Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

The Towns of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala


Kate at Lake Atitlan Guatemala

One thing I’ve noticed about Guatemala guidebooks and tours is that they tend to label Lake Atitlan as a singular destination.Spend a few days exploring Antigua before a few days on Lake Atitlan, then move on to Semuc Champey…”

By the sound of that, you’d think that Lake Atitlan is tiny, maybe with one town and a public beach or two. Not in the least! It’s huge and there is so much to see!

I feel like these guidebooks and tours really do travelers a disservice — they convince people that the lake is only worth a few days at most. I couldn’t disagree more.

Santa Cruz Atitlan Guatemala

First of all, Atitlan is one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen. Imagine an immense lake, sparkling in the sunlight, surrounded by mountains and volcanoes covered with blooming wildflowers.

The weather is absolutely perfect — temperatures hover around 70s-80s (21-27 C) during the day and 50s-60s (10-20 C) at night. No need for heating or air conditioning. The clearest weather is from December to February; dry season runs from November to April.

Second, it’s home to a primarily indigenous community. If you’ve ever wondered what happened to the Mayans, it’s not that they disappeared — come to Lake Atitlan and you will be surrounded by them! And each town has its own signature style of clothing.

Third, it’s home to more than a dozen different towns. Tiny villages, big cities, Gringo heavens, indigenous villages. Each place is so different than the last and it’s worth exploring as many as possible.

Our Central America tour spent a full week on Lake Atitlan with stays in Panajachel, Jaibalito, and San Pedro, plus visits to surrounding towns. I feel like a full week on the lake is enough time to get a good sense of the many different communities that call it home.

Here are the top towns to visit, located counterclockwise from the lake’s main hub of Panajachel. Which Lake Atitlan town is best for you? Read on!

Panajachel Lake Atitlan Guatemala


Known as: the tourist town.

Panajachel, a.k.a. Pana, is the most popular town for tourists to visit, and if you’re going to visit only one town in Lake Atitlan, it will probably be here. You’ll find a well-developed town with a lot of resources for both locals and expats.

Panajachel’s main drag is Calle Santander and it’s here that you’ll find the best shopping in Guatemala. There are plenty of tour agencies offering day trips and tours around the entire lake.

If I were to live anywhere in Central America, it would be Panajachel — but that doesn’t mean it’s my favorite place in Central America! Pana has the perfect mix of natural beauty, resources, good prices, easy travel connections, and an expat community. All important things in choosing a place to live.

Panajachel Lake Atitlan GuatemalaPanajachelJapanese Breakfast Panajachel

Best Things to Do in Panajachel

Shop for EVERYTHING! Pana has the best selection and prices in Guatemala. If you’re looking to buy souvenirs, I recommend waiting until you get here. Jewelry, textiles, leather goods, artwork — they’ve got it all!

Visit Crossroads Coffee. This is more than just a coffee shop. The beans are obviously amazing (it’s Guatemala, after all!), but the true highlight of this place is Mike, the owner. He is the kindest, friendliest, most interesting man, he will talk your ear off in the best way, and I promise that you will feel so happy and light after having a conversation with him.

Take a sunset cruise. Of all the towns on Lake Atitlan, Panajachel has the best views of the sunset. There are regular weekend cruises (ask when in town); if you’re adventurous and speak a bit of Spanish, bargain with a captain at one of the docks! You’ll find the best sunsets from December to February; other months of the year, it’s rainy or it gets cloudy by late afternoon.

Where to Stay in Panajachel

Hotel Playa Linda is a find: super-cheap, adorable, and very Mayan. You might be the only non-Guatemalan staying in the neighborhood! Doubles from 300q ($39), triples from 450q ($58).

You can find more places to stay in Panajachel here.

Where to Eat in Panajachel

Chez Alex is the fanciest and most expensive place in town — but let me tell you that at low Guatemalan prices, it’s so worth it. I had a fantastic steak with green peppercorn sauce along with plenty of red wine.

If you’ve been craving sushi after weeks on the road, Restaurant Hana has nice Japanese food.

Circus Bar has great pizza and live music on the weekends. We ordered from them for our pizza booze cruise!

