Antigua During SemanA Santa

Good Friday late morning procession


Small mountain town filled with cobbled streets and old churches.  Spent four days in Antigua during Holy Week to witness processions and marvel at the local’s painstaking dedication in creating “alfombras” as a way to share their culture and devotion to the world.

Time of Visit:  2024

Duration of Visit:  Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday


A finished alfombra
Alfombra under construction by locals and visitors

People flock to Antigua during Holy Week not only for the processions but also to see the many “alfombras” that locals and visitors painstakingly create.  “Alfombra” translates to rug in English but its true meaning as it pertains to the Holy Week celebration is carpet.  Locals and visitors decorate the streets with colorful “alfombras”.  Each “alfombra” has a unique design, some more elaborate than others. Indeed, these look like carpets when looking at photos and videos.

“Alfombras” are created on the procession’s path.  They also make it a few hours before the procession passes.  So if you see a beautiful “alfombra” being constructed at dusk, it would be gone the following morning.  The processions are followed by the clean up crew so the “alfombra” remnants are immediately removed from the street right after the procession passes.

Some locals do welcome visitors in creating an “alfombra” .  Why not?  It is back breaking work so the more hands in there the less time they have to stoop down to decorate.  It is one of the best ways to immerse in their culture.  And they are proud of it.

We came to Antigua on Thursday and left Monday after Easter.  There were  “alfombras” already on the streets when we arrived and locals continued to create them until Sunday.  We  just walked the streets and had no problem finding an “alfombra” anywhere we went on Thursday and Friday.

But on Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, there were none to be found during the day. “Alfombras” were created late in the afternoon because that was when the processions started. However, they were not as many as the ones we saw on Thursday and Friday.


Evening procession near Central Plaza on Holy Thursday
Virgin Mary procession on Holy Saturday

Depending on the day, processions are held during the day, in the evening or both.  We saw our first procession the afternoon we arrived and again in the evening while we were eating dinner at a restaurant on Avenida 5a Norte near Plaza Central which was the end of the procession.

On Good Friday, there was a procession during the day and three simultaneous processions during the evening. On Holy Saturday, there were two evening processions.

The procession participants wore purple robes until midday on Good Friday.  Then in the afternoon, they wore black robes to recognize the death of Jesus Christ.

One thing that stuck to our mind is the procession of the Virgin Mary.  The float is somewhere along 25 feet long as there were 25 people on one side carrying it.  So it is a heavy float.  But the float were only carried by women.  Truly an expression of devotion.

Procession start times and routes are posted on the town’s Facebook website (search for Ayuntamiento de La Antigua Guatemala).  The Facebook page showed there was a procession on Holy Tuesday.  The routes are depicted on a map and is particulary helpful in looking for “alfombras” just like we did.  We just followed the route before the procession got there and saw many colorful carpet-like creations.

 If you do not have Facebook, just walk around until you find an “alfombra” being created.  Then ask the local making the “”alfombra” when the procession would come.  After all, they create those “alfombras” for the processions.  

Another place where there is a high likelihood in seeing a procession is at the Plaza Central. It seemed that all the processions we saw either passed by it or ended there.  The only issue is that Plaza Central was just packed with people.

What to Expect

Antigua street closures during Holy Week

Antigua’s streets were closed during the  Holy Thursday when we arrived and also on Good Friday.  The streets were once again buzzing with vehicles on Saturday.

Street closures allow the locals to decorate the streets with “alfombras” (more later).  So if you are arriving on Holy Thursday, expect to do some walking to your accommodation as the police have the streets blocked and they do not allow vehicles to enter even if you show them your hotel reservation.

Expect to pay a premium for accommodation during holy week.  We paid almost 2X as much compared to our hotel’s published rate the following week.  Also, there are not a lot of accommodations that have air conditioned rooms in Antigua.  Though it is the summer in Antigua during Holy Week, the temperature borders between comfortable and warm.  It did cool off in the evening to the mid-60’s F such that a light jacket would be needed.  

So the question is “Is an air conditioned room needed?”  My wife would say yes but I would say it depends on the accommodation.  If the rooms have windows that can be opened at night to allow the room to cool down, then only a fan would be needed to be comfortable when sleeping.  So this limits your choice to rooms that are on the second floor or higher for security reasons.  

