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Travel to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala: What You Need to Know

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Travel to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala: What You Need to Know

Lake atitlan view from a dock

When you visit Guatemala, there are usually three places that you will be visiting, and I have a whole podcast specifically talking about traveling to Guatemala itself. One of the most popular out of those three is Lake Atitlan. Lake Atitlan is an ancient volcanic crater that is now a lake, but it’s still surrounded by volcanoes. There are three volcanoes that surround the entire lake, and it has all these little villages where the majority of the indigenous Mayan live. Today we are going to be talking about Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

💡 You can listen to the full Guatemala podcast here

Lake Atitlan In Guatemala

However, it’s also a really popular place for ex-pats and definitely a very touristy place. There are quite a lot of things going on there, first of all the lake itself, it’s apparently supposed to be one of the most beautiful places to visit. It’s also where the Maya indigenous still live. So you can find a lot over their weaving, of their artisans, of their culture in general, plus the little villages the way they are situated are really fun to visit. 

peple watching the stunning lake atitlan in panajachel

How to get to Lake Atitlan

There are many ways to get to Lake Atitlan, but the two main ones are if you’re flying into Guatemala City. You go directly there, it’s about 3 hours or if you go first to Antigua again, all of these have their own separate podcast, so you could really understand what to do in each of these locations. If you go from Antigua, it’s about 3 hours as well. You could easily take a shuttle or a private transfer or an Uber or if you’re renting a car it’s pretty easy to get to once you get there, you really don’t need a car.

💡 You can listen to the full Guatemala City podcast here

Getting Around Lake Atitlan

The main city that you will be arriving in is called Panajachel. And normally what people do is they spend one or two nights there, or they spend their entire time there, and you can leave your car in a parking lot, and again you do not need a car once you get there because the actual little villages are all walkable and to get to all the different villages that you have to take a boat. 

You could either take a local boat or you could rent a private boat from the docks to take you to wherever you need. So what a lot of people do is they could either choose to stay in Panajachel and do a village tour that will take you to all these different little villages, or you can go to Panajachel and then decide to go and stay in another little village. 

Woman near a pool taking a photo of Lake Atitlan in Panajachel

Popular Villages to Visit

Here is the main breakdown of the most popular villages to visit:

  • Panajachel has a really cool main street where there are a lot of places to shop and little markets and whatnot as well. So If you only have one or two days then you need to just maybe go to Panajachel and then take a boat  trip around all the villages.
  • Santiago. Santiago is actually not that popular as much as it is the largest village in that whole area. This is definitely the most local village as well because this is where the majority of the locals live. It is a really cool place to visit. However, the other villages are more centered on tourism and have a lot more restaurants, it’s just a little more fun.
  • San Marcos. San Marcos is known as one of the more popular places to stay. Tons of different hotels, and restaurants. This is also where a lot of people like the yoga stuff, the new age with retreat centers. I personally think more on the flakier side. However, it is a really popular place to visit. It’s definitely different. There are little markets, definitely a place that you would want to check out.
  • San Pedro. San Pedro is also really popular, with tons of restaurants, hotels, and whatnot. These villages are also popular for learning Spanish. So you can go here for a week to either take a Spanish school lesson or stay with the family or whatever.
  • Santa Catarina is another really popular place to visit. That’s where you can find a lot of the weaving places.

You could do a village tour and I really recommend just getting a private boat because this way you have full control, It’s not that expensive. They’re like $100-150 for the day, not that much money to spend, and you could really enjoy and understand.

Again, none of these villages need cars at all. They are mainly footpaths, and that’s what makes it even funner to visit. Then there’s also Santa Cruz. Then there are other little places that you could see and sometimes people just want to get away and stay in houses that only get you by boat, so you can decide what is the one that you want the most. 

A wooden boat on the atitlan lake in panajachel

Where to Stay?

There are tons of Airbnb and tons of hotels that are either in the towns or hotels that are just the hotels that you could take a boat to as well and a lot of these hotels that are just both access, offer their own transportation. So you could just let them know, and they’ll be picking you up and if you want to go and do different tours, they offer everything for you. They’re normally the best amount of time to visit. If you only have, you know, 7 to 10 days in Guatemala, probably three days, three nights is definitely going to be enough. 

kid on top a tree at Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Conclusion

Definitely do a tour of the village, if you have a short period of time, if you’re staying there for much longer. Obviously, you’ll be able to spend more time in each place. But it is fascinating to go and check out all the different villages, and a lot of people go straight to the airport if you have an afternoon flight. But if you have a morning flight then definitely go the night before to Guatemala city, that’s why you don’t have to stress and stay in a hotel right near the airport.

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