Street tacos are abundant on Calle Santander and elsewhere. You’ll also find GFC (Guatemalan fried chicken) if you’re up for an indulgence.

And if you’re looking to drink, Gringos Locos has a very colorful cast of regulars. They serve food as well.

Santa Cruz Atitlan Guatemala

Santa Cruz

Known as: the nearly-vertical town.

Want to develop huge muscles in your calves? Come to Santa Cruz! I say this in jest, but seriously. Most of the villages in Lake Atitlan are built onto hills, but Santa Cruz is the steepest one of all.

Santa Cruz is a traditional Mayan town and though there are several expats living here, there’s hardly any influence. Most of the Gringo-oriented businesses are right down at the lake’s edge; once you climb into town, it’s purely local.

I liked Santa Cruz for a day trip; anything longer than that would be a bit excessive. Make sure you don’t miss the area down by the docks as well as the town itself.

Santa Cruz Atitlan GuatemalaSanta Cruz Atitlan GuatemalaSanta Cruz Atitlan Guatemala

Best Things to do in Santa Cruz

Go diving! Lake Atitlan’s one dive shop, ATI Divers, is located in Santa Cruz. It might not seem like a conventional diving destination, but with Atitlan’s rising waters, you’ll find lots of buildings that have been swallowed by the lake.

Walk to the top of the village. My friends were grumbling by the end, but it was an accomplishment to walk to the tippity top of the very vertical town!

Where to Stay in Santa Cruz

La Iguana Perdida. While I personally haven’t stayed here, it comes highly recommended by several of my friends.

You can find more hotels in Santa Cruz here.

Where to Eat in Santa Cruz

Cafe Sabor Cruceno is a culinary school creating Guatemalan and fusion dishes. If you’re coming for a day trip, this is where you want to eat for lunch! It’s located on the main plaza in town. The building also has the best views of the town and I took the first Santa Cruz photo from there.

Jaibalito Guatemala


Known as: the town people don’t want you to know about.

I have so much affection for Jaibalito — it’s a tiny town only accessible by water or by hiking, it’s home to three great establishments, the local community is very friendly, and the views of the lake are wonderful. It’s also conveniently located for day trips to other towns on the lake.

At night, noise swells — competing churches play incredibly loud and boisterous music, while in the middle of the night, all of the dogs on the lake seem to be barking at each other.

There’s not much to do in Jaibalito, but that’s where I think the charm lies. It feels like stumbling upon a secret that nobody knows about.

Club Ven Aca Jaibalito Guatemala Vulcano Lodge Atitlan GuatemalaLake Atitlan Guatemala

Best Things to Do in Jaibalito

Spend a day at Club Ven Aca. Club Ven Aca is a day club with a hot tub and an infinity pool overlooking Lake Atitlan. Chill out with music and cocktails. They do amazing pink mojitos!

Just hang out and relax. If you’ve come to Jaibalito with an agenda, you’re doing it wrong. This is a place for doing nothing.

Where to Stay in Jaibalito

I adore Vulcano Lodge — the rooms are beautiful, the food is delicious, and the grounds are spectacular, including a cactus garden. Thanks to Jaibalito prices, it’s luxury on a budget. Doubles from $45.

Where to Eat in Jaibalito

Posada Jaibalito (a.k.a. Hans’s place). This hostel is home to a restaurant with super-delicious and super-cheap food, including German dishes like schnitzel and goulash. Their salads are basic but ridiculously good — I can’t figure out why! This is also where Jaibalito’s expat community gathers each night.

Vulcano Lodge also serves excellent three-course meals for guests. Be sure to arrange earlier in the day. Club Ven Aca does a great burger.

San Marcos Atitlan Guatemala

San Marcos La Laguna

Known as: the hippie town.

Lake Atitlan is known for its mystical pull, and the pull is strongest in San Marcos, attracting a hippie community. You can pretty much figure out who in the boat is going to San Marcos based on what they’re wearing!

San Marcos is one of the most beautiful villages on the lake, but it’s tiny. After all the praises I had heard sung about San Marcos, I was stunned to see how small it actually was! I wouldn’t want to base in San Marcos, but it’s a great spot for a day trip.

