Whew, you heard it correct, Walked 500 Miles Around Lake Atitlan Guatemala. And to think it’s approximately 55 kilometers around Lake Atitlan, which means that since May of this year I have walked the equivalent of 10 times around the entire lake.
How do I know this you ask? Because in May, as a gift, I was given a fitness monitoring watch that has tracked each and every one of my 1 million-plus steps converting them into miles walked. Touring people around the lake sure does keep one in shape.
One of my favorite hikes to take guests on is the Santa Catarina Lake Atitlan Upper Rim Hike. Typically I meet our guests at their hotel in Panajachel and then we take a shuttle to the summit of the mountains above Santa Catarina Palopó and San Antonio Palopó. By the time the hike is finished and I am back home I usually have clocked 10 to 12 miles which not only equates to a lot of miles but usually turns into a good night sleep as well.
There are a lot of other great hikes in the area. From Panajachel you can enjoy a stunning hike or walk to the villages of Santa Catarina Palopó and San Antonio Palopó. The hike takes you on picturesque roads that wind their way along the shores of Lake Atitlan and have panoramic views of the three volcanoes — Atitlan, Toliman, and San Pedro.
For those hearty souls that like to push the limits the road beyond San Antonio Palopó continues as dirt trail that end at the summit of the mountain in Godinez. If you start this hike in Panajachel you will want to start early in the morning because if the elevation gain doesn’t get you the heat of the day will. Yes, it’s only an 8 mile hike if you continue all the way to Godinez, but it is the last 1½ with an incredible elevation gain that leaves you breathless.
While you cannot actually walk around the entire lake due to lack of trails in some areas you can get pretty close.
Another fun hike that I like to do is from Santa Cruz to San Pedro. The hike takes you on paths through Jaibalito and Tzununa to San Marcos. From San Marcos you are on a paved road that takes you to San Pablo. This stretch of the hike has more hills to contend with. From San Pablo to San Juan you are surrounded with beautiful coffee fincas, with gorgeous views of the mountains and volcanoes as well as of Lake Atitlan. Talk about million-dollar views. Then on to San Pedro and that much-needed Gallo beer.
If you are interested in seeing Lake Atitlan from the a summit’s vantage point I recommend the Grow Your Own Cure Lake Atitlan Indian Nose Tour. This hike starts in the darkness of the morning and has you under the stars on your way to one of the most beautiful sunrise vantage points on the lake and a feast for your senses.
From San Pedro to Santiago the road is pretty isolated. This part of the lake is better experienced from the back of a pickup called a colectivo. You travel behind San Pedro Volcano giving you alternative spectacular views.
From Santiago Atitlan to San Lucas Toliman the hike is along a paved road which takes about 3 hours to walk, or about 9½ miles for those that like to keep track of distance. This side of the Lake provides views of Panajachel, San Antonio, and Santa Catarina. Along this route you can also take a side hike to Cerro de Oro, the Hill of Mayan Gold. You can hike up the elephant-shaped mountain of Cerro de Oro and learn the legend of the lost Mayan gold and how it eluded the Spanish Conquistadors.
You’re exhausted, yeah we hear you. Time to jump into the back of a colectivo. Colectivos are typically Toyota pickups that have small benches in the back bed of the truck where you sit. And there is always a network of them traveling between the villages.
The way to travel between San Lucas Toliman and Panajachel is by taking a tuk-tuk from Toliman to the main road heading to Godinez. At the main road you can catch a camioneta. Camioneta’s are also called chicken buses and they are refurbished American school buses that transport people from village to village. You take the camioneta to Godinez where you can find colectivo vans waiting in town that will take you back to Panajachel.
Your other option to travel from San Lucas Toliman to Panajachel is to hire a private boat to take you. There are no public lanchas that travel between the two villages. As a side note, you can find great ceviche along the playa in
If you follow these suggestions you can walk around most of Lake Atitlan. Grow Your Own Cure offers tours of each of these routes around the Lake. And as you can tell from my 500 miles walked since I received my fitness watch in May, I get plenty of exercise. Yes, I have the most amazing job in that I get to take guests on tours around one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and to the villages that surround it and share with them the rich culture and history that make Lake Atitlan an experience you will not forget.