A complete guide to Lake Atitlan

A complete guide to Lake Atitlan. In this blog post I will introduce you to one of my favorite places on this planet. I have put together everything you need to know before visiting Lake Atitlan.

Adding this place to your Guatemala itinerary is an absolute must, trust me.

A complete guide to Lake Atitlan

1. General informaiton about Lake Atitlan

Facts about Lake Atitlan

Starting this complete guide to Lake Atitlan with some interesting facts. 

Lake Atitlan is the deepest and probably most beautiful lake in all of Central America. The maximum depth of the lake is about 340 meters (1120 feet), it was once a volcano that collapsed around 85.000 years ago.

The lake is HUGE and surrounded by 3 main volcanoes (volcano San Pedro, volcano Atitlan, volcano Toliman). From a distance you can also see volcano Fuego erupt on clear days.

Atitlan is a mandatory stop on your Guatemala itinerary and even though I have marked it with 2-4 days, you can easily spend several weeks here without getting bored or tired of the views. It all depends how much time you have. I personally spent about 1 ½ weeks around the lake and would have loved to stay longer.

Lago Atitlan is surrounded by 11 indigenous villages and 22!! Different languages are spoken around that lake! Let that sink in! 22 different languages around one single lake – it´s insane!

When is the best time to visit Lake Atitlan?

Dry season runs from November to April, during this period, you will experience the nicest weather and least coulds and rain.

The weather and temperatures at Lake Atitlan are perfect (at least for me). During the day, you can expect between 21-27 degrees Celsius and a night it can go down to 10 degrees Celsius.

Lake Atitlan is located at an elevation of 1562 m (5125 feet) above sea level, which is the reason for it´s colder temperatures.

sunrise hike Indian Nose
transportation around the lake by boat
Lake Atitlan is a great place for a swim. It´s also the deepest lake in Central America

2. How to get to Lake Atitlan?

Lake Atitlan is quite easily reached via a 2-hour drive from Antigua.

Your options are either rental car (which is not too common in Guatemala), shuttle bus or public bus (chicken bus).

The most common option is to book a shared shuttle service from Antigua, which costs about 15 USD one-way.

You will arrive to the main town of Lake Atitlan, which is Panajachel. From here you can hop on a boat to your hotel.

3. How to get around Lake Atitlan?

The best way to get around Lake Atitlan is by boat. They´re running between all towns during the day. Prices are (compared to the generally inexpensive prices in Guatemala) quite pricey.

Oftentimes the boat staff makes their own prices, so make sure to confirm the price with them before getting on a boat. At night it can be more tricky to move around between towns. Most boats stop running at around 6 PM and in case you need a later transfer, you might need to charter a private boat.

Ask locals for a contact number, in case you need one. Everyone knows a boat captain. Count on at least 10 USD for a private boat, regardless of where you are going.

Riding a boat through the lake is a bucketlist experience itself, enjoy the ride!

If you are only looking to move around a specific town or looking for a transfer to a neighbouring town, a tuk tuk s the way to go!

Tuk Tuks are very common around the entire lake and the main mean of transport within the towns.

boats are the number one mean of transport around Lake Atitlan
boats are the number one mean of transport around Lake Atitlan
to get around in towns you can also hop on a tuktuk
to get around in towns you can also hop on a tuktuk

4. Lake Atitlan´s towns

Lago Atitlan is surrounded by 11 indigenous villages and 22!! Different languages are spoken around that lake! Let that sink in! 22 different languages around one single lake – it´s insane!

The area is so full of culture and tradition, it´s an amazing place to learn about the indigenous villages and their history.

The most touristy villages are San Juan La Laguna, San Marcos La Laguna, Panajachel and San Pedro La Laguna.

Make sure to check out some less touristy towns like Santa Cruz and Santiago as well.


The main town of Lake Atitlan and starting point of your stay in the area. Panajachel is a big town with many shops, restaurants and accommodation options. This is where transfers will arrive at Lake Atitlan. From here, boats are leaving to everywhere else. 

San Pedro La Laguna

San Pedro is the most touristy and also one of the bigger ones. It is also known as the backpacker town of Lake Atitlan. Prices here are cheap and the nightlife quite fun!

San Pedro is home to many many restaurants, bars and hotels, you won´t run out of options here!

San Juan La Laguna

The art town of Lake Atitlan.

This little town is the most colorful and charming, with many many shops with local handcrafts and cafes, restaurants & bars. San Juan is one of the most visited and also most beautiful towns of Lake Atitlan.

San Marcos La Laguna

San Marcos is known as the hippie town of Lake Atitlan.

The town is very small and there is not a whole lot to do here, but the nature is very beautiful and it´s a great place to just relax.

When I visited Lake Atitlan, I camped at a place called Pasaj Cap in San Marcos. They have a great dock for swimming and also vacation rental options.

