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39 Incredible Things to Do in Lake Atitlan Guatemala

39 Incredible Things to Do in Lake Atitlan Guatemala

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Are you planning a trip to Guatemala and are looking for cool day trips? Check out these awesome things to do in Lake Atitlan!
This list of the best things to do in Lake Atitlan was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.

Lake Atitlan is one of the most beautiful lakes and regions in Central America, and there are so many great things to do at Lake Atitlan Guatemala, for everyone.

The lake is identified by the incredible scenery and backdrop. It’s surrounded by three large inactive volcanoes and sprawling mountains, giving a striking image of pure, natural beauty. The lake was formed by a volcanic eruption about 85,000 years ago.

The deepest point of Lake Atitlán is around 1,115 feet (340 meters), and the lake is 7.5 miles (12 km) long and 6 miles (10 km) wide.

Let’s dive into the best things to do in Lake Atitlan, where you’ll find numerous Lake Atitlan activities to fill your itinerary from start to finish!

Image of Marcie Cheung taking a selfie in front of flags hanging above her on a street in a Lake Atitlan village
I loved visiting the village of San Pedro along Lake Atitlan. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Things to Do in San Pedro la Laguna

San Pedro la Laguna is a “party” or “tourist” village. It’s on the southwest shore of Lake Atitlan Guatemala. It’s also at the foot of the Volcano San Pedro.

Join a Mayan Cooking Class

We participated in the Mayan Kitchen Cooking Class. It’s run by an amazing woman named Anita who is all about empowering single moms to make a better life for themselves and their children.

Image of Marcie Cheung and Vanessa Hunt at the Mayan Kitchen Cooking Class in Guatemala.
My friend and I had a blast at the Mayan Kitchen Cooking Class. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

We got to walk through a local market to buy fresh ingredients to make an amazing lunch. I’m personally not much of a cook and even I was able to handle my specific jobs.

It was so cool to learn more about Mayan cuisine and how certain dishes are only served once a year or on special ocassions.

What makes this cooking class even more unique is that she runs a shop where she employs single moms who weave gorgeous textiles.

Learn Local History from the Tzunun’Ya Museum

The Tzunun’Ya Museum in San Pedro la Laguna is a fascinating historical and cultural museum about the Tz’utujil people and the lake’s history.

Though relatively small, the museum has many artifacts and cultural remnants of the past. This is a great way to learn more about the indigenous community around Lake Atitlán and even the lake’s formation.

I recommend visiting this museum in your first few days at Lake Atitlan so you can explore the lake with a fresh understanding of the nearby communities’ unique history, obstacles, and development.

Try Ziplining at Canopy San Pedro

Canopy San Pedro is a zipline and nature park on the slopes of the San Pedro volcano and near San Pedro.

The park’s highlights are the impressive zipline routes and the viewpoints with great views of the lake below. You’ll zipline over to a viewpoint and have time for several nature walks at the beginning or end of the zipline tour, as well.

There’s a lot of unique wildlife here and other fun activities, like a rope swing with scenic vistas.

This Get Fun with Adventure Tour – Zip Line (Canopy) is one fun way to experience the Canopy San Pedro zip line park. The excursion lasts around three hours, including entrance to the nature reserve and all necessary equipment.

Enjoy the Views at One of the Viewpoints

There are several great viewpoints and photo spots in San Pedro la Laguna.

One of the newest and most popular spots is the Hummingbird Nest Viewpoint or Nido del Coibrí. This viewpoint has three main decks with panoramic views. Each deck is uniquely painted and has some great views. A local Guatemalan artist does the art, which is breathtaking all on its own.

Another great picturesque spot is the Giant Wings Viewpoint or Mirador de Alas Gigantes. This viewpoint is located at a restaurant, Kayibal, and you’re strongly encouraged to get a drink or two while snapping a few pictures.

This viewpoint is one small lookout, with, as the name suggests, giant wings perfectly placed in front of a beautiful view of Lake Atitlan Guatemala.

Spend a Day at San Pedro EcoPark

The San Pedro EcoPark is a small adventure park on the slopes of San Pedro volcano. This park has a variety of exhilarating activities, like obstacle courses, swings, and family-friendly games. It’s not the best adventure park in Central America, but it’s a fun afternoon and a great way to spend time moving outdoors.