Come here to get into your mystical side, or come here for the beautiful scenery. It’s worth a visit on both accounts.

San MarcosSan Marcos Boutique GuatemalaSan Marcos Atitlan Guatemala

Best Things to Do in San Marcos

Get your hippie on. Want your chakras balanced? Want a birth chart done? This is where to do it. There are several salons, too, if you’re in need of a manicure or a wax.

Jump into the water. San Marcos is home to Reserva Natural del Cerro Tzankujil, a beautiful trail that leads to a platform where you can jump into the lake! If you’re not up for a jump, you can climb into the water for a swim.

Do a retreat. Las Piramides hosts yoga and meditation retreats, as well as classes and short-term sessions. For a challenge, do one of their many silent retreats.

Where to Stay in San Marcos

While I haven’t stayed overnight in San Marcos, Hotel Paco Real comes highly recommended for budget travelers.

Where to Eat in San Marcos

Restaurant Fe. So good, I never ate anywhere else. The curries and the Indian soups are fabulous.

Cafe Shambhala is a nice place to hang out and sip a tea or kombucha.

For more on living in San Marcos, Never Ending Voyage wrote an excellent guide.

San Pedro Atitlan Guatemala

San Pedro La Laguna

Known as: the backpacker town.

San Pedro is home to the lowest prices on Lake Atitlan, making this a popular spot for backpackers and long-term travelers. With good accommodation, excellent food, and a wild nightlife scene, it’s not surprising that plenty of backpackers end up stuck in San Pedro for weeks or months!

It might seem like Gringo-land, but walk up the steep hill and you’ll be in an entirely Mayan part of the town. I loved taking long walks around here, photographing the colorful buildings.

If you’ve been spending a bit too much money on a long-term trip, this is a great place to spend time without breaking the bank.

San Pedro Atitlan GuatemalaZoola Pool San Pedro Atitlan GuatemalaRooster Man San Pedro

Best Things to Do in San Pedro:

Climb San Pedro Volcano. You should have a good level of fitness, as it’s a tough climb, but if you do it, you’ll be rewarded with sensational views all over the lake.

Learn Spanish. San Pedro is home to several Spanish schools and they’re quite cheap — two of my friends took a weeklong course for just $40!

Party. This is the place. I’m usually at Sublime every evening, and they do fun theme nights like funk night, Disney night, and a black light party. Zoola is a fun for day drinking in the pool (and it’s the cleanest pool I experienced in Central America).

Where to Stay in San Pedro:

Hotel Mikaso is the nicest place in town with a gorgeous deck with purple flowers and hot and cold tubs. The beds are hand-carved and there’s a grand piano upstairs. Dorms from 60q ($8), private doubles from 180q ($24).

Pinocchio is a cheap alternative. Prices seem to be negotiated on the spot; for a room with one double bed, one single bed, and (doorless) private bathroom, we paid 200q ($26) when it was three people and 100q ($13) when it was just me. For rooms with a shared bathroom, a triple and a double, each person paid 50q ($6).

Other hotels in San Pedro can be found here.

Where to Eat in San Pedro

I swear the food at Blue Parrot must laced with crack cocaine, it’s so good. I got a grilled cheese with avocado and tomato every morning! Everything on the menu is outstanding and they do a killer (and cheap) vodka sunrise.

Idea Connection. I can’t believe I found legitimate, Italian-quality pasta in Guatemala. Probably the best wifi I found in town, too.

Hotel Mikaso has the best pizza on Lake Atitlan. Thin-crust, gooey cheese, lightly charred. Dinner only.

Zoola is one of the many good Israeli restaurants in town.

Street tacos. Available everywhere on the main drag and always delicious. You’ll also find Japanese street food like yakitori and okonomiyaki, and plenty of street barbecue!

Lake Atitlan Guatemala Dock

Other Towns

I haven’t visited the next towns on Lake Atitlan, but I thought they were worth including in the list for informational purposes:

Waiting for Santiago

Image: majunznk


The largest town on Lake Atitlan, Santiago is famous for its church (people make its saints handmade clothes!), its market, and the saint Maximon, whose home is in Santiago. Views of the lake are gorgeous from here and while you can climb San Pedro Volcano from here, it’s a longer and more dangerous route.

