Central America & Mexico

What to Do in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Lake Atitlan is a beautiful lake in a massive volcanic crater located in Guatemala. It is surrounded by beautiful rolling hills and volcanoes, and is only about a three hour drive from Antigua.

When planning my trip to Guatemala last fall, I knew that Lake Atitlan was a spot that I could not miss. With limited time in the country (8 days) and so much to do and see, Lake Atitlan wasn’t going to be the place I passed on.

A wooden dock leading out to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

What makes Lake Atitlan such a great place to travel is not only its natural beauty, but also all the little, easily accessible towns, that surround the lake. You can spend multiple days here hopping between towns, each one offers something different, and all offer great views of the lake.

Although I was only in Lake Atitlan for about 3 days, I still covered quite a bit of ground. From my time there, I wanted to provide my top, must-do things.

Lauren laying on a tree in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Eat vegan in San Marcos

When I visited Lake Atitlan, we based ourselves in San Marcos. We decided to choose a quieter town from the busy Panjachel or San Pedro. San Marcos is known to be the “hippie town” of the lake due to its abundance of vegan and vegetarian restaurants, and yoga studios. The food was fantastic everywhere we ate here, one of our favs was Konojel.

Lauren sitting on a rock looking out on Lake Atitlan

Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve

Also located in San Marcos, this nature reserve is actually the cleanest place on the lake to swim. Lake Atitlan has been struggling with the cleanliness of the lake water for years now, and you would never know by visiting this nature reserve. For a cheap 15Q entrance fee, you can enter the reserve, walk the trails, jump off their diving platform if you’re brave enough, or spread your towel out on one of the rocks that overlooks the lake. We actually spent two afternoons here because it was the perfect spot for some R&R.

Shop in Panjachel markets

One of the best places around the lake for shopping is Panjachel as the roads are lined with tons of shops to buy all your Guatemalan souvenirs. You can also take a chicken bus from Panjachel to the Chichicastenango Market on Thursday or Sunday’s. I’ve heard only great things about the Chichi market, however, we didn’t have time to visit, nor were we that into buying stuff.

Here is a great guide for shopping in Lake Atitlan.

Lauren sitting at the side of a pool in Lake Atitlan.

Club Ven Aca in Jabalito

Jabalito isn’t a town that most people would want to visit, because when we got off the boat it was essentially a ghost town. Although it was safe, it felt really eerie to not see much of any people around, especially not tourists. However, there is a hidden gem in Jabalito and that’s Club Ven Aca. When you get off the boat, turn right down the dirt trail until you hit Club Ven Aca. This spot has an infinity pool overlooking the lake that you can relax around as long as you spend 150Q while you’re there on food or drinks (they do accept cards).

Lauren kayaking in Lake Atitlan

Kayak or SUP

Another must-do activity around the lake is kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding. Almost every popular town around the lake offers rentals. We rented our kayak from the nature reserve, they charge hourly, and you can take the kayak out and about around the lake. It’s nice to see the lake from a different perspective and makes for a great activity in the morning (the lake can be a little more choppy in the afternoon).

Lauren doing yoga at The Yoga Forest in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Find your zen

There are a ton of spots around the lake for yoga, ranging from full retreats to just drop-in classes. San Marcos, being the hippie town, has probably the most of these places condensed into one area. The Yoga Forest is one of the most well-known spots, but note that it’s pretty off-the-beaten path, legit on an unmarked dirt path, uphill, about 20ish minutes from San Marcos centre. There are several other, more central, spots offering yoga throughout each day to like Hostel Del Lago, and other retreat centres around the lake like the Mystical Yoga Farm.

Here is a full guide for yoga on Lake Atitlan.

A sunrise over Lake Atitlan on a hike up Indian Nose

Hike Indian Nose

Last but not least, a hike up Indian Nose to catch the sunrise over the lake is a must-do. This was by far one of my highlights from the trip. However, you have to be prepared to start your hike VERY early in the morning. We left from San Marcos around 3:30-4am via a local tour company. Note that it’s unsafe to do this hike alone, so make sure to book an inexpensive tour from the town you’re staying in. Bring lots of layers as it can be cool in the morning, and also a flashlight because the trail is completely unlit!

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