It’s also pretty popular with the locals; you’ll likely come across at least one local family having fun with the games and sports.

This is also a great way to spend time near the beautiful San Pedro Volcano without hiking.

Soak in the Hot Springs

“Los Termales” or “The Thermals” are San Pedro la Laguna’s heated springs. While these are not heated by the volcano like the ones in Santa Catarina la Laguna, they are still fun and relaxing.

You can admire the lake from the hot springs, making it one of the best places to spend a sunset or an early evening.

The thermal springs are also very easy to get to. You can walk down from El Barrio restaurant near downtown San Pedro. It’s recommended to call or message ahead of time to make a reservation, and you should try to go on a weekday, but it can get pretty crowded on weekends.

They don’t sell snacks or drinks as the thermal tub, but you can bring your own.

Things to do in San Juan la Laguna

San Juan la Laguna is an artist’s haven in Lake Atitlan. It’s known for its art, cultural significance, and friendly locals. San Juan is on the southern shore of Lake Atitlán Guatemala.

Learn Local Culture at the Casa Flor Ixcaco

Casa Flor Ixcaco is an association of women who weave products to sell and to encourage the continuation of their culture and history.

Image of a woman weaving at the Casa Flor Ixcaco shop in Guatemala
This woman did an incredible weaving demonstration for us. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Weaving has always been a big part of Guatemalan culture today. The women at Casa Flor Ixcaco claim that the knowledge of weaving and its importance is slowly losing momentum as time goes on, and they hope to continue their education in weaving traditional clothing.

They also have one of the best shops in the area for finding handmade, woven items. The tags show exactly what materials and dyes are used. Plus, it says how many weeks it took to weave and there’s a photo of the woman who made it.

When you visit Lake Atitlán, you can head over to Casa Flor Ixcaco and learn more about the process, culture, and history of the local people.

Admire the Murals

San Juan la Laguna is known for its beautiful art and murals covering the entire village. You’ll first notice lights and paintings near the dock, setting the stage for a welcoming and beautiful welcome.

Most of the murals around San Juan depict Tz’utujil’s life and legend, so not only are they beautiful, but they are also almost crucial to the culture around Lake Atitlan.

You can easily spend an entire afternoon walking through the streets of San Juan and admire the art on every corner.

Visit the Catholic Church in San Juan la Laguna

The Catholic Church in San Juan la Laguna is one of the most interesting Lake Atitlan things to do because of its unique characteristics compared to other churches around Lake Atitlan.

View at the old church in San Juan la Laguna in Guatemala
Check out this old church in San Juan la Laguna in Guatemala.

The church in San Juan is the perfect representation of old and new, side-by-side. The original church was built in 1915. In 2007, they tore down the church to build a new one that could fit more people. But the church image embodies both old and new, paying tribute to the original church.

This historic catholic church is also known to go all-out with decorations during different holidays. For example, they usually outline the church with holiday lights around Christmas.

Tour the Lake Atitlan Chocolate Factory

Chocolate and cacao go back to ancient Mayan civilization, and San Juan is a great place to learn more about it.

Because of the prominence of the Maya people, Guatemala is one of the best places in the world to try natural cacao and learn more about the process of making chocolate and its connections to the Mayans.

The Chocolate Factory at Licor Marronin San Juan la Laguna is one of the best places around Lake Atitlán to try making chocolate or to learn about the process. This is a must-do activity in Lake Atitlan for anyone with a sweet tooth.

The factory is close to the church and hard to miss with all its paintings and murals covering the exterior.

You can take a brief tour around the chocolate factory, learn about the processes, make some chocolate on your own, and buy some of your favorites to take home.

Things to Do in San Marcos la Laguna

San Marcos la Laguna is known as a welcoming village catering and calling to “hippies” and open-minded travelers with a plethora of yoga classes, retreat centers, and other activities in Lake Atitlan. San Marcos is on the western shore of Lake Atitlan Guatemala.

Swim and Explore Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve

Swimming and exploring Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve is one of the best things to do in Lake Atitlan, especially if you’re already staying on this side of the lake.