Santa Cruz

A beautiful little town along the lake, but without much to do. Santa Cruz is a very laid back place with only a few accommodation options and restaurants.  I hiked from Santa Cruz to San Marcos and really enjoyed the trip, definitely check this hike out during your visit.


Santiago is one of the least touristy towns around the lake, but the biggest one.

When I visited, I only saw a handful of tourists within a few hours. This is a great place to enjoy nature and experience a more authentic town.

Santa Clara La Laguna

This town is where the quite famous Indian nose sunrise hike starts. Apart from hikers, not many tourists find their way here.

There is not a whole lot to do here and there are also not many accommodation options.

Santa Catarina Palopo

A pretty little town just past Panajachel. You can hike along the coastline here to hot springs (aguas termales). I have not personally visited this place, but it´s on my list for the next time!

San Pablo La Laguna

This town is located next to San Marcos, but much less touristy. It is also quite a bit bigger and it´s an authentic town with local markets and shops. If you are looking for a less touristy place to explore, this is a great town!


A small town near to Panajachel. It´s famous for it´s market, which is known to be one of the most “authentic ones in Guatemala”. Markets are taking place here every Tuesday and Friday morning.


The small town of Jaibalito is only accessible by boat or hiking. This town is considered a little hidden gem of Lake Atitlan, which is not very popular and there also isn´t a whole lot to do. If you pass by Jaibalito, just stroll around, enjoy the views and do nothing!

Hotel Casa del Mundo is located near to Jaibalito, a visit is one of my favorite things to do around the lake, even if you are not staying here overnight.

the art town San Juan La Laguna
the art town San Juan La Laguna
local market in the main town Panajachel
local market in the main town Panajachel

5. Where to stay in Lake Atitlan?

Due to size and popularity of Lake Atitlan, there are MANY accommodation options.

Most of them are located in the more touristy towns like Panajachel, San Pedro, San Marcos and San Juan. 

From super luxuy to budget, Lake Atitlan has it all.

While I will not be able to list all the options here, I will share some for each budget, based on recommendations I have received and research I´ve done.

Luxury accommodation options:

La Fortuna Atitlan 

El Picnic Atitlan

Tzampoc Resort

Mid Range accommodation options:

Hotel Casa del Mundo

Eco Hotel Uxlabil Atitlan

La Iguana Perdida Hostel

Budget accommodation options:

Pasaj Cap (camping)

Mikaso Hotel 

Amigos Hotel

Those accommodation options are located in different towns of Lake Atitlan, do some research beforehand which area and stay suits you best!

camping at Pasaj Cap in San Marcos
camping at Pasaj Cap in San Marcos
Casa del Mundo
Casa del Mundo

6. What to do and see in and around Lake Atitlan

There are many great things to do around Lake Atitlan, you won´t get bored anytime soon, that´s for sure!

My favorite activies in and around the lake are:


While it is not possible or advisable to swim in all parts of the lake, there are many access points where it is fine to go for a swim.

Usually, around busy docking areas around towns, you should not go for a swim due to the increased boat traffic during the day.

I did love the dock and swimming area at Pasaj Cap (which is where I camped) as well as Casa del Mundo.

Swimming in the deepest lake in Central America is also one of my favorite bucketlist experience to have in Guatemala

Kayaking and Paddleboarding

Some of the most popular activities in Lake Atitlan.

Many waterfront hotels & hostels will offer kayak and paddleboard rentals or even include them free of charge.

If you are not staying at one of these places, there are rentals around most towns. Make sure to take a kayak or paddleboard out at least once during your visit. The views and the water are gorgeous!


The shores of Lake Atitlan are great for hiking. There are quite a few popular hikes, my favorites are:

When hiking in the area, try to hike with a group and don´t carry valuables with you. There have been robberies on the trails in the past. I have not had any bad experience myself though.

Exploring the towns around the lake

One of the best things to do around to lake is to jump on a boat and explore the many beautiful little towns. Check the above town overview to get an idea which ones you would like to check out. 

Boats run continuously throughout the day and are the best way to get around Lake Atitlan. Riding the boat is a great experience itself. Sit down, relax and enjoy the view!

Scuba Diving

Yes, it is even possible to go scuba diving here. Wheter you are an experienced diver or a beginner, the dive school in Santa Cruz will take care of you.

I have not personally been diving here, so not sure how much there is to see underwater. It sure is a unique experience to go scuba diving in the deepest lake in Central America tho!

swimming off the dock area at Pasaj Cap
swimming off the dock area at Pasaj Cap
taking the boat between towns is an experience itself
taking the boat between towns is an experience itself
sunrise hike Indian Nose
sunrise hike Indian Nose

Lake Atitlan is sooo worth a visit, it is to date one of my favorite places on this planet. I hope with this complete guide to Lake Atitlan, I made you want to visit this place!

Make sure to check out other Guatemala blog posts to help plan your perfect trip: