Lake Atitlan Guatemala: An Ultimate Travel Guide

Lake Atitlan Guatemala An Ultimate Travel Guide

Lake Atitlan Guatemala (Logo de Atitlan) is the deepest lake in Central America. And it is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. However, most people think that visiting Lake Atitlan Guatemala is only about seeing the lake. No, it is not. There are many more things to discover around the towns of the lake as well. So, here I’m going to explain to you the Lake Atitlan facts you should be aware of before visiting, the most exciting things to do there and the best towns you should not miss there.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Lake Atitlan Guatemala An Ultimate Travel Guide

Lake Atitlan Facts you should know before visiting there

Once you visit Lake Atitlan Guatemala, I’m sure you will get addicted to that. The lake itself and the whole area also provide a unique experience of the beauty of nature and people’s lifestyle. And here are some important Lake Atitlan facts you should know before visiting there. (or flying for the first time)

The lake location gave a spellbinding view through the central highlands and located on the Southwestern side (90 miles west of Guatemala city) of Guatemala. So, it is 5128 feet above sea level and extends around 50 square meters (1049 feet deep, 12 miles long, 6 miles wide).

And when you visit there, you can see three beautiful volcanoes border the line (Atitlan, Toliman, and San Pedro). And also, it has made a valley dammed by volcanic ash. Most of the photographers are coming to get these amazing views on their cameras.

You might know that Guatemala’s name originated from Indian culture, which still exists in Guatemala’s villages. Even on the shores of the lake, there are some Indian cultured villages. Atitlan, Panajachel, San Luca, Cakchiquel, and Tzutujil are the most popular towns that exist near Lake Atitlan Guatemala.

Atitlan Lake’s water level is rising

For the past few decades, Atitlan Lake has been rising, and even the residents don’t know the reason behind that. But when you take a close look, you can notice that the buildings near the lake show a rising water level. Some have very noticeable damage as well.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Call the “Bellybutton of the World”

People who believe and feel the strange powers and strengths call this place the “Bellybutton of the World.” Especially, the local Mayans call it like that, since this lake is considered to have that kind of unique powers. Mayans also give Atitlan the meaning of “the place where the rainbow gets its colors.”

So, because of those beliefs, most of the yoga sessions and church group sessions go on in front of the lake as even residential vice. If you like to do Yoga in Lake Atitlan, try to get those powers through yoga.

Learn each village in a different way

As mentioned earlier, the towns or the villages in Guatemala are varying in their culture and values.  If you want to hang out with hippies, try San Marcos, or even you can visit Maximon in Santiago.

When you need a party climate while visiting Lake Atitlan, try San Pedro La Laguna, a great Guatemalan town on Lake Atitlan’s shores. Further explanations about each town are below.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Dive, hike, boat, and Paraglide in Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Whether it is scuba diving, hiking, boating, and paragliding, Lake Atitlan provides you the best chances for all of those experiences. In addition, you can dive through the lake to discover the underwater beauty of a volcanic lake.

And also, take a half an hour hike to the Indian Nose in San Juan La Laguna to get a super clear view of the whole area. And also, when you take a boat ride, keep in mind that the riders are stooping their duty early in the evening. Maybe before the sunset. So make sure about the leaving time and discuss it with the riders.

And one more lake Atitlan fact is that Panajachel is a kind of boat transfer center for all the other destinations. So although you can travel to those places by bus, I suggest you take a boat. On the other hand, if you are an adventure lover, try paragliding over the Lake Atitlan sky.

Safety facts to travel Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is a safe destination. But I warn you to be careful of robberies when traveling through the paths between villages. Especially when traveling from San Pedro to San Marcos. But don’t worry and concern too much since this is generally a safe place.

Just follow the general guidelines for a traveler to be safe in most developing countries. Ex: Always travel with others, do not travel on lonely roads, do not take more money with you while traveling, and hire a tuk-tuk instead of traveling alone on the roads. And I must say that Lake Atitlan is a place where even a solo female traveler can travel safely.

The Most Exciting Things to do around Lake Atitlan Guatemala

When you start planning your tour, you may get some problems: how many days should I spend in Lake Atitlan, what to see around Lake Atitlan and where to stay in Lake Atitlan. Well, I’m going to answer the second and third questions first; since then, you can plan the number of days according to your preference.

But, I must say another Atitlan fact: travelers spend more time here than they plan before the tour. Yes, it creates some attraction to anyone. The followings are the most exciting things to do around Lake Atitlan Guatemala.