Cerro Tzankujil is a small park with little walking trails leading you up a hill to a viewpoint overlooking San Marcos. There are also several great swimming spots, docks to lounge on, and jumping platforms.

It’s a fun area and a great way to spend time on the lake.

Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve is a highlight of visiting Lake Atitlan, especially for those interested in staying near the water. The reserve is just a short walk from downtown San Marcos, about 5-10 minutes from the main docks.

Join a Yoga Class

San Marcos is known for their yoga classes, with almost every hostel and popular meeting point offering different types of yoga or times.

It’s also a great place to train yoga teachers and do longer yoga retreats. The yoga community here is practically engrained into each thread of society, making it a peaceful and relaxing village.

Get Fungi Certified

The Fungi Academy in San Marcos la Laguna is one of the most interesting and unique places around Lake Atitlan. The academy offers various in-person and online courses to help you understand the connection between nature, mushrooms, and the soul.

The academy emphasizes how mushrooms can help a person rekindle the relationship between oneself, the community, and nature.

This is one of the unique Lake Atitlan what-to-do activities and is perfect for the spiritually inclined or nature lovers.

Go to a Cacao Ceremony

There are several cacao ceremonies in Lake Atitlan, but the one in San Marcos, run by Keith the Shaman, is perhaps one of the most popular.

You’ll head to Keith’s house for the ceremony, where he’ll perform a spiritual ceremony centered around cacao.

This unique experience combines ancient culture with more modern beliefs and thoughts.

Visit Nearby San Pablo la Laguna

San Pablo la Laguna is a small, local village right next to San Marcos la Laguna. There aren’t many tourists around here, so it offers a different perspective on the local life around Lake Atitlan.

This village is very different from the other towns and is worth spending an afternoon walking the small streets and observing a different side of Lake Atitlan Guatemala.

They have a big Sunday market throughout the morning and day, where the main streets near the catholic church are lined with fruits, fresh produce, and other foods.

It’s only about a 5-10-minute Tuktuk ride from San Marcos la Laguna, so hopping over for the day is easy.

Things to do in Santa Cruz la Laguna

Santa Cruz la Laguna is popular amongst divers because you’ll find a dive shop on every corner. But it’s also a very laid-back place with arguably some of the best views of the lake and surrounding volcanoes. Santa Cruz la Laguna northern cliffside shore of Lake Atitlan Guatemala.

Explore Beautiful Paths in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is one of the most beautiful natural communities of all the tiny villages around Lake Atitlan. One of the best things you can do here is walk the beautiful paths in and around Santa Cruz.

The paths climb cliffs, with significant drop-offs and dramatic views. One of the best walking trails is the beginning of the Lower Mayan Trail, a popular hike connecting Santa Cruz to San Marcos.

While all the towns around the lake have some good views, Santa Cruz offers something unique and memorable.

Go Scuba Diving in Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, is a beautiful place to dive if you’re lucky enough to have good weather and visibility.

Most people think of tropical beaches, calm waters, and colorful coral reefs when they think of diving. But Lake Atitlán is a unique and exciting place to dive.

If weather is permitted, you can dive near an underwater city, see the lake life swimming around under the surface, and be able to check diving in a lake formed by a volcano off your list.

It’s important to note that the rainy season in Lake Atitlan is from April to October. Because of poor visibility, Scuba diving won’t be the best during these months.

Grab Coffee at La Casa del Mundo

La Casa del Mundo is a hotel, restaurant, and cafe in Santa Cruz. Whether or not you stay here, you should swing by for some incredible views.

There are tables on a small dock overlooking the lagoon, making it one of the most peaceful and breathtaking places to sip a cup of fresh coffee.

Shop at the Local Market

The Saturday Farmer’s Market is one of the best places in Lake Atitlan to buy fresh produce and local fruit and even practice your Spanish.

You’ll find some exotic fresh fruits you’ve never seen before, some of the freshest vegetables, and you’ll also meet tons of smiling faces.

If you’re around the beautiful village on a weekend, add this to your list of Lake Atitlan things to do.

Cliff Jump with the Locals

Santa Cruz la Laguna is an excellent place for adventure seekers and adrenaline junkies, not just because of the great hikes but also because of the thrilling cliff jumping.

