Have you ever made plans to visit Paris and instead of finding travel deals to France you instead found travel deals to Texas? That’s how I stumbled across Antigua, Guatemala. I searched for Antigua, the beautiful Caribbean Island and happened upon a mountainous destination full of history and fabulous charm! One Antigua is an island paradise surrounded by azure waters and the other is a designated UNESCO World Heritage town in the mountains of Guatemala. Both are wonderful destinations, especially at this time of year, but which comes out on top for a trip this season?
The island and the mountain town both have colonial histories which resonate in the architecture and culture of these two wonderful places.
Both are postcard picturesque, with technicolour buildings and awesome vistas. Antigua Island is the epitome of paradise, with white and pink sand beaches, crystal waters, and surrounding lush green rainforests. Meanwhile Antigua, Guatemala boasts beautiful historic buildings and a charming town setting, enhanced by surreal backdrops. Peer down each quaint street and be confronted by puffing volcanoes and huge mountains that are sure to take your breath away.
With mountains surrounding both the Island and the mountain town, there are plenty of hiking opportunities on offer.
Antigua Island meanwhile offers a wider selection of accessible sightseeing trails and intermediate hiking trails. Take The Lookout Trail to Shirley Heights and enjoy stunning sea views, or for more of a challenge, you can climb Mount Obama, named after the former President.
Stroll down Antigua, Guatemala’s cobblestone streets and admire the colonial architecture or visit one of the church ruins, followed by a browse through the buzzing markets. You can even take a coffee tour or visit a Chocolate Museum. This small city is best explored on foot.
Whilst Antigua, Guatemala is a great place for a holiday where your days are filled, a visit to Antigua Island is best for relaxation. Laze away your days in the sun on any one of these white sand patches of paradise and enjoy regular dips in unbelievably clear waters. There are also activities on the island for adventure seekers, including kitesurfing, diving, sailing, and kayaking through mangroves.
Both places are gorgeous and with plenty on offer to see and do, but whilst Antigua Island is best for a relaxing beach holiday, Antigua, Guatemala has more for the action-packed adventure. Antigua, Guatemala wins this round for me with 9/10 for the sheer excitement of hiking a volcano, and Antigua Island 8.5/10 with an unbeatable setting.
Food and Restaurants
Both Antigua Island and Antigua Guatemala have a vibrant and exciting food scene, with global dishes and plenty of flavours. Both have a heavy European influence in their cuisine as well as an array of traditional and local delicacies.
In Antigua Island French bistros, Italian eateries and seafood shacks are the most popular dining options. Sheer Rocks is best for sunset views, a lavish setting with silver service to match, with a menu boasting fresh and local ingredients. Trappas is great for Caribbean cuisine with local flair. For elegant, Parisian atmosphere and nourishing dishes, Catherine’s Café on Pigeon beach is a beautiful spot for lunch.
Antigua Guatemala is also a culinary hub, with excellent local restaurants serving up an array of delicious dishes. Sobremesa is both a restaurant and art gallery in the centre of town, where the fine dining menu features dishes influenced by French, Italian and Spanish cuisines.
Both places have plenty of dining options for every kind of taste, and while Antigua Island offers a wider selection of luxury dining options, Antigua, Guatemala is best for feasting without denting your wallet. Antigua Island wins this round for me, with 9/10 (you can’t beat a sunset dinner with ocean views), and Antigua Guatemala 8/10.
Whether it’s tropical island evenings, or a trip into town after dinner, Antigua Island and Antigua, Guatemala both have nightlife options from laid back bars to clubs where you can dance the night away.
Antigua Island is rife with reggae and rum. Head to Shirley Heights Lookout on a Sunday afternoon, and experience one of the island’s most famous parties. Enjoy local food, hot barbecues, ridiculously good rum punch, and live reggae music. For something more adventurous, take a boat, (or swim!) out to the floating bar in Dickenson Bay, and sway with waves as the sunsets. The English Harbour is the spot for clubbing, where you can hop from dancing at Cloggy’s to sipping espresso martinis at Skullduggery Café in a matter of minutes.
While Antigua Island’s nightlife is energetic and buzzing, its Guatemalan sister has a slightly more laidback style, where things tend to wind down around 1 am, leaving time to rest before the next day’s adventures.
Enjoy brilliant views at the Antigua Brewing Company, either downstairs amongst the brewing tanks or on the rooftop over the town. For the chance to salsa, and sip on sumptuous cocktails, Las Palmas is a Cuban-themed bar with a cool character. Café No Sé is a must-see haunt.
Antigua Island’s nightlife wins this round for me with 9/10 for variety and energy, but Antigua, Guatemala comes close behind with 8.5/10, for its cool and quirky drinking spots.
Stay in the former convent, now a boutique hotel, Casa Santo Domingo in Antigua, Guatemala, where homegrown vegetables and resident macaws give a unique vibrancy to this place. Enjoy the hotel’s pool, gym, and spa in this Spanish Mansion-style setting. For something more to your taste, book a room at the Meson Panza Verde, a beautifully designed hotel with one of the best restaurants in Guatemala!
Antigua Island’s all-inclusive resorts mean you hardly have to lift a finger. Vacation with the rich and famous at the exclusive Jumby Resort, where villas come with their own private pools.
Sleep to the sound of the sea at Royalton Antigua Resort and Spa, where bungalows sit on stilts over the water. For something more laidback, stay at the boutique Inn At The English Harbour.
Both have an excellent range of accommodation options, but Antigua Island’s extravagance is extra special, whilst Antigua Guatemala’s options are simple yet stunning. Antigua Guatemala wins this round with 9/10 for more accessible options, but Antigua Island is close behind with 8.5/10 for luxury lodgings.
So, which is my top pick for a trip this season? In terms of numbers, it’s incredibly close with Antigua Island just winning at 8.7, and Antigua Guatemala only just behind at 8.6. It’s clear that I love both these places for different reasons. If I had to pick one right now it would be Antigua Island. It’s high season and a fabulous place to escape to for some winter sun. Though, can you really miss the chance to hike a volcano? Wherever you go, I hope you enjoy both of these magical places as much as I do!