San Juan La Laguna

San Juan La Laguna, nestled on the southwestern shores of Lake Atitlán in Guatemala, boasts a rich history and vibrant culture deeply intertwined with the Tz’utujil Maya people who call it home.

San Juan La Laguna (Spanish pronunciation: [saŋ ˈxwan la laˈɣuna]) is a municipality on the southwest shore of Lago de Atitlán, Sololá, Guatemala. It consists of the village named San Juan La Laguna and three smaller aldeas (small villages) in the nearby mountain.

The population is approximately 95% Tz’utujil. Agriculture is most important for the economy, with the service sector growing, especially as the number of tourists increases. The lowest elevation is the shore of Lago Atitlán at 1,562 metres (5,125 ft).

The town is notably less popular among tourists and expats, as local law prohibits outsiders from purchasing land within the municipality. Due to this, visitors to the town can enjoy a more “authentic” experience among the indigenous Tz’utujil population.


A Glimpse into the Past:

  • Pre-Columbian Era: Archaeological evidence suggests settlements around Lake Atitlán date back to 2000 BC. The Tz’utujil people, part of the wider Maya civilization, arrived around the 12th century AD. They established a powerful kingdom, flourishing in agriculture, trade, and religious practices.
    Maya civilization

    Maya civilization

  • Spanish Conquest: In the 16th century, Spanish conquistadors arrived, disrupting the Maya way of life. The Tz’utujil kingdom was eventually incorporated into the Spanish colonial system, leading to cultural and religious changes.
  • Modern Transformation: Following Guatemala’s independence in 1821, San Juan La Laguna gradually transitioned into a modern community. Tourism emerged as a significant economic driver, attracting visitors with its stunning scenery and cultural richness.

Cultural Tapestry:

  • Tz’utujil Identity: The Tz’utujil language and traditions remain deeply ingrained in San Juan La Laguna’s identity. Traditional clothing, woven textiles, and handicrafts showcase their artistic heritage.
    Traditional clothing

    Traditional clothing

  • Vibrant Art Scene: The village is renowned for its artistic spirit. Murals depicting Mayan mythology and daily life adorn walls, while galleries and workshops showcase paintings, sculptures, and textiles crafted by local artists.
    Art gallery in San Juan

    Art gallery in San Juan

  • Religious Blend: Catholicism arrived with the Spanish, blending with pre-existing Maya beliefs. Today, a unique blend of Catholicism and Mayan spirituality shapes the village’s religious life.
    Church in San Juan

    Church in San Juan

Immerse Yourself:

  • Hiking: Hike to the iconic “Nariz del Indio” (Indian Nose) for breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding volcanoes.
  • Cultural Experiences: Learn about traditional weaving techniques, participate in a Mayan cooking class, or visit a coffee farm.
    Image of Mayan cooking class in San Juan La Laguna
  • Festivals: Immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture by attending traditional festivals like the Fiesta Patronal de San Juan Bautista in June.

San Juan La Laguna offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, making it a captivating destination for travelers seeking an authentic Guatemalan experience.