Lake Atitlan Guatemala Villages, Lake Atitlan is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world located in the highlands of Guatemala in the Sierra Madre mountain range. It is one of the most popular destinations in the country for tourists.
Its popularity is based on a combination of the impressive landscape including the deepest lake in Central America, breathtaking mountains and volcanoes, year round spring like weather, its high biological diversity, boundless recreational activities, and the numerous villages that surround the lake reflecting a strong Mayan culture.
Located a three hour scenic car ride from Guatemala City and two and a half hour car ride from the Spanish colonial town of Antigua, Lake Atitlan is easy to get to. Shared or private shuttle service runs daily between Panajachel Lake Atilan, Guatemala City, Antigua, Xela, Chichicastenanago, Rio Dulce, Tikal, and Coban.
Lake Atitlan Guatemala Villages
Guatemala is known for its 33 volcanoes, 3 of these majestic volcanoes can be found towering above Lake Atitlan creating a basin that contains the lake. Located on the southern rim of the lake and standing at an elevation of 12,500 feet above sea level Volcano Atitlan is the tallest of these volcanoes, its shorter twin Volcano Toliman stands at 11,500 feet and is situated in the basin closer to the lake, while neighboring San Pedro Volcano stands at 10,500 feet.
Among these 10,500 to 12,500 foot volcanoes in the highlands of Guatemala is home to 430,000 people in the department of Sololá. Sololá is not only a city it is also the capital of the department and is situated on the mountainside 1,800 feet above Lake Atitlan. Of these inhabitants that reside in the department of Sololá the indigenous people account for 96.5 percent of the population.
While the natural landscape makes this area’s beauty so astounding, there is another beauty that can be found in the unique and interesting villages that dot the shoreline of Lake Atitlan and the indigenous people who inhabit these villages.
The uniqueness of each of the village’s cultural landscape is extraordinary contributing to its charm and distinction. The following is a list of some of these villages
Lake Atitlan Guatemala Villages Panajachel
Panajachel is the most developed village on the lake and sits on the northeast shore. It is considered the gateway to Lake Atitlan and the transport hub for the whole area, you can literally travel anywhere from Pana. Like many other villages in this part of Guatemala, it is an artisan town.
Artisan shops line the main street, Calle Santander, where you can buy ceramics, woodcarvings, and jewelry crafted by local artisans. There are also hand- embroidered purses, bags, and wall hangings emblazed with birds, peacocks, and flowers that tell the stories from Mayan folktales.
It has dining options and accommodations for every budget and is well worth spending a day or two exploring. It also boasts a lively and colorful indoor/outdoor market, a Catholic Church that was built in the 1500’s Casa Cakchiquel the first hotel on the lake and it features a museum and gallery, Mayan folklore and charm, and rich traditions. There is a bustling nightlife and the street food vendors that come out at night provide an absolute feast for your taste buds
Where to Stay in Panajachel
Jenna’s Bed and Breakfast located at the end of Rancho Grande near the playa. It is without question the best bed and breakfast in Pana and the breakfast’s that Jennifer prepares are all homemade from scratch and are legendary.
Hotel Posada De Don Rodrigo is located at the end of Calle Santander by the Lake. This is a very friendly and quiet hotel that offers outstanding amenities.
Best Cup of Coffee in Panajachel
Crossroads Café a popular hangout that serves exceptional freshly roasted coffee. The owner, Mike, is friendly, full of charisma and character, and always willing to impart his knowledge of coffee.
Café Moka is located on the second floor overlooking Calle Santander. The coffee is incredible, and the view from their terrace is great for people watching. They also serve pastries and alcoholic drinks. The ambience and the atmosphere are relaxed and provide a great respite from the busy street below.
Where to Eat in Panajachel
Restaurante El Rincón del Chef is located in Jucanya and is quickly becoming known for its delicious international dishes. Chef Israel Marroquin creates dishes that broaden your culinary horizon and are rich in a variety of flavors while being a feast for your eyes as well as your palate. The food is spectacular, seriously fantastic, this is how food should taste.
Pupuseria Rinconcito Salvadoreño is located right across the Friendship Bridge on the left side of the road as you drive into Jucanya. It’s painted a bright orange color and is hard to miss. Pupusas are made with corn masa and stuffed with a salty cheese, refried beans, chopped pork, vegetables, or chicharrones. And these are the best in town.
Circus Bar is a cozy bar and restaurant located on Calle Los Arboles and is known for their pizza and pasta, well stocked bar, great live music, and lively bar scene. It draws a large crowd of both ex-pats and tourists. The atmosphere is fun, relaxed, and very inviting. It has great food and music, good service, and reasonable prices. What more can you ask for.
What to See and Do in Panajachel
- Visit the Church of St. Francis of Assisi.
- Discover the local indoor/outdoor market.
