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Lake Atitlán

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Lago de Atitlán, (English: Lake Atitlán), is a beautiful volcanic lake in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. It is ringed by small towns, many of which are favourites among backpackers. The region encompasses the lake and the towns around them. Panajachel is best known, and a good entry point, but more off the beaten track are San Pedro La Laguna or the "less party, more meditation" village of San Marcos. Due to the region's popularity, other towns along the lake, such as Santa Cruz la Laguna and San Juan, are now starting to see growing tourism.

Towns and Villages[edit]

  • Jaibalito even smaller village on north side of Lake Atitlán, and one of the standard public lancha stops. Places to stay and eat for all budgets. Connected by a beautiful walking trail to Santa Cruz la Laguna.
  • Panajachel- Lake Atitlan's most visited town and transport hub for the whole lake
  • San Antonio Palopo - Laid back and simple Mayan village. Can service tourists nicely but only a couple dozen at a time. Famous for its distinctive ceramics
  • San Juan - emerging destination famous for its natural coloured dyed fabrics
  • San Marcos La Laguna - "less party, more meditation" than San Pedro
  • San Pedro La Laguna - a formerly laid-back small town with established backpacker reputation, where every house is a shop and has very aggressive touts
  • Santa Catarina Palopo - an authentic Mayan village with an abundance of traditional Kaqchikel culture
  • Santa Cruz la Laguna small village on north side of Lake Atitlán. If getting away from it all in magical surroundings.
  • Santiago Atitlán, small town on south side of Lake Atitlán, famous for a shrine to Maximón not as spolied by turism as San Pedro and Panajachel

Other destinations[edit]

  • San Lucas Toliman
  • San Pablo La Laguna- A quiet mayan village on the north side of the lake. Not yet over-run with tourism. Airbnb accomodations available.
  • Tzununa


Lake Atitlán and its villages are a winning combination of scenic beauty, a relaxed atmosphere, easily accessible Mayan culture, and a good tourist infrastructure. You can have an enjoyable weekend visit, a week away from it all, or several weeks to learn Spanish. Atitlan Lake is situated at an altitude of 1,560 metres and the top of Tolimán volcano, which is the highest volcano is 3,158 metres. If the depth being reproduced on the charts is 320 metres, investigations carried out in the years 1970 evaluate to 600 m the depth on the San Lucas Tolimán side.

Get in[edit]

Most travellers arrive in Panajachel. Bus and other transportation instructions are in that town's article.

Get around[edit]

Many lanchas, or small boats, provide transport from village to village around and across the lake. Some boats are private like buses, other will go as soon as they accumulate enough passengers, like share-ride taxis. There is no official schedule, but in general, public boats leave Panachel for San Pedro via Santa Cruz & San Marcos (as well as other smaller harbours) every half hour. The local prices are Q3 for one harbour, Q5 for two, and up to Q10 for many or across the lake. The crew, as well as "helpful" men hanging out near the piers can be unpleasant scoundrels however, and will attempt to extort up to Q75 out of anyone with a light complexion or limited Spanish.

Some people suggest it is generally best not to mention a price until you get off the boat, fine if there are locals on board and you can see what they are paying, but if you are on a tourist-only boat that will usually get you into the extortion situation. You can also ask the people with little or no luggage how much they're paying (chances are they're at least a little familiar with the system). The prices are fixed for the locals and foreigners and tourist generally pay more. However, the prices below are the prices for tourists, so do NOT pay more!

Example prices, current as of September 2014:
Pana to/from Santa Cruz - Q10
Pana to/from San Marcos - Q15
San Marcos to/from Santa Cruz - Q10
Pana to/from San Pedro - Q25
Pana to/from Santiago Atitlan - Q25
San Pedro to/from Santiago - Q10
San Pedro to/from Santa Cruz - Q20
San Pedro to/from San Marcos - Q10

  • Atitlan Solutions, [6] (+502 5104 2485), Atitlan Solutions is a multiservice company offering solutions on and around Lake Atitlan. With over 25 years of experience they have a wealth of knowledge and know the Lake inside out. Whether it be touristic activities, accomodation (short or long stay), transportation (ground and boat), logistics or other services that may help you to enjoy your stay.

