Ultimate Travel Guide to Lake Atitlan: Hotels, Things to do, & More

Known locally as the place of eternal spring for its mild year-round climate, Lake Atitlan (El Lago de Atitlán) in the highlands of Guatemala may be one of the most underrated destinations in Latin America. Surrounded by the 3 prominent volcanoes of San Pedro, Atitlán, and Tomlimán, and about a dozen Mayan villages, its beauty is undeniable to anyone who is fortunate to visit and stay in one of the beautiful Lake Atitlan hotels and witness the clear blue waters and descending cliffs as Volcan de Fuego erupts seemingly elegantly in the background.

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Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World wrote in his travel book Beyond the Mexique Bay published in 1934, “Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing.” Since then, Atitlan has maintained much of its cultural authenticity, but tourism is quickly making its way in to capitalize on the pristine natural landscape. I won’t be surprised if Atitlan becomes the next popular hotspot. Visit soon, before it does.

Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing.

Aldous Huxley

Lake Atitlan Facts & Things to Know for Your Trip

Lake Atitlan is not the biggest Lake in Guatemala (it’s the third) but it is the most popular lake destination and one of the main places to visit in Guatemala. Guatemala has the most volcanoes out of any Central American country (37 to be exact) and Lake Atitlan itself was once a volcano that erupted approximately 84,000 years ago, creating a crater that filled with water from 2 nearby rivers. At 341 meters deep, Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America.

Lake Atitlan is located in the district of Solola, about 3-4 hours from Guatemala by car. (More on how to get there later.)

The lake is surrounded by 11 – 15 different towns/villages (depending on who you ask,) each with their own unique characteristics.

The main town or starting point in Atitlan is Panajachel which can be reached by roads, and from there, the main mode of transportation from village to village is by boat. Within the towns, you can take a Tuk Tuk to get around (or walk.)

Public boats are a couple of US dollars to go from town. Private boats are around $30.

Spanish is not the first language spoken in Atitlan. There are 2 dialects of the Mayan language spoken, followed by Spanish. Because of this, the Spanish spoken in Atitlan is slower and simpler in speech, compared to Guatemala City where Spanish is dominant and spoken very quick and fluently. (Great for those of us who took Spanish in high school!)

Lake Atitlan Hotels: Best Hotels in Lake Atitlan – Luxury

Popular mostly amongst backpackers, Lake Atitlan is hardly a place synonomous with luxury travelers, but that is slowly beginning to change as foreign investors have bought land and have begun to develop the region. You can find some of the most beautiful hotels on Lake Atitlan, on par with prominent travel hotspots such as Tulum, Bali, or Thailand, however the Western hospitality that has made its way to those destinations, thanks to the introduction of chain hotels such as those owned by Marriott-Bonvoy or Hilton, has not quite made its way to Atitlan just yet. (But I have an inkling that will change sooner than later!)

As a luxury traveler, expectations should be managed as is the case with most developing countries you might travel to. You will see no chain hotels in Atitlan, and may find yourself missing some of the comforts that they provide (such as A/C or heat,) however it is part of the experience and adds to the cultural authenticity of Lake Atitlan hotels. Guatemala City is where you’ll find more modern accommodations, but most of the 5-star properties in Lake Atitlan are eco-luxury in nature, which helps preserve some of the natural beauty.

If you’re looking for where to stay at Lake Atitlan in terms of area, the village of Santa Cruz La Laguna offers the best views as it directly faces the 3 prominent volcanoes, so naturally, you will find some of the Lake Atitlan best hotels here. The hotels in Santa Cruz can only be accessible by boat, and there are about 2 to 3 luxury properties that compete for the top spot, each offering a completely different experience from the last, while a handful of other affordable-luxury options are sprinkled about.

If you are a backpacker or budget traveler, you’ll want to stay in San Pedro. If you’re looking for spirituality, wellness, and healing, you’ll stay in San Marcos. I’ll make recommendations for all of these places, beginning with where to stay at Lake Atitlan for luxury travelers.