- Visit Casa Cakchiquel which was built in 1948 and features an incredibly interesting museum and gallery that includes over 3,000 photographs from 1860 – 1970.
- Shop the vendor stalls along Calle Santander.
- Explore the Nature Reserve and go Zip Lining.
- See Panajachel from a bird-eye view with RealWorld Paragliding.
- Rent a kayak along on the playa.
- Sign up for Spanish lessons at Jabel Tinamit the only school in Panajachel that is Mayan-owned.
Best Tour in Panajachel
Panajachel Lake Atitlan Guatemala Street Food Tour is truly like going to a dinner party with local Guatemaltecas, except this dinner party moves. This is an evening street food walking tour that offers a unique opportunity to taste and discover some of Panajachel Lake Atitlan Guatemala’s best street food.
Lake Atitlan Guatemala Villages Santa Catarina Palopó
Santa Catarina Palopó is a small relatively untouched village located on the eastern shore of Lake Atitlan that is known for its weaving. Weaving is an integral part of a Maya woman’s daily life in Santa Catarina, a responsibility that has been passed down through the generations for centuries. To this day the women of Santa Catarina continue the tradition of weaving intricate and beautiful designs that depict their culture, traditions, and values. Santa Catarina Palopó also has a hike that provides one of the most awe-inspiring views that Lake Atitlan has to offer.
Where to Stay in Santa Catarina Palopó
Tzam Poc Resort one of the best kept secrets in Santa Catarina Palopo is this exceptional resort built on the mountain’s slope. And while the accommodations are beautiful, the food delicious, and the gardens spectacular the true gem of this property is the magnificent infinity edge pool that looks out over Lake Atitlan and the surrounding volcanoes. It’s absolutely breathtaking.
Villa Santa Catarina Restaurant is a 38 room hotel surrounded by beautiful gardens and incredible views of Lake Atitlan and the surrounding mountains and volcanoes. All rooms have a private bath, hot water, balcony, and cable TV. The hotel boasts two swimming pools.
Where to Eat in Santa Catarina Palopó
Villa Santa Catarina Restaurant is located by the docks in Santa Catarina. The restaurant is part of a 38 room hotel and offers delicious tipico Guatemalan food.
Restaurante El Bambú is located by the docks. The restaurant offers panoramic views of the lake and serves delicious food at an affordable price.
What to See and Do in Santa Catarina Palopó
- Visit the colonial Catholic Church and plaza.
- Hike the upper rim where you get a view of the entire lake.
- Soak in the geotherma l hot springs located along the playa.
- Shop the artisans stores.
Best Tour in Santa Catarina Palopó
Santa Catarina Upper Rim Hike the trails above Santa Catarina are among the best around the lake offering breathtaking views that send chills down your spine. This is a stunning hike that takes you through a pine forest, terraced onion fields, lush vegetation, and around the upper rim of Lake Atitlan.
Lake Atitlan Guatemala Villages San Antonio Palopó
When it comes to Lake Atitlan adventures, the traditional indigenous village of San Antonio Palopó located on the eastern shore is not to be missed. Renowned for their traditional weaving and high quality ceramics, distinguished blue huipil (blouse) worn by the community’s Kaqchikel women, their notable white church overlooking the pristine lake, and their terraced onion and corn fields this is an indigenous villages where you can explore and discover the way of life of the local people.
Where to Stay in San Antonio Palopó
Hotel Nuestro Sueño is located right on the lake with spectacular views. The hotel is built around a tree and into the mountainside. It has a full restaurant, bar, sauna, hot tub and plunge pool. It is safe, quiet, and friendly.
Where to Eat in San Antonio Palopó
Hotel Nuestro Sueño is located right on the lake with spectacular views. This is part of a hotel and is the only restaurant in town. Opt for the B&B it is a great value for money.
What to See in San Antonio Palopó
- Explore the pottery factories and watch as they hand craft and paint unique ceramics.
- Visit the Catholic Church and plaza.
- Discover the woman’s weaving cooperatives.
- Visit the local market.
- Relax along the playa and have a bowl of ceviche.
- Shop the artisans stores.
Best Tour in San Antonio Palopó
Lake Atitlan Village Tour this tour is the perfect combination of culture, history, and nature. It takes you to the indigenous villages San Antonio Palopó and San Antonio Palopo where you visit woman’s weaving cooperatives, ceramic and pottery factories, and explore all the hidden gems.
Lake Atitlan Guatemala Villages Santiago
The village of Santiago is the largest village on the lake and is located directly across Lake Atitlan from Panajachel. Few places in the world offer visitors the serene feeling of wonder and amazement mixed with cultural connection and history that Santiago Lake Atitlan does. With such a rich history, Santiago has a variety of sights to see.