See[edit][add listing]

The Indian's Nose at the top of the mountain above the cities of San Juan and San Marcos. It is accessible through various tracks and there are also organised trips with horses to the top.Lying in the countries most western highlands, the countries prettiest looking place is the pure and blue lake Atitlan. This place mirrors the three Fuji like volcanoes.A large collapsed volcanic cone can be found right at the lake Atitlan. The descendants of the ancient placed called Maya, even today live off the land which is rich in ash and other minerals. The maize farming methods through the years have still been the same, this is because the local people have made an effort so that they don’t change their old ways of living.

Do[edit][add listing]

Around Lake Atitlan can have many activities such as hiking, volcano tour, bike tour, tour in the villages, coffee tour, bird watching tour, trek around the lake, kayak adventure, cultural tour by village around the lake.

There are a number of activities you can do on the water, such as kayaking (rent from Casa del Mundo below, or San Pedro la Laguna) and jet skiing. Diving is also possible in Santa Cruz la Laguna through the hostel "La Iguana Perdida". Or, if you're not the watery type, there's horseback riding, and hiking galore.

There exists a vague, and at times somewhat precarious, path that encircles pretty much the whole lake. New holiday homes and hotels have restricted some of the access to the lakeside path, but it's still possible to walk it. It's a very rewarding and enjoyable hike. Swim in the beautiful water anytime you need to cool off. Wave down a boat from any of the countless jetties if you get tired and want to return back home. There have been robberies along hiking paths. Be sure to ask your hotel about whether it is wise to bring a local guide with you.

Another option is a bike tour spending a night in different village around the lake, you can rent bicycles in the Kukulkan Adventure Center, located in the street rancho grande in Panajachel it included helmet and gloves.

Climb the three volcanoes. San Pedro from San Pedro, guided for 100Q. Atitlan and Toliman can be arranged from Pana. It is not recommended to book tours for climbing the volcanoes in Pana. Most of the prices for climbing the volcanoes will be very similar at most agencies (around USD40 for San Pedro) and they probably collude to keep the price there. However the Pana tour agencies will outsource the work to another tour agency in San Pedro. Agencies in Pana will act as middlemen and take a cut of Q100 to Q200 (Quetzales). It is better to approach the agencies in San Pedro directly and cut out the middleman. It is also possible to do the hikes completely on your own for under Q200 (approx USD24. bulk of it if the entrance fee to the park for foreigners and the boat fare). Most of the people you will meet on the mountains are indigenous people who will be very nice. It seems safe to hike the mountain by yourself (without a guide, but if you hire one you will be helping the local Quiche people). Please bring a plastic bag with you on the hike and pick up any plastic bottles or plastic packaging on your way down. You will be a good citizen of the world. Climbing Atitlan can be done in one to two days.

However you could do it on your own: The best/easiest would be to bike/rent a motorcycle and go from Pana as far as you can. Look at summitpost for detailed description. If you want to commute there, the easiest would be boat to Santiago, and pickup to San Lucas, this will if you carry luggage though incur a lot of hassle (from people), so better get a cheap hotel room somewhere and leave as much as you can there before you go. Do it as early as possible in the morning.

Volunteering opportunities! Many of the schools around Lake Atitlán offer built-in volunteering opportunities. For medical students wanting to offer service and gain experience, Hospitalito Atitlán[7] in Santiago Atitlán (another pueblo on the lake) accepts medical students and clinicians. The new Hospitalito Atitlán, scheduled to be completed in November 2010, can mold any volunteer work to fit the skills available (carpenters, MBA students, computer work, group volunteering for construction, etc.).

  • Travel Atitlan [8] Arranges cultural tours every day in villages around the lake, also if you like adventure they offer climbing volcanoes, trekking around the lake, bike tours. they work with services tourguides.
  • Kukulkan travel [9] tour operator located in Panajachel offers adventure tours. offers daily boat tours to visit villages around the lake, also provides adventure biking tours, kayaks and hiking. All services are performed by professionals and accredited by Guatemala institute of tourism.

