Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is one of the top touristic attractions in the country and also one of the best lakes in Central America. The lake is surrounded by majestic volcanoes, small colorful towns, and dense forest ideal for ecotourism and for making some great memories while exploring the area.
About Lake Atitlan in Guatemala
To begin with, here are some interesting facts that you might want to know about Lake Atitlan.
- The name Atitlán means “between the waters” in the old Nahuatl language.
- The deepest part of the lake is about 1,00 feet.
- The surface of the lake is about 50 square miles.
- In 1976, a massive earthquake struck Guatemala fracturing the lake bed; this caused drainage, and the water level dropped about 6 feet within one month.
By all means, Lake Atitlán in Guatemala is one of the most beautiful lakes around the world; and also, the most important national and international tourist attraction in Guatemala.
It’s important to mention that even though this is a top touristic attraction in Guatemala; by comparison, it is not a tourist destination like Lake Managua in Nicaragua with its capital located on the banks of the lake.
Undoubtedly, fewer people come to visit Lake Atlitan because it is underdeveloped for tourism. However, being less touristy or underdeveloped is a charming reason to visit and explore this fantastic area.
The towns or villages at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala
The area around lake Atlitan is home to about 11 small villages or towns, each with their own characteristics and charm.
Obviously, since the area is underdeveloped, getting to some of these villages can be an adventure by itself; the roads are challenging to drive, and some towns are not even connected to the outside world by roads. The most adventurous form of transportation is done by either boating across the lake or hiking across the forest.
Here are some of the towns you should visit, there are not in any particular order.
San Marcos La Laguna
San Marcos La Laguna is a quiet small town and one of the most beautiful on Lake Atitlan. Locals of Mayan descent fill this small town; however, it has an influx of foreigners looking for natural living, meditation, and yoga.
Furthermore, this small town with around 2,000 locals has become an epicenter for all things spiritual in Guatemala, it is very peaceful and quiet. Furthermore, it has several centers for meditation, yoga, and spa treatments.
San Marcos La Laguna is a great town where you can relax, enjoy a spa treatment or treat yourself to a laid-back yoga session. In contrast, if you want adventure and jump off a cliff straight into the lake, this is a great place to get it done; so, grab your bathing suit and get it done.
Visit San Marcos, Visit for the spiritual aspect, or visit for the beautiful scenery. Either way, It’s worth a visit on both accounts.
Panajachel also known as Pana
Panajachel is the largest town near Lake Atitlan; additionally, it has the distinction as being the main hub for tourism and transport to the other villages around the lake.
If you’re going to visit only one town in Lake Atitlan, this town will probably be the best. At Panajachel, you’ll find a more-developed town with a lot of resources and amenities for you to enjoy. This town has the perfect mix of natural beauty, resources, great prices, and more accessible travel connections.
Many travelers visiting the lake use this town as the base of operations, they set up to take trips in the morning and returning in the evening to enjoy the exciting social scene.
If you are looking to buy Guatemalan souvenirs such as textiles, jewelry, artwork, or leather goods; generally Pana has some of the best selection and prices in Guatemala.
Spend time at Panajachel, you will love it.
Santa Cruz La Laguna
Santa Cruz La Laguna is an amazing place to scuba dive, kayak, hike, do yoga, or simply relax and experience the slow and laid-back pace of life.
Any traveler looking to experience tranquility, in an authentic and traditional setting with spectacular natural scenery and amazing views; should visit this village.
To begin with, Santa Cruz has no road access. To get to the village, you need to either take a water taxi or hike through the wilderness from the nearby towns.
Santa Cruz is a typical Mayan town, and even though several foreigners are living in the village, there’s barely any outside influence at all. Most of the businesses owned by foreigners are down at the lake’s edge, with the locals living up the hill.
In conclusion, this isolated Mayan village is one of the most authentic, charming, and unquestionably beautiful place in Lake Atitlan. Without a doubt, the local people are welcoming and friendly, and the views are simply amazing.
San Pedro La Laguna
San Pedro is the cheapest town in Lake Atitlan; therefore is a popular spot for long-term visitors and backpackers as well. This charming town is nestled between the slopes of San Pedro volcano and the impressive lake below. About 12,500 people reside at this town; most of them are primarily of Tzutujil Mayan descent.
The town has excellent accommodation, great food, and a fantastic nightlife. It is not surprising that many visitors end up staying in San Pedro for weeks or months.
San Pedro La Laguna has the largest population of foreigners living in Lake Atlitan. Because of that, many restaurants and bars offer great food from other countries such as; Italian, Southern-style BBQ, Spicy Indian curry, and of course pizzas from wood-fired ovens.
This town is perfect for visitors to make it as the base of operations. From San Pedro, you can take a water taxi and visit and experience what the other towns around the lake have to offer.
Things to do in the Lake Atitlan Area
Unquestionably, the main attraction is Lake Atitlan itself, with hiking the volcanic landscape that surrounds it as the second.
Nonetheless, there are plenty of other activities to do. It is entirely up to you to decide how active or inactive you want to be during the trip.
If you are looking for relaxation and stress-free activities, but at the same time enjoy your trip; the following three activities might be perfect for you.
To begin with, you can spend time shopping or visiting the local artisan’s shops or galleries. Secondly, you can visit San Marcos La Laguna and get a holistic massage or take a relaxing yoga class. Lastly, you can visit an organic coffee farm in San Juan La Laguna, learn how the method works and sample some great coffee in the process.
On the other hand, if you are looking to be more active and adventurous; the following three activities might be for you.
To begin with, get your adrenaline pumping and go zip lining at The Atitlan Nature Reserve in Panajachel. Secondly, test your stamina and climb one of the Volcanoes, either Atitlan or San Pedro. Lastly, take the scenic route and hike from Santa Cruz to Tzununa.
In any case, this is a small list of only six activities; there is so much more to see and do at Lake Atitlan.
To conclude, Lake Atitlan in Guatemala or Lago Atitlan is one of the best, if not the best lake in Central America. If you ever make it to Guatemala, make this tourist location one of the must-sees on your list. You will get to see and admire the fantastic pícturesque volcanic view. In addition to enjoying the clear blue water and soaking in the unique Guatemalan culture.