Casa Prana Lake Atitlan Hotel (Top Luxury Hotel Lake Atitlan)

Casa Prana is the closest you will get to a true luxury resort experience in Atitlan and is my first choice for best hotel. Lake Atitlan hotels (luxury or otherwise) are typically on the smaller side, and this 9-room boutique property has an eastern-influenced decor and is surrounded by lush landscaping and 9 acres of garden. It is truly a stunning place to stay.

What I loved about Casa Prana is that in lieu of a formal dining restaurant, there are seating areas all over the property where you can seat yourself and send a WhatsApp message to the staff for your food/drink order, along with a photo of where you are sitting, and they will bring your order to you. They also had some of the best food we had on the trip, with ingredients fresh from their on-site garden.

Other unique amenities included a communal living area to watch movies/Netflix, with freshly made popcorn, a pool table, sand volleyball court, spa, and a swimming pool. The only downside to staying here (if you could even call it that,) was that most of the staff speak Mayan and do not understand much English, while understanding minimal Spanish, which led to a few miscommunications, but is not a big deal to me at all. To me, Casa Prana might be the best hotel in Lake Atitlan. (And most expensive.)

CLICK HERE TO CHECK RATES & BOOK CASA PRANA

La Fortuna de Atitlan

La Fortuna Lake Atitlan is the most unique of the Lake Atitlan luxury hotels. It also has the best location with all 5 rooms directly built on the lake. It is an eco-luxury hotel in the truest sense, built from natural and repurposed material with a focus on conservation. I had the pleasure of staying in La Fortuna’s Deluxe Suite 5, which is their best and biggest suite. It is a two-story standalone structure with a beautiful indoor/outdoor bathroom and personal plunge pool. The views from the room were some of the best we’ve seen in the area.

Although the property is incredibly beautiful and offers up the best views, there are a few reasons why I would place it at second best overall for luxury travelers. Because it is eco-luxury, the experience is somewhat rustic, feeling just a step above glamping. The roof is completely thatched, so on windy nights it can get pretty cold inside (something I wasn’t prepared for) and also, you may find more critters like spiders and other crawlers and fliers who have made their way in. The sounds of wind and waves can also be pretty loud at night, which didn’t bother me, but it can be a complaint for some. Lastly, no flushing tissues down the toilet — they all go in the trashcan!

There is one more thing I need to mention about room 5 and that is the staircase leading up to the bedroom. The way the stairs were built had me feeling like I was going to fall going both up and down them. The bedroom is located on the top floor while the bathroom and livingroom is on the bottom, so once I was up there I tried to be there for good. There are also many steps leading up to the property, so anyone with mobility issues should absolutely not stay here.

The rest of the intimate hotel property has a small bar/dining area (but you can opt for in-room dining for all meals), a small plunge pool, and a jacuzzi that gets heated at night. Aside from the impracticalities and minor inconveniences mentioned, I really loved the experience at La Fortuna and would definitely recommend them for a night or two so long as you are prepared and know what to expect.

Note: You may have noticed that most of the Lake Atitlan Guatemala resorts are pretty small with a limited number of rooms. The top hotels book up months in advance, so keep that in mind and try to reserve as early as possible. If the hotel you want is fully booked, you can look out for cancellations. 

More Best Places to Stay Lake Atitlan – Luxury & Affordable Luxury

Sababa Resort

Sababa Resort Lake Atitlan – San Pedro Guatemala Lake Atitlan Hotel

For the best budget-friendly option, you must consider Sababa Resort in San Pedro la Laguna, the most lively town in Atitlan. Sababa is part hostel, part hotel, offering both shared and private rooms. They have an amazing pool area to lounge and worth the visit when on San Pedro. If staying on San Pedro, Sababa is the best place to stay in Lake Atitlan for budget travelers.

Casa Palopo Hotel Lake Atitlan Guatemala – Santa Catarina

Casa Palopo is the third option luxury travelers consider when visiting Lake Atitlan. Casa Palopo is much different than the previous hotels listed in that it is more of a traditional, old-school luxury property. It is located in the beautiful, traditional town of Santa Catarina, and is designed with the indigenous culture in mind. Each of the 15 rooms come with a private balcony and there are 2 separate swimming pools on site.