Expect a heavy local police presence during Holy Week.  They were pretty much everywhere, more often stationed at corners.  There were also some military police walking the streets.  It felt very safe.

Little known Information

We talked to a local making “alfombras” and were surprised to learn that processions are held every Sunday during lent. She also said that “alfombras” are also created when there is a procession. Two hotel employees confirmed the information.

We were also told by a hotel employee that lives in a nearby village of Cuidad Vieja that they also have processions and “alfombras” during lent. They hold their processions on Fridays, except on Good Friday. The hotel employee added that other communities surrounding Antigua do the same, though the procession day may be different.

Where to Stay

Your choices are to stay in town or stay out of town.  The area where “alfombras” are created are in the old part of town (see street closure map earlier). We stayed in the center of town and it was very convenient to just go back to our room and relax during the middle of the day when it became warm.  Once rested, then we had the energy to walk again in the evening to watch more processions or just to enjoy the festive atmosphere which does not wind down until close to midnight.

If you do decide to stay out of town, you can either get an Uber to get to Antigua and back or drive yourself there.  There is a large parking area just before getting into town and is within walking distance.  We did notice that there were a lot of cars parked in the parking lot by early afternoon.

How to Get to Antigua

We found mainly two ways to get to Antigua from Guatemala City.  First is to use a tour company like Viator or a local travel agent and the second is by Uber.   There is a third option which is to use public transportation but our hotel receptionist in Guatemala City gave us the impression that it was not safe. Probably there is a fourth option and that is asking your accommodation in Antigua if they have shuttle service to and from Guatemala City.

Tours or Travel Companies

We found on the Internet that Viator has tour buses that can take visitors from Guatemala City airport to Antigua.  The price was listed around $17 USD.  But none were available when we arrived in Guatemala on Wednesday during Holy Week.  So these tour buses need to be booked in advanced.

We found the travel company Onvisa while walking the streets of Antigua.  They also have an office in Panajachel, Lake Atitlan. They said they do arrange shuttle service between Guatemala City and Antigua.  Below are photos of their brochure.

Local travel company brochure
Local travel company brochure


Uber is by far the simplest way to reach Antigua from Guatemala City. Our ride was around 380 Quetalez ($49 USD) not including tip.  The ride took around one hour and 20 minutes.  The trip would be more economical for a group of three or four.


Public Market

Inside the public market. Fruits on one side and clothing on the other side.
Eateries within the public market

Antigua has a large public market if you like shopping for souvenirs.  The market’s name is Mercado Central Antigua Guatemala which is located at the west end of town. We walked its alley ways and saw all kinds of stuf that looked fun to buy but totally not needed.  There were stalls selling clothing, fruits and vegetables, pharmacies and eateries.  You could spend hours here just looking and browsing.

Right next to the public market is Mercado de Artesanías Antigua Guatemala.  This is the place to go if you are looking for souvenirs. 

Night Street Food at Iglesia de la Merced

Night street food at Iglesia de la Merced

The night street food action at Iglesia de la Merced is very lively. There are lots of vendors selling all kinds of quick bites like sandwiches, corn on cobb and churros to name a few. The food was cheap too and good tasting. At least you can see how your meal is being prepared.

Rincon Antigueno

Rincon Antigueno. Menu is on the wall to the left of the grilling area. Self service drink refill is from the green bucket with a faucet in front of the menu.

This is probably the restaurant with the best deal. For 40 GTQ, you get half a roasted chicken with two sides and a drink with unlimited refill. The sides are roasted baby potatoes and salad. The drink is a purple colored liquid that tastes similar to a horchata.


We have been to Palermo, Sicily and Santiago de Compostela, Spain during the latter part of Holy Week.  We could say without a doubt that the Antigua’s Holy Week celebration is more elaborate and more colorful.  Certainly the colorful “”alfombras” adds to the celebration’s uniqueness, but the celebration here just felt more inclusive compared to the two we witnessed in Europe.

The locals are more welcoming to visitors. And they are happy to share their culture with everyone.  

To us, Antigua during Holy Week is a must experience destination.  We know of no other place on earth where streets are decorated with colorul “alfombras” that takes hours to make.  If you do make it Antigua during Holy Week, do not miss out on the chance to get down on your knees in taking part of making an “alfombra”.  It is a nice way to interact with the locals even if you are not Catholic.