I used to dream of relaxing beside the waters of famous Lake Cuomo in Italy, but that was before I discovered Lake Atitlán in Guatemala. In my opinion, Lake Atitlan is America’s answer to Lake Cuomo—a relaxing destination that is superior to its European counterpart in almost every way. It is more peaceful, more dramatically beautiful, and best of all, more affordable.
I can spend almost a whole week at one of the mid-range Lake Atitlán hotels for what it would cost to stay just one night on Lake Cuomo. Needless to say I will be going back. Hope to see you there!
Exploring Lake Atitlán in Guatemala: 3 Must-Do Activities
Lake Atitlán, Guatemala really does feel like a little corner of paradise. The huge, brilliant blue lake sits nearly a mile high up in the mountains, in the ancient crater of an extinct volcano. Lush green hills and the peaks of three volcanoes form a dramatic backdrop for the play of light over the lake at sunrise and sunset. As you explore Lake Atitlán and the many villages that dot its shores, be sure to fit in these 3 must-do activities.
Experience Mayan Culture
Lake Atitlán and the surrounding countryside is home mostly to indigenous Mayan people. During your Lake Atitlán vacation, you will have plenty of opportunities to interact with them, sample local foods, and learn about Mayan culture.
The best way to really immerse yourself in the local culture is to make a point of visiting some of the local villages, like Santa Catarina Palopo or San Antonio Palopo. Both of these villages are home to Kaquichel Mayan people, and they are easily reached by paved roads from Panajachel. You can even walk to San Antonio Palopo in about two hours.
Kayak on Lake Atitlán in Guatemala
Lago Atitlán Guatemala takes its name from a Nahuatl word meaning “at the water.” When visiting Lake Atitlán, you absolutely have to experience the lake up close and personal. While swimming provides welcome relief from the warm sunny weather, and you can always hop a ride on one of the many water taxis that serve the villages in lieu of roads, the best way to explore is by kayak.
You can rent a kayak at La Casa Del Mundo, which, incidentally, is also a great hotel to stay at. Be sure to set off early in the morning so you can enjoy your kayaking before the afternoon winds start up.
Climb a Volcano
Climbing one of the volcanos that rise above the south side of the lake gives you a whole new perspective on Lake Atitlan. San Pedro is the most popular volcano to climb, and guided tours start from the village of San Pedro.
My recommendation? Wait until you arrive to hire your guide, and you will avoid paying huge fees to a middleman. Your guide will likely be an indigenous Quiche who can tell you a lot about the region.
How to Get to Lake Atitlán in Guatemala
Getting to Lake Atitlan is pretty easy. All you have to do is hop on a bus in Guatemala City, and about three hours later you will arrive in Panajachel, the largest and most popular city on the lake.
From Panajachel you can take a shuttle bus or a water taxi to other villages around the lake. If you don’t want the typical, crowded Latin American “chicken bus” experience, there is a first class bus every day at 7:30 am.
Where to Stay on Lake Atitlán
There are almost too many hotels and hostels around Lake Atitlán to count. If you want to stay outside of any town, La Casa Del Mundo is a beautiful boutique hotel with a stunning cliffside location and its own restaurant. This hotel is widely regarded as one of the best values for your money in Lake Atitlán.