Lake Atitlan is often described as one of the most beautiful lakes on earth. Now this might be an exaggeration, but it’s pretty damn special. It is a lake surrounded by volcanos and cute little villages. All those villages have their own special character and vibe going on. Whatever you’re traveling style is, there is a place for you here. You can find the ultimate relaxing spots, but also party places for the more outgoing backpacker. The questions isn’t if you should visit the lake, but what village you’re going to stay in.
How to get to Lake Atitlan
The easiest and fastest way to get there is booking a shuttle from Antigua or Guatemala City. The shuttle will take you to Panajachel. From Antigua it is a 2,5 hour trip and from Guatemala City 4,5 hours. Once you arrive in Panajachel you can take a boat to all the other villages. The shuttle from Antigua shouldn’t cost you more than $10.
Where to stay and what to do there
San Marcos: Don’t be surprised if someone in this hippie village tells you that you are a rainbow. (Yes, that actually happened) People are extremely nice and relaxed here. You’ll find places for healings, meditation, yoga and massages. You will have seen the village in about 30 minutes, but it’s still worth the visit. Hostel del Lago is the place to be for backpackers. The place comes with a yoga deck overlooking the lake and great food. While we were there we did a massage workshop and joined a drum circle. You can sign me up any day for yoga overlooking a beautiful lake, so absolutely worth a visit. Make sure you have enough cash as there is no ATM in San Marcos. The restaurants here are really good, but more expensive than in other villages.
Panajachel I don’t think this would be my first pick to stay overnight, but you have to do some shopping here! My friend bought the most stunning coat and there are beautiful leather bags everywhere. I honestly want to go back to Guatemala just to shop cute bags. It is best to get all your cash here as some of the villages don’t have ATM’s and some of the ATM’s in San Pedro are not trustworthy. (I’ve been told)
San Pedro The most popular one of the villages. This is one of the bigger villages and the place for backpackers that like to party. It has plenty of cheap hostels and restaurants and you’ll be able to find a party there every night. Don’t worry though if you’re not a big party animal. This village has something for everyone. You can enjoy the market and the church and hike the San Pedro Volcano. Not all the ATM’s are trustworthy, but I’ve hear the best ATM is at the top of the hill near the market and main church.
A good cheap option for accommodation is Hospedaje Lolita . If you feel like treating yourself to something a little nicer have a look at Sababa Resort. It has a pool with a beautiful lakeside view where you can enjoy the breakfast that’s included.
I would stay in one of these villages, but some of the other villages (like Santa Cruz) are worth a visit too, so make sure you have time for some day trips.
More travel tips
- Make sure you’re aware of the cost of the boats or you’ll be ripped off
- Get your money from the ATM’s in Panajachel
- Don’t just walk between the villages as people do get robbed along the way
- Bring change for the Lanchas (boats)
Cost Of Boat Rides: (prices are from 2018 so they may have changed a bit)
Panajachel to Santa Cruz – 10Q ($1.67)
Panajachel to San Marcos – 15Q ($2.50)
Panajachel to San Pedro – 25Q ($4)
San Pedro to San Marcos – 10Q ($1.67)
San Pedro to Santa Cruz – 15Q ($2.50)
How do you get around Lake Atitlan?
There are little boats called ‘lancha’s that are able to take you around. They go approximately every 20 minutes. You pay once you get off. It’s good to know what the prices are, because they do try to charge you more if they suspect you are unaware. You will need exact change so make sure to bring some with you or you will end up paying more.
Some of the villages can also be reached without a boat. For just 5Q per person you can take a Tuktuk within a village and 10-40Q to travel between villages depending on the distance. I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s not a good idea to walk between villages as people do get robbed along the way.