You can reach several spots on your own from Cafe del Mundo, with different levels and heights for everyone. Of course, you should be extra cautious and try not to push yourself too much.

The safest way to go cliff jumping is with a tour and a professional guide who can take you to some of the safest spots around Santa Cruz.

This Santa Cruz la Laguna: 6-Hour Adventure Activities Tour is one of the best tours that includes cliff jumping, kayaking, a visit to corn and coffee fields, and other fun activities for everyone. You’ll get to see a different side of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

Things to do in Santa Catarina Palopo

Santa Catarina Palopo is one of the most colorful small towns on Lake Atitlan. It’s welcoming with many art, beautiful crafts, and handmade goods. It’s on the northeastern shore of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, between Panajachel and San Antonio Palopo.

Image of a weaving stand in Santa Catarina Palopo in Guatemala
Santa Catarina Palopo is a really cute area in Lake Atitlan.

Admire the Colorful Buildings

Santa Catarina Palopo began a community project of painting specific neighborhoods and buildings to draw in more tourism, and it has worked. While the community isn’t as overrun with tourists as other towns, it has noticed a tick in tourism.

The buildings are worth visiting, though. They make great photos and add so much personality to the community, which friendly people populate.

The main plaza also has a museum called Pintado el Cambio, which is worth checking out.

Admire the Traditional Mayan Clothing

The markets and stalls in Santa Catarina are filled with local women weaving some of the most beautiful clothing and wall decorations you’ll find anywhere.

One of Guatemala’s signature characteristics is the color they use in their art, and it’s very present in the pieces of work you’ll find around Santa Catarina.

Many women and locals still wear traditional clothing. This clothing blends right into the colorful buildings marking the small village.

Walk the Boardwalk Along the Lake

A small boardwalk and trail line the lake from the dock. At the beginning of the trail, there are a few local restaurants, cafes, and convenience stores. Once you get a little way down the trail, you might notice local families watching laundry in the lake or children jumping in the calm waters.

It’s not a long walk, but it’s a very peaceful part of the local community.

Take a Tuktuk to the Viewpoint

The viewpoint is about halfway between the small village and Panajachel. This is one of the best viewpoints because it offers a unique view of this side of the lake.

If you’re traveling to the town from Panajachel, or vice versa, you’ll be going right by the viewpoint, so it’s hard to miss!

This is a great photo-taking spot and one of the best things to do in Lake Atitlan if you want to soak in the beautiful view.

Go Paragliding

When you’re walking around Santa Catarina, you might notice paragliders jumping off the nearby mountain and gliding through the sky above you. So, it should be no surprise that Santa Catarina is an excellent place for paragliding.

Most paraglide companies depart from Panajachel, but it’s easy to get between the two towns or organize transportation from Santa Catarina.

If you decide to go paragliding, remember that it is very weather-dependent. The best times to go are during the dry season and early morning.

Visit the Hot Springs

You’ll find some hot springs in the area, as well. These are much more authentic than those in San Pedro because the volcanoes heat them.

The springs are only about 10 minutes out of town. They sit right at the lagoon’s edge, and the water mixes together in the corners.

They aren’t your traditional hot springs but are worth stopping while visiting Lake Atitlan.

Make Pottery in San Antonio Palopó

San Antonio Palopó is another Mayan village on Lake Atitlan. It’s located on the lake’s eastern shore, next to Santa Catarina.

San Antonio is most known for its beautiful pottery. The relatively untouched mountainside village has several pottery workshops that are worth visiting.

You can join a brief workshop on making pottery, learn more about pottery’s role in the local culture, and even see some ancient pieces of pottery.

This is an easy day trip from Panajachel or other nearby villages and one of the best things to do in Lake Atitlan for those who want a more authentic glimpse into Mayan culture.

Lake Atitlan Boat Tours

Since there aren’t many roads the connect the villages, it really is easiest to hire a boat to take you to different villages along Lake Atitlan.

There are some water taxis, but sometimes they don’t always follow safety measures which is why I recommend booking an actual tour.

Image of Marcie Cheung wearing a pink hat looking out the window on a Lake Atitlan Boat Cruise.
The easiest way to explore the villages is by boat. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Lake Atitlan: Day Tour by Boat from Panajachel

One of the best things you can do in Lake Atitlán is take a boat tour around the lake. This is an excellent way to see all the different towns and vibrant communities while soaking in the beauty of the lake right from the water.

There are many boat tours to choose from. Most leave from Panajachel, one of the most popular towns around Lake Atitlan.

Lake Atitlan: Day Tour by Boat with Expert Guide is a great boat tour from Panajachel to San Juan and Santiago. San Juan is on the opposite side of the lake than Panajachel, so you’ll get to pass by many of the other villages.

The boat tour also brings you to a coffee plantation and gives you a few hours to spend in each village.

Kayak and Hike from Panajachel

One unique way to experience and travel Lake Atitlan is with a kayaking tour. While this isn’t the same experience as a boat tour, it’s a way to connect with nature and spend even more time on the water.

Panajachel is a good starting point for kayaking, and many kayak tours take you to some of the most beautiful spots in Lake Atitlan.

The Kayak and Hike Adventure Tour from Panajachel in Guatemala is one of the best kayak tours. It’s not the same as taking a speed boat around the lake, but it might be better for some.

The tour consists of kayaking, hiking, and even cliff jumping. It’s a great way to explore nearby villages and have a lot of action-packed fun.

Private Lake Atitlan Day Tour from Antigua

If you don’t have a few days to spend in Lake Atitlan, you can always take a day trip from Antigua or Guatemala City.

While a day trip isn’t the best way to see all of the lake and enjoy the beauty and local community, it’s a good option if you’re short on time.

Lake Atitlán is about 2.5 hours from Antigua, so leaving early enough is definitely possible.

This Lake Atitlan Day Tour from Antigua is a good option. The tour sets aside six hours to explore Lake Atitlan, which is enough time to visit some viewpoints, ride around the lake for a bit, try local food, and get some delicious coffee.

It’s not the most comprehensive way to visit Lake Atitlán Guatemala, but it’s enough if you simply can’t set aside the time for the lagoon.

Day Trip and Boat Tour from Guatemala City

Guatemala City is just over 3 hours from the lake, so it’s also possible to visit Lake Atitlan on a day trip.

Again, this is a good option if you don’t have the time to commit to Lake Atitlan but still want to catch all the main attractions.

Most trips to Lake Atitlán include a boat tour around the lake, so it’s a great way to make the most of your little time.

This Lake Atitlan Solo Traveler’s Fave: Panajachel + San Juan + Boar Ride tour is the best tour from Guatemala City. This tour includes a boat from Panajachel to San Juan, where you’ll get several hours to explore.

Lake Atitlan Hikes

Indian Nose Hike

Indian Nose Hike, or El Rostro Maya, is the most popular hike in Lake Atitlan and is the best sunrise hike around the lake. The hike begins in Santa Clara la Laguna, near San Juan la Laguna.

The hike is about a 40-minute trek straight up a mountain. The Indian Nose hike begins around Santa Clara, a local village.

The hike is rather steep, but several resting points and views along the way make it more enjoyable. Additionally, it’s a relatively short hike that goes by quickly.

Once you reach the peak of Rostro Maya (or Indian Nose), you’ll be treated to a great view of San Juan la Laguna, and shortly after, you’ll reach the top with uninterrupted and breathtaking views of Lake Atitlan.

You should do this as a sunrise hike, as Indian Nose is one of the easiest hikes with the best sunrise. Indian Nose is also a great way to soak in the unbeatable views of the surrounding volcanoes.

If you want to explore Lake Atitlán without breaking too much sweat, Indian Nose is one of the best things you can do.

This Sunrise and Hiking to the Indian Nose Mountain is a great sunrise tour that includes transportation from San Pedro la Laguna and a bilingual hiking guide.

You want to go with a guide, especially because you’ll be hiking in the dark on the way up if you go with a sunrise tour.

Climb San Pedro Volcano

The San Pedro Volcano is the looming volcano over San Pedro la Laguna in the lake’s southwest corner. The volcano sits at 9,908 ft (3,020 meters). The hike has an elevation gain of about 4,000 ft (1,220 meters).

Image of Hiker with panorama view of Lake Atitlan and volcano San Pedro and Toliman early in the morning from peak of volcano Atitlan, Guatemala. Hiking and climbing on Vulcano Atitlan.
This hike is great for adventurous people.

The hike is pretty tricky, but it’s the easiest of the three main volcanos around the lake. It’s also the most popular thing for hiking enthusiasts to do in Lake Atitlan.

You’ll want to leave as early as possible from San Pedro, as you’re much more likely to experience clear skies in the morning.

The hike is about 5 miles (8 km) roundtrip and has a dirt path to the peak.

Atitlan Volcano Hike

The Atitlan Volcano hike is the most challenging trek of the three volcanos bordering the laguna. Atitlan Volcano sits at 11,600 ft (3,535 meters) above sea level, and hikes will experience an elevation gain of about 1,982 ft (604 meters).

This hike is not for the faint of heart. You’ll have to leave early and expect to return late and exhausted. However, completing the challenge is an impressive accomplishment, and the views are well worth the trouble if you’re an avid hiker and adventurer. The closest town to the volcano hike is Santiago Atitlan.

The hike is about 21 miles (52 km) roundtrip and takes an average of 10 hours.

This One Day Hike – Atitlan Volcano is one of the best tours to the volcano’s summit. This activity takes about eight hours and includes a professional guide familiar with the area and the trails.

Lower Ridges of Volcano Atitlan

If you want to enjoy the beauty around Volcano Atitlan but can’t commit to an entire day of hiking and sweat, you can choose to hike the lower ridges of Volcano Atitlan.

As with any hike in Lake Atitlan, you should do this with a local guide to prevent getting lost and avoid safety concerns.

One of the highlights of the lower ridges hiking trails is a beautiful waterfall a few hours from the starting point. Although hiking the lower ridges takes a few hours, it’s much easier as you don’t have much elevation gain and steep slopes.

The beginning of the hike is best from San Pedro or Santiago.

This Waterfall Hike in Lake Atitlan is a good tour option for those interested in exploring the lower ridges of Volcano Atitlan. The tour takes about four hours and includes time for birdwatching and swimming in the waterfall.

Things to do Around Lake Atitlan

Participate in a Fire Cleansing Ceremony

You can participate in a fire cleansing ceremony from anywhere in the lake, and it’s easy enough to travel to different towns for the ceremony, even if you aren’t staying nearby.

Fire cleansing ceremonies are also a great way to learn about Mayan culture and beliefs, as this ceremony is connected to the Mayan people.

One of the best places for a fire cleansing ceremony is the Sacred Caves, a network of four main caves considered holy. This ceremony will teach you a lot of Mayan ceremonies and make for a memorable experience.

This Lake Atitlan: Mayan Ceremony at the Sacred Caves is an excellent tour of the sacred caves, including an ancient ceremony from a Mayan shaman.

You’ll leave from Panajachel, enjoy a short boat ride, hike for about 20 minutes, and then visit the four caves to begin the spiritual ceremony.

Go Kayaking and paddle-boarding

If you’re wondering what to do at Lake Atitlan in the water, definitely consider kayaking! Almost all major tourist towns and destinations also have kayaking and paddle-boarding spots, so this is another fun activity you can do anywhere.

One of the best things about kayaking at Lake Atitlan is you’ll be treated to an entirely different experience depending on which village you depart from.

My friend liked kayaking and paddle-boarding from San Pedro because she could cross the small stretch of the lake on her kayak to visit a black sand beach and pass by the beautiful San Juan.

Enjoy the Coffee and Tour Coffee Plantations

One of the best things to do at Lake Atitlan is to go on a coffee plantation tour and drink some delicious homegrown coffee.

This region is very unique in the sense that you won’t find massive international coffee plantations. Instead, you’ll find much smaller coffee fields, often run by local families and people.

Whether or not you have time for a full coffee tour, you should try to sample some local coffees around Lake Atitlan. If you’re a coffee lover, you won’t be disappointed.

