Lake Atitlan: Culture & Calm in Guatemala

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Advisor - Maggie Pecorino
Curated By

Maggie Pecorino

  • Nature Escapes

  • Guatemala

  • Solo Travel

  • Digital Nomad Travel

  • Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel

  • Wellness Travel

  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • Arts & Culture

  • Outdoors

  • Sightseeing

Guatemala Lake Atitlan property.
Curator’s statement

The energy of Lago de Atitlan is magical. Three hours from Guatemala’s colonial city of Antigua, Central America’s deepest lake has something for everyone. Take a Spanish course in San Pedro. Rent a kayak and take in the surrounding volcanoes from the water. Enjoy a ceremonial cacao in San Marcos. Take a sunrise hike (or two.) Slowly explore each Mayan village on foot and feel for yourself what this unique place has to offer. Be warned: you may never want to leave.

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Where to stay in Atitlan, Guatemala

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Things to do in Atitlan, Guatemala

Chichicastenango market in Guatemala.

Take a yoga class at Hostel Del Lago in San Marcos. This is possibly the most beautiful yoga space I’ve ever stepped foot in. Be sure to enjoy a ceremonial cacao, a staple of Mayan culture, before or after class. Lavalove is a lovely option, but you can find it at almost every cafe in town.

Visit Butterflies Inside the Atitlán Nature Reserve in Panajachel. Panajachel is known for its busy market and textile streets. If you need some peace and quiet, head to the reserve for a beautiful butterfly garden, waterfalls, a coffee grove and even zip lines. Fun for all ages. You can opt to stay at their wonderful onsite hotel, too.

Casa Del Tejido y Tours in San Juan. Walk up the Insta-famous La Calle de las Sombrillas past dozens of street murals to Casa Del Tejido for an educational tour/demonstration of traditional Mayan cotton dyeing and weaving. Enjoy the beautiful shop of handmade gifts and locally-grown coffee served on site. This is a wonderful way to support local communities and experience a true slice of lake culture.

Cliff jump at Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve in San Marcos. A short hike from the main San Marcos dock, this peaceful reserve with a small entrance fee is known for its prime cliff jumping spot with perfect views of the lake and low-key hiking options. Go early before the crowds.

Embrace slow travel with a Spanish course in San Pedro. Why? Guatemalan Spanish is relatively slow and easy to understand. Extremely affordable (less than $10 an hour) Lake Atitlan Spanish School, Cooperative Spanish School and other trusted spots each offer group or private lessons/additional activities such as home-cooked meals and tours. If you are looking for a more immersive experience, many schools even offer homestay accommodation for an extra fee. I highly recommend.

Walk off the beaten path in San Pedro. As one of the more developed towns, make sure to take time away from the main tourist drag on the water and see what San Pedro is like for locals. Check out Tornado's Coffee and nearby Jakuu for budget-friendly Guatemalan cuisine. There's also a wonderfully creepy cemetery. NOTE: Be prepared to get a little exercise! The roads are steep.

Hike La Nariz del Indio (Indian's Nose) at Sunrise. Panoramic views of the lake? Only 30 minutes to summit? Sign me up. The Indian's Nose viewpoint offers a direct view of the eastern sun and is well worth the early wake-up call. This is one of the most magical sunrises I've ever seen. NOTE: Always go with a guide! You can find tons of options in San Pedro, from where you will depart via shuttle.

Free Cerveza. One of the best hostels in Guatemala, if not Central America. Even if you don't choose to stay in one of their private tents, be sure to spend an afternoon enjoying the view and fun vibes at their waterfront bar. Food is yummy. Kayaks & paddleboards for rent. View is perfection.

Day Trips

Iximche Ruins, located a 1.5-hour drive from Lake Atitlán, offer a captivating glimpse into the past. Built in the 15th century, this small yet fascinating site served as the capital of the Kaqchikel Mayan people. With its ruins of palaces, ceremonial areas and sporting grounds, it is a must-visit for history enthusiasts.

Chichicastenango Market, situated approximately 1.5-2 hours away, is renowned as one of the largest markets in Central America. Thursdays and Sundays are market days, and visiting during these times is an exhilarating experience. With a multitude of vendors, the market offers endless opportunities to explore and discover unique treasures.

Places to eat & drink in Atitlan, Guatemala

overflowing table of colorful fruits and vegetables at an outdoor market stand

Konojel Restaurant in San Marcos offers life-changing chicken tinga arepas.

Visit The Emporium in San Marcos for delicious vegan options that even non-vegans will enjoy. The community-centric vibes add to the overall experience.

Experience locally-owned, no-frills Guatemalan fare at Jakuu in San Pedro. The prices are great, making it a budget-friendly choice.

Enjoy a fantastic cappuccino and a peaceful garden ambiance at Tornado's Coffee in San Pedro.

Head to Sababa in San Pedro for gorgeous views of the water and yummy pastries.

At TLV Chef Bar in San Pedro, you can enjoy cocktails served in enormous crystal-like bowls with lids. The food is also excellent.

Make a stop at Crossroads Cafe in Panajachel, where you can witness coffee-roasting demonstrations and enjoy their popular coffee.

The Little Spoon in Panajachel is an all-day cafe with a sunny terrace. They also host nighttime events such as DJs and trivia, making it a favorite spot among digital nomads.

Advisor - Maggie Pecorino

Travel Advisor

Maggie Pecorino

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Guatemala. Looking for more inspiration? Check out my guide, The Magic of Medellín.