Lake Atitlan Guatemala – All You Need To Know in 2024

Here is our guide to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, having spent a wonderful 10 days exploring the Lake

Are you planning on visiting Lake Atitlan, Guatemala? Great choice! We visited for 10 nights and absolutely loved it!

We spent time in San Marcos, San Cristobal and San Pedro during our visit, with San Marcos being our favourite.

Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is a crater lake at an altitude of 1500 meters/5000 feet. It’s surrounded by 3 volcanoes and 12 very different villages and towns. Its calm and clear water makes this one of the prettiest lakes in the world. No matter where you stand on the edge of the lake you will be spoilt with fantastic views!

In this post, I’ll tell you all you need to know about visiting this charming lake.

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Where is Lake Atitlan Guatemala?

Lake Atitlan is located just to the east of Antigua and Guatemala City. It’s about 3 hours by shuttle from Antigua, and about 4 hours away from Guatemala City.

Shuttles go every day and will get you there in the early afternoon. They will either drop you off at Panajachel or San Pedro from where you can take a boat to your end destination.

We went to Lake Atitlan from Antigua – and the drive was interesting. After having visited only Flores and Antigua, the change of scenery was unexpected.

We spent 2 weeks in Antigua, which is built for tourism and ex-pats. You can tell there’s a bit more money in this colonial town.

Lake Atitlan felt far more Authentic Guatemalan, which is what we loved about it. It was very different from what we were used to. But definitely in a good way. On our way down from Mexico and Belize, we’ve not had this vibe yet.

Fewer ex-pats and remote workers meant more locals and backpackers.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala in the background, while looking over the village of San Pedro

Is Lake Atitlan worth visiting?

YES! This stunning lake and its towns have something for every type of traveller.

From the hippie town of San Marcos to the party scene in San Pedro, the diving you can do from Panajachel to the adventures on the tops of volcanoes.

Everyone can find what they’re looking for on, in, and around Lake Atitlan.

It was a shame Callie got food poisoning. There were so many great adventures to be had – but no energy to experience them.

Best Time To Visit Lake Atitlan – Guatemala

The best time to visit Lake Atitlan is no different than in the rest of Guatemala. This country does not do seasons in the traditional sense, it’s got a dry and a wet season.

People do love to get wet in lakes, but rain is not the way to do it. So, the best time would be the dry season, from November to April.

We visited in January and the weather was great! We’d expect snow because of our own seasons, but Guatemala has no such thing as seasons.

How Long You’ll Need at Lake Atitlan – Guatemala

You’ll need at least 3 full days to really experience the Lake and its beauty. We stayed for 10 nights, which was a little bit too long.

We didn’t plan to stay this long, but since one of us got food poisoning we had to extend our stay by a few nights.

But to be honest, it fully depends on your style of travel and your personal wishes. Do you want to eat great food and relax around the lake for a week? Why not!

But if you want to experience the Lake’s highlights, and still have some time to explore a few towns? 3 full days are ideal.

Because moving around on the lake is so easy, you don’t have to stay in each town. You can easily visit Panajachel for a day from San Pedro, and vice versa.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala seen from on the lake

How To Get To Lake Atitlan – Guatemala

The best way to get to Lake Atitlan Guatemala is by shuttle. Shuttles depart from Guatemala City, Antigua, and El Paredon on the daily, and sometimes even multiple times a day. The shuttle will drop you off at either Panajachel or San Pedro.

We took a shuttle from Antigua to San Pedro which set us back 160 Quetzales, or around $22. We had our boat trip included in our shuttle price, but I think this was a mistake on the shuttle operator’s side.

So, if not included, a boat ride will cost you about 25 Quetzales or $3.50.

It’s also possible to arrive by chicken bus, but we decided against this. You’ll have to take multiple chicken buses to get to the lake, and despite it being a lot cheaper, it is just not the best option in our opinion.

Not sure what to pack when you’re visiting Guatemala? We’ve got you covered!

How To Get Around The Lake

If you choose not to stay in either place, you can simply hop on a boat to any of the other towns. These boats do a loop of the lake and will stop at any town you want them to. Even at your ho(s)tel if it has a pier.

They either go clockwise or counter-clockwise, so check beforehand which direction to go. It takes over an hour to do a full loop!