Santiago is a bit isolated from the major towns on the lake, but you can find direct lanchas from Panajachel and San Pedro.

San Juan La Laguna, Sololá, Guatemala

Image: eileeninca

San Juan La Laguna

Several women on my first tour visited San Juan and were captivated by it, describing it as a perfect small Atitlan town with colorful buildings, friendly people, and hardly any tourists. Their highlight was learning how to weave from a group of Mayan women at Lema, a collective in town.

The weaving costs $35 for five hours and everyone who went came back raving — if this is your kind of thing, I recommend you go!

San Juan is the next town over from San Pedro.

Lake Atitlan

Image: auntjojo

Santa Catarina Palopo

Santa Catarina Palopo is a pretty town just past Panajachel and if you’re up for a (non-volcanic) hike, this is an easy and fun way to enjoy the coastline! Santa Catarina is also home to hot springs (aguas termales) that appear to be built right into the lake. This was one of the stops on the motorcycle trip on our tour.

Santa Catarina is most easily accessed from Panajachel, by road, hiking, or boat.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Lake Atitlan Tips

To get from town to town, take a lancha (boat) from the town’s dock. Generally boats run in either direction from town to town from Panajachel-Santa Cruz-Jaibalito-Tzununa-San Marcos-San Juan-San Pedro, plus stops in between at other towns and private docks where people need to be picked up.

Other lines run direct between Panajachel and San Pedro, Panajachel and Santiago, and Santiago and San Pedro.

Prices vary and can be negotiated. Generally, ask someone nearby what you should pay, or negotiate down when the driver tells the price. Short distances are usually 15-25q ($2-3). You pay the driver when you arrive.

Lake Atitlan is generally an extremely safe place for travelers, due in part to the Mayan laws of conduct, but some travelers have been robbed while crossing to other towns on foot. Many of these paths are safe, like between Santa Cruz and Jaibalito, and the situation can change frequently, so ask locals whether it’s safe for you to do so.

Keep in mind that many Mayans don’t like being photographed. Some are happy to pose for photos, but always ask permission before you take a photo of a Mayan.

Child trafficking is an issue in Guatemala, so please don’t take close-up photos of children without permission from their parents.

Do not flirt with Mayans. It’s forbidden for Mayans to entertain romance with non-Mayans.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

If you want to swim in Lake Atitlan, Panajachel and San Marcos are good places to do so. The lake is dirtier around San Pedro, though it didn’t stop a few of my friends from jumping in…

Not all towns have ATMs! Make sure to stock up on cash in Panajachel or San Pedro before visiting the other towns.

If you’re staying long-term, look into an Airbnb rental. There are plenty of options all over the lake. (Get $25 off your first Airbnb stay here!)

Prepare for crazy dreams. Some say it’s due the altitude (Atitlan is a mile-high lake!); others blame the lake’s mystical powers. I don’t know what it is, but several of my friends and I had crazy dreams the whole time we were on the lake, especially in Jaibalito.

San Pedro Atitlan Guatemala

Where to Go After Lake Atitlan

Both Panajachel and San Pedro are well-connected for onward transportation; if you’re staying in any of the other towns, I recommend getting yourself to either of these hubs by boat first.

Antigua is a beautiful colonial city about 2.5 hours from Panajachel (and you’ve probably already visited it en route to the lake).

Chichicastenango has an enormous and enormously popular market on Sundays and Thursdays. (Keep in mind that Panajachel has many of the same items for cheaper.) It’s about two hours from either Panajachel or San Pedro.

Quetzaltenango (Xela) is a medium-sized city about 3 hours from San Pedro and a popular hotspot for dirt-cheap Spanish courses.

You can get to pretty much any major tourist destination in Guatemala from San Pedro or Panajachel. Our journey from San Pedro to Lanquin for Semuc Champey was supposed to take around eight hours but took twelve. Godspeed if you want to go all the way to Flores or Rio Dulce in a single trip.