  • Travel & Health Guatemala THGuatemala plans everything so you can take it easy. We directly run and organise tours from Xela to the wide variety of destinations in the department of Quetzaltenango. We also run and coordinate trips to popular national destinations such as Pacaya, Lake Atitlan, Tikal and Semuc Champey. So, whatever you want to do in Guatemala we’re here to make it as easy as possible. THGuatemala is based in the second city of Quetzaltenango (Xela). Much smaller than the capital, Xela has a relaxed atmosphere and is easy to navigate on foot. The city is a great base for exploring the country and has everything you’d expect and need. For more information or quotation [email protected]

  • Adrenalina Tours [10] organizes daily shuttles to the Fuentes Georginas hot springs in the town of Zunil, to areas for hiking and trekking, cultural tours in indigenous villages, walking city tours, or to the tours of the cemetery and beer factory. There are also shuttles to and from most places in Guatemala, and Tapachula and San Cristobal in Mexico, or Copan in Honduras. This service is equipped with its own vehicles, bilingual drivers, and certified guides. Their offices are located on the west side of the central park in Quetzaltenango, on Pasaje Enriquez. Information: [email protected]
  • Caminando Guatemala [11]

Specialized tour operator for treks and hikes in Guatemala, based out of QUETZALTENANGO, on the third floor above ADRENALINA TOURS. This tour operator organizes daily hikes to the local volcanoes of Santa Maria, Chicabal, and Santiaguito (all within Quetzaltenango). Geologists and experts also have the opportunity to explore the volcanoes in multi-day expeditions.

  • Boat tour adventure This tour starts in Panajachel to visit the villages around the lake there begins the morning to visiting the towns of San Marcos, San Juan, San Pedro and Santago in this tour you can see diferent kind of attraction that there are in each places. you going to have an hour in three towns and one and half hour in Santiago Atitlan. in this adventure you can see the church, tipical dress, artesans, coffee farm [12]

Eat[edit][add listing]

Many of the towns around the lake have restaurants, at a variety of price points from luxury to budget. See the individual town articles for details.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Lake Atitlán is a better place to relax than to party. Some towns, like Panajachel, have thriving bar scenes. Others go to sleep when the night falls.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Each of the towns and villages around the lake offer a wide range of hotels. you can stay with a poor man or a 5 star hotel! See the individual town articles (under Cities above) for details. The following hotels or resorts are not in a specific town.