A taxi boat on Lake Atitlan Guatemala

The Towns on Lake Atitlan, And Why You Should Visit

We have stayed in San Marcos, Santa Cruz, and San Pedro. All of these towns are definitely recommended and for different reasons.

San Marcos is a proper Hippie Town. If relaxing is what you’re looking for, this is the place to be. You can get massages, do yoga, and take a relaxing swim in the lake.

Santa Cruz is the place if you want to have some of the best lake views.

San Pedro is great for partying, food, and socializing. Also, the best place to stay for hiking. If you’re not a partygoer, don’t worry, it’s not like the whole town goes crazy every night.

San Juan has a very pretty umbrella street and a great vibe overall.

Other towns to consider:

Panajachel – best view over the lake including the 3 volcanoes. The best place to find travel throughout the region. Best place to visit the biggest market in Central America.

Jaibalito – a small, pretty village. Less convenient if you’re only staying a few days, but recommended if you have a little more time.

Santiago – The most traditional town around the lake. Colourful, authentic, and beautiful! If you’re in Guatemala for the culture, this is the place to be around Lake Atitlan Guatemala.

The sunset on Lake Atitlan Guatemala as seen from Santa Cruz

Where To Stay on Lake Atitlan

I’ve searched through many options and have come up with the best pick for each price range. The prices might change. These are the prices at the moment of writing this post!

San Pedro

On A Budget: Amigos

This accommodation has small, 6-bed dorms. It offers a kitchen to use by guests, and a garden to relax and socialize in. Breakfast is available, although not included. A great location close to restaurants and other facilities. A bed in a 6-bed dorm is only $8.

Check out Amigos on by clicking on this link!

Mid-Range: Hotel Xetawaa’l

This is the hotel we picked when we had to extend our stay in San Pedro due to food poisoning. It has a great location, a great price, and is locally owned. And, a private bathroom, which was a must at this point. All this for $32 a night.

Book your stay at Hotel Xetawaa’l here!

High-End: Sababa Resort

A great resort with its own pool. The rooms are amazing and breakfast is included. This suite comes with a living area, an outside sitting area, and a private bathroom. An on-site restaurant and bar will cover your daily needs. This suite is available for $103 a night.

✅ Interested? Sababa Resort is bookable via this link!


On A Budget: Hotel El Sol

A great-looking hotel with a shared kitchen, laundry service, and NO bunk beds! Available for $7 a night.

✅ Caught your interest? Book your stay at El Sol here!

Mid-Range: Hotel-Villas JABEL TINAMIT

Centrally located, with breakfast included, and great beds (well, according to the reviews). What else could you possibly need? This one is $43 per night

✅ Curious? Book this accommodation here!

High-End: Hotel San Buenaventura de Atitlán

Only just 5 minutes outside of Panajachel lies this beautiful hotel. On the lake, with its own pool and next to a butterfly sanctuary. It has an on-site restaurant so if you’d prefer to stay at the hotel, you can! All this for $90 per night.

Book Hotel San Buenaventura de Atitlán with this link!

San Marcos

On A Budget: Del Lago Hotel

Admittedly, this is not the cheapest option available. But this is where we stayed and our stay was absolutely fantastic!

The food is great, great restaurants in the area, and walking distance to where it’s all happening. Not to mention the pitchers of draft beer you can get, which was a personal favourite of mine.

Even has a sauna which you can book to use.

A bed in a mixed dorm is $14.

Book your stay at Del Lago Hotel here. Say hi to their cat for us!

Mid-Range: El Dragon Hotel

Located directly next to Del Lago, so the location is also perfect. Away from the busy hippy highway, but still within walking distance. Seating on the lake with the opportunity to swim. Private rooms from $39.

Book your stay at El Dragon Hotel through this link!

High-End: Kula Maya Boutique Hotel and Spa

All rooms have either a patio or balcony with a view of the lake or mountains. There is a pool, and you get a private bathroom and an extra-large bed. Cheapest rooms for $120 per night.

Book this stunning hotel by following this link!

Can You Swim In Lake Atitlan?

In short: yes, you can swim in the lake.

But I advise you only to swim in the designated areas. Many towns use the lake to dump their wastewater.

