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Atitlan Lake Travel Guide | Guatemala

Updated: Apr 24

If you are planning a trip to Guatemala, you can't miss out on Atitlan Lake. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to!


In this guide, I will tell you everything you need to know about Atitlan Lake in Guatemala!


  1. How to get to Atitlan Lake

  2. How to get around the area

  3. Best things to do around Atitlan Lake

  4. Where to stay

  5. Best food places around the lake

  6. Helpful tips to keep in mind

How to get to Atitlan Lake

The 2 main locations you will be traveling from are Guatemala City or Antigua.


Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan

Guatemala City, mostly because of the airport as that will be the closest airport with international flights. There are shuttles going directly to Atitlan Lake from the airport.


Antigua to Lake Atitlan

Antigua because it is the most popular place where to go to Lake Atitlan.


Main things you need to know:

  • There is very limited information online about the public transport to Lake Atitlan. Most people book group or private shuttles. They are not that expensive, around $30 and they will be way faster.

  • It will be much harder to find a shuttle to a specific town around the lake. The best option is to book one to Panajachel and then take a boat to your town.

  • I would recommend going to Panajacel either way, as the roads around the lake are very windy. If you can avoid an extra hour driving to your town and take a quick boat ride instead, I would!

  • Better book a morning shuttle to Panajachel as the last public boats go to other towns are at 5pm. There will be options if you arrive late, but they will be private boat taxis, so this will be more expensive.

  • I booked my shuttle there and back via Bookaway.

How to get around the area

Between towns around the lake, you will use a very special 'public transport' - boat taxis!


Main things you need to know:

  • There is no schedule. Boats leave when they are full. During the day it is not an issue as the boats leave every 5 minutes but in the morning it can take up to 30 minutes. So if you have booked any tour at any other town, be sure to arrive at the dock early.

  • Distance doesn't matter. Every ride costs GTQ 25, which is a bit more than $3. Make sure to have cash for this!

  • The last boats leave around 5pm.


Whilst all the towns around the lake have one main dock from where you can take a boat and go to all the other towns, Panajachel being the biggest and main town around the lake has 2 docks. See in the picture below: The one on the left goes to the towns on the left. And the one on the right to all the towns to the right.



I do not know exactly where the line is, but I can tell you for sure that to San Pedro and to everything else on that side boats go from Dock 1.


When it comes to land transfer within your town, the best way is Tuk Tuk! They are very cheap, only around GQT 5 ($0.60) for anywhere in the town. They are everywhere so easy to catch.

Best things to do around Atitlan Lake

Take a dip in the lake!

You can't visit this lake and not go for a swim. I will share with you my favorite local swimming spot a bit lower in the article.


Go paddle boarding!

I think one of the most amazing ways to experience the lake is to go on a paddle board tour.


I did mine with supAtitlan and highly recommend them! They offer several different routes so you can pick the one best suited for you:

  • The North Shore Adventure: Santa Cruz to San Marcos

  • The Eco Fun Tour: Santa Cruz and Jaibalito

  • The Sunrise Lake Crossing: Santa Cruz To Santiago


Visit a few towns around the lake!

A great way how to see life around the lake is to do a town-hopping tour and visit other ports. This you can easily do yourself - just jump on the public boat taxis from one town to another. In one day I went from Panajachel to Santa Cruz, then to San Marcos, then to San Pedro, and then back to Panajachel. 4 rides in total, 25 GTQ each, so 100 GTQ, which is around $13. Not bad, for a whole day around the lake excursion!


Regarding towns to pick, I want to highlight Panajachel and San Pedro. In those towns, you probably can spend quite a lot of time. Panajachel is more for shopping and experiencing the local people's life and San Pedro is for a cold drink in one of the bars overlooking the lake!


Check out Atitlan Lake Nature Reserve!

In my opinion, Atitlan Lake Nature Reserve is a must-do! You pay one entrance fee (80 GTQ ~ $10) and you have access to all the trails.


The park is not too big so do not worry it is not a lot of hiking. During your hike through the park, you will see monkeys, coatis, waterfalls, and simply beautiful nature. There are also hanging bridges that you will need to cross.


One of the most amazing things you will also be able to visit is the butterfly dome! I am not into butterflies but that was incredible. One of my highlights of the trip. You can be so close to the most beautiful butterflies in the world.



An amazing added value to this is their beach! Because it is actually not that easy just to simply chill by the lake. You would need to have access from the hotel or have a dock to easily go swimming. So having a whole beach is amazing. You can spend there the whole day if you want to. The Atitlan Lake Nature Reserve beach is definitely my favorite spot where to go for a swim!


FUN FACT: Atitlan Lake is the deepest lake in the whole of Central America! It is around 340m deep. More than 80'000 years old, it was created due to volcanic eruption.

Where to stay around Atitlan Lake?

Although all the towns around the lake are amazing and worth visiting or staying at, there are a few that have quite specific features or conveniences about them!


Panajachel

The most convenient town to stay in is Panajachel. I stayed there and I loved it. This town is basically a gateway to all the other towns. So it is easy to get there and then with a boat you can travel everywhere else. Panajachel is like the main town of the lake where all the locals around the lake go for shopping banking and other errands. Loads of good food places and bars.


I stayed at Hotel Ameranto and loved it. It is like a little oasis by the lake. They have comfortable rooms with everything you need and most important a hot shower. The outside area is lovely. A big garden with a pool and bar by the pool makes it a perfect chill spot. Hotel Amaranto also has a restaurant offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They have loads of vegetarian and vegan options. Upon your arrival, you will receive a welcome drink!



San Pedro

I would say the 2nd most popular place to stay is San Pedro. It is a very popular town among backpackers as it offers loads of bars and a more fun ambiance. So if you are into parties and meeting new people, San Pedro will be the best choice for you.


San Marcos

San Marcos is the chill town of the lake as it offers loads of yoga retreats. You can also go there just for a few yoga sessions. The vibe is very relaxed and you will see loads of 21st-century hippies there.


Best food places around the lake

Panajachel

My favorite food place around the lake has to be Lazzaroni! It is a pizza place but they also have standard dishes - like meat and fish. I had grilled fish and I loved it and my boyfriend had a calzone and he said it was the best one he ever had!


You do not need to stay at Amaranto Hotel to access their restaurant. You can simply go there for a meal only. They have loads of good vegan and vegetarian options which can be sometimes hard to find in places like Atitlan Lake. Every meal we had there was amazing so I highly recommend it!


San Marcos

3 places I highly recommend in San Marcos are: El Buho, Samsara's Garden & Restaurant Fé. El Buho & Samsara's Garden are excellent vegetarian places. Samsara's Garden is all vegan. Restaurant Fé also offers vegetarian options but also has meat and fish on the menu. All 3 places have a great atmosphere and chill vibe.


Helpful tips to keep in mind

  1. Prepare Cash! Although every town has a few ATMs, apparently power cuts are a common thing, and if there is no electricity you won't be able to get your money out. So definitely prepare cash even before you arrive at Lake Atitlan.

  2. Take a boat instead of land transport. If you can pick between a longer drive around the lake or going to Panajachel and then taking a boat, pick. the 2nd option! The road around the lake is very windy and I was already getting dizzy just by getting to Panaajchel. People who have done the extra ride to other towns have been saying how bad it was and if they would do it again they would go by boat.

  3. Make sure you have sunscreen with you. Although it might not seem to be that hot, the sun is very strong up there and you can easily get burnt. So do not be distracted by perfect spring weather. The sun will get you!


Lake Atitlan Travel Video:

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