Take a Day Trip from Lake Atitlan

Chichicastenango (Chichi)

Chichicastenango is a small town about 46 miles (75 km), or a 2-hour drive from Lake Atitlán. It’s most known for the Chichi Market, Guatemala’s largest and most vibrant market.

The Chichi Market is only on Thursday and Sunday when tourists and locals travel all over the region to buy, sell, and sometimes even trade products.

The market gets crowded, but it’s a fun experience and a great way to see one of Latin America’s most impressive open-air markets.

The town of Chichicastenango itself is also an exciting place. There are two small museums in town. Moreria Santo Tomas Fabrica De Máscaras is a mask museum where you can make your mask and learn all about the colors and intricacies of older masks.

There’s also the Chichicastenango Regional Museum, a cemetery, local shops, and beautiful nature around the small town.

The easiest way to get to Chichi from Lake Atitlan is to take a shared shuttle from Panajachel. You can take a chicken bus to Chichi, but local chicken buses are unreliable and sometimes complicated, especially if you don’t speak much Spanish.


Quetzaltenango is a city in Guatemala’s western highlands. It’s 82 miles (132 km), about a 2.5-hour drive from Lake Atitlan.

Quetzaltenango, sometimes called Xela by others, is a beautiful local city. It’s much more peaceful than Guatemala City and isn’t anywhere near as touristic as Antigua. The town is also surrounded by beautiful nature, including natural hot springs, great nature trails, and fun hikes.

The easiest way to get to Quetzaltenango without a car is to take a shared or private shuttle from Panajachel directly to the city.

Essential Lake Atitlan Travel Tips

Always Hike with a Guide

This is one of the most important Lake Atitlán travel and safety tips. You should always hike with a local guide, whether with a guided tour or a private guide.

There have been several reported incidences of robberies and attacks on tourists while hiking alone. Most of the time, local teenagers are groups of young men waiting on remote parts of the trails with a machete.

Going with a guide dramatically reduces the risk.

Furthermore, it’s not uncommon to stumble upon stray dogs who might feel threatened and confident enough to attack solo hikers and travelers.

Finally, it can also be easy to get lost, especially while on unmarked trails.

You can avoid all risk factors by going with a tour or a local guide, and you’ll have a much better overall experience.

Avoid Stray Dogs

Stray dogs on trails or even along main roads are a big threat to foreigners traveling Lake Atitlan. There are a lot of stray dogs here, or at least people who always leave their pet dogs outside.

Many of these dogs are territorial and don’t like strangers, so be wary. I had a couple of encounters on local roads with aggressive dogs, and fortunately, they didn’t do anything to me other than growl and bark a lot.

However, I met several people who got bit by dogs while walking alone in Lake Atitlán’s rural areas.

Carry Local Currency

There aren’t many ATMs in Lake Atitlan aside from San Pedro. And there isn’t always a guarantee the ATMs will even work. For this reason, ensure you always have enough cash and local money.

Lake Atitlán is very much a “cash is king” society, and the last thing you want is to get stranded in one of the nearby villages with no access to money to get around.

Choose Your Village Carefully

If you’re traveling to Lake Atitlan for a short time and only planning to stay in one village, choose that village carefully. There are different villages for different personalities. Panajachel is the central “city” on Lake Atitlan, and while it’s the most convenient option, it’s also the most crowded.

Conversely, Santa Cruz is more laid-back, rarely crowded, and more peaceful. San Pedro is among the most popular options because it’s a nice blend of convenience and authenticity.

San Marcos can get pretty crowded and tends to draw spiritual travelers, which might or might not be your cup of tea.

Fortunately, it’s still easy to travel to all the other villages, so try not to worry too much and choose the place that seems to call out more.

Visit a Few Different Towns Around Lake Atitlan

No matter where you stay, make sure you set aside a little time to visit the different towns in Lake Atitlán. They are all unique, and each city has many fun activities.

It can be easy to stick to your side of the lake, but try to get out there and explore as much as possible. This is the best way to truly experience and travel Lake Atitlan Guatemala.

It’s always a good way to find untouched and raw places. For example, very few people make it to San Antonio Palopó because it’s in a more remote corner of Lake Atitlan. However, San Antonio is among the most gorgeous and down-to-earth places around the lake.