La Casa del Mundo Lago Atitlan – Santa Cruz

Casa del Mundo is known to be one of the prettier properties that also happens to be on the more affordable side. It is located in the town of Santa Cruz, so you know the views are going to be spectacular. There are lush gardens and 19 rooms, some with direct steps into the lake. Even if not staying at del Mundo, you might want to consider visiting for lunch in their restaurant. (Which may only be accessible by boat, foot, or kayak depending on where you are staying!)

Laguna Lodge Lake Atitlan Guatemala Hotel  – Santa Cruz

Laguna Lodge is another eco-resort that is on the more affordable luxury side. It is set on a nature reserve in Santa Cruz with views of the San Pedro volcano. There are 7 rooms including a duplex villa, along with a restaurant that features a vegetarian menu, bar, spa, and infinity pool.

Lush Atitlan – San Marcos

Lush is a very pretty eco-boutique hotel located in the spiritual and wellness-focused town of San Marcos. They offer a variety of rooms (11 to be exact,) some with private bathrooms and some without. If you are looking for more of a hostel stay, Lush Atitlan may be a good option. There is a restaurant on site, but it lacks other amenities (such as a swimming pool.) It is however, located near the Atitlan nature reserve that has the best place in the lake to swim.

Things to do in Lake Atitlan

What to do in Lake Atitlan revolves around how active you want to be and how many different villages you want to see. Most of the activities revolve around enjoying the beauty of the surrounding, however there are a few top things to do at Lake Atitlan that should not be missed.

Hiking Indian Nose Lake Atitlan for Sunrise

The sunrise hike up Indian Nose (Known locally as “Nariz del Indio,” or sometimes alternatively, Mayan Face “El Rostro Maya”) is easily one of the top things to do. There are several different Lake Atitlan hikes that people enjoy (you can even go hiking San Pedro volcano, which is active!) but this hike in particular is the most notable.

The day begins at 3:00 or 3:30 in the morning accompanied by a local guide, and in our case a 30-minute boat ride to San Pedro, and then another 30-minute car or shuttle ride to the town of Santa Clara la Laguna where the trail begins.

The hike itself is between 30 – 45 minutes to the summit and is a little challenging, especially in the pitch black darkness (bring a flashlight or use your phone’s) paired with the 2000+ meters of altitude, but the views at the top are worth it as you witness the sunrise over the lake and 6 different volcanos. You can even witness the smoke-blowing eruptions from the active Volcan de Fuego in the distance. Our guide made us served us coffee at the top of the hike from his family’s coffee farm, and provided many insightful facts and anecdotes about Atitlan.

You can hike Indian Nose with either a private, local Lake Atitlan tour guide or a group tour, but you should not attempt to hike it on your own. I like the private tour guide option which affords me the ability to go at my own pace. Our wonderful local guide served us coffee at the top of the hike from his family’s coffee farm, and provided many insightful facts and anecdotes about Atitlan.

If you have any level of physical fitness, this unforgettable hike is a must.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR PRIVATE GUIDE FOR THE INDIAN NOSE SUNRISE HIKE!

Visiting the different Lake Atitlan Villages

Seeing the different Mayan towns is another of the top Lake Atitlan things to do. Each town has its own unique characteristics making it vastly different from the last. Some are more geared towards tourists, while others are completely local and authentic. I go over which towns you should prioritize visiting in the following section.

To visit the towns, you can either hire a tour guide or take the public or private boat taxis and explore on your own. You’ll want to visit 1 – 2 different towns a day, or up to 3 if you’re taking a full-day guided tour.

Cliff Jumping and Swimming at the Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve in San Marcos Lake Atitlan

Can you swim in Lake Atitlan? Well, not all areas are recommended for Lake Atitlan swimming, due to pollution or other reasons. For the best place to enjoy swimming in Lake Atitlan waters, visit Reserva Natural del Cerro Tzankujil in San Marcos for the clearest, bluest part of the lake. There is about a 15 Quetzales (~$2.00 USD) entry fee and is the most beautiful area to relax and take in the scenery. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even jump off their 50-foot platform right into the water.

