With its glistening blue waters framed by a trio of volcanic peaks and a fringe of lush greenery, Lake Atitlán (Lago de Atitlán) is surely one of Guatemala’s most stunning natural wonders. The deepest lake in Central America lies in an ancient caldera amid the mountainous landscapes of the Guatemalan Highlands.
Whether setting sail on a boat tour, exploring lakeside Maya villages, or hiking through Atitlán Natural Reserve, there are plenty of options for discovering Lake Atitlán. On the northeast shore, the lively village of Panajachel is the starting point for most visitors, but Lake Atitlán tours also run from Antigua and Guatemala City. In addition to taking in views of the beautiful lake, adventure tours offer a more active experience, including kayaking excursions, sunset bike tours, hiking, rock climbing, and even paragliding over the lake.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The easiest way to explore the lakeside villages is by boat, and local ferries run from Panajachel to most destinations.
- The only ATM is located in Panajachel, and most villages only accept local currency, so stock up before you head out.
- The main transport options around Lake Atitlán are small boats and tuk-tuks, so pack light as there’s not much space for heavy luggage.
- Swimming in the lake is possible at designated areas.
How to Get There
Lake Atitlán is a 3- to 4-hour drive from Guatemala City. Shuttle buses connect Panajachel with the city center and La Aurora International Airport.
When to Get There
The most popular time to visit Lake Atitlán is during the summer season (November–April), but visiting in winter (May–October) offers cooler weather for hiking.
The Villages of Lake Atitlán
The liveliest place to stay is Panajachel, while tranquil San Marcos is known for its yoga resorts and laid-back atmosphere, and San Pedro is the party hub for backpackers and international travelers. To experience local Maya culture, head to San Juan, known for its traditional handicrafts; visit Santiago Atitlán to learn about Maya traditions; or browse the market stalls in Chichicastenango or Sololá. If you really want to escape the tourist trail, visit the tiny villages of Tzununa or Jaibalito.