Take Time to Learn about Mayan Culture

Lake Atitlán is such a beautiful and unique place. Not only is it very welcoming to tourists with comfortable amenities and beautiful resorts, but it’s also authentic.

This is one of the best places in Guatemala to learn and experience Mayan culture for yourself, as the Mayan people are still very prominent and influential in the communities.

Whether you go around to the various small museums in each village or just take time to talk to locals and learn about their history, you should leave Lake Atitlan more enlightened than when you came.

Consider Taking Spanish Classes

Attending a Spanish class is one of the best things to do in Lake Atitlan. A few Spanish schools are scattered around the villages, though they are more common in tourist villages like San Pedro and San Marcos.

Knowing Spanish will go a long way, even if you don’t take any classes. Many people involved in tourism will speak basic English, but people outside of the tourism industry only speak Spanish (or even a completely different language).

Either way, a little Spanish will go a long way in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

Lake Atitlan in Guatemala FAQs

How many days do you need in Lake Atitlan?

3-5 days is enough time for all the best things to do in Lake Atitlan. However, if you can spare a few more days, you won’t regret it, either. If you have longer than five days, you can even split up your accommodation and try different ends of the lake. You can also fit in more hikes, day trips, or other activities.

What’s a good Lake Atitlan itinerary?

It can be hard to plan what to do in Lake Atitlan, so here’s a sample Lake Atitlan itinerary if you’re staying here for five days:

You should stay on the western shore of Lake Atitlan, either San Pedro, San Marcos, or even San Juan/San Pablo, if you want a more local experience.

I suggest spending your first day exploring your village, trying local coffee and chocolate, and walking through the small market. You can visit Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve in San Marcos and spend a few days swimming and hiking to the viewpoint.

On your second morning, you should get up early for the Indian Nose hike near San Pedo la Laguna. Most hikes will leave around 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m. to leave enough time to reach the top before sunrise, so factor this into your plans. After the hike, you can take a leisurely kayak or paddleboard around the lake.

On your third day, you should do a full-day hike. You can hike one of the surrounding volcanoes or go on the Lower Mayan Trail from Santa Cruz to San Marcos. This hike takes three to four hours, so you’ll have plenty of time to shop and enjoy the cheap prices around the lake.

On your fourth day, you should venture over to Santa Catarina near Panajachel. You’ll have to take a boat to Panajachel (unless you’re staying there) and then a local bus or Tuktuk to the village. Stop at the viewpoint on the way there, and then wander the colorful streets of the vibrant town.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can head to the Chichi market with a chicken bus or shared shuttle on your fifth day before packing up and heading out.

This is just an example of some of the best things to do in Lake Atitlan. Of course, five days isn’t enough to touch everything, so you’ll have to decide which is most important and intriguing to you and your preferences.

When is the rainy season in Lake Atitlan?

The rainy season in Lake Atitlán Guatemala is from April through October. During these months, there’s often a thick haze coming in around the volcanoes, giving the entire region almost a spooky atmosphere. However, it usually doesn’t rain all day.

It will rain on and off in small or large spurts. You can still enjoy many of the best things to do in Lake Atitlan, though it might make hiking slightly less appealing.

Is Lake Atitlan safe?

Yes, Lake Atitlán is largely considered safe. Of course, there are some things to be cautious of.

Some reports of robberies around Lake Atitlan, usually on remote parks or hiking trails. Usually, these robberies are done by a group of teenagers or young adults with a machete. For this reason, it’s very important never to hike alone. You should go with a large group, or even better, a local tour guide.

There are also a lot of stray dogs around Lake Atitlan, specifically in more rural villages like San Pablo. Try to keep your distance when you come across one, even if they look friendly.

You can also check the U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory to get more of an idea of specific travel warnings and advisories for Lake Atitlan.

Looking for more Guatemala travel resources? Check out 10 Helpful Guatemala Travel Tips for First-Timers, 23 Best Places to Visit in Guatemala for the First Time, 24 Things to Know Before Visiting Tikal National Park in Guatemala, 5 Best Hotels in Antigua Guatemala Worth Booking, and 25 Things to Do in Antigua, Guatemala for First-Timers!

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