Top 10 Lake Atitlan, Guatemala Things to Do
Whether you will be spending One Day at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala or a month like I did, you will fall in love with what Lonely Planet named Eden on Earth.
When I glanced at pictures on Instagram of Lake Atitlan, or learned via resources like Adventurous Kate, I knew I wanted to stay at Lake Atitlan for a month during my travel to 7 Continents.
From the moment I arrived for Glamping by Lake Atitlan, I was blown away with the surrounding pristine beauty and once in a lifetime experiences.
My Top 10 Lake Atitlan Guatemala Things to Do includes water activities, village exploration, nature discovery, cultural experiences, visiting the most magical hotel in Guatemala. and foodie favorites!
Casa Flor Ixcaco Weaving Experience in San Juan La Laguna
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala Stays & Transportation
For my second stay in Guatemala, I went glamping by Lake Atitlan for four days in San Marcos La Laguna. For my third stay in Guatemala, I stayed at an Airbnb Digital Nomad Chalet in San Pedro La Laguna for a month!
All shots are my own on Canon EOSM100, Sony A330, and/or my iPhone 12 Mini or via Airbnb.
Top 10 Lake Atitlan Things to Do
You will find water sports and activities, village exploration, nature discovery, culture experiences and foodie favorites all around Lake Atitlan. My favorites include taking boat rides, swimming, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding, giving back with a weaving experience, visiting villages around Lake Atitlan, spending the day at Cerro Tzankujil, experiencing Guatemala's most magical hotel, shopping at Calle Santander and Street Markets, and foodie favorites!
I am sharing what I experienced, and logistical things to consider in planning your visit. This is something I keep in mind always to save time and money whether you are taking boats or TukTuks around Lake Atitlan.
In putting together the Top 10 in and near Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, I considered how I would experience the place knowing what I know now, and to make it easy, efficient and enjoyable!
1 Boat Rides Around Lake Atitlan
Likely, you will end up experiencing a boat or lancha ride when you get to the lake. Depending where you stay, you may likely arrive at Panajachel - the transportation hub of Lake Atitlan, and then take a public lancha to another village in the lake. There are 19 municipalities and 12 villages named after the apostles.
I recommend you take the public lancha. Depending how close you are, you won't pay more than 25Q / about $3-$4 one way. You can't visit Lake Atitlan without taking boats/lanchas unless you want to go by TukTuks which are noisier, bumpier, slower, and likely more expensive.
Not only that, but taking a boat ride across the lake multiple times a day, week, and/or month, reminds you of its astounding beauty.
Whether you spend One Day at Lake Atitlan or longer, this is a MUST!
2 Swimming at Lake Atitlan
You can't visit Lake Atitlan without swimming in the lake! It is stunning and refreshing with pleasant temperatures. There are places at the lake that are better and cleaner to swim.
You may spend an hour to making it a part of your every day at the lake easily.
San Marcos La Laguna
I found the waters are incredible at San Marcos La Laguna for free at the docks close to the public boat stop. When you get off the boat, walk to the right along the lake. Relax and enjoy swimming at the lake close to the docks and around the shore.
One of my other favorite places to swim at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala includes the village of Jaibalito at La Casa del Mundo.
3 Water Sports around Lake Atitlan
You may spend days, weeks and months enjoying water sports on Lake Atitlan. Two of my favorites include kayaking and stand up paddle boarding early in the morning. There is nothing like being immersed in the limitless views of the lake, volcanos, and blue sky.
My favorite place to rent is La Casa Del Mundo, named by Trip Advisor as Guatemala's Most Magical Hotel.
For more insights on where to rent and the cost, check out my One Day at Lake Atitlan guide.
4 Weaving Experience in San Juan La Laguna
Many of the villages, indigenous cultures, and Mayan women support themselves around Lake Atitlan via weaving cooperatives like Casa Flor Ixcaco in San Juan La Laguna. I learned about Casa Flor via Trip Advisor and decided to visit.
Depending on if you are spending One Day at Lake Atitlan or longer, you could visit Casa Flor Ixcaco for a weaving demonstration for about an hour or so. If you are staying at Lake Atitlan longer, you may consider a weaving experience like making your own scarf for a three hour or half day workshop for 150Q-300Q (about $20-$40). Make sure you visit their Website, Facebook, and Message WhatsApp to reserve for a workshop. *Prices subject to change.
5 Visiting Villages and Municipalities around Lake Atitlan
No matter where you stay in Lake Atitlan, there are 19 municipalities around you with 12 municipalities/cities/villages named after Apostles to explore.
The municipalities and villages vary just as much as their name and location. They weave a beautiful tapestry all around the lake sharing different looks, experiences, and artisan goods.
