the abundance of coffee tours you can do from Antigua.

Coffee plantation Antigua Guatemala
Coffee plantation Antigua Guatemala

How to do this day trip

To visit a local, organic coffee farm in Guatemala, you will have to book a tour. The other option is to directly contact a coffee farm and ask for a tour, but it’s probably easier to join an existing tour.

During these coffee tours, you will get transportation from Antigua to the farm. From there, a local guide or even the owner of the farm itself will take you through the plantation and offer valuable information about how everything works. 

In the end, you get a cup of coffee, which you can expect to be very strong and without any milk or sugar, as you’re supposed to drink it. And of course, you get a chance to buy the local coffee, straight from the farmer.

Booking a coffee tour

There are a few different tours you can do, so have a look at our article about coffee tours you can do from Antigua.

11. Visit Hobbitenango Themed Park

Hobbitenango is a themed eco park / restaurant / hotel, just a short distance from Antigua. In this theme park, you can find the typical hobbit houses that are also featured in The Lord of the Rings. And the rest of the eco park is also in the same theme and style. 

Aside from walking in between the cool mini houses, you can do a lot of interesting activities in Hobbitenango.

  • Swing in the giant swing, if you’re not afraid of heights 

  • Engage in a game of minigolf

  • Stare at the amazing views over 5 impressive volcanoes

  • Get some amazing shots for your Instagram

  • Walk into the giant wooden hand

  • Wander around in the Shyre

  • Enjoy the delicious meals in the restaurant

  • Spend a night in this amazing location

How to get there?

This beautiful theme park is located in the village of Vuelta Grande, only 10 kms from Antigua. By car, you can reach Hobbitenango in about 30 minutes, so this might be the closest of all day trips from Antigua in this list!

You can get there with your own transportation, but you can also get a shuttle from most boutique hotels and hostels in Antigua.

Of course, booking a tour to visit the place is also a great option.

What to know before you go?

Spending a night: any people enjoy the magic of Hobbitenango and decide to spend a night in this eco park. Make sure to bring your toothbrush!

Eating at the restaurant: the food in the restaurant is high quality for a decent price. You can have breakfast or lunch at Hobbitenango

Just visiting: If you just want to take a few hours to walk through Hobbitenango and explore all the beauty, that’s also an option. The entrance fee is listed at their website

Book a tour? Or not?

It’s perfectly possible to just make your own way to Hobbitenango, but of course, there are also tours available which take you to Hobbitenango and other places, like this one.

If you’re already in Antigua, I’d recommend getting a shuttle straight from your hotel. Alternatively, make your way to 3rd North Avenue 20A, where the Hobbitenango office is located. They can also take care of transportation for you.

Which of these day trips from Antigua will you do?

If you’ve reached this point of this article, you explored all the options we mention. That doesn’t mean that there are no other day trips you can do. There is just so much to see and do in this amazing country, it’s too much to sum up. So, we had to make a decision on what to include and what not.

Maybe, in the future, we will expand this list with 20 more excursions and tours to do from Antigua. But for now, we hope you found the perfect activity for your trip. 

Still planning and researching for you adventure in Central America? Have a look at these interesting posts that might help you decide.

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