Discover Lake Atitlan
There are so many awesome things to do in Lake Atitlan, but first, let’s get to know a little more about this magical place…
It’s rainy season in Guatemala, a time to plot your adventures for early in the day and brace yourself for the ensuing afternoon showers. But in Atitlan, these showers are far from predictable. Torrential downpours flood the streets draining into the lake while thunder rumbles in every direction causing even the bravest among us to shudder in fear of the gods. A quick flash, a pause of realization you’re still on this earth, then a crackle and boom set the hairs on the back of your neck to upright position. You’re in a volcanic microclimate now. The forces of nature are at work here, you’re small in a place like this. In fact, tiny.
It’s this mystical energy that brings Lake Atitlan to life, and surely one of the many reasons it should be on your bucket list. A lot of people only visit Lake Atitlan for a couple of days, but the longer you stay, the more you’ll find to keep you busy. There are several villages and towns around the lake that have a completely different vibe. We’ve put together this guide to help you make the most of your time in Lake Atitlan.
The History Of Lake Atitlan
There is an energy in Lake Atitlan that’s palpable and real. In fact, a brief history of the region will leave you in awe. Forces from deep within the earth’s crust rose up and collapsed over millions of years. Earthquakes and eruptions have shaken and resettled the places we walk today. On top of this, tragedy and triumph have prevailed. The Spanish conquest, Mayan rebirth, political upheaval and guerrilla warfare have all left their mark on these lands.
Villages around Lake Atitlan
Taking it all in can be a challenge. The lake is dotted with multiple towns and villages, each offering their own unique experience. Luckily a short boat ride will get you anywhere you want to be, so you can immerse yourself in the energy and beauty of lake Atitlan from a variety of angles. Here’s a rundown of the main places to go and things to do in Lake Atitlan.
Panajachel is somewhat of a gateway to Lake Atitlan, and is home to many amenities that both visitors and locals make use of. Ultimately, Panajachel is the place to shop for local crafts, arrange excursions around the area, and eat a wide array of local and international food.
San Marcos La Laguna
San Marcos is the hippie town, known for its mystical pull and consequent widespread yoga scene. It’s a tiny village but has great swimming spots along the lakeside, a nice walking trail, and some cute vegan cafes to relax in after your yoga classes.
Jaibalito is the smallest and most remote town around Lake Atitlan, and can only be reached by boat or foot. It’s often referred to as the town people don’t want you to know about because it’s so quiet and undisturbed. It’s a great place to stay for a few nights to completely relax and unwind. In short, it’s the perfect lakeside retreat.
San Pedro La Laguna
San Pedro attracts a lot of backpackers with its amazing food, buzzing nightlife, and a chilled out vibe during the day. Interestingly, San Pedro is also home to some of the best Spanish schools in the area. Many offer courses that are several days or weeks long, making this a popular choice for long term stays as people stop to learn the language before travelling through Central America. The hike up Volcano Pedro also begins here, and other hikes can easily be arranged by vendors around the town.
A traditional Mayan town that hasn’t been overly influenced by expats. It’s a beautiful town with a nice dock area by the water and quaint houses as you walk into town. Although this is the steepest town on the lake, it’s perfect for wandering with a camera and soaking up the serene surroundings. There’s also a big artisan scene here, with some locals offering insightful craft workshops. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Lake Atitlan.
History through art
Get to know more about the history and culture of Lake Atitlan by visiting art galleries and local artisans
Take a cooking class
Learn about traditional cooking methods and local ingredients with an intimate cooking class
Check out the local markets
Head to the local market for a taste of village life, offering fresh fruit and vegetables, and so much more
Support the local community by buying gifts and souvenirs from the market stalls around the villages
Best Things To Do In Lake Atitlan
Hike a volcano, paraglide over the lake, and scuba dive beneath the surface. Feel the energy of Lake Atitlan
Scuba Dive In The Lake
Explore beneath the surface of these mystical waters for a unique and spiritual diving experience. You’ll be diving down into the crater of a super-volcano that was once home to a Mayan ceremonial town. Lake Atitlan offers a high-altitude, freshwater dive.
Hike A Volcano
Take a hike up Volcano San Pedro. The challenging 4500ft of elevation gain is worth every step as you arrive at the 9,908 ft summit with breath taking views over Lake Atitlan and the impressive twin volcanoes Volcán Atitlán and Tolimán.
Paraglide Off A Volcano
One for the adventure seekers. Get a unique birdseye view over Lake Atitlan by paragliding from the top of a volcano. A fitting activity for such a dreamlike destination.
Nature is the new luxury