Where to Stay in Santiago
Posada de Santiago this pretty place is tucked away from the village of Santiago and offers a very relaxing experience. Choose between charming and unique stone cottages with fireplaces or you can stay in a room in the “hotel” part. There are beautiful lush gardens, sauna, hot tub, and swimming pool with fantastic views of the lake.
Hotel and Restaurant Bambú located on the opposite side of the village from Posada de Santiago, Hotel and Restaurant Bambú is located on the road towards San Lucas Toliman just outside the hustle and bustle of Santiago. The rooms are clean and quiet and the surrounding grounds are like a botanical garden that offers a private paradise.
Where to Eat in Santiago
Posada de Santiago is a hotel and restaurant. The restaurant has great atmosphere, a vast and delicious menu including vegetarian options, and a bar carved out of rock. It sells some of the best coffee that you will find. Don’t miss the margaritas.
Las Lagartijas Restaurante Y Tienda is a quaint restaurant with outdoor seating, a diverse menu, and friendly owners. The food is consistently high-quality and the presentation is artful. It is a true hidden gem.
What to See in Santiago
- Check out the colorful indigenous market that spills out into the streets. Friday and Sunday are the big market days.
- Visit the Catholic Church dedicated to Saint James the Apostle. The church dates back as far as 1571.
- Walk to El Mirador and enjoy the stunning views.
- Visit and shop the unique artisan stores with hand-carved wooden animals.
- Go horseback riding in the mountains.
- Visit the Museo Cojoyla and learn about the history of Santiago.
- Discover and visit Maximón’s effigy, a mixture of Catholic saint and Mayan deity.
Best Tour in Santiago
Santiago Lake Atitlan Tour few places in the world offer visitors the serene feeling of wonder and amazement mixed with cultural connection and history that Santiago Lake Atitlan does. With such a rich history, Santiago has a variety of sights to see and this tour takes you to all of them.
Lake Atitlan Guatemala Villages San Pedro
San Pedro in its earlier years was the home for many hippie travelers—that was 20 years ago. Today, it is one of the most visited villages around the lake and remains a destination for the younger travelers and backpackers that visit Lake Atitlan.
Where to Stay in San Pedro
Hotel Chi-ya is one of Lake Atitlan’s best kept secrets. It is a little gem located on the outskirts of San Pedro. The hotel provides rooms or you can rent cabins complete with their own private decks overlooking stunning views of the lake.
Mikaso Hotel y Restaurante has 12 private rooms and 3 dorms rooms. The amenities include hot tub, pool table, guest kitchen, and two beautiful terraces. On Sundays they have an all you can eat brunch for $5. There is a restaurant on site as well.
Where to Eat in San Pedro
The Clover serves delicious food, large portions and at an affordable price. The menu is interesting ranging from curry, to Asian food, to pasta dishes, to pizza, to vegetarian dishes.
D’Noz is a wonderful restaurant with a relaxing atmosphere that is located right on the lake by the docks. It serves international cuisine with all fresh locally sourced produce. Don’t miss their incredible fish fry every Friday night for Q60.
What to See and Do in San Pedro
- Climb San Pedro Volcano.
- Visit the Church of St. Peter and the adjoining park.
- Explore the local indigenous market.
- Rent a kayak along on the playa.
- Check out the vibrant nightlife.
- Sign up for Spanish lessons at one of the many Spanish schools.
Best Tour in San Pedro
Lake Atitlan Volcano Tour if climbing a volcano is on your bucket list this is the tour for you. There is nothing better than standing at the summit of Volcano San Pedro and watching the sun rise over the mountains and the light reflecting in the lake.
Lake Atitlan Guatemala Villages San Juan
San Juan is located next to the village of San Pedro and its population is primary Tz’utujil Maya. Tourism isn’t developed as much here as in other villages around lake as a result it provides for a more authentic Mayan culture experience. San Juan is known for their incredible weaving using natural dyed thread, the unique and colorful paintings, and some of the best coffee in the world.
Where to Stay in San Juan
Hotel Pa Muelle is located on a hillside in San Juan La Laguna just up from the docks. The hotel is clean and well-maintained with gardens and views overlooking the mountains and volcanoes that surround it. It is a friendly and inviting hotel that provides comfortable accommodations, stunning views, nice amenities, and affordable prices.
Where to Eat in San Juan
El Artesano Wine and Cheese Restaurant is European café that serves delicious food in a beautiful outdoor garden setting. The food and the presentation are amazing, the service is outstanding, and the prices are very reasonable. Don’t miss their cheese platter it is a feast for your taste buds. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 502-4555-4773.
Comedor Elenita doesn’t look like much from the outside but venture inside to the newly built upstairs and you will taste some of the best tipico food. Choose from 4-5 daily specials. The food is plentiful, inexpensive, and delicious.
Restaurant Fe newly opened in San Juan, Restaurant Fe has a unique and varied menu of pizza, pasta, and curry. The portions are plentiful, really fresh, and reasonably priced. Don’t forget to have the Nan bread. You won’t be disappointed.