If you want to cross into Mexico next, San Cristobal de las Casas is an overnight journey from either Panajachel or San Pedro. Some agencies have direct buses to San Salvador and El Tunco in El Salvador; others have direct buses to Copan Ruinas in Honduras.

And if you need to go to Guatemala City Airport, you can find direct connections from both Panajachel (three hours) and San Pedro (four and a half hours).

(These times are all by direct shuttle, and keep in mind that “Latin time” means they might take longer. Local chicken buses are much cheaper but will invariably take much longer and possibly require you to change buses once or more.)

For more on the towns and villages of Lake Atitlan, check out Atitlan Living.

No matter where you go in Guatemala, be sure to get travel insurance first. I never travel without it and always use World Nomads.

Have you been to Lake Atitlan? Which town do you want to visit the most?

photos by: & ,
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136 Responses to “The Towns of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala”
  1. Kelly says:

    You’re so right about guidebooks referring to the lake as if it were a quick stopover type of place. I’d love to visit Guatemala, maybe next year (it’s not looking like it’s in the cards for this year) so this is a helpful comprehensive kind of guide to the lake. Jaibalito seems like the perfect place for me–I love places where you just can do nothing!

  2. Amanda says:

    Well, you have me convinced! All of the villages look amazing (and these are some of the best photos I think you’ve posted!). Can I come on your next tour?

    • PLEASE DO! Would love to have you and you’d love Guatemala! Thanks. 🙂 I like these photos.

      • Jake Pirtle says:

        Kate thank you for this article. I booked my trip for Jan 30th 2017, Staying for 7 days. This article is very informative and will definitely help me during my travels around the lake. If you have any other tips or information please email me. Would be greatly appreciated thank you again

      • Aurora Schein says:

        Hey I’m finding your guide to Atitlan very helpful. What are these motorcycle tours you speak of?

      • Dylan says:

        Hi Kate,
        My buddy and I are heading to Guatemala on Dec 24 – Jan 1 2016-2017..

        Wondering if this rough itinerary is feasible?
        Dec 24 land — head to Antigua
        Dec 25 – day trip and hike volcanoes
        26- bus to Lake Atitlan stay there for the 26th and 27th
        Dec 28 – bus back to gua city and fly to Flores stay 28th
        Dec 29 – day trip to Tikal -stay night
        Dec 30 – bus to Izabal spend the day and night bus back to Flores on 31 and fly back to Gua city..

        We’re cramming that last Izabal part in.. probably not the best option? Would you suggest staying an extra night in Lake Atitlan?

        Are there any 1 night 2 day hikes you would recommend, or places a little off the beaten path we could hit that aren’t in the typical guidebooks? We’re open to anything and any place and love the local vibes.

        Also, where would the best place be to go jungle trekking, kayaking, ziplining, anything of that sort? Thank you so much in advance.. I appreciate your time and look forward to your response!

        • In my opinion, this is way too rushed a trip. You’ve got to keep in mind that transportation in Guatemala is longer and rougher than it would be at home. You can kayak on Lake Atitlan. If I were you, I’d add much more time into Lake Atitlan. And is there a point of going to Antigua if you’re not going to spend any time there? You can volcano trek on Lake Atitlan as well.

          • Dylan says:


            Thanks for that info.. we were definitely thinking it was going to be too packed. Probably going to spend more time around Lake Atitlan (Dec 24-27) and then just head to Tikal on the 28th.

            Is it possible to catch an overnight backpacking trip on Volcano Acatenango from Lake Atitlan.. or do all of the jump offs begin from Antigua..? Thanks so much!

          • No clue. Keep it simple!!

  3. Ken says:

    Great write-up and overview of the lake. We’ve been leaving in Pana for the past 9 months and love it here.

    • Helen says:

      Hi Ken,

      I see that you are living in Pana, we are thinking on moving there in the next 6-10 months. Can you please let me know about living there? We have visited in the past, but are considering to make the permanent move.

  4. Wow, I had never heard of Lake Atitlan before, but this makes me want to visit. Santiago sounds particularly worth a trip!

