Welcome to Lake Atitlan! A beautiful lake surrounded by several volcanoes which makes it a wonderful location to spend a few days of your vacation. Because of the environment and the vibe that prevails around this lake, Lake Atitlan is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. The temperature is very pleasant all year round. During the day the temperature is between 21 and 26 degrees and at night it cools down to a maximum of 10 degrees. The different villages around the lake are each unique and therefore attract a different kind of traveler. In this article we tell you how to get at lake Atitlan, how many days you need stay around this lake, we give you top 10 things to do in Lake Atitlan and at which village and accommodation we recommend to stay.
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How do you get to Lake Atitlan?
Most people travel from Antigua or Guatemala City. The best way to get to Lake Atitlan is by using a shuttle bus. These are safe, fast and easy. On almost every street in both cities you will find small travel agencies that offer this. The shuttle bus picks you up at your accommodation and takes you to Panajachel. This is the largest village in Lake Atitlan. From Panajachel you can travel to your final destination which is located in another village around the lake. Easiest way is to use the tuk-tuk or the boat. The transport costs from Guatemala City are $24 and Antigua $12. Be aware that it takes 4.5 hours from Guatemala City and 4 hours from Antigua to arrive at Panajachel.
Tip: the roads in Guatemala are not good. This means you often spend longer on the bus than the internet indicates. Be well prepared by bringing enough food and drink during the bus ride. For people who quickly become car sick, it is recommended to use travel pills.
How many days to stay in Lake Atitlan?
To answer the question ‘how many days you have to stay in Lake Atitlan’ you need to know which activities you want to do during your stay. We recommend staying for at least three to four days so that you can discover all the highlights. Beside it is not worth to travel all the way to Lake Atitlan for two days because the travel distance is too long.
Tip: if you have the option, keep your travel schedule open so you have the flexibility to stay longer. It often happens that people stay here longer than they thought beforehand. We had also extended our stay than originally thought, because we think this place is magical.
What things to do in Lake Atitlan?
There is plenty things to do in Lake Atitlan to keep you entertained around the lake for several days. You can easily transport by tuk-tuk or boat. We listed the top 10 things to do in Lake Atitlan.
#1 Explore the different villages
The best things to do in Lake Atitlan is to explore the villages along the lake. Every village is different, San Marcos is the hippy village, San Pedro is very popular among backpackers and Panajachel is a relatively large village. We liked San Marcos very much, because this is different from the other villages. The atmosphere is relaxed, this is due to the hippies, yoga schools, meditation centers and massage salons. San Marcos is a small village that you have seen in 30 minutes.
#2 Visit the market in Chichicastenango
If you have the possibility visit the market in Chichicastenango, for sure one of the best things to do in Lake Atitlan. The market called Chichi is more than a place to buy things. For the people of Guatemala, the Chichi market is a spiritual place where indigenous traditions are performed. The market is in a valley and draws all surrounding inhabitants who live in the mountains. It is special to visit the market because you can feel that it has special significance for the population. The market is on a Thursday and Sunday. You can reach the market via a chicken bus. From Panajachel you take the bus to Solola. There you transfer to the bus towards Los Encuentros. In Los Encuentros you switch to the bus that brings you to the ChiChi market. In total it takes 1.5 to 2 hours. It is also possible to book a shuttle bus, this is faster but more expensive. The ticket costs are: $4 for the chicken bus and $15 for the shuttle bus.
#3 Shop for souvenirs in Panajachel
If you still want to visit a market but you don’t want to travel to long that you should visit calle Santander in Panajachel. In this street you will not find a market with a lot of culture but you will see a lot of nice products to buy. In this street there are many stalls selling nice souvenirs. From typical clothing, art, jewelry and much more.
