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Ultimate Guide to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala: Best Towns and Activities

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, and a place where you can experience the rich and diverse culture of the Maya people. This splendid volcanic lake is surrounded by three volcanoes and colorful villages.

Located in the highlands of Guatemala, Lake Atitlan is a natural wonder that captivates the hearts and minds of travelers from Central America and all over the world.

Whether you are looking for adventure, relaxation, or inspiration, it sure has something for everyone.

In this travel guide, we will show you why you should visit Lake Atitlán, how to get there, where to stay, what to do, and where to eat in this magical place.

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Why visit Lake Atitlán?

Lake Atitlán is not just a lake, it is a world of its own. There are many reasons why you should visit this amazing place, but here are some of the main ones:

The beauty of the lake

Lake Atitlán is a natural wonder, formed by a volcanic eruption 84,000 years ago. It is the deepest lake in Central America, with a depth of about 340 meters. The lake has a surface area of 130 square kilometers and is surrounded by three majestic Guatemalan volcanoes: San Pedro, Tolimán, and Atitlán.

The water of the lake is clear and blue, reflecting the sky and the mountains. The scenery is breathtaking, especially at sunrise and sunset, when the lake changes colors and the volcanoes glow.

The diversity of the villages

Around the lake, there are 12 villages, each with its own character and charm. Some of the villages are more touristy, while others are more authentic and traditional.

You can visit them by road, or by foot, but the most popular and recommended way is by boat and discover their different attractions.

The richness of the culture

Lake Atitlán is a place where you can immerse yourself in the fascinating and diverse culture of the Maya people, who have lived in the region for thousands of years. The lake is considered sacred by the Maya, and you can witness their rituals, ceremonies, and festivals throughout the year.

You can also learn about their history, art, and traditions, by visiting their museums, galleries, and workshops. Make sure to interact with the locals, who are friendly and hospitable, and learn some words of their languages.

Lake atitlan view from a dock
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala is not only one of the most stunning lakes in the world but also one of the best places to learn about the Mayans and their culture.

Towns to Visit in Lake Atitlan

Panajachel: The Gateway to Lake Atitlan

Panajachel is the largest and most popular village on Lake Atitlan. It is the main entry point and transportation hub for the lake, as well as the center of commerce and tourism.

It has a lively and cosmopolitan atmosphere, with a wide range of hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, and services. It is also home to a diverse community of locals, ex-pats, and travelers, who mingle and socialize in the streets and the waterfront.

What to see and do in Panajachel

Panajachel has plenty of things to see and do, both in and around the village. You can stroll along the main street, Calle Santander, and browse the many souvenir stalls, art galleries, and handicraft shops.

Next, you can visit the local market, where you can find fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, and other products. If you are interested in the history and culture of the lake, you can check out the Museo Lacustre Atitlan, which displays artifacts and exhibits related to the ancient Mayan civilization that inhabited the area.

You can also visit the Casa Cakchiquel, which is a historic building that hosts cultural events, exhibitions, and concerts.

One of the best things to do in Panajachel is to enjoy the views of the lake and the volcanoes, especially at sunset. You can relax at one of the many cafes, restaurants, or bars that line the shore, and watch the sky change colors and reflect on the water.

Rent a kayak, a paddle board, or a boat, and explore the lake from a different perspective or take a day trip to some of the nearby villages, such as Santa Catarina Palopo and San Antonio Palopo, which are known for their traditional weaving and pottery.

Where to Stay in Panajachel?

Panajachel has a wide range of accommodation options, from budget hostels and guesthouses to mid-range hotels and apartments, to luxury resorts and villas.

Some of the best places to stay in Panajachel are:

Where to Eat?

Panajachel has a great variety of restaurants and cafes, serving local, international, and fusion cuisine. You can find anything from street food and fast food to fine dining and gourmet dishes.

Some of the best places to eat in Panajachel are:

  • Circus Bar: A fun and lively bar and restaurant that serves delicious pizzas, pasta, salads, sandwiches, and desserts, as well as live music and entertainment.
  • Deli Jasmin: A cozy and healthy cafe that serves fresh and organic salads, soups, sandwiches, wraps, smoothies, and juices, as well as vegan and gluten-free options.

Santa Cruz La Laguna: The Adventure Hub of Lake Atitlan

Santa Cruz La Laguna is a small and secluded village that lies on the northern shore of Lake Atitlan. It is one of the most authentic and traditional villages on the lake, as it has preserved its Mayan culture and lifestyle.

It is also one of the most adventurous and active villages on the lake, as it offers a range of outdoor activities and sports for thrill-seekers and nature lovers.

What to See and Do in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz La Laguna has many things to see and do. You can hike up to the Mirador Rostro Maya, which is a viewpoint that overlooks the lake and the face-shaped profile of the Volcan San Pedro.

You can also hike to the nearby waterfalls, such as the Cascada de Tzununa, which is hidden in the lush forest and offers refreshing pools to swim in.

It’s also a great spot to kayak, paddleboard, and even scuba dive in the clear and calm waters of the lake, and explore the underwater world and the sunken villages.

Another great thing to do here is zip-line, rock climb, or rappel in the cliffs and canyons that surround the village, and enjoy the adrenaline rush and the scenic views.

Where to Stay

Santa Cruz La Laguna has a limited range of accommodation options, most of them are eco-lodges and cabins, that blend in with the natural environment and offer stunning views of the lake and the volcanoes.

Some of the best places to stay in Santa Cruz La Laguna are:

Where to Eat

Santa Cruz La Laguna has a few delicious and cozy restaurants and cafes, you can find anything from local, and international, to vegetarian cuisine.

You can find anything from traditional dishes and snacks, to pizza and pasta, to salads and sandwiches.

Some of the best places to eat in Santa Cruz La Laguna are:

  • Holy Tortillas Restaurant: A cozy and family-friendly restaurant that serves local homemade and fresh food with a stunning view of the lake from a terrace.
  • Restaurant Nimajay: A romantic and scenic restaurant, if you are up for a small hike up to the hill, it serves local and international food.

Jaibalito: The Smallest and Most Isolated Village on Lake Atitlan

Jaibalito is a quiet and simple village that has no roads or cars and can only be reached by boat or by foot. A place where you can experience the rural and authentic life of the lake, away from the crowds and the noise.

It is also a place where you can enjoy the natural beauty and tranquility of the lake, as it has some of the best views and spots on the shore.

What to See and Do in Jaibalito

Jaibalito has few things to see and do, but they are all worth it. You can walk around the village and observe the daily life of the locals, who are mostly farmers and fishermen.

Visit the local church, which is a simple and humble building that reflects the faith and culture of the community.

Hike to the nearby villages of Santa Cruz La Laguna and Tzununa, which are connected by a scenic and challenging trail that passes through the forest and the cliffs.

You can also relax and swim at one of the many docks or beaches that dot the shore, and admire the views of the lake and the volcanoes.

Where to Stay

Jaibalito has a super limited selection of accommodation options, mostly consisting of guesthouses and cabins, that offer basic but comfortable facilities and services.

Some of the best places to stay in Jaibalito are:

  • Casa del Mundo: A charming and unique hotel that offers cozy and colorful rooms, a restaurant, a bar, a library, and a massage room.
  • Posada Jaibalito: A friendly and family-run guesthouse that offers clean and spacious rooms, a communal kitchen, a garden, and a terrace.

Where to Eat

There are only a couple of delicious restaurants and cafes where you can find anything from traditional dishes and snacks, to pizza and pasta, to salads and sandwiches.

Some of the best places to eat in Jaibalito are:

  • Hans’ Place: A cozy and popular restaurant and cafe that serves homemade and fresh food, it’s part of pasada Jaibalito.
  • La Casa del Mundo: A romantic and scenic restaurant that serves traditional, gourmet, and fusion food. It is located in the hotel of the same name and has a stunning panoramic view of the lake and the volcanoes.
street on a village lake atitlan
Just walking around the streets of the towns that surround Lake Atitlan makes it a great experience, you can spot different stores, museums, and restaurants.

San Marcos La Laguna: The Spiritual and Holistic Center of Lake Atitlan

San Marcos La Laguna is a small and peaceful village that lies on the western shore of Lake Atitlan. It is one of the most spiritual and holistic villages on the lake, as it attracts many seekers of healing, wellness, and enlightenment.

It is also one of the most beautiful and scenic villages on the lake, as it has a lush green landscape and clear and calm water.

What to See and Do in San Marcos

There are many things to see and do, both in and around the village. Start by taking a walk around the village and explore the many meditation centers, yoga studios, massage parlors, and alternative therapies that offer a range of services and courses for your body, mind, and soul.

You can also visit the Reserva Natural del Cerro Tzankujil, which is a nature reserve that has a hiking trail, a butterfly garden, a sacred Mayan site, and a jumping platform into the lake.

Another great thing to do is to hike to the nearby villages of San Pablo La Laguna and Tzununa, which are connected by a scenic and easy trail that passes through the fields and the forest.

Or you can just relax and swim at one of the many spots around its shore and admire the views.

Where to Stay

Most of the limited accommodations of the villages are eco-lodges, cabins, and a couple of guesthouses, that offer simple but comfortable facilities and services.

Some of the best places to stay in San Marcos La Laguna are:

Where to Eat

You can find a few delicious restaurants, cafes, and bars, that serve local, international, and vegetarian cuisine.

Try anything from traditional dishes and snacks to pizza and sandwiches.

Some of the best places to eat in San Marcos La Laguna are:

  • Moonfish Cafe: A cozy and healthy cafe that serves fresh and organic salads, soups, sandwiches, wraps, smoothies, and juices, as well as vegan and gluten-free options.
  • Il Giardino: A scenic restaurant that serves homemade and fresh food, such as pizzas, pastas, salads, sandwiches, and cakes, as well as coffee and drinks.

San Pedro La Laguna: The Backpacker and Party Town of Lake Atitlan

San Pedro La Laguna is a large and lively village that lies on the southern shore of Lake Atitlan. It is one of the most backpacker and party villages on the lake, as it attracts many young and budget travelers who are looking for fun and entertainment.

Not only that, it’s also one of the most cultural and educational villages on the lake, as it offers many opportunities to learn Spanish, volunteer, and interact with the local community.

What to See and Do in San Pedro

You can walk around the village and visit the many Spanish schools, volunteer organizations, art galleries, and handicraft shops that offer a range of services and courses for your personal and professional development.

Visit the local market, where you can find fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, and other products or if you are interested in the history and culture of the lake, you can check out the Museo Tz’unun Ya, which displays artifacts and exhibits related to the ancient Mayan civilization that inhabited the area.

Make sure to visit the Iglesia Catolica San Pedro La Laguna, which is a colonial church that dates back to the 16th century.

But a MUST-DO while in the village is to hike up to the summit of the Volcan San Pedro, which is one of the three volcanoes that surround the lake. The hike is challenging but rewarding, as it offers spectacular views of the lake and the other volcanoes, as well as the chance to see some wildlife and flora.

You can also kayak, paddle board, or scuba dive in the clear and calm waters of the lake, or just relax and swim at the lake.

Where to Stay

There is a bigger and wider range of accommodation options in this village, from budget hostels and guesthouses to mid-range hotels and apartments, to luxury resorts and even villas.

Some of the best places to stay in San Pedro La Laguna are:

Where to Eat

Another good draw of San Pedro La Laguna is the great variety of restaurants and cafes you’ll find around. You can find anything from street food to fine dining and gourmet dishes.

Some of the best places to eat in San Pedro La Laguna are:

  • Hummus Ya: A cozy and healthy cafe that serves fresh and organic food from the Middle East.
  • The Fifth Dimension: A romantic restaurant with stunning views of the lake that serves vegan fresh food, like vegan burritos and Indian curry.
  • Bar Sublime: A lively bar and restaurant that serves delicious and affordable food that can go well with a drink, from burgers and tacos to nachos and desserts, as well as live music and entertainment.

Santiago Atitlan: The Cultural and Historical Heart of Lake Atitlan

Santiago Atitlan is a large and bustling village and is one of the most cultural and historical villages in the area, as it is the largest and oldest Mayan settlement on the lake and the home of the Tzutujil people.

It is also one of the most religious and mystical villages on the lake, as it is the site of many rituals, ceremonies, and legends, and the abode of the Mayan deity Maximón.

What to See and Do in Santiago

Start by taking a walk around the village and visiting the many churches, museums, and markets that showcase the rich and diverse culture and history of the lake.

Next, you can visit Maximón, which is a shrine dedicated to the Mayan god of rain, fertility, and mischief, which is represented by a wooden effigy dressed in colorful clothes and accessories.

Head to Cojolya Museum and Weaving Center, which is a cooperative that preserves and promotes the traditional weaving and embroidery of the Tzutujil women.

