Antigua : Guatemala


What It Is Like to Retire in Antigua

Once a major capital of the Spanish empire, today Antigua is one of the most beautiful and tranquil small cities in Central America. Gorgeous colonial houses line cobblestone streets that lead to the Parque Central. Here, a large town square is always filled with mingling youthful Guatemalan couples, tourists taking a break and people watchers. An impressive white colonial cathedral sits on one side of the park, with a palace, smaller churches and several small museums rounding out the square. Off in the distance are three imposing and beautiful volcanoes.

Wandering through the streets, one finds a great deal of reconstruction. The multi-colored colonial houses and churches are in various states of disrepair after generations of neglect, war, volcanoes and earthquakes. In 1979, when the town was officially designated a UNESCO world heritage site, investment started pouring in to protect the cultural beauty of the place. Today, Antigua is home to numerous language schools, international restaurants, cafes, bars, galleries and shops. The high numbers of students, ex-pats and tourists also means that the town offers English language bookstores, English movies, gyms, spas, yoga studio, and a large supermarket.

Active adults will enjoy jogging or walking around town, hiking Volcán Agua, mountain biking, as well as visiting churches, convents, monasteries and museums. There is even a cooking school. Taking classes at one of the language schools is a great way to make daily interactions with Guatemalans more meaningful. Antigua is also conveniently located near many culturally interesting places in Guatemala, such as Lake Atitlán, and Chichicastenango. Photo of Santa Catalina arch and Volcan de Agua in June 2005, and photo of Antigua SchoolKids courtesy of Wikipedia (public domain).

Where to Retire in Antigua and Home Prices

Prices in Guatemala can’t be beat. Antigua is more expensive than the rest of the country, but is still extremely reasonable. Those willing to restore a home in the city will find incredible deals on the housing market. Safety is a concern in Guatemala, but Antigua is one of the safest places in the country.

What Is Special about Antigua

You are in Guatemala. Tradition is everywhere. Prices are cheap. People grow avocados in their courtyards and coffee farms are just outside of town. But there is a bagel store, wifi internet and numerous ex-pats to give you a sense of community. Antigua is also remarkably close to the US.

What Is Not Special about Antigua

While Antigua often doesn't feel like it, Guatemala is the third world. Retirees looking for efficient businesses where everyone speaks English should look elsewhere. Safety is less of a concern in Antigua compared with the rest of Guatemala, but is still an issue. The government is improving, but still has many problems. The Guatemalan police force is among the most corrupt in the world.

Who Will Like Retirement in Antigua

Those looking for a cheap retirement with the convenience of a small city not too far from the US will enjoy retiring here.

Local Economy Is Driven by

The local economy is driven by tourism.

Climate and Physical Environment

Antigua has a great climate for retirement. The year round temperature is in the 70s. Like much of Central America, the city experiences a wet and dry season. The rainy season lasts from May through October and involves sunny mornings followed by strong afternoon rainstorms.

Restaurants & Cultural Scene

The large number of language school students and ex-pats gives Antigua a cultural quality not found in many other parts of Central America. Dozens of restaurants, bars, cafes line the streets of the city. Festivals are also scattered throughout the year, most impressively, during the Semana Santa.


As in any poor Central American country, crime can be a concern. Antigua is one of the safest places in the country.

Medical Facilities

There is a public hospital in Antigua, but this is not recommended. There are a few private doctors and clinics in town as well. The best hospital is 45 minutes away in the capital. Medical costs are extremely low.


Antigua is easily a walkable city. Transportation to nearby towns is easiest by tourist vans and pullman buses, both of which are quite cheap. The capital of Guatemala city (known here as Guate) is an hour away, and flights from Miami to Guate take 2 hours and 40 minutes.

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