More Lake Atitlan Activities

Naturally, you’ll be spending a lot of time in, on, and around the lake. More activities include kayaking Lake Atitlan and Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP), which are offered for free or for a small fee at many hotels. You can even go diving Lake Atitlan around Santa Cruz and there are some tour agencies in San Pedro that offer it as well. As an aside, I should probably mention that while fishing Lake Atitlan is also a thing, it’s not really recommended to eat the fish from the lake, (some say not often, some say not at all) so always ask where your fish is coming from before ordering it!

Note: The lake can get very choppy in the afternoons, usually around 1:00 - 4:00PM, so keep your water activities to the morning. 

Lake Atitlan Towns / Villages to Know and Visit

Hippie Highway, San Marcos

There are around 12 towns that surround Lake Atitlan, though some have told me 11 while others have said up to 15. Some are very traditional, with no hotels or tourists, while others are more developed and very touristic. Here are some of the most popular and my favorite Lake Atitlan villages.

Map of Lake Atitlan Villages

(Some of the villages/towns are not pictured on this Google Maps image so I added their approximate location.)

Santa Cruz La Laguna

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As a refresher, this is the area where several of the top hotels are, like Casa Prana and La Fortuna, but to get around even within this same village you need a boat. So it’s not really a place to go exploring like the others are, but rather just an area you want to stay. It is about 10 minutes from Panajachel.

Looking for something especially unique to do in Santa Cruz? Join local women in their home for a cooking class, jewelry making, and learning about their traditional Mayan lives.

San Pedro La Laguna

San Pedro is known as the backpacker town and is the liveliest and most touristy of all villages. It’s full of hostels, Lake Atitlan best restaurants, cafes, and bars, and has the most opportunity for nightlife in an otherwise quiet destination that shuts down early in the evening. It’s a fun place to be!

This town has a large Israeli presence, as many of the businesses are owned by Israeli expats. I was shocked to find so many signs written in Hebrew, which transports me back to one of my favorite places on earth, Tel Aviv. Jewish travelers will especially love the lively shabbat dinners hosted weekly at Chabad Pedro.

My favorite place in San Pedro is Sababa Resort (more info above in the hotel section.) Even if not staying there, stop by for a quick drink or meal around their scenic pool before wandering the rest of the curious streets of San Pedro.

From Panajachel, it takes about 30 – 45 minutes to reach San Pedro, depending on if you are taking the public boat (which makes several stops) or a private water taxi.

Recommended time spent: half to a full day (with option to stay through the evening if you’re looking for nightlife.)

San Marcos la Laguna

San Marcos is a peaceful and laid-back town known for its natural beauty and spiritual atmosphere, AKA, “The Hippie Town.” This is a popular destination for travelers interested in yoga, meditation, and other spiritual practices like chakra and energy healing, crystals, shamans, plant medicine ceremonies, and more. It is believed that Lake Atitlan is located on a vortex, adding to the spiritual nature of the land and lake and deeming it “the Sedona of Central America.” The main road is known as “the Hippie Highway” and is filled with different shops, kiosks, and vegan cafes.

Many people come to San Marcos for the yoga and meditation retreats. The best yoga retreats in Lake Atitlan can be found at Eagle’s Nest Yoga Retreat Lake Atitlan and Yoga Forest.

Even if you are not attending a Lake Atitlan Yoga Retreat, dropping in for a yoga class or an event at Eagle Nest Atitlan is an absolute must because the views from their yoga platform are some of the best I’ve seen around the lake. (Warning, it’s a bit of a trek to get up to!)

I recommend checking out their calendar of events here. I especially love their Ecstatic Dance event which has a live DJ. It’s a fun place to visit, even if not doing yoga. Lake Atitlan really does feel like it has great energy, and you can really feel it here!

Lastly, in San Marcos you’ll definitely want to spend some time at the nature reserve, Reserva Natural del Cerro Tzankujil where you can go swimming and cliff jumping in the lake.

From my hotel in Santa Cruz, it took about 20 minutes via a private boat,

Recommended time spent: Between the Nature Reserve, exploring the town, and special events at Eagle’s Nest, I recommend a full day here.