If you are up for some adventure go for a hike to the nearby Cerro de Oro, which is a hill that resembles a sleeping elephant, and that has a hiking trail, a Mayan altar, and a panoramic view of the lake and the volcanoes.

One of the best things to do in Santiago Atitlan is to enjoy the local festivals and celebrations, which are colorful and lively events that combine Catholic and Mayan traditions and beliefs.

Where to Stay

From budget hostels to mid-range hotels to luxury hotels, there’s no shortage of accommodation in Santiago Atitlan.

Some of the best places to stay in Santiago Atitlan are:

Where to Eat

There’s also a wide range and variety of restaurants where you can try local, or international cuisine. You can find anything from gourmet dishes to street food.

Some of the best places to eat in Santiago Atitlan are:

  • Restaurante El Pescador: A cozy and popular restaurant that serves fresh and delicious seafood, such as fish, shrimp, lobster, and ceviche, as well as coffee and drinks.
  • Posada de Santiago: A restaurant that serves homemade and fresh food, mostly local dishes, but you can find several international dishes that anyone will enjoy.
Woman near a pool taking a photo of Lake Atitlan in Panajachel
The lake is surrounded by volcanoes, making it a great spot for photos and the best option for exploring different landscapes.

Tip: Lake Atitlan is a safe place for tourists, but be aware!

The biggest issue is theft.

Get travel insurance before starting your journey.

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What to do in Lake Atitlán?

Lake Atitlán is a place where you can never get bored, as there are so many things to do and see. You can enjoy nature, culture, adventure, or relaxation, depending on your mood and preference.

Whether you want to explore the lake by boat, hike the trails, practice yoga, or shop for handicrafts, you will find something to enjoy in Lake Atitlan.

Here are some of the best things to do in Lake Atitlán:

Visit the different towns by boat

Of course, doing a tour of the towns around the lake is a must, you won’t get tired of walking those idyllic towns and discovering all the things they have to offer.

Each town has its own character and vibe, and you can easily hop on and off the public boats that run along the lake or hire a private boat (which I highly recommend).

Cliff jumps into the lake

If you are looking for some adrenaline and fun, you can try cliff-jumping into the lake. There are several spots around the lake where you can jump from different heights, ranging from 3 to 10 meters or even more.

One of the most popular places is the Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve in San Marcos, where you can also enjoy the trails with stunning views, and wildlife.

swimming in lake atitlan
If you are wondering if you can swim in Lake Atitlan, yes, you can take a swim in its refreshing waters but be cautious and use your common sense to keep you safe.

Stand-up paddle board on the lake

Another way to enjoy the lake is to stand up paddle board (SUP) on the calm and clear water. You can rent a board from several places around the lake, like the Kayak Guatemala in Panajachel, the Hostel Fe in San Pedro, or the San Marcos Holistic Cottage in San Marcos.

You can paddle along the shore, admire the scenery, and get some exercise. You can also join a guided tour or a sunrise or sunset session for a more memorable experience.

Go paragliding over the lake

For a bird’s eye view of the lake and the volcanoes, you can go paragliding over the lake. You can book a tandem flight with a professional instructor, who will take you on a thrilling ride above the lake.

Soar through the air, feel the wind, and check out the stunning landscape from a different perspective. There are several places where you can book a paragliding flight from Panajachel or San Pedro, with companies like Real World Paragliding.

Explore the nature reserve

If you love nature and wildlife, you can explore the Atitlan Nature Reserve in Panajachel. This is a private reserve that protects a part of the cloud forest and the lake shore.

You can walk along the trails, cross the hanging bridges, see the waterfalls, and spot some Guatemalan animals, like monkeys, coatis, butterflies, and birds.

You can also visit the butterfly farm, or orchid garden, and try the zip line.

The entrance fee is 70 quetzales (about 9 USD) for foreigners and 40 quetzales (about 5 USD) for locals.

📖 Recommended Reading: If you’re looking for more useful information, check out Money in Guatemala: Best Way to Exchange Money to Quetzales

a man kayaking with a kid in lake atitlan guatemala
One of the most popular things to do in Lake Atitlan is kayaking, it’s a relaxing way to explore the lake and meet people.

Hike the volcanoes

One of the most impressive features of Lake Atitlan is the three volcanoes that surround it: San Pedro, Toliman, and Atitlan.

You can hike to the summit of these volcanoes and enjoy the panoramic views of the lake and the region. The hikes are challenging and require a good level of fitness, as well as a guide and proper equipment.