  • Atitlan Sunset Lodge, Santa Cruz La Laguna, +502 5104 2485, +502 5493 6161, [1]. Located on the shore of the beautiful Lake Atitlan with amazing views on the volcanoes and stunning sunsets, these four well equipped lodges are the perfect place to get away from the hustle of everyday life. Whether it be for a romantic weekend or a longer stay to work or just relax, Atitlan Sunset Lodge provides the perfect getaway. Private, rustic and surrounded by nature.  edit
  • Casa Del Mundo, [13]. Mid range price US$ 38 per night with own room and shared bathroom or US$ 75 per night with own room and bathroom. It´s a 15 minute boat ride to this secluded villa on the lake set apart from everything. This is a small hotel with about 15 luxurious rooms and amazing food. Be prepared to pay about 75 Quetzals extra for the three course dinner they serve, its the only way to eat. Bring a swimsuit because this is the ideal place to lounge in hammocks or simply float in the water. Perhaps the best value for money hotel to be found in Atitlan. It is only accessible by boat, the food is fantastic, the rooms are clean and the grounds are amazing.
  • Lake Villa Guatemala, [14].☎ 502 5050 0767. . A unique destination on the southern shore of Lake Atitlan between Santiago Atitlán and San Lucas Toliman. A quiet, private, lake-front villa with beautiful views. Only two guest rooms mean unparalleled personal service, including arrangement of tours, ceremonies, and other activities. Breakfasts and dinners are included. All meals are plant-based, making this an ideal spot for a vegetarian or vegan retreat or vacation. Personal retreats are supported, including silent retreats. Use of kayaks and spa tub is included. Price from $95-$125 (with meals).
  • Lomas de Tzununá, [15]. A relatively new place perched on the hillside between Santa Cruz la Laguna and San Marcos. Facing the volcanos, with amazing views, friendly staff. Only accessible by boat.
  • La Riviera de Atitlan, (502)7762-0310, [2]. A high-end resort, located a few km to the west of Panajachel on the bay of San Buenaventura. US$150/night.  edit
  • Sha Ryan Ka, [16].☎ 502 4601 2775. A lake-front property which consists of 3 unique cottages and a large, main house with two bedrooms in front, on the Bay of Paxanax, Santa Cruz la Laguna. This magical lakefront home has views of 3 volcanoes from a large veranda. The main house sleeps 4-6, has a fireplace in the living room, and an indoor/outdoor bathroom that was photographed for a European architectural magazine. The three rustic casitas on the slope behind the house are all reasonably well-equipped cottages with hot showers and kitchenettes. All have relaxing lake view balconies and rentals are from $300-420/month, daily rentals start at $20 (min. 3 nights) and weekly at $125. The main house rents from $80/night or $480/week. All rentals include access to beautiful, well-maintained gardens, sauna, private dock, and meditation gazebo looking out on a small waterfall.
  • "Yo Momma's Casa", [17]. Located in San Pedro. Budget prices, ~Q30 per night for the dorms. There are two dorms (with lockers), two private rooms, a rec room with a pool table, a kitchen, and a central area with hammocks and chairs where everyone congregates. The bathrooms are decent enough, and they have WiFi. It is a great place to go if you want to meet people, you can't avoid walking by the central area and people are almost always hanging out there, and it's close to the bars/parties but generally very quiet. A great place for a long stay; ask about discounts for extended visits.
  • Hotel Miralrio of Atitlan, Calle El Amate (To Santa Catarina) (Panajachel), (502) 77-662291, [3]. checkin: 15:00; checkout: 13:00. Economic priced level with some luxuries like Free Wi-Fi, Cable Channels, Private Restrooms and magnificent garden with all kind of flowers and trees, Clean rooms and secured private parking, really a must place if travelling on economic budget, rooms have direct view to the lake and volcanoes, staff is friendly and speak some English. US$15.00. (14.7418349621095,-91.153092666626) edit
  • Hotel Sakcari El Amanecer, 7 Avenida Zona 2 San Pedro La Laguna, +502 7721-8096, [4]. checkin: 3 pm; checkout: 1 pm. Hotel Sakcari El Amanecer is a beautiful lakefront Eco hotel located in San Pedro La Laguna on the shores of Lake Atitlan. The hotel has 21 rooms and 4 apartments. Q300 to Q750.  edit
  • Lush Atitlan, [18]. (Get off at the dock, head up the paved path and follow signs to your left), ☎ +502 4818 4258 ([email protected]), [3]. checkin: 3pm; checkout: 11am. At this little ecolodge each room is unique, built into the steep hillside, and decorated with recycled glass and murals. Great soft bedding and excellent beds even in the budget rooms. They take reservations for the high end rooms from $50 and up. It is the most luxurious and interesting place to stay in San Marcos. Budget rooms are also a great value, but are first come first serve. Excellent restaurant for breakfast. from $14 to $175.
  • Casa Prana (Casa Prana Resort Hotel Atitlan Guatemala), Paxanax, Santa Cruz (Panajachel, Solola, Guatemala), (502)53610270, [5]. checkin: 3 PM; checkout: 1 PM. Casa Prana is a luxury resort hotel located in the banks of Lake Atitlan near the village of Santa Cruz, Solola, Guatemala. The property comprises 9 acres of gardens of natural beauty, with panoramic views of the magnificent Lake Atitlan and its surrounding volcanoes. Casa Prana is a small and rare paradise offering a guest experience that is simple and elegant, providing a high level of service and comfort, surely one of the best small hotels in Guatemala. Prices range from 246 US$ to 599 US$, depending on the season and the type of Suite, however there are promotions with discounts up to 40%. 340 US$. (14.7419846,-91.2023885) edit

Get out[edit]

Stay safe[edit]

On the road around the Laguna de Atitlán, especially between the villages San Juan and San Marcos, some daytime violent crime has been reported (Nov 2004). Tourists have been robbed (although not injured), and there were also rapes against women. The road from San Lucas Toliman to Cerro de Oro, once dangerous, is now considered safe.

Although the road from San Marcos to the next northern village is now controlled by the "Tourist Police", walking this way with backpacks or large amounts of money is not recommended.

Hiking in the mountainous areas around San Marcos is not recommended- there are several known thieves in the area and police and community members, while helpful after an assault, have very little control of the situation. If you feel you must explore these regions definitely go in a group of three or more, or if you're alone take nothing of value with you.

Always check with your hotel about safety. If you are just visiting for the day, ask a local person who seems trustworthy. Safety conditions can change and it is best to ask.

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