7 Things to Love About Lake Atitlan

I love this lake.  If I could live there, I might.  It’s just so pretty and it’s got everything and, ugh, I wish I was sitting on a tree branch over the water, enjoying the warm sun.  A lot of expats actually do move here because it’s so affordable!

Instead, I’m sitting under a blanket with at least 6 feet of snow on the ground outside.  Oh well, I get to see moose here.  In the spirit of the heat, here are the things I love about Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

1. The actual lake

Lake Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America up to 1,120 feet at the deepest point.  I didn’t realize it was that deep when I was there, and to be honest, it freaks me out a little knowing that now.  Why?  I have no idea.  It was also formed in a volcanic caldera from an eruption 84,000 years ago.  This lake is just awesome.


Helpful things:

  • You can actually dive in the lake, which looks like a totally cool experience!  The pictures Alex shares in that post (well, all of them) make me want to dive!)
  • Rent a kayak for a few hours to see a little more of the lake.  This can be done a lot of places in San Pedro (I’m not sure about availability in other towns.)  It’s pretty cheap and a cool way to see the towns from a different perspective.
  • The water was really cold in January, so be prepared.

2. Volcanic Backdrop

Volcan San Pedro is right behind, you guessed it, San Pedro.  The lake itself was formed after a volcanic eruption and has at least three volcanoes around it.  It’s pretty hard to get a bad picture here.  You can climb Volcan San Pedro, but I’m not sure about the others.  This is practically reason enough to go.  Not going to make it to San Pedro?  Don’t worry!  There are plenty of other volcanoes you can climb around Central America.

Helpful things:

  • Like I said, you can climb Volcan San Pedro.  It takes a good portion of the day, so go prepared.  I don’t know much else about the hike since I didn’t do it.  Check out this post from Expert Vagabond for more helpful info.
  • It’s not a volcano, but you can climb Indian Nose, too.  It’s directly across from San Pedro and pretty much what you see from the main street.

3. Panajachel Market

There is so much market to see here!  There is one main street with all kinds of smaller areas branching off from it.  Definitely, give yourself a whole afternoon for this. It’s a little intimidating, and we actually didn’t know how to get there from the dock we got dropped off at.  We sort of followed some people that got off, too and ended up there.  I enjoyed this market, but go in prepared.  If you don’t feel like shopping or wandering around and looking at stuff for hours, don’t go.

Helpful things:

  • If you’re ready to shop, bring lots of money, and make sure you have room to pack stuff or send it home.  I wanted to buy all the things, but I didn’t have room to get things home.
  • I think the market was towards the right, then back a little ways from the dock you get dropped off on.
  • From San Pedro, it’s maybe a half hour boat ride.  It’s not too long, but it can get rough with the waves.  If you’re sitting in the front, you may not stay dry, but the views are unbeatable.

4. San Marcos lakeshore park

This was a cool little park thing along the shore by San Marcos.  There is a platform deck thing that you can hang out on or jump off of into the lake.  It was a fun place to spend the afternoon just hanging out by the water, relaxing in the sun.

Helpful things:

  • I can’t figure out what the park is called, but when you are on the dock, go left right away along the shore and follow that trail.  It’s pretty easy to find.
  • I think there was a small entrance fee, so be prepared.
  • Don’t bring a lot of belongings or expensive stuff if you’re going to be in the water a lot.  Or keep a very good eye on it if you are.

5. San Pedro food market and hills

The food market in San Pedro was really fun to wander around just looking at stuff and is an awesome place to get cheap produce if you want to cook.  Or just to get delicious fruit.  I felt like the market and further into the hills saw a lot fewer tourists, but it was an awesome area to explore an I wish I spent more time up there.  Next time!

6. The Terrace Cafe in San Pedro

Ugh, this place was SO GOOD.  I ate here almost every day.  The food was delicious, the coffee was the best, and the smoothies were heavenly.  This place was super cheap, too.  I’m talking $1-3 smoothies and coffee with a view that’s pretty tough to beat.  I’m a little surprised I didn’t eat there every meal, actually.