Hotels and hostels, and even some restaurants, often have designated swimming areas. And, around San Marcos, it is generally safe to swim. Some people tell you you can swim anywhere, but we’ve heard it’s better not to.

Girl standing up in Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Things To Do in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Apart from the obvious swimming, there are many other great things to do. You can hike the volcanoes and mountains, watch sunsets and sunrises, and even go diving in the lake. These are our highlights:

Hike Indian Nose At Sunrise

This was on our list to do – but couldn’t make it due to food poisoning. We’ve met many travellers who have done this hike, and every single one of them recommended it.

The hike is only short, so the only downside to this hike is the early wake-up time. When we visited in January, the pick-up time was 4 am. It’s early, but the views are spectacular!

The hike only takes about 30 minutes and it’s highly recommended you do this with a pre-booked tour.

A tour typically costs Q.80 to Q.100, or $10-12.50. This includes transport to the trailhead and a guide.

Kayak from One Village To Another

What else to do when visiting a lake than play on it? Kayaks are available for rent from most of the bigger towns and cost around Q.20, or $2.50 per hour. Some hotels and hostels have them available for free when you stay with them.

Take A Day Trip To Chichicastenango – The Biggest Outdoor Market in Central America

This market runs on Thursdays and Saturdays, so keep this in mind if you’d like to add this to your itinerary.

The best way to get there is, again, by shuttle. They leave Panajachel around 8 am and arrive at the market around 1,5 hours later. The return shuttles usually leave at 2 pm.

When we visited, the price of a shuttle was around $10 for a one-way trip.

People taking pictures of Lake Atitlan Guatemala with volcanoes in the background

Do A Yoga Retreat in San Marcos

Find yourself during one of the many Yoga retreats offered in and around San Marcos. It’s the best place for relaxation and meditation. Find a Yoga retreat like the one at Eagles’ Nest and experience Yoga with an amazing view of the lake.

Climb A Volcano

You can climb both Volcán Atitlán or San Pedro. San Pedro is the most rewarding in the sense of views from the top, but Atitlan is also definitely worth it. Both of these hikes start in San Pedro, so if you’re coming over for just these hikes, this is where you should stay.

See our guide for more great hikes around Lake Atitlan.

Watch The Sunset From Santa Cruz

Whether you’re staying somewhere on the lake or having a meal in one of the lakeside restaurants. This town is great for watching sunsets. You’ll watch the sky artistically turn into a palette of bright colours, with the silhouettes of 2 volcanoes to finish the canvas.

Hike The Acatenango Volcano

Ok. This is technically not at Lake Atitlan. But if you’re not visiting Antigua and would still like to watch Volcan Fuego erupt from the neighbouring Acatenango Volcano, you can do this from Panajachel or San Pedro.

This was the most magical experience we had in all of Central America. And for a good reason. Check out our blog on the hike for more info.

Go Scuba- Or Free Diving

It’s possible to both Free Dive and Scuba Dive in Lake Atitlan. Scuba Diving is possible from Panajachel, and I’ve seen Free Diving being offered from San Marcos, Santa Cruz, and Panajachel.

Whether you’re looking to do an official PADI course or just want to try diving for the first time. All is possible. (Do it, I love Scuba Diving!)

A colorful street in San Pedro La Laguna on Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala – FAQs

What is a good budget for Lake Atitlan?

The Lake has something for every budget. From hostel dorms to fancy lakeside apartments, there is enough to choose from!

Food-wise there also are plenty of options. Some hostels and hotels have a kitchen that can be used by guests, there is cheap street food and multiple high-end restaurants.

We spent an average of $30 per night for private rooms in hotels and hostels.

We spent about $8 per person per meal in restaurants, including drinks, and didn’t just stick to the budget options.

A beer in a bar or restaurant usually costs Q.20 to Q.25 – which is about $2.50 to $3.25. In a shop a beer costs Q.14 to Q.18 – $1.80 to $2.30.

So, for the average traveller, a budget of $30 – $40 per day would be enough. Although it is doable for less if you’re on a tight budget!

What is the weather like in Lake Atitlan?

Guatemala is nicknamed ‘the country of Eternal Spring’ according to my Spanish teacher in Antigua. It’s always green and has similar temperatures all year round.

