Easily one of the most beautiful locations in the world, Lake Atitlan Guatemala offers endless views, clear blue water, amazing coffee, and incredible hospitality.
Lago de Atitlan: Get to Know the Area
Also known as Lago de Atitlan, Lake Atitlan Guatemala is situated about 1,500 meters above sea level. Completely surrounded by soaring volcanic mountains, Lake Atitlan is seven miles long and three miles wide. It has an average depth of 200 meters, but there are shallow spots where you can swim and there is scuba diving at Santa Cruz la Laguna / Paxanax, which is about a 10 minute boat ride from Panajachel Guatemala.
Besides the coffee plantations that dot the steep mountainsides, there are picturesque Mayan villages and scenic towns all around Lake Atitlan.
Towns Near Lake Atitlan
As the largest town near Lake Atitlan, Panjachel (also known as Pana) happens to be the main hub for tourism and transport. It’s a great place to learn more about the region, get a bite to eat, check out the bar scene, and shop for last-minute items before heading to more remote areas. Don’t worry: There are water taxis to Panajachel from other spots so you can return if you feel like it! Many people make Pana their base of operations, setting out on day trips in the morning and returning to enjoy the lively social scene each evening.
Whether you feel like partying, relaxing, or a little of both, San Pedro is the place to be. This town has long been a hideaway for hippies and expats, and it’s a mecca for backpackers. It’s the perfect place to brush up on your Spanish, and it’s also a great jumping-off point for walking trips through the jungle, across coffee plantations, and up into the Guatemalan Highlands. It’s best to go with a guide; locals charge about 100 GTQ for this service. If you want to hike Volcan San Pedro, you’ll find the trailhead here.
San Pedro is also famous for its solar pools, which are heated in-ground baths with on-site laundry services, a bar, and a restaurant. Hotels, hostels, and restaurants typically feature terraces with amazing views and some offer direct access to the shores of Lake Atitlan.
Colorful Guatemalan style rugs, bags and clothing on sale in the village San Pedro La Laguna.
San Marcos is a bohemian paradise where you can relax, indulge in amazing cuisine, and enjoy spa treatments or treat yourself to a laid-back yoga session. If you’d like to jump off a cliff straight into Lake Atitlan, this is a great place for it. San Marcos is home to Lake Atitlan’s famous 8-meter cliff jump, so if you’re feeling brave, grab your bathing suit and get in line! For something a little different, consider a walk into the village of Tzununa, which is about 15 minutes away.
Not as busy as other spots, San Juan la Laguna is worth a visit for its views of incredible Guatemala mountains and its serene setting. San Juan has a couple of laid-back restaurants with a nice local vibe, but it’s not a good place to swim.
Santa Cruz La Laguna
If your list of things to do in Guatemala includes scuba diving Lake Atitlan, Santa Cruz La Laguna (known as Santa Cruz, for short) is the place to do it. Lake Atitlan has risen over the years and underwater features include submerged hotels and houses, along with incredible rock formations and more. Guided dive trips average 500GTQ per day.
Santa Cruz has no road access, so it’s even more tranquil than some other spots around Lake Atitlan. Be sure to check out the marketplace for a snack of fresh fruit and hike or take a tuk tuk to the old village of Santa Cruz, which is at the top of the hill, away from the resort areas. The boat ride from Pana takes just about 10 minutes.
Santa Catarina Palopo
Santa Catarina Palopo is easily accessed via one of the lanchas (boats) or via fletes, which is a rugged taxi on a pickup truck chassis. It’s a short trip from Panajachel Guatemala, and you’ll have the opportunity to experience authentic Mayan culture and meet the vibrantly dressed Kaqchikel people.
If you really want to get away from it all for a few hours, days, or weeks, then a trip to Jaibalito is in order. This is the smallest, most remote Atitlan Guatemala location, and as such, it’s the least touristy of them all. Don’t worry; if you’re an English speaker, you’ll feel welcome since there are plenty of US ex-pats living in this community.
You can enjoy authentic cuisine and meet Tz’utujil Maya people any day of the week here, but the best days to visit this bustling village is Friday or Sunday, which are the main market days. Come hungry! Food is second only to the views at this authentic village, and every bit of it is delicious.