San Juan Lake Atitlan

San Juan is an artisan hub filled with natural textile weaving and coffee co-ops among other art cooperatives. Many of which are specifically created to support the women of the community. Colorful umbrella streets line the hilly town of San Juan and offers an experience that feels both touristy and authentic at the same time. It the perfect place to pick up textiles, ceramics, and other handicrafts. If you want to do some souvenir shopping, San Juan is the best place on Lake Atitlan to do it.

Recommended time spent: A few hours. San Juan is located right next to San Pedro, so you can visit here first and then head over to San Pedro on the same day.

Santiago Atitlán

Santiago Atitlan is one of the most traditional towns on Lake Atitlan. It is the spiritual center of the Tz’utujil Maya people where you will find many of the residents walking around in their traditional wear, speak the indigenous language, and follow traditional ways of life. This is a deeply religious town with a number of important Mayan temples, ceremonial sites, and churches. Santiago is also home to the Maximon, a traditional Mayan deity that is widely revered by the local people. Santiago Atitlan is a great place to visit for those looking to experience the authentic side of Lake Atitlan and learn more about the country’s rich Mayan heritage and spiritual traditions.

Santiago Lake Atitlan is the furthest point from Panajachel, about 45 minutes by boat.

Recommended time spent: A few hours.

This private tour takes you to San Pedro, San Juan, and Santiago!

Santa Catarina Palopó

Santa Catarina is one of Atitlan’s prettiest towns thanks to its painting project that involves brightly colored buildings painted with geometric shapes. It is a traditional village, belonging to the Kaqchikel Mayans, with an open, lush waterfront and a few nice accommodations, such as the top rated Casa Palopo (photo of their pool above.) Tzampoc Resort is also known to have a really nice infinity pool, which you can buy a day pass for. Santa Catarina is also known for their hot springs, Aguas Termales Natural, found directly on the lake.

Santa Catarina is located really close to Panajachel, about 10 minutes by boat.

Recommended time spent: A few hours.

If you’re interested in a culturally-authentic Mayan village tour, this private tour takes you through Santa Catarina and San Antonio!

Lake Atitlan Restaurants

Breakfast at Casa Prana

For the first time, I felt like this trip wasn’t about the food. As a foodie, most of my trips revolve around finding the top restaurants and places to eat, ranging from fine dining to street food. Despite being just a few hours from the pacific coast, the gastronomy scene hasn’t quite find its way to Lake Atitlan like it has in other parts of Central America — but that is not to say there isn’t a plethora of good food to be had. The food in Lake Atitlan while mostly simple, always tastes flavorful and fresh.

Where to eat in Lake Atitlan

San Pedro has the most options for restaurant, and because it’s San Pedro, among their top are mostly mediterranean cuisine!

Sababa Restaurant (separate from Sababa Lake Atitlan Resort) has great views, food, and coffee. TLV Tapas Bar is a lively spot, especially at night. Zoola is another Middle Eastern favorite in town set away from the main drag at the Zoola Lake Atitlan hostel.

Away from San Pedro is a remarkable place called Cafe Sabor Cruceno, AKA CECAP. It is a very special restaurant run by a local co-op in the hills of Santa Cruz. This cooperative manages a project with the help of non-governmental organizations to offer vocational training for young people from the villages in skills like cooking and sewing. The small menu offers a range of local and international dishes prepared with quality ingredients and thoughtful presentation, and the views from the outdoor patio are 10/10 (which you can enjoy thanks to a very steep Tuk Tuk ride — or hike!)

How to get to Lake Atitlan – Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan

If you are flying in to Guatemala, you will most likely be landing at the nearest international airport in Guatemala City (Aurora International. From there, it is a 3 – 4 hour car ride to reach Panajachel, the gateway town to Atitlan, and from there, you will take a boat to your hotel. (Lake Atitlan, Guatemala villages are mostly only accessible by boat — the infrastructure even among connected towns are not suitable for driving.)

There are a few options to get to Lake Atitlan from Guatemala City:

  1. If your hotel offers a free private transfer, you may want to consider that first.
  2. Helicopter transfer (~$1500+ USD for 2 people, one way – 20-30 minute ride. There is also a 4 person helicopter option that is a bit cheaper.)
  3. Shared shuttle service
  4. Chicken Bus (public transportation.) The cheapest option but not really recommended for tourists.
  5. Private car, uber, or taxi
  6. Rent a car and drive. (What I did.)
BOOK YOUR REPUTABLE, PRIVATE ROUND-TRIP TRANSFER HERE!

Driving from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan

We opted to rent a car from the airport and drive to Panajachel, the main town of Atitlan and leave our car there until we were ready to drive back. Many sources will tell you not to do the drive, however I personally think this information is outdated, and upon looking into it further, found that if you are a confident driver and have experience driving in Central America, driving yourself is fine option. We’ve driven in developing countries all over the world (including cross-country in Morocco) and found the drive to be a breeze in comparison to other places.

You’ll want to take the Pan-American Highway all the way down. There are no tolls and the roads are all paved for the most part. The precautions are mainly instated for the rainy season, as mudslides can occur. Aside from that, there is heavy traffic in Guatemala City and drivers can be quite crazy (seemingly no rules to the road.)

It is recommended to make your drive as early as possible during the morning hours. Use Waze over Google Maps, although either should be fine.

There are many parking lots to leave your car in Panajachel (remember that you can’t take it with you to your hotel.) The one that is recommended is called Kayukos Marina. It is secured parking with security and you can find it on your map app. It is just a few steps away from the main dock.

Need a place to stay in Guatemala City before or after visiting Lake Atitlan? I recommend the AC Hotel. It is a nice, modern hotel located in the best part of Guatemala City! 

How to get from Antigua to Lake Atitlan

The options are the same but it takes about an hour to an hour-and-a-half less time. There is a shuttle from Antigua to Lake Atitlan, you can take a private car/taxi/Uber or hotel transportation, or you can drive.

Atitlan to Antigua

On your way back to the airport from Lake Atitlan to Guatemala City, a stop in the city of Antigua is an absolute must. It’s on the way, about an hour away from Guatemala City. The UNESCO World Heritage Center is the Spanish Colonial town filled with colorful buildings, cute restaurants and rooftops, and bustling market. It is one of the prettiest towns I’ve seen in Latin America, reminiscent of the Walled City in Colombia and Casco Viejo in Panama.

When you’re in Antigua, you may want to also visit Hobbitenango. A hobbit-themed adventure park with the Instagram-famous giant hand sculpture of Guatemala.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions about Traveling to Lake Atitlan

Best time to visit Lake Atitlan? Weather in Lake Atitlan Guatemala:

Weather: lake Atitlan Guatemala weather is determined by the subtropical highland climate, which means that it is generally mild and pleasant year-round (hence the name: land of eternal spring.) Lake Atitlan’s weather is split between a dry and rainy season. The average temperature ranges from about 50s°F (15°C) at night up to 80°F (24°C) during the day.

The wet, or rainy season runs from May to October, with the heaviest rainfall occurring in July and August. During this time, the weather can be quite wet and cloudy, but it is also the greenest and most lush time of year. What you can often expect during the rainy season is sunny mornings followed by rainy afternoons and evenings.

The dry season runs from November to April, and is generally sunny and dry. This is the best time to visit, and naturally when prices peak.

Crowds: Lake Atitlán is a popular destination for both domestic and international tourists, and the level of crowds can vary depending on the time of year. The busiest times are generally during the dry season, when the weather is at its best and there is less chance of rain. The shoulder seasons of November-December and March-April tend to be the busiest, while January-February and June-August are generally quieter.

Special events: Lake Atitlán is home to a number of festivals and events throughout the year, which can be a great time to visit. Some popular events include:

Semana Santa (Easter Week): This is a major holiday in Guatemala, and Lake Atitlán is a popular destination for travelers during this time. Christmas through New Years is also a popular travel time.

Fiestas de Santiago (Fiestas of Santiago): This is a week-long festival that takes place in July in honor of the patron saint of Santiago Atitlán. The festival includes parades, dances, and other cultural events.

Is Lake Atitlan safe?

Lake Atitlan is considered to be a very safe destination for travelers. However, as with any destination, it is always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and take basic precautions to protect yourself and your belongings. The biggest threat in Lake Atitlan is petty theft. Do not travel with or flash valuables.

What is the currency used in Lake Atitlan?

The official currency in Guatemala is the Guatemalan Quetzal, however US dollar is also widely accepted. There are some places, including some hotels, that do not take credit card. banks and atms are hard to come by, so be sure to come with cash.

How much do the boats cost and how often do they run?

In US Dollars, the “lanchas” public water taxis/shuttles only cost a few dollars and run 6:30 am to around 6:30pm to the different villages while running every 30 minutes or so. If you would like to take a private boat, or if you would like to be out later in the evening, for example to go to dinner or party in San Pedro, the cost is around $25 – $45 and can be arranged through your Lake Atitlan hotel. Guatemala currency and USD are both excepted, but be sure to carry exact amounts because you can’t count on receiving change.

What Should I pack for Lake Atitlan?

The days are quite comfortable, usually in the 70s and sunny for the dry season but the elevation means the sun is strong so don’t forget to pack and wear sunscreen. The nights can be chilly, dropping down to the 60s or even 50s, so a sweater or jacket and long pants are recommended. If you’re hiking Indian Nose, you’ll want dress in layers as it starts off super cold but you’ll warm up quickly. Hiking boots are not necessary.

Check out my post on how to build a capsule wardrobe for travel.

Is the water safe to drink in Lake Atitlan and Guatemala?

In most cases the tap water is not safe to consume in Lake Atitlan. Hotels provide clean drinking water, ice, and food, but stomach upsets and illnesses can and do occur. Whenever I travel to a country where the water isn’t safe, I take Travelan — a natural supplement that prevents stomach illness caused by food and water contamination. It works great without any side effects. Truly a lifesaver! I also recommend the LifeStraw and LifeStraw water bottle for extra protection.

Are there mosquitos in Lake Atitlan? What about the other bugs?

Because of the altitude, mosquitos are pretty rare in Lake Atitlan, except for maybe around the rainy season. I did get bit a ton in Antigua and Guatemala City. Lake Atitlan, however, did not require the use of bug spray. There is a type of scorpion found in the area that is harmless, and I did see some pretty big spiders, and lots of big ants. The eco-resorts, even the nicest ones don’t really spray their property, so don’t be surprised to find crawlers in your room!

How many days in Lake Atitlan is recommended?

I recommend at minimum, 4-5 days in Atitlan however up to a week is ideal. Some people will stay and backpack for months to learn Spanish, volunteer, or simply take advantage of slow travel. It’s a beautiful place that deserves not to be rushed, and the type of place where you could do nothing or everything and still have an enjoyable time.

Even though Guatemala shares borders with Belize and Mexico, it still feels worlds different. It’s funny, because everything about Lake Atitlan screams island life, yet you are on a lake. Taking the boats from village to village reminds me of island hopping in Bocas del Toro, Panama, or parts of Southeast Asia, like Thailand. The lake views and sounds of the waves from Room 5 at La Fortuna felt just like being in overwater bungalow in Bora Bora or the Maldives, and with the dramatic scenery of volcanoes, how could it not be a place like Hawaii, or some other tropical island? I guess that is part of why Atitlan in beautiful Guatemala is so special and unique, the kind of place that is reminiscent of many, yet similar to none.

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20 thoughts on “Ultimate Travel Guide to Lake Atitlan: Hotels, Things to do, & More

    1. Glad you love it too! ❤️ I bet it has changed a bit since you’ve been — hopefully you’ll get to go again some day!

  1. As a Canadian, I love the idea of year round mild temperatures! Plus, all of these hotels are incredible! But I love unique so I’d totally love to stay at La Fortuna Lake Atitlan!

    1. Not too far from Cañada depending on where you are! I hope you get a chance to see it for yourself 🙂

  2. The pictures from Lake Atitlan always remind me of St Lucia. Thank you so much for sharing! I need to visit ASAP.

    1. That’s exactly what I said!! They do look very similar, but Atitlan is a fraction of the price 😂

  3. Wow, Lake Atitlan looks gorgeous! I would totally spend the day kayaking, paddleboarding, and then relaxing in one of those gorgeous luxury hotels. Thanks for putting this stunning destination on my radar!

  4. Lake Atitlan looks absolutely beautiful! And I would so love to stay at Sababa Resort – the swing at the pool is just awesome!

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