  5. Lily says:

    Any idea what the lake is like during rainy season? Still worth a visit? Some places experience rains for a few hours in the afternoon whereas other places have them all day…

    • lisa hess says:

      Fantastic commentary! So I’m 50 fem. Traveling alone. Spending
      2 or 3 night’s. Which local do you recommend? I’m thinking san Pedro. I booked in santa Cruz but I like a bit more of a town too. I hike and kayak. Thanks Lisa. Oh arriving 5/5

  6. Anita says:

    Atitlan is such a gorgeous lake, I really want to visit all those towns now. Particularly San Marcos!

  7. Julika says:

    I must admit that this part of the world wasn’t really on my radar yet, but it looks absolutely gorgeous! I can’t even imagine what it must look in real life! Regarding this and the coffee, Guatemala definitely just got moved further up the priority list!

  8. Lindsay says:

    This is so well-researched, and I completely agree with you! My only input is that I found Santa Cruz as lovely as you found Jaibalito! I stayed at La Iguana Perdida for two weeks, and wasn’t ready to leave when it was over! The hostel draws amazing people. They have amazing food. And they’re great about coming up with fun things to do (trivia nights, kayaking, Spanish lessons, weaving lessons, the famous cross-dressing party every Saturday). But it’s also a great place to do nothing — lay in a hammock, lay on the docks, swim… Man, now I want to book another trip!

  9. We spent Christmas in San Pedro in 2012 and I loved it there. We also hiked Indian nose which included visiting the small non-touristy town of San Juan la Laguna and did a day trip to San Marcos. It was probably my favourite place in Guatemala and somewhere I would love to return to

  10. Lauren says:

    I love being able to prove the guidebooks wrong, it gives me such a twisted sense of satisfaction! The Lake looks stunning and your pictures are incredible, I look forward to hearing more from your Central American adventures 🙂

  11. Renuka says:

    I’d love to visit all of these lovely towns, but San Pedro sounds so charming! Love the way you have captured the essence of each place in your photographs. Thanks for taking us on a virtual tour!

  12. Emily says:

    Wow your pictures of the lake are absolutely stunning! Everything I had heard about it made it sound like a two day stopover. I had I no idea there was so much to do there 🙂

  13. Zascha says:

    And that’s why you should never listen to guidebooks. At least not all the time! 🙂 Gorgeous places.

  14. Alejandra says:

    Loved your article! just one little detail, the picture you have of San Juan la Laguna is not actually San Juan but San Antonio Palopó, another beautiful town in Atitlán famous for it´s pottery!

  15. Emily says:

    Kate, this round up of Lake Atitlan is super useful, thank you!! The Lake specifically has been on my radar for about 6 month… I’ve been fantasizing about it and researching it and trying to make a trip happen. A friend and I are thinking of going to Brazil for 2 weeks in December, but I honestly think we might change plans and go to Guatemala instead!! Thanks again for the info!

  16. I had never heard about the Lake Atitlan until now. Looks like Guatemala will make a great trip. I honestly cannot consider ditching one of the towns and spending all the days of my travel at only one town. Thanks for the information. Great help, again.

  17. Atitlan is the most beautiful lake I’ve been to and your photos definitely do it justice! I loved zip lining in Pana, it’s really beautiful and you will have an amazing view of the lake.

    About that street fried chicken…I wouldn’t eat that! We stayed for 2 days and there was a chicken vendor outside of our hotel. I am 100% sure he was selling the same chicken on day 2 as he was the first day.

  18. Mima Isono says:

    I never been to Atitlan. It looks like a nice place.

  19. Deserae says:

    Beautiful pics. I think my favorite thing about finding your blog is that now I know where to look for info first when I research travel in the future. It might be a while before I get to S. America but these pics give me a travel craving for sure.

  20. Anna says:

    I was having a strange case of deja vu while looking at those photos – particularly surprising bc my sole experience with the tropics has been 3 days in Casa de Campo in the Dominican R. Then it hit me – there are SO many parallels with off-the-beaten-bath Crimea! The villages that still have native population, serene beaches, beautiful nature – all in a kind of forgotten corner of the planet. Weird…

  21. The article is great travel guide for the region. The towns are beautiful and remind me of the Como lake, Italy and the cities like Como and Lugano.