Helpful things:

  • It’s actually called La Terrazza.
  • It’s on the main road, near Sublime, but a little farther past it, closer to Hostel Fe, maybe a tiny bit past that.
  • Try the coffee.  Seriously.  And the smoothies.

7. House Ruins

I’m not really sure what to call these?  But all around the shore, you can see the bases of houses that either never got finished or were ruined somehow.  I spent a few afternoons reading in what used to be a bathroom window.  I’m assuming that from the tile I saw.  When we were kayaking we could see houses and trees just under the surface of the water, but it was deep enough to be totally submerged.  It was just really cool, but a little sad at the same time.

Have you been to Lake Atitlan?  What did you think of it?  What did you do there?  Do you want to go?


58 thoughts on “7 Things to Love About Lake Atitlan

  1. I can’t wait to visit here in April! Thank you for the helpful tips. I can’t wait to try that cafe & jump off the dock. How fun. Pinning this for future reference 🙂

  2. Those house ruins look like they would be so much fun to explore! Thanks for showcasing such an interesting-looking place – when I finally make it to Central America, this will definitely be on my list.

  3. Awesome post! I traveled to Guatemala last winter when I backpacked from Mexico to Panama, and I loved it! It was definitely my favorite country in Central America

  4. Love this article. I have family in guatamala so this will come in handy. The lake looks amazing and i love the house ruins. Great photos.

  5. Definitely adding this to the travel wishlist. Between the food and views, what else does one need? Thanks for the tips, and for sharing your experience!

  6. I just got back from a weekend at the lake! I managed ti stay in San Lucas, San Pedro and have a day trip to San Marcos. I really enjoyed the contrast between San Pedro & San Marcos. they are like different worlds but with the same stunning view! I loved a cafe called Sababa which was an Israeli run cafe serving the best coffee and breakfast I have had so far on this trip.

    Can’t wait to head back there again soon 🙂

  7. This place looks so dreamy! It makes me want to do everything : dive, kayak, hike… I understand when you say you’d live there if you could!! I know I would!

  8. Looks like such an incredibly beautiful and picturesque place to visit! No wonder you love it! And I totally appreciate all the tips on where to go, like the Terrace Café, and those cool ruined houses. Guatemala is definitely on my bucket list!

  9. I remember hearing about this place when getting my diver’s certification, since this is at such high elevation, the regular decompression rules don’t apply here, so our instructor was saying that even dive computer needs to be adjusted! I guess, every diver’s bucket list place!

  10. I backpacked through Central America last year and spent a few days on Lake Atitlan. So beautiful and amazing! I didn’t have time to explore all the little town around it and honestly was too tired to do a volcano hike ha ha. I can say that it was a great place to relax, each lots of food, drink cheap cocktails, buy handmade souveneirs and just admire the lake.

  11. I actually had never heard of this lake before, I had to Google it because you caught my attention. Now I am really interested in going back to Guatemala! The lake reminds me slightly of Lake Tahoe.

  12. Incredible photos, Lake Atitlan looks amazing! I really want to visit Central America but it probably won’t be for a while, since I’m based in Europe for the time being. That sunshine sure is attractive though!!

  13. Love this post! I’m so sad I missed seeing Lake Atilan and the Panajachel Market while I was traveling through Guatemala years ago! I’ll just have to go back 😉

  14. oh my gosh, this lake looks amazing! I know what you mean about the deepness freaking you out. I’m the same way! I get super paranoid when someone tells me I’m in a deep lake… It almost makes the water feel colder somehow?? Haha I probably sound nuts, but wow I’d love to give this place a visit someday 🙂

  15. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this lake – and I have family in Central America! I’ll definitely have to go next time I find myself on that side of the world! Stunning photos

  16. Although I have yet to finalise my plans for 2018, Guatemala is definitely on the short list at the moment. After three years in South America, I think it may be time to spread my wings. I’ve noted the tip regarding The Terrace Café. Coffee is a big thing for me. All the better if I can combine beautiful views with great coffee.

    1. That sounds like a wonderful trip! I loved the Terrace, I went there a lot! Where have you been living in South America?

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