Lake Atitlan Guatemala Weather: What to Expect
Atitlan Guatemala offers a temperate climate. Summers are mild, with temperatures averaging a little over 78 degrees Fahrenheit, although daytime temperatures can climb into the upper 80s. The rainy season offers cooler temperatures and some sunny weather between downpours. Streets are often flooded, temporarily transforming themselves to miniature but fast-moving rivers as water makes its way toward Lake Atitlan.
The higher you climb, the cooler the weather. If your adventures include hikes to higher altitudes, you can expect chilly temperatures. Mountaintops can be up to about 20 degrees colder than the lakeshore, so it’s a good idea to wear layers.
Lago de Atitlan, Central America
When is the Best Time to Visit Lake Atitlan Guatemala
In Atitlan, Guatemala, summer begins in early November and ends in late May. There’s some overlap with the beginning of the rainy season or Invierno, which starts in early April and typically comes to an end by late October.
August and September are often wilder in terms of weather, as this is Guatemala’s hurricane season, and they’re the least popular times to visit Lake Atitlan. While the lake isn’t as heavily affected as coastal Guatemala, Atitlan often receives heavy, prolonged bouts of wind and rain that can cause flooding, landslides, and a temporary rise in Lake Atitlan’s water level.
You can schedule your trip for anytime, but most people agree that the best time to visit Lake Atitlan is right after the rainy season but before summer is in full swing. October and November are ideal; the landscape is lush, winter tourists haven’t started arriving in droves, and some Lake Atitlan hotels and other accommodations offer special off-season pricing.
Things to Do in the Lake Atitlan Area
While the main attraction is Lake Atitlan itself as well as hiking the volcanic landscape that surrounds it, there’s plenty of shopping to discover at venues including Panajachel’s street markets and the colorful Chichi market at Chicicastenango.
Cultural adventures treat you to the traditional sights, sounds, and flavors of Lake Atitlan. Art galleries, local artisans, and restaurants help you take it all in. If you love coffee, you can learn all about how it’s grown and processed here, and you can certainly drink your fair share, too!
Fishing Lake Atitlan is another option, if you’re an angler. The lake is home to largemouth bass, which can be caught from shore or you can enjoy a guided fishing excursion by boat.
Between active adventures like kayaking to Santa Caterina Palopo, hiking over the Rostro Maya, or wandering the marketplaces, consider heading to San Marcos for a holistic massage, or take a little time out for yoga or soothe sore muscles with a Reiki session. If you’ve ever wanted to visit a traditional Temescal sweat lodge, this is a fantastic place to do it.
If you’re interested in visiting towns around Lake Atitlan, just head to the lakeshore and wait for the next water taxi to arrive. Most of these taxis simply come and go, not bothering to adhere to any set schedule.
Accommodations Around Lake Atitlan: Where to Stay
Panajachel is a fantastic place to stay, with hotels and hostels that offer easy access to water taxis that can take you on daily excursions to other locations. Other towns offer accommodations as well, so it’s likely that you can find a comfy bed wherever your travels through the Lake Atitlan landscape take you.
How to Get to Lake Atitlan
Atitlan Guatemala feels like a faraway retreat, and in a way, it is since there’s no airport. Luckily, the journey to this incredible Guatemala lake community isn’t at all difficult. If you’re flying in, play to arrive at GUA, or Aeropuerto Internacional La Aurora. From the international airport, you can take National Bus Route 1 to Atitlan Bus Station, which takes about 3.5 hours. Buses visit Lake Atitlan from other major hubs as well, and local Chicken Buses travel all throughout the region, too.
More Things to Do in Guatemala
Guatemala is a wonderful place to visit, with ancient Mayan pyramids at sites such as Tikal national park. Not to be missed are the hot springs, thermal pools, spas, and incredible views of Guatemala’s most active volcanoes near Antigua, which is conveniently located a couple of hours from Lake Atitlan. This incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site is the former capital of Guatemala, with much to see and do as you explore the cobblestone streets. Guatemala is one of the world’s most beautiful places, with so much to see and do that you could easily spend years here. So, brush up on your Spanish and hone your photography skills. Whatever you do while visiting Lake Atitlan and the vast landscape beyond, amazing experiences are waiting
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