They have 2 ‘seasons’. The dry and rainy seasons. The dry season is from November to April, and thus the rainy season is from May to October.

Is Guatemala safe?

Yes. As long as you use common sense, Guatemala is perfectly safe to visit. Crime rates have drastically decreased in the last few years, according to

We’ve not felt unsafe at any point during our month in Guatemala. But, it’s wise to practice common sense:

  • Don’t go out by yourself at night
  • Don’t flash your wad of cash you just got from the ATM
  • No excessive drinking
  • Don’t get in unmarked cars as they might try to scam you
  • Avoid bus stations at night

As I’ve said, we’ve not felt unsafe at all. Just be aware of your surroundings!

Why is Lake Atitlan Famous?

Atitlan is famous for many things. It is the deepest lake in all of Central America. And surrounded by 3 volcanoes, dense forests, and picturesque villages. The surrounding volcanoes and mountains offer stunning views of the lake.

No matter where you are around the lake, you’ll either get a beautiful sunrise or the most stunning sunset.

Guy stroking a dog on a pier on Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Is Lake Atitlan Worth It?

Absolutely! Surrounded by volcanoes, this lake is often considered to be one of the most stunning lakes in the world. There are many adventures waiting in, on, and around the lake for every type of traveller.

Is Lake Atitlan Expensive?

This fully depends on your own preferences. Hostel beds are available for less than $10 a night, and expensive hotels and resorts are for over $300. As I consider us ‘average travellers’, I think we can say no. It is not expensive.

We paid an average of $30 per night for double rooms and $2.75 for a beer in a bar or restaurant. The average meal in a restaurant will set you back about $5 to $7, excluding drinks.

Where Do You Fly Into For Lake Atitlan?

Guatemala City’s La Aurora Airport is the closest and most convenient airport to fly into if you want to visit Atitlan. From Guatemala City, there are multiple daily shuttle services to Lake Atitlan.

What Is The Myth Of Lake Atitlan?

The sunken Maya city of Samabaj has been a well-known myth amongst locals and visitors. Until it was discovered in 1996. This sunken village is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the exact location is being kept a secret for now.

“The village appears to have been built on an island that was submerged, possibly because of a volcanic eruption, a landslide or another natural disaster.”. – UNESCO

Is Lake Atitlan The Deepest Lake In The World?

While this lake is estimated to be 340 meters, or 1120ft deep, Lake Atitlan is not the deepest lake in the world. It is, however, the deepest lake in Central America.

Is Lake Atitlan Salt Water?

Lake Atitlan is a freshwater lake in a volcanic crater, formed about 85,000 years ago. Since there is nowhere for the water to drain, water has just accumulated in the crater from the Panajachel & Quiscab Rivers.

What Is The National Dish Of Guatemala?

Guatemala doesn’t officially have a national dish. But Pepián is widely accepted as the best contender. This spicy stew is a mix of Maya and Spanish influences. It normally contains meat, but available without it to create a vegan version. It also contains fruit and vegetables and is served with either rice, tortillas, or both.

What Language Is Spoken At Lake Atitlan?

There are many languages spoken around the lake. Different villages may speak different old Mayan languages. While Spanish is widely spoken amongst locals, it is not their first language. The people who work in the tourist industry and in many restaurants will speak English as well.

What To Do After Lake Atitlan, Guatemala?

After Atitlan, we went straight to El Salvador. A destination often skipped by backpackers. If you’d like to see more of Guatemala though, there are a ton of other places to visit!

Antigua was my absolute favourite place in all of Guatemala, and this whole trip in general. This colourful colonial town used to be the capital of Guatemala until volcanic activity pooped the party.

Cobblestone streets, amazing food, a little but lively central park, and the place to be for the Acatenango hike. Which should definitely be on your itinerary!

El Paredon is a beach town on the Pacific Coast great for surfing.

Although a little far from the lake, the Tikal ruins are also a must-visit.

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala – Final Thoughts

It’s safe to say there is something at Atitlan for every type of traveller. Are you looking for massages, parties, or perhaps great hiking? Visit the amazing Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

Relatively easy to get to, and easy to travel around. The perfect item on any itinerary.