Starting with top row - From left to right , San Marcos La Laguna, San Pedro La Laguna, San Juan La Laguna at Casa Flor Ixcaco, Panajachel at Selina, Jaibailto and Santa Catarina Palopa
I stayed at Lake Atitlan for five weeks and got to explore close to half to give you an idea. I started off my Lake Atitlan adventure with staying at San Marcos La Laguna for my first four days glamping by Lake Atitlan. I went back to San Marcos La Laguna twice to swim by the lake and visit Cerro Tzankujil, a nature reserve.
I stayed a month at San Pedro La Laguna, which is larger than San Marcos La Laguna, less expensive, and quieter now than pre-pandemic I imagine from blogs I read. If you haven't already, you may love my Creating a Life & Business I Love series.
During my five weeks at Lake Atitlan, I explored San Marcos La Laguna by glamping for four days and visiting two more times, San Pedro La Laguna staying a month, San Juan La Laguna visiting one time, Jaibalito visiting three times, Panajachel visiting twice, and visiting Santa Catarina Palopo once.
Each location has its own flavor, vary in size, culture and experiences. I found that all of the villages are easily walkable once I arrive by boat. Keep in mind, I love to walk and wander streets finding new things along the way.
The only time I took additional transportation involved visiting Santa Catarina Palopa from Panajachel. Visiting Santa Catarina is about 10 minutes by Tuk Tuk and about 30Q/$4-$5 depending on the exchange rate etc.
San Marcos La Laguna
Is a smaller village with accessible swimming spots close to the public boat stop.
You may easily explore San Marcos La Laguna in half to a full day depending on the time you want to spend swimming, at Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve, walking the street, and eating at Samsura Garden and/or La Paz. If you decide to go glamping by Lake Atitlan with Blissland Bell Tent, definitely let them know I sent you!
San Pedro La Laguna
San Pedro is larger and provides access with homes, stores, and experiences. It is traditionally known as a backpackers haven with an active nightlife.
I visited in April 2021 for a month and found it relatively quiet. At the same time, keep in mind my Airbnb was not in the center of town but about 0.5 miles away walking distance and up about 100 stairs. In addition, I did not look for the nightlife.
Whether you stay here or not, a great way to spend your time includes breakfast at Cristalina's, visiting a Guatemalan cemetery, enjoying hours at the daily Street Market, and creating content like a boss and/or relaxing at Sababa Resort in their infinity pool at Lake Atitlan.
Butterfly wall at the heart of San Pedro La Laguna. When you walk up from the public boat, take a right at the first street and you will see it on your right (unless they change it)
San Pedro La Laguna abounds with scriptures on walls, Mayan attributed street art, street markets, cafes and more!
San Juan La Laguna
Right by San Pedro La Laguna, San Juan is a beautiful town with cultural and artistic experiences. Immediately, when you walk off the pier into town, you may go up the hill to the left exploring artisan crafts, painting stores, and plant medicines. You may experience various cultural experiences by asking what they offer.
When I visited, I visited a plant medicine store for plants aiding in digestion and headaches with Linden. Last year, I experienced migraines twice and have zero desire of repeating that experience. As a result, I practice numerous self care practices to help prevent them.
After the plant medicine shop and the garden, I visited the church in town. I stopped at Casa Flor Ixcaco experiencing weaving demonstration with Ana for about a half hour at the woman's weaving cooperative. I purchased a gift for a friend. I wrapped up my visit at the coffee shop with coffee and vegetarian tacos the closest to the boat/lancha pier on the left when you are leaving town.
Jaibalito is a small village even smaller than San Marcos La Laguna. They have beautiful water to swim and kayak. In addition, Jaibalito is home to Guatemala's Most Magical Hotel, La Casa Del Mundo. I visited three times swimming, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding.
Pana, as the locals affectionally call Panajachel, is the gateway for Lake Atitlan. When you travel to Lake Atitlan, likely this will be your first stop and/or transfer to a boat/lancha from the airport or Antigua, Guatemala.
I went to Panajachel twice. I easily got my Herbalife Nutrition shipment to Pana twice and picked it up at the GUATEX office. I visited Panajachel admiring the street art and Calle Santandar. At Calle Santander, you may find endless souvenirs leading you back to the Lake Atitlan shores.
Santa Catarina Palopo
The last village I visited, but definitely not the least. I learned a lot about Lake Atitlan from Adventurous Kate including Santa Catarina Palopo. I stopped at Panajachel to pick up a Herbalife package, souvenir shop at Calle Santander, and took a TukTuk to Santa Catarina about 10 minutes away.
A visit around town and at the pier is easily doable in 1-3 hours.
What attracted me to visit is not only my namesake, but the Pintando Santa Catarina Palopa with a mission to painting change including painting all 850 homes in Santa Catarina to start. They are not stopping there with their vision of transforming the municipalities and villages around Lake Atitlan into works of art.