Planning a Trip
The nearest airport to Antigua is La Aurora International Airport (tel. 502/2332-6086; airport code GUA) in Guatemala City. Since Antigua is so close to Guatemala City, many visitors book their first and last nights -- and often a few more -- in Antigua. Once you've made it through Customs, you can be settled into your hotel in Antigua in less than an hour, if you don't hit too much traffic.
Getting into Town from the Airport
By Shuttle -- The most common way to get to and from Antigua is on a minivan shuttle. Several companies operate regular minivan shuttles between Antigua and most major tourist destinations, including the airport, downtown Guatemala City, Lake Atitlán, and Chichicastenango. If you're coming to Antigua directly from the airport, you'll find several kiosks for these shuttles after clearing Customs. All charge between Q75 and Q90 ($10-$12/£5-£6) per person, and will leave as soon as they are full, which shouldn't take more than a few minutes.
If you're already in Guatemala City, or arriving from any other destination, ask your hotel or any tour agency about booking a shuttle to Antigua. Alternately, you can book directly with Atitrans (tel. 502/7832-3371; www.atitrans.com).
Rates between Antigua and other popular destinations run around Q90 to Q113 ($12-$15/£6-£7.50) for Panajachel; Q135 to Q150 ($18-$20/£9-£10) for Chichicastenango; and Q300 to Q375 ($40-$50/£20-£25) for Flores/Tikal.
By Taxi -- A taxi is the fastest, safest, and easiest way to get from the airport or Guatemala City to Antigua. A taxi should cost between Q188 and Q300 ($25-$40/£13-£20). Expect to pay the higher rate, maybe even a little more, after dark.
By Bus -- Buses from Guatemala City to Antigua leave from the El Trebol intersection in Zona 8. Buses leave every 15 minutes or so, usually as they fill up, between 5am and 9pm. The fare is Q10 ($1.35/70p) for the 1-hour ride. The main bus terminal in Antigua is at the end of 4a Calle Poniente, next to the Municipal Market. Buses leaving Antigua for Guatemala City follow roughly the same schedule. Safety is a serious concern on these buses, and I recommend you take a taxi or shuttle.
By Car -- The best route to Antigua from Guatemala City is to take the Calzada Roosevelt out of town. The Calzada Roosevelt heads northwest out of Guatemala City, through Zona 11 (passing right in front of the Tikal Futura Hotel), before turning into the Pan-American Highway (CA-1). Take this and exit at San Lucas. From here you'll take the well-paved, windy highway (RN10) into Antigua. The ride takes about 40 to 45 minutes with no traffic.
The Guatemala Tourism Commission, INGUAT, 4a Calle between 4a and 5a avenidas, inside "Casa El Jaulon" (tel. 502/7832-0763; www.visitguatemala.com), has a helpful bilingual staff, and offers regional brochures, basic maps, and a score of hotel and tour fliers. The office is open Monday through Friday 8am to 5pm, and Saturday and Sunday 9am to 5pm.
Local travel agencies and hotel tour desks are another good source of information. There are numerous travel agencies all over town. Some of the best include Lax Travel Antigua [S], 3a Calle Poniente, #12 (tel. 502/7832-1621); Sin Fronteras [S], 5a Av. Norte, #15A (tel. 502/7720-4400; www.sinfront.com); Rainbow Travel Center, 7a Av. Sur, #8 (tel. 502/7832-4202; www.rainbowtravelcenter.com); and Via Venture, 2a Calle Oriente, #22 (tel. 502/7832-2509; www.viaventure.com).
If you need assistance, dial Asistur (tel. 1500) toll-free from any phone in Guatemala. Asistur has bilingual operators who can answer questions or put you in direct contact with the appropriate authorities in the case of an emergency. You can also contact the tourism police (tel. 502/7832-7290), which has its 24-hour office on 4a Avenida Norte on the side of the Palacio del Ayuntamiento.
On Foot -- Antigua is walkable, and cars and taxis are unnecessary to explore the colonial core of the city. The entire downtown section of Antigua, which is where most tourist attractions are, extends less than 10 blocks in any direction from the Plaza Mayor. However, watch your step: Several hundred years and a few serious earthquakes have made Antigua's streets and sidewalks rather treacherous in spots. It's very easy to twist an ankle, trip, or fall if you're not careful. Bring comfortable, flat walking shoes or sneakers. Also, sidewalks tend to be narrow, forcing you frequently to walk in the street; keep an eye out for cars and motorcycles.
By Taxi -- Taxis and tuk tuks are plentiful in Antigua. A ride anywhere in the city should cost between Q20 and Q30 ($2.65-$4/£1.35-£2). Most of the taxis in Antigua use meters, but if the one you get into doesn't, be sure to negotiate a firm price beforehand. If you need to call a cab, ask your hotel, or try Taxis Antigua (tel. 502/7832-2360).
By Car -- While you won't need a car to explore Antigua, you may want one for a trip to Chichicastenango, Lake Atitlán, or other nearby towns. In Antigua, try Tabarini, 6a Av. Sur, #22 (tel. 502/7832-8107; www.tabarini.com).
Antigua is laid out in a simple grid, with the Plaza Mayor, or Parque Central (Central Park), at its center. Avenidas (avenues) run north-south, and calles (streets) run east-west. North of Plaza Mayor, the avenidas carry the suffix norte; south of Plaza Mayor they are followed by the suffix sur. Directions on calles east of Plaza Mayor are indicated by the suffix oriente; while those to the west are poniente. Unlike most cities in Guatemala, Antigua doesn't use the Zona system; instead each individual building is numbered.
Three main volcanoes are visible from various points in Antigua and can help you stay oriented. The solitary Volcán de Agua is almost due south of the city. A bit more to the southwest are Volcán Acatenango and Volcán Fuego. The latter is quite active, and you can often see a long plume of smoke rising from its crater. To the north of the city is the Cerro de la Cruz, a high hilltop with a large Catholic cross atop it.