Cliff jumping to Lake Atitlan Guatemala

I researched a lot to answer the question of “Where to stay in Lake Atitlan.” Yes, based on many reviews and my personal idea, I suggest staying in San Pedro La Laguna and Panajachel. Both of these destinations provide easy access to other places and the cheapest places to stay in.

And take this just as a suggestion to question number one, “how many days should I spend in Lake Atitlan.” Try to spend nearly 5 days there to cover all the following things. If you do not have 5, but at least visit one day in your life to see the beauty of this place.

Next, I’m going to present to you “What to see around Lake Atitlan” or the most exciting things to do around Lake Atitlan Guatemala.

Swimming, Scuba Diving, and kayaking in Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Swimming in Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Swimming in Lake Atitlan Guatemala

The best time to swim in Lake Atitlan is between November to April since it has a hot climate. But, from May to October, it starts the rainy season, so you may feel a little lazy to swim in a cool climate. On Sundays, most of the travelers and locals are swim here.

Most towns have access to docks for swimmers. But every town does not have clean and nice access to shores for swimmers and even the water is more polluted. But some places are there with clean shores and crystal clear water.

San Marcos (the best place to swim in Lake Atitlan) is such a place. Actually, it is the cleanest shore in the whole area. And get ready with some money around 15-20 quetzal (GQ) to pay for some quality entrance places. And also, the town of Jaibalito is offering clean and calm places to swim.

As I said earlier, the water of Lake Atitlan is polluted to some extent. Due to heavy usage of boats on it, fuel leeks, hotel around and travelers. Therefore, there were some records of travelers who got sick after swimming in the lake. But most of the travelers were super fine. So, don’t worry. But hearing about polluting a wonderful and natural destination makes me feel very upset. I hope you also feel like that.

Scuba Diving in Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Santa Cruz offers you amazing diving chances in Lake Atitlan. Although there are no more marine lives to see under the water, you can still observe the remnants of the sunken buildings and volcanic rock walls and volcanic hot humid. And another feature of here is that you don’t need a special skill of diving here.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Kayaking or SUP in Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Kayaking or SUP in Lake Lake Atitlan Guatemala

To catch the sunrise and sunset while on the lake, you must take a kayak or SUP (Stand-Up Paddler Boards). Especially the morning water is very calm and quiet which you can feel the beauty of this whole natural package. Most of the hotels and rest houses rent you kayaks and SUPs for low prices. So take one and catch the sunrise and sunset moments in Lake Atitlan Guatemala.

Hike to “Indian Nose” nearby the Lake Atitlan

sunrise hike to Indian Nose nearby the Lake Atitlan

If you want to get a full view of the whole lake and the area, then spend your calory for 30 minutes and hike to Indian Nose or Aka La Nariz. You will definitely get a spectacular view once made to the top. Actually, this is a very short hike.

But keep in mind to plan it with a hiking group like Sunrise Indian Nose Hiking Adventure. Otherwise, you will miss the chance of seeing the sunrise since there’s no transport media early in the morning. And also, hiking there with an organized group will help you find the correct road and avoid robberies while hiking.

At some point, you may have to pay an entrance fee of around $7 (50QG). But make sure to pay the correct person by asking your organizer. If you are heading to hike as a solo traveler or without an organizer, use the maps to find the location and be careful of robbers.

Also, remember, this place is considered a sacred place by the locals and behaves politely. So do the hike calmly and view the amazing sunrise through the volcanic mountains and the lake below small villages.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Eat Guatemalan Food, chocolate, and drink coffee

Eat Guatemalan Food in Guatemalan cuisine

Eat Guatemalan Food

Guatemala has its own food style influenced by Spanish. Most of the recipes are based on Mayan cuisines. Mayans are the people who introduce chocolate as well as Hass avocado to the world. Just like Costa Rican food, Guatemalan food has corn, beans, chilies, and rice prominently.

Even you can taste traditional Guatemalan food from any restaurant near Lake Atitlan. So whether you are vegan or non-vegan, there are many options in Guatemalan cuisines. I’m sure once you try these recipes, you will addict to them.

Eat Guatemalan Chocolate

Eat Guatemalan Chocolate

As the birthplace of chocolate, you can taste the real chocolate here and learn about chocolate’s history. Have you ever eaten organic chocolate?. Right, here’s the chance for you. In San Marcos, there are places to visit and see the way of processing chocolate. Even the way of making organic chocolate by using cocoa beans from rural farms and houses. And do not forget to taste different chocolate flavors there.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Drink Guatemalan Coffee

Next to chocolate, Guatemalan Coffee is more famous in the world. The climate is ideal for coffee beans as well as cocoa beans. So, coffee and chocolate can be found in any place around Lake Atitlan Guatemala. And also, there’s a high demand for Guatemalan coffee in the world market. So, you can taste the original coffee when you visit there.