  22. These photos are amazing! Definitely planning on staying around Lake Atitlan for a month or so when I backpack Central America. Very helpful stuff!

  23. Jan says:

    The absolute best way to travel on Lake Atitlan is by kayak. You can rent boats and hire a guide through Lee and Elaine Beal, owners of Los Elementos Adventure Center. Spend the morning kayaking to one of the villages on the lake, spend the afternoon exploring the local charm, and spend the evenings enjoying the food in tucked away restaurants. Get up the next day and do it all over again. Each village has it’s own distinctive charm and personality, and the Guatemalan people are simply beautiful in spirit. I truly felt the sacredness of the lake by kayaking on it. I can’t wait to go back. I’ve traveled all over the world, but I’ve never considered becoming an ex-pat because no place has felt like home…until Guatemala. Well, maybe not an ex-pat but definitely a frequent visitor.

  24. Jake says:

    I grew up on the lake (in Santiago). This was a fun description and I appreciate the deeper delve into the culture and various townships. You should really come to Santiago next time. It’s the biggest indigenous population pretty much anywhere, and that keeps the cultural embers alive in a powerful way that feels a little lost in some other places. There is the 500 year old conquest church, but right across from it the Maximon – the Mayan God that is guarded by sorceror priests. The bay at the end of the lake between the three volcanos is the best for camping and kayaking, and the Posada de Santiago is obviously not to be missed 😉 I’ll be down there this summer – hit me up if you will be there as well.

  25. Britt says:

    Absolutely love that you did guatemala as I’m planning on heading there this time next year! Loving all the tips and from the sounds of it I think I’l end up spending longer here than I originally thought! All of these little towns definitely seem like the kinds of places I absolutely love!

  26. Aaron says:

    Great photos Kate! Thanks for the recommendations, looks like a fantastic destination.

  27. ivy kriste says:

    Nice pictures. Looks like a great place to visit

  28. f.d. walker says:

    This is the second time I’ve heard about Jaibalito. It sounds like an amazing find. Great overview on all these places!

  29. Nico says:

    I never been to Atitlan. looks like a nice place and will be great to visit Atitlan

  30. Lexi says:

    We stayed in Panajachel and loved it! I wish we could have spent more time there. Kayaking on the lake was very fun but it took a little bit of searching to find a hire that wasn’t a rip off.

    • Chell says:

      Would love to know where you stayed while you were there? Would you recommend it to an 18 year-old male traveling solo?

      Thank you!

  31. I have never heard of this place before but the photos look gorgeous. Worth to give it a try some day!

  32. Allison says:

    Wow that looks amazing. You had me convinced with the breakfast shot 😉 I have a weird thing for lakes and am actually blogging from Lake Bled in Slovenia, which is also beautiful! Cheers!

  33. Full of so much useful information – definitely one to refer back to. Now which picture to pin…

    Much love, Beanie x

  34. Anna says:

    Great article and beautiful photos 🙂 For some time I reflect on visiting to one of the countries of Central America. Now, certainly in the the first place I’ll visit Guatemala.

  35. Jimmy says:

    I loved hiking up the Indian Nose for sunrise.

  36. Heidi says:

    You post has brought back fond memories of a year ago when I stayed in San Pedro La Laguna for a couple of months. Hotel Chi-ya was wonderful, we stayed in a gorgeous, modern, well-equipped cabin by the lake, but out of the way from party central – up on the hill as you approach San Juan. Free use of canoe, and sunrise views over the lake and Indian Nose. The water was clean enough for swimming there too.

    We hired a lancha for several hours on my friends birthday and the driver took us around the lake while we got merry on cuba libres. There are so many great places to eat in San Pedro, favourites being Blue Parrot, Hummus Ya, Idea Connection (you are so right about that place), and my favourite for food was Sublime bar.

    We did have a few ‘moments’ in the area such as being robbed between Santiago and San Pedro on the motorbike, and also losing our brakes on a mountain road, and being chased by a pack of wild dogs, but the good times far outweighed the bad. I’d love to go there again!

  37. Travelfemme says:

    Hey 🙂 I just wrote a post recommending my favorite blogs at the moment – and you’re one of them! Check it out on travelfemme.com.

  38. Wow! I’d never even heard of this lake and now it’s on my “must-do” list! This is a really well researched, helpful piece that I’m going to bookmark for when I get to go to Lake Atitlan!

  39. These pictures are breathtaking. I love how you decided to go for your passion of traveling and quit your job to do it. Good luck with the rest of your travels!

  40. Great post Kate. Thinking of exploring this part of the world late next year and some of this info will come in really useful should we get to Guatemala.

    Thanks for sharing.

  41. Yes I fell in love with Lake Atitlan and rented a house in Santa Cruz for several months. Each town is so different that you have to see them all. I stayed in San Marcos for 6 weeks before discovering Santa Cruz where I made many friends and wrote a book while living on the lake. Sublime time it was and yes it is the steepest town but also the safest as you can’t get too far with stolen items when you have to take a boat or hike to get out. Never heard of any robberies here in Santa Cruz. Yes it is mystical and I did have nightly dreams igniting my soul and refreshing my heart. Highly recommend it. BTW here is a tour of my house on the lake http://bit.ly/1RdwDUz

  42. Neha says:

    Love the photos you took and shared. I wish to travel USA & defiantly i’ll visit Guatemala on my trip to USA.

  43. Tina says:

    All the place are really look amazing. Worth visiting indeed.

  44. Jenna says:

    I’m glad to see Guatemala and Lake Atitlan getting some coverage. It’s one of the most overlooked areas in my opinion. When people think of Guatemala, they usually think of Antigua. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored Antigua too but Guatemala have so much more to offer. I spent a month during my college years volunteering in San Lucas Toliman (the eastern side of the lake). I absolutely adore that place and the people there. Thank you so much for this article!

  45. That’s it, these have been added to the hit list! When will we see you in London again?

  46. Chelsea says:

    Ahh! I am SO happy you blogged about Guatemala and specifically to raise awareness of some of the lesser known gems on the shores of Lake Atitlán. Guatemala is such a beautiful country and I was fortunate to have lived there for 2.5 years and continuing visiting often. My husband (a Guatemalan) and I were just wed in Antigua last month and we were so overwhelmed with passion for our country that we have decided to make a plan to move back in the next few years. In the meantime we are working on a new blog to help promote travel in Guatemala as so many people are still turned off due to the negative reputation it acquired during the 36 year civil war. Thank you for this wonderful article about Guatemala!

    P.S. I LOVE Santiago Atitlán, it is has a very authentic feel (compared to Pana and San Pedro that have have been fused in with western culture as well…which is also cool, but just a different experience) and it houses the San Maximón shrine and there is this fabulous artist who sells the most brillant paintings there.


  47. Adam says:

    Lake Atitlan was the highlight of Central America for me … few other sites came close (maybe Little Corn Island)!

  48. Ean says:

    Hi Kate
    I wish and wish and wish I started travelling earlier but again it’s never too late. I love love love your website and all your adventures. I would like details of your backpacking tour as Central America is definitely on my list. I would like to do it soon either on your tour or on my own.

  49. Kyle says:

    Lago de Atitlan is an incredibly beautiful place and your excellent photos definitely do it justice. I lived for a month one winter in San Marcos de la Laguna and did the one month Lunar program at Las Piramides. It’s a pretty rad experience to live and meditate daily in your own pyramid!

    • Chelsea says:

      Hey Kyle! It’s so great to see other people who have gone to Guatemala and fallen in love with it. I absolutely love San Marcos and it is definitely one of the best places in Guatemala for people who are looking for a relaxing, meditative place whether it be a formal retreat or just a personal escape!

      My love for Guatemala has grown so much over the last 5 years for the country that I am not blogging about it with the plan to convert my blog, La Gringa Chapina, into a full time project in the near future. If you have any ideas or suggestions for articles pertaining to Guatemala or Central America feel free to send them my way 🙂

      Chelsea – La Gringa Chapina – http://www.lagringachapina.com

  50. Kerjan says:

    This is so beautiful Kate! I love that your chronically Central America because it’s nots somewhere I’d normally choose to travel! xx Thanks for the post

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