What to See in San Juan
- Climb Indian Nose and watch the sunrise.
- Tour a coffee finca and enjoy a cup of some of the best coffee in the world.
- Visit a traditional Tz’utujil weaving and textile cooperative and learn the techniques and process of spinning, natural dyeing, and weaving.
- Visit and shop the studios of the creative artisan painters.
- Check out the series of indigenous historical wall murals of San Juan La Laguna.
Best Tour in San Juan
Lake Atitlan Coffee Tour during the months of November through January it is coffee harvest time in Lake Atitlan. This tour introduces you to the coffee production process, from growing, harvesting, cleaning and drying the berries, roasting and finally to when it’s poured fresh into a cup.
Lake Atitlan Guatemala Villages San Marcos
The village of San Marcos is considered the spiritual haven of Lake Atitlan. Known for all things spiritual it has yoga retreats, meditation centers, alternative healing clinics, and massage centers. San Marcos provides for a great day trip or an extraordinary place for an extended stay where you can relax, rejuvenate, and refresh your soul.
Where to Stay in San Marcos
Pasaj-Cap Vacation Rentals provides short and long term fully equipped apartment rentals. They are located approximately a half of mile out of the town of San Marcus. Pasaj-Cap has a modern architecture that fuses urban concepts with wild nature and absolutely incredible views of Lake Atitlan, Volcano San Pedro, Volcano Atitlan, and Volcano Toliman.
El Dragon Hotel is the newest hotel in San Marcos. It offers incredible gardens, one of a kind rooms, ping pong table, jacuzzi, lounge and terrace bar.
Where to Eat in San Marcos
Restaurant Fe is ideally located on the path up from the old docks. It is an open, airy, and bright restaurant with a unique and varied menu of pizza, pasta, and curry. The portions are plentiful, really fresh, and reasonably priced. Don’t forget to have the Nan bread. You won’t be disappointed.
Blind Lemon’s unique restaurant built with colonial architectural style with parabolic arches and gardens. This restaurant is off the beaten path, serves great food at reasonable prices, and is a music venue with live entertainment.
What to See in San Marcos
- Visit Reserva Natural del Cerro Tzankujil is a reserve that offers swimming and a platform to jump into the water. The entrance fee is Q15.
- Kayak along the shores of Lake Atitlan.
- Take a yoga class.
- Hike the trails of San Marcos.
Best Tour in San Marcos
Lake Atitlan Herbal Medicine Tour 1-Day Tour this tour introduces you to Mayan indigenous healer’s wisdom about traditional healing herbal remedies and healing arts in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. You tour medicinal gardens and meet with local healers.
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Lake Atitlan Guatemala Villages
When To Go
Lake Atitlan is known as the “The Land of Eternal Spring” because of the great weather year around. There is no bad time to visit Lake Atitlan Guatemala.
Lake Atitlan Weather
Lake Atitlan enjoys a spring-like climate throughout the year. In fact, Lake Atitlan Guatemala weather is absolutely perfect with daytime temperatures hovering around 70-80 degrees F (21-27 C) and night time temperatures of 55-65 degrees F (13-18 C).
While in many countries around the world the temperature determines the season, this is not the case in Guatemala where the precipitation defines the season, dry season and rainy season. The rainy season begins in May and typically last until late October, with a few weeks in July that are dry. The rain is usually in the afternoon or at night.
Getting to Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan is located thee hours from Guatemala City and two and a half hours from Antigua Guatemala. Getting to Panajachel, the hub village of the lake, for most travelers is by shuttle services from Guatemala International Airport and from Antigua. From Guatemala City to Pana the cost is approximately $22.00 USD and from Antigua to Pana it is approximately $13.00.
- Mid-range accommodations: $30-80
- Meals: $5-10
- Bottle of beer: $1
- Learn a few Spanish words before traveling. Por favor (please), Gracias (thank you), Buenos días (Good morning), Hola (Hi), ¿Cómo está? (How are you), Mucho gusto (Nice to meet you), No hablo español (I don’t speak Spanish).
- Bring a rain jacket if traveling May through October.
- Expect to pay to use the bathroom and bring your own toilet paper.
- Carry valuables around or wear expensive jewelry.
- Drink the tap water, buy bottled water instead.
- Photograph people without their permission.
- Quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala. It is also the name of the Guatemalan currency.
- Lake Atitlán (Atitlán means ‘at the water’) is the deepest lake in Central America.
- Guatemala has the largest collection of UNESCO heritage sites in Latin America. They include Antigua, Tikal National Park, and Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua.
- Spanish is the official language, but there are 21 Mayan dialects spoken throughout the country.
For more information on the Villages of Lake Atitlan Guatemala go to Lake Atitlan Tours.