Visit Chichi Market for handicraft shopping 

Chichicastenango (Chichi market) is a trendy market among travelers since this is the largest handicraft market in the central market. Hand-made pottery, hand-woven textiles, and any more unique and fresh things are available in this market. To reach this market, you must get a chicken bus from Panajachel (Pana) to Solola. I think it is the cheapest way to get there, which only costs 3 QG per person.

Visit Chichi Market for handicraft shopping Visit Chichi Market for handicraft shopping

Then walk for Los Encuentros and take your bus to Chichicastenango (Chichi market). I know the way sounds a little difficult, but trust me, it’s a naval and amazing experience for any traveler. Make sure to visit on Sundays and Thursdays to catch the main market days.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Discover Solola Market

After visiting the Chichi market, you can visit the Solola market on the same day as well. This one is completely different from the Chichi market. In the Chichi market, you found more handicraft items and souvenirs. But here, you will get the opportunity to discover the local lifestyle of Guatemalan people. Both males and females wear their traditional clothes and sell fresh vegetables and fruits, fish from Lake Atitlan, fried fish, and more household items. Thus, you can observe the simple way of their lifestyles.

Attend Yoga Classes and Cacao ceremony near Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Attend Yoga Classes in Atitlan Guatemala

As I mentioned earlier, most people believe that there’s a hidden power in this lake. So, most of the yogis worldwide come to do yoga by staying in front of Lake Atitlan. Some travelers live in the area for a long time to complete their yoga sessions. Of course, there are plenty of classes and sessions available around the lake. San Marcos is more popular out of all the other destinations.

On the other hand, you can participate in the Cacao Ceremony. Actually, this a kind of ceremony which lets you understand yourself in different ways. For example, one type of Cacao ceremony is people who like to do spiritual things like yoga and meditation, celebrate, discuss, and exchange ideas with others.

There’s another type of Cacao ceremony which is celebrated with people who like partying. You can dance, eat chocolate, drink Guatemalan drinks, and dance with the travelers who join there. So, it’s your choice to select the way you want to celebrate. And you may see many notices for the Cacao ceremonies, especially in San Marcos.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Best Towns in Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Now, you already have an idea about some of the most popular towns in Lake Atitlan Guatemala. You also know the importance of visiting and discovering the culture of those towns. Here is some more information about the best towns in Lake Atitlan Guatemala.

Santa Cruz, Lake Atitlan

Santa Cruz, Lake Atitlan

Now, you know more special features of Santa Cruz. One of the top experiences you can get there is, diving with the ATi Divers. And the next one is exploring the Mayans’ culture in Santa Cruz villages while climbing the small hills everywhere. And on the other hand, you can eat Mayans’ traditional food, which is the best Guatemalan cuisine ever.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Panajachel (Pana)

Panajachel (Pana)

As mentioned earlier, this a kind of transportation transfer center and a town for tourists. Because Pana is the easiest town to live in in Guatemala, the reason behind that is, all the major markets, transportation facilities, goods, and services are available at low prices.

And most importantly, the amazing natural beauty of Pana cannot be explained in words. So, you can stay here and plan the other tours anywhere around Lake Atitlan Guatemala.

You can go shopping, eat chocolate and drink coffee and try Mayan cuisines. And also, as adventure experiences, you can take a sunset cruise or bike ride around the city.


This is the place where you can calm down and stay quietly by seeing the amazing views of Lake Atitlan Guatemala. If you want to research or observe more about Guatemalans’ traditional lifestyle, then here’s the chance. Apart from that, there’s nothing much to see here. But you can avoid crowded accommodation areas and access other towns easily through boat rides from here.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

San Pedro La Laguna

San Pedro La Laguna

This is ideal for budget travelers and backpackers since the prices are very low compared with other places. But the quality of those facilities also high. So, you can spend many days with a low budget in this party climate.

The top experience which you can take is to hike San Padro Volcano. Do not waste your time just looking at the volcanoes from their bottom. Try to make it to the top. On the other hand, kayaking, horseback riding, and bike riding are other adventure experiences gathered in San Pedro La Laguna, Lake Atitlan Guatemala.

San Marcos, Lake Atitlan Guatemala

San Marcos, Lake Atitlan Guatemala

I have mentioned San Marcos in so many places above. Yes, there is a lot more to see here. The free lifestyle of San Marcos attracts many hippie travelers. And also, since this is the best place to swim in Lake Atitlan, you can jump into the water from here. The scenic views, small and elegant San Marcos roads make you fall in love to travel repeatedly.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala