Everything you need to know about Lake Atitlan Guatemala

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. The lake is 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. Everything you need to know about Lake Atitlan I’ll talk about in this article.

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 should cost you around $22.

sunset panajachel lake atitlan Guatemala

Where to stay in Lake Atitlan and what to do there

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. This village also has the best connections by boat and is the easiest to book tours from. It has plenty of cheap hostels and restaurants and you’ll be able to find a party there every night. Not a big party animal? Make sure to stay somewhere outside the main street to avoid the noise.

To do:

Hike the Indian Nose at sunrise: This is one of the towns most popular tours. However, don’t do this hike by yourself! Robberies are known to happen on the trail. (When I was there in jan 2024, I heard from several people who got robbed). However, it’s really easy to book a tour and perfectly safe that way. You’ll get picked up at your hotel and you’ll drive 50 minutes to the start of the trail. It’s a steep but short hike to the top. You get a beautiful view of the entire lake. By 8:30 you’ll have made it back into town.

See the sunset at Panorama Cafe 

This cafe is located at the top of the hill. You can either walk there or take a tuktuk up. We opted for the second option, because we also needed a ride back after sunrise. We asked the driver to come back for us at 6:30. This seemed like a safer option than walking down. They have great coffee, but it’s worth it just coming up there for the view.

Where to eat?

Pita Sabij: In my opinion, the best place in town! The Sabich is insanely good. I’ve also tried their lentil soup which I can really recommend!

The fifth Dimension: A place with wonderful vegetarian food. Their pita with tempeh would be my recommendation!

Forbidden fruit: If you’re craving an açaí bowl in the morning, you can find it here. They have a variety of different bowls and the açaí and blue mermaid are my favorites.

Yakitóri de Cava: We were looking for something a little different and found this Japanese place. They offer soup and rice bowls. The teriyaki vegetable bowl was very tasty!

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 joineda 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.


I don’t neccesarily recommend staying in Santiago, but you absolutely have to visit for a day. There’s two things in this town that you really cannot miss.

Find the figure of mayan deity Maximon

Maximon is a mayan deity and a figure of him travels to a different family in town every year. They take care of him for the year, before he moves to the next family. People honor him by bringing him cigarettes, booze and money. Once you get to Santiago you can just ask the locals to find out where he’s located that year. There’s also plenty of tuktuks that will offert to take you there. It’s like nothing I’ve seen before and it was very interesting learning about this tradition.

See the rare Quetzal with a birding tour:

I really wanted to see the endangered and hard to spot Quetzal bird that Guatemala’s currency is named after.  Hidden in Tepepul’s nature reserve you can find the elusive bird. I booked the trip with ‘Birding Atitlan Expeditions’. Rolanda was an incredible guide and pretty quickly we’d reached the first spot with several Quetzals hidden in the branches. He knew exactly which trees he would be able to find the birds in. I don’t recommend trying to find yourself, because it would be near impossible. After watching the birds for quite a while, we headed to a different spot, their nest! Late afternoon the birds return to the nest, but they kept us waiting for a while. After an hour we heard their call and had another beautiful 30 minutes watching them around the nest.



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)

One of the best hostel to stay in Panajachel would be the Selina hostel. 

Another option for ultimate relaxation is the Regis hotel & Spa. This hotel has thermal baths, a sauna and offers massages!


is a tiny village with two permaculture farms, a couple of yoga spots (The Seed Habitat, Love Probiotics, Doron Yoga), and a Saturday produce market with lovely fruits and veggies. Tzununa is walking distance(35 min) from San Marcos which is a slightly busier town. There is also access to trails and the option to take a boat to one of the other towns alongside the lake.  If you want a quiet getaway, this might be the perfect spot. Have a look at El Picnic Atitlan for a hotel with a stunning view!

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

  • 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: (sometimes you get charged a bit more as a tourist)

Panajachel to San Marcos – 10Q ($2.50)

Panajachel to San Pedro – 25Q ($4)

San Pedro to San Marcos – 20Q ($1.67)

San Pedro to Santa Cruz – 20Q ($2.50)

How do you get around Lake Atitlan?

Take the little boats called ‘lancha’s to move around the lake. They go approximately every 20 minutes. You pay cash once you get on.

Some of the villages can also be reached without a boat. For just 10Q 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.

Guatemala articles