#4 Hike to Indian Nose
The top of the Indian Nose gives you one of the best view points of Lake Atitilan. It is a tough climb of 30 minutes but it is definitely worth it. If you want to climb the Indian Nose before sunrise you have to do this with a tour operator. During the day you can easily do this independently. It is independently difficult to get here before sunrise, because you can only use public transport after sunrise. You start independently at Santa Clara and walk down towards San Pablo. Before you arrive at the crossroads there is a road on the right. You go down this hill which turns left and right. At the end the road is unpaved. Just before the road turns back downhill there is a white sign, so you know you’re going in the right direction. From there you simply have to follow the road to the top. It is wise during this trip to use Maps.Me. The entrance costs are approximately $7. This hike is epic especially during sunset, that’s why it included on this list of the best things to do in Lake Atitlan.
#5 Enjoy the beautiful sunset
The sunsets at Lake Atitlan are beautiful. The sun sets behind the volcanoes, making the volcanoes silhouettes. These silhouettes are reflected in the water with the discolored sky, which creates a magical picture. The best place is between Panajachel and Santa Catarina.
#6 Hike from Santa Cruz to Jaibalito
From Santa Cruz you walk about 30 minutes to Jaibalito. This walk is beautiful, because during your walk you have beautiful viewpoints over the lake. It is not a difficult walk, you can do this walk with small children.
#7 Treat yourself to a massage
Traveling is great but also tiring for the body. If you hiked the volcano Acatenango in Antigua you will probably have tight muscles. To give your body a rest and to spoil yourself, a massage is a fun activity to do. We have been to “The East West Center Atitlan” in San Marcos and recommend it! The price quality ratio is good, everything is clean and the staff is professional and very friendly.
#8 Take a yoga class
Another opportunity to relax your muscles is to follow a yoga class. Around the lake there are several places to do this, but in San Marcos you have the most choice. On the main road of San Marcos you will see several advertising signs. If you want to do yoga in a special place, Eagle’s Nest Retreat Center is a must, here you do yoga with a beautiful view of the lake. Check the timetable on the spot when you can follow a class.
#9 Go kayaking or paddle surfing on the water
If you want to admire the lake from the water, kayaking or paddle surfing is something for you. There are enough accommodations where you can rent this. At Los Elementos Adventure in Santa Cruz you can rent the things you want to do at the water.
#10 Have dinner in the evening at restaurant Fé
Restaurant Fé is located in San Marcos on the main road. This restaurant has a diverse menu. The curries and pizzas are great here but you have to try the red Chilean wine. The atmosphere feels a bit chic for Guatemalan standards, although dogs sometimes walk by, so try not to sit on the street.
In which village and hostel should you stay at Lake Atitlan?
This entirely depends on what you prefer. Every village around the lake has its own characteristics and attracts a certain audience. San Marcos is a “hippie village” with a super relaxed vibe. You can enrich yourself inwardly here through yoga or meditation classes. There are enough restaurants only at night it is very quiet. San Pedro is popular among basic backpacker, because prices are low and it has a good nightlife. Panajachel is the most developed village, here you will not find a relaxed vibe but more options compared to the other villages. Jaibalito can only be reached by boat. This village is very small where there is almost nothing to do. This place is perfect to relax.
Our favorite places to stay at Lake Atitlan
We have included our two favorite accommodations from San Marcos and San Pedro as they are the most common for the regular traveler.
Casa Madera Atitlan
In San Marcos you should not expect fancy hotels with a lot of luxury. Casa Madera is a simple hostel with neat rooms. If you stay on the top floor you have a view of the lake. The staff is very nice and the location is great, because you are located closely to the center. This is not a party hostel so you can enjoy the silence in the evening. If you really want something more luxurious, El Dragon Hotel is a place to stay for you, this is the best hotel in San Marcos.
Price per night from:
$ 9 dorm | $ 15 double room
In San Pedro Mikaso Hotel is located directly on the lake, giving you a beautiful view. The location is really perfect! The hotel has a lot of seating areas and terraces so you can enjoy the lake and mountains around you. The rooms are quiet and neat. The staff is super helpful to give you an unforgettable time.
Price per night from:
$ 8 dorm | $ 24 double room