Book a hike from any of the towns around the lake, with prices ranging from 150 to 300 quetzales (about 20 to 40 USD) per person, depending on the volcano and the duration.

Hike Indian’s Nose

Another popular hike in Lake Atitlan is the Indian’s Nose (“Nariz del Indio”), a mountain that resembles the profile of a Mayan face. The hike starts from the town of Santa Clara La Laguna and takes about an hour to reach the viewpoint.

From there, you can see the sunrise over the lake and the volcanoes, as well as the towns of Santa Clara, San Pedro, and San Pablo.

The hike is moderate and suitable for most people, but you will need a guide and transport to get to the starting point.

You can book a hike from any of the towns around the lake, with prices ranging from 50 to 100 quetzales (about 7 to 13 USD) per person.

Take a yoga class

If you want to relax and rejuvenate your body and mind, you can take a yoga class in Lake Atitlan. There are many yoga studios and retreats around the lake, offering different styles and levels of yoga, as well as meditation, massage, and other holistic services.

Or you can just do it on your own, but I highly recommend doing it at one of the many centers, since you will meet a lot of people and feel that warm and spiritual atmosphere.

Also, many of those places have dedicated areas with stunning views among the trees, that way you can make sure no one will disturb you.

Experiment with spiritual practices in San Marcos

San Marcos is the most alternative and hippie town on the lake, and it is a hotspot for spiritual practices and experiences.

You can find many centers and practitioners that offer a variety of services you can explore, like reiki, acupuncture, massage, sound healing, cacao ceremonies, ayahuasca ceremonies, and more.

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Watch the sunrise or sunset over the lake

One of the most magical things to do in Lake Atitlan is to watch the sunrise or sunset over the lake. The sky changes colors and reflects on the water, creating a stunning spectacle.

There are countless spots where you can watch the sunrise or sunset around the lake, and part of the fun go out hunting these spots. But a good starting point is your hotel balcony, a café, a mirador, or a boat.

Some of the best places to watch the sunrise are the Indian’s Nose, the San Pedro Volcano, and the San Marcos Bay.

Chill out in a café

If you want to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, you can chill out in one of the many cafés around the lake. You can find cafés with cozy atmospheres, delicious food, and amazing views.

Many of these cafes offer free wifi, making a good place to work a bit, read a book, play a game, or chat with other travelers.

Enjoy a meal with a view

One of the best things about Lake Atitlan is the food. You can find a variety of cuisines and dishes, from local and traditional to international and fusion.

I highly recommend that you enjoy a meal with a view, as many restaurants have terraces or windows overlooking the lake and the volcanoes, offering one of the most stunning meals you’ll have.

You can have breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and savor the flavors and the scenery.

panajachel lake atitlan guatemala
You can find many restaurants around the lake that offer stunning views of the lake while eating, but be aware, that some restaurants can get packed during breakfast or dinner.

Visit the miradors

Another popular activity in the lake is to visit the miradors, or viewpoints, that offer spectacular views of the lake and the volcanoes.

You can find miradors in different towns and locations around the lake, and you can reach them by walking, hiking, or taking a tuk-tuk.

Some of the best miradors around the lake are:

  • San Juan Mirador: This is a viewpoint in the town of San Juan, where you can see the lake, the volcanoes, and the town. It is a short walk from the center of the town, and it has a small park and a bench. It is a good place to watch the sunset or take some photos.
  • Santa Catarina Palopó Mirador: Another popular viewpoint in the town of Santa Catarina Palopó, where you can see the lake, the volcanoes, and the colorful houses of the town. It is a steep hike from the center of the town.
  • Godinez Mirador: This is a viewpoint on the road to Panajachel, where you can see the lake, the volcanoes, and the surrounding mountains. It is a 20-minute drive from Panajachel, or a 40-minute bus ride.

Admire the local artwork and street art

Lake Atitlan is a place of art and creativity, and you can admire the local artwork and street art in different towns and locations around the lake.

You can find paintings, sculptures, murals, graffiti, and more, that showcase the talent and culture of the local artists.

Another good way is to visit the galleries, museums, and workshops, where you can see the artwork, meet the artists, and buy some souvenirs.

Shop for local handicrafts

Another great thing to do is to shop for local handicrafts, such as textiles, ceramics, jewelry, woodwork, and more.

You can find handicrafts that reflect the culture and traditions of the Mayan people, as well as the creativity and diversity of the local artisans.

You can buy handicrafts from the shops, markets, cooperatives, or directly from the producers.

📖 Recommended Reading: If you’re looking for more useful information, check out 24 Hours in Lake Atitlan: Complete Itinerary for a Full Day of Fun

woman shopping handcraft in lake atitlan
Shopping for handicrafts is another great activity to do in Lake Atitlan, that way you’re not only supporting the locals but also getting unique products.

Visit a chocolate or coffee shop

Lake Atitlan is also a place of chocolate and coffee, and you can visit a chocolate or coffee shop to taste and learn about these products.

You’ll find chocolate and coffee shops that offer a variety of products, from bars to truffles, cakes, drinks, beans, and more.

The best way to approach this is to join a tour or a workshop, where you can see the production process and make your own chocolate or coffee.

Shop at a local market

Another thing to do in Lake Atitlan is to shop at a local market, and fortunately, you’ll find a lot of markets around the lake packed with fresh and cheap products, like fruits, vegetables, cheese, bread, meat, and more.

It’s also a good place to find some handicrafts, clothes, and souvenirs, as well as experience the local culture and atmosphere.

You can shop at local markets in different towns and locations around the lake, but a must-visit is the Panajachel Market (Mercado Municipal).

A daily market in the town of Panajachel, where you can find a variety of products, from fruits and vegetables to cheese and bread. You can also find some handicrafts, clothes, and souvenirs, as well as some street food and drinks. The market is open every day, from 6 am to 6 pm.

Take a Mayan cooking class

If you want to learn more about the local cuisine and culture, you can take a Mayan cooking class in Lake Atitlan, where you’ll learn how to prepare some typical and delicious dishes, like tortillas.

Learn about the ingredients, the spices, and the techniques that are used in the Mayan kitchen.

There are many places around the lake that will offer workshops and short cooking classes for you to take.

Witness a Mayan weaving demonstration

If you want to see and learn more about the local arts and crafts, you can check out a Mayan weaving demonstration in Lake Atitlan.

You can see how the local women weave beautiful and colorful textiles using natural dyes and backstrap looms.

Not only that, you will also learn about the symbols, the patterns, and the meanings that are embedded in the Mayan textiles.

Bike around the lake

Another great way to enjoy the lake and its surroundings is by biking, which will allow you to see the stunning views, the wildlife, and the local life.

There are many trails and routes around the lake, for different levels of difficulty and duration. But a must-try is the Lake Atitlán Circuit, a bike tour around the lake. There are many places to book a tour like this and start from most of the major villages of the lake.

It’s a long and scenic bike ride that takes you around the lake, passing by the different villages, the fields, and the mountains.

mountains, trees and lake atitlan
Around the lake, you’ll find several trails where you can do biking or hiking and take stunning views of the lake between the lush green trees.

When is the best time to visit Lake Atitlán?

The best time to visit Lake Atitlán is from November to April, which is the dry season. The weather is sunny and vibrant, with an average temperature of 22°C (72°F). The lake is calm and clear but prices tend to be higher during this season.

The rainy season is from May to October, which can be cloudy and humid, but also more green and less crowded. A lot of people enjoy the atmosphere of the lake during this season.

How to get to Lake Atitlán?

Lake Atitlán is located in the Sololá department of southwestern Guatemala, about 150 kilometers from Guatemala City and 80 kilometers from Antigua.

There are several ways to get to the lake from Antigua and Guatemala City, it depends on your budget!

Here are some of the most common options:

By Car

The fastest and most comfortable way to get to Lake Atitlán is by car, you can just rent a car or pay someone to take you there (a taxi will do the job).

The ride to the lake takes about 3 hours from Guatemala City and 2 hours and 30 min from Antigua.

By bus

The cheapest and most adventurous way to get to Lake Atitlán is by bus, but also the most time-consuming and risky.

You can take a public bus (called a chicken bus) from Guatemala City or Antigua to Panajachel, which is the main hub for buses around the lake.

The bus fare is about $3-$5 USD, and the journey time is about 4-5 hours.

However, the buses are often crowded, uncomfortable, and unsafe, so you need to be careful with your belongings and your personal safety.

chicken bus from guatemala
Chicken buses may be colorful and fun but they are well known for being crowded and noisy, a cheap way to get to Lake Atitlan but also uncomfortable.

By Shuttle

The most convenient and popular way to get to Lake Atitlán is by shuttle. You can take a shuttle from Guatemala City or Antigua to any of the villages around the lake, which will pick you up and drop you off at your accommodation.

The shuttle fare is about $25-$35 USD, and the journey time is about 3-4 hours.

You can book your shuttle online or through a hostel or a travel agency.

How do I get around Lake Atitlan?

You can get around Lake Atitlan by boat, tuk-tuk, or walking. The boat is the best way to visit the different towns and villages around the lake. You can take the public boats that run along the lake, or hire a private boat for a more flexible and personalized service.

  • The public boats cost around 10 to 25 quetzales (about 1 to 3 USD) per person while the private boats cost around 100 to 300 quetzales (about 13 to 39 USD) per boat, both options will depend on the distance and the destination.
  • The tuk-tuk is the best way to move within the towns and villages around the lake that are somewhat close. You can find tuk-tuks on the streets or at the docks. They cost around 5 to 15 quetzales (about 0.7 to 2 USD) per person, depending on the destination and distance.
  • Walking is the best way to enjoy the scenery and the atmosphere of the towns, most of them are small and can be explored on foot. You can walk along the shore, the trails, or the roads, and discover the hidden gems and the local life of the lake.
view of volcano lake atitlan guatemala
The volcanoes surrounding Lake Atitlan in Guatemala make the perfect backdrop for an already great trip, you can also hike some of them if you are up for an adventure.

Where to stay in Lake Atitlán?

Lake Atitlán offers a wide range of accommodation options, from budget hostels and guesthouses to luxury hotels. You can choose to stay in one of the villages around the lake, or in a secluded spot away from the crowds.

Here are some of the best places to stay in Lake Atitlán, according to your preference and budget:

Panajachel

Panajachel is the best place to stay in Lake Atitlán if you want to have easy access to transportation, services, and entertainment. It has the most variety of accommodation options, from cheap dorms and private rooms to cozy cabins and spacious apartments.

Some of the best places to stay in Panajachel are:

  • Hotel Atitlán: A beautiful and elegant hotel with a colonial style, located on the banks of the lake, with a stunning garden, a pool, a restaurant, and a bar. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, with balconies overlooking the lake or the volcanoes.
  • Selina Atitlán: A trendy and modern hostel with a vibrant atmosphere, almost in the center of the town, with a co-working space, a pool, a restaurant, and a bar. The rooms are stylish and cozy, with private or shared bathrooms.

San Marcos La Laguna

San Marcos La Laguna is more suitable for people who want to have a relaxing and spiritual experience. It has the most variety of yoga, meditation, and healing centers, as well as organic and vegetarian restaurants. The accommodation options are mostly eco-friendly and rustic, with a lot of cabins and bungalows.

Some of the best places to stay in San Marcos La Laguna are:

  • Lush Atitlán: A stunning and luxurious hotel with a contemporary design, situated on the edge of the lake, with a garden, a pool, a sauna, and a massage room. The rooms are spacious and elegant, with balconies overlooking the lake or the garden.
  • Eagle’s Nest Atitlán: A cozy and rustic hostel with a bohemian vibe, located on a hilltop, with a yoga deck, a meditation dome, a restaurant, and a bar. The rooms are simple and comfortable, with private or shared bathrooms.
  • Hostal del Lago: A friendly and social hostel with a hippie vibe, situated on the shore, with a dock, a garden, a restaurant, and a bar. The rooms are colorful and cozy, with private or shared bathrooms.
glass house near lake atitlan guatemala
There are countless secluded places to stay at around the lake, find the one that’s more suitable for you and enjoy a unique and relaxing journey.

San Pedro La Laguna

San Pedro La Laguna is the best option if you want to have a fun and lively experience. It has a wide variety of bars, clubs, and cafes, as well as cheap and delicious restaurants. The places to stay are mostly budget-friendly and backpacker-oriented, with a lot of hostels and guesthouses.

Some of the best places to stay in San Pedro La Laguna are:

  • Mikaso Hotel: A beautiful and cozy hotel with a Mediterranean style, located near the shore of the lake, with a rooftop terrace, a pool, a jacuzzi, a restaurant, and a bar. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, with balconies overlooking the lake or the garden.
  • Mr. Mullet’s Hostel: A fun and social hostel with a party vibe, located in the center of the town, with a pool table, a ping pong table, a movie room, a restaurant, and a bar. The rooms are clean and comfy, with private or shared bathrooms.
  • Casa Atitlán: A charming and quiet guesthouse with a colonial style, located in a peaceful street, with a garden, a terrace, and a kitchen. The rooms are simple and clean, with private or shared bathrooms.

