Guatemala produces arguably the best coffee in the world, and touring one of the many coffee farms around Antigua will give you a new appreciation for the coffee making process, from seed to cup. You can tour huge coffee estates or small locally owned farms, but the smaller farms will give you more of an insight. The best coffee tour you can do is with Finca Colombia, a family-owned farm a short drive from the city. Once you’ve finished the tour, you can take a scenic walk around the beautiful plantation, complimentary mug of delicious coffee in hand. The altitude of 1,524 metres (5,000 feet) allows you to experience unrivalled views of the volcano, too, so don’t forget your camera.
If you have a sense of adventure, hiking one of Antigua’s three surrounding volcanoes (two of which are active) is a must. Pacaya Volcano is the easiest to scale and the most popular, and you only need a moderate level of fitness. Climbing it takes only half a day, and at the top the landscape is lunar, the ground still hot from the last eruption in June 2015. Tour groups bring marshmallows along so you can toast them on the scorching rocks while gazing down at Antigua from a 2,500-metre (8,200-foot) vantage point. The more intrepid can climb the dormant Acatenango, which is Guatemala’s tallest volcano, or Fuego, which is still spewing lava today.
A visit to Valhalla Macadamia Station might end up being an unexpected highlight of your trip. This organic and sustainable nut farm is about a 10-minute drive from Antigua, or you can hire bikes to cycle there, and this beautiful and peaceful spot is a lovely place to spend the day. During the tour, you’ll learn about the history of macadamia trees and how they’re cultivated and processed, and sample some delicious macadamia nuts and chocolates. The macadamia skin care products on sale are divine; make sure you try the famous macadamia pancakes with nut butter and blueberry jam.
Lake Atitlan is the type of place you could spend weeks at and never want to leave, but if you’re pushed for time, a day trip from Antigua is possible. It’s situated in the Sierra Madre mountains and bordered by fern-covered valleys and towering volcanoes. You can get to the lake in just under four hours, so an early start is imperative – but it’ll be worth it to spend a day in this paradise.
With seven traditional Mayan towns around the lake perimeter and countless things to do, planning how to spend your day can be tricky, but hiking up San Pedro volcano is one of the most popular activities here – and the views from the summit are unparalleled. Afterwards, you can soothe aching muscles with a soak at Los Termales in San Pedro. Looking out onto the lake from a bubbling hot spring is something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Niños de Guatemala is a self-sustainable organization that provides underprivileged children with an education, running three schools that teach over 500 local children. Taking a tour with Niños de Guatemala will allow you to experience a side to this country that goes far beyond the traditional traveller circuit. After visiting a nearby village, school and local workshops, you’ll gain a new insight into Guatemala and appreciate both its beauty and its struggles. This is a fascinating and unique tour, and 100% of the profits go to supporting the schools.