Other options

If you want to stay away from the villages and enjoy more privacy and tranquility, you can also opt for some of the most secluded options around the lake.

There are many places that offer a more secluded experience, in case you want to do a self-retreatment and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere of the lake.

Some good accommodation options away from villages are:

  • Laguna Lodge: A luxurious and eco-friendly resort with a Mayan style, located on a nature reserve, with a private beach, a pool, a spa, a restaurant, and a bar. The rooms are spacious and elegant, with balconies overlooking the lake and the volcanoes.
  • La Iguana Perdida: A cozy and rustic hostel with a family vibe, a dock, a garden, a restaurant, and a bar. The rooms are simple and comfortable, with private or shared bathrooms.
  • Casa del Mundo: A charming and cozy hotel with a Moroccan style, located on a cliff, with a private beach, a terrace, a restaurant, and a bar. The rooms are colorful and cozy, with private bathrooms.
  • Casa Colonial: A charming and cozy guesthouse with a rustic style, located in a quiet street, with a garden, a terrace, and a kitchen. The rooms are simple and clean, with private or shared bathrooms.

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What to eat in Lake Atitlán?

Lake Atitlán is a place where you can taste the flavors of local and international cuisine, from traditional dishes to vegetarian and vegan options.

You can find a variety of restaurants, cafes, and street food stalls around the lake in its several villages, where you can enjoy the food and the views.

woman eating food in guatemala
Trying food around the lake is a whole experience itself, you can find from international food to vegan, and local dishes.

Here are some of the best things to eat in Lake Atitlán:

Vegetarian and vegan options

Many villages around the lake are popular for being a place of relaxation and well-being and with that, a ton of different vegan restaurants started to show.

Coffee and chocolate

Guatemala is a popular country for its coffee and chocolate, and you can find some sweet and energizing treats that are also local and organic.

Getting chocolate or coffee products is a good way to support the local economy since there are many local spots to get them.

Visiting Lake Atitlan in Guatemala: FAQs

How much money do I need to visit Lake Atitlán?

The amount of money you need to visit Lake Atitlán depends on your travel style and preferences, but you can expect to spend about $20-$50 USD per day, including accommodation, food, transportation, and activities.

You can save a lot of money by staying in affordable accommodations or hostels, eating at local restaurants or cooking your own food, and traveling by public transportation.

But if you want to splurge a bit, stay in a nice hotel with a lot of amenities, eat outside every day, rent a private boat, and use shuttles or taxis.

What are the main safety issues in Lake Atitlán?

Lake Atitlan is safe, but like most tourist locations you will find main safety issues like petty crime, such as pickpocketing, bag snatching, and scamming, especially in the touristy areas and on public boats.

Most of those issues are easily avoided by being careful with your belongings, not flashing your valuables, and bargaining before buying or hiring anything.

You should also be aware of the natural hazards, like altitude sickness, sunburn, and dehydration, especially if you are hiking or climbing the volcanoes.

What are the main cultural tips in Lake Atitlán?

The main cultural tips in Lake Atitlán are respecting the local people and their traditions, especially the Maya people, who have a strong and proud identity and culture.

You can show respect by dressing modestly, especially when visiting the churches or the ceremonies, and ask for permission before taking photos or videos of the people or the places.

What are the main souvenirs to buy in Lake Atitlán?

The main souvenirs to buy in Lake Atitlán are items made by the locals, handicrafts, stuff like textiles, jewelry, pottery, paintings, or even coffee and chocolate products, most of those items are made with natural and traditional materials and techniques.

You will find these in the shops, stalls, and markets around the lake, or directly from the artisans and producers.

Looking for More Inspiration?

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Check out these Hand-Tested GUIDES

Tips

If you want to travel without the hassle and confusion – check out a complete guide for traveling to Guatemala.

Places

For more travel ideas to add to your bucket list, check out a complete guide to all the best places to visit in Guatemala.

Food

Guatemala has a huge variety of food, check out the guide to the top 15 Guatemalan Food and Dishes.

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Last Updated on November 28, 2023

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