Lake Atitlan

Western Highlands

Guatemala’s gorgeous Lake Atitlán has captivated people for centuries. Visiting the lake in 1934, Aldous Huxley called it “The most beautiful lake in the world” and compared it to Lake Cuomo in Italy. Surrounded by traditional Mayan villages and studded with three volcanoes on its southern shore, Lake Atitlan is indeed spectacular. To this day it remains one of Guatemala’s most popular destinations.

Lake Atitlán was created some 85,000 years ago in the wake of a volcanic eruption. The lake covers some 48 square miles (125 sq. km.) and is 19 miles (30 km) long and 6 miles (10 km) wide. Its deepest point is 1,050 feet (320 m). The 1976 earthquake that hit much of Guatemala may have created a drainage point in the lake; the water level has been slowly declining ever since. Three volcanoes sit along the lake’s southern shoes—the San Pedro Volcano, Tolimán Volcano, and Atitlán Volcano. San Pedro can be hiked, but it’s 4-5 hours to the summit and is a pretty steep climb. Hiking San Pedro should only be attempted with a guide.

Another incredible aspect of the Lake Atitlán area is the strength of the Mayan culture. Despite an increasing number of tourists and several new developments, many of the villages remain quite traditional. Some of the most traditional include Sololá, Santiago Atitlán, San Pablo La Laguna, and San Antonio Palopó. In certain villages the men still wear traditional clothing called traje and locals speak indigenous languages like Tz’utujil and Kaqchikel. In total, thirteen villages are spread along the shores of the lake, and there are many more in the adjacent hills. Most are subsistence farming communities, although many are increasingly dabbling in tourism.

Panajachal is the lake’s main tourist town. Panajachal became popular with American and European backpackers in the 1960s and nowadays has a sizeable population of foreign residents. It’s also a popular weekend destination for Guatemala City residents—things can get fairly lively here on Fridays and Saturdays. The lake and the surrounding mountains offer all kinds of recreational activities, including hiking, swimming, cycling, fishing, and scuba diving.

Across the lake, San Pedro La Laguna rivals Panajachal as the hotbed for international travelers. The town has a hip atmosphere and flanks the northern slopes of the San Pedro Volcano. The town has several language schools and fairly good accommodation options.

A few miles east of Panajachal is the charming village of Santa Catarina Palopó. With adobe houses and villagers that still sport traditional clothing, Santa Catarina Palopó is both quaint and tranquil. It also has some of the lake’s best accommodation options.

The quiet village of Santa Cruz de La Laguna is located west of Panajachal. It’s accessible only by boat and is popular with backpackers.

Santiago Atitlán is set in an inlet and has lovely views of the San Pedro Volcano. The Tolimán and Atitlán volcanoes loom behind it. This is a more traditional kind of village and is known for its Tz’utujil-speaking Mayan residents. Handicrafts and paintings line the main street and pepper local art galleries.

San Marcos La Laguna is Guatemala’s foremost New Age center. It’s a tranquil place where yoga, meditation, acupuncture, reiki, and massage are common. The town also has spectacular views of all three volcanoes.

Nearby Activities

Explore All Nearby

Hiking San Pedro Volcano

3-in-1 combo|8hrs

Lake Atitlan

4.0 / 5.0
Starting At$64
Hiking San Pedro Volcano

The San Pedro Volcano was declared a national park in 2006. The volcano is covered with tropical forests and takes about 4 to 5 hours to reach the summit along a...

4.0 / 5.0
Tour Details

Sololá Market Tour

2-in-1 combo|12hrs

Lake Atitlan

New Tour!
Starting At$79
Sololá Market Tour

This tour of the Sololá Market will introduce you to traditional Guatemalan craftsmanship. Your tour will continue to the shores of Atitlán Lake, where you can see...

New Tour!
Tour Details

Nearby Lodging

View All

Hotel Pa Muelle

Lake Atitlan

Cable TV

& More

New Hotel!
From$55

Hotel Pa Muelle

Hotel Pa Muelle is a small hotel in San Juan La Laguna, a tranquil town that sits along the shores of Lake Atitlán. The hotel’s simple rooms are clean and have nice...

New Hotel!
Rooms and Rates

B'alam Ya

Lake Atitlan

Cable TV

Free Breakfast

Jacuzzi

Wireless Internet

& More

4.1 / 5.0
From$155

B'alam Ya

B’alam Ya is located along the shores of Lake Atitlán just outside the town of Panajachel. Each of the hotel’s four villas is nestled into the hills or along the lake...

4.1 / 5.0
Rooms and Rates

Hotel Tolimán

Lake Atitlan

Bar

Jacuzzi

Restaurant

Swimming Pool

Wireless Internet

& More

New Hotel!
From$65

Hotel Tolimán

This hotel lies near one of the most beautiful lakes in Guatemala. Its swimming pool, restaurant, and hammocks wait for you just off the shores of Lake Atitlán.

New Hotel!
Rooms and Rates

Let our customers answer your questions

Is Your Planning Service Free?

Yes! The rates are the same if you book directly with the hotels and tours. We offer the additional value of an expert planner to ensure your trip is perfect.

How Does Your Service Work?

We listen to your vision for your trip and ensure that your experience exceeds all of your expectations. Think of us as the “Zappos of Travel.” We do more than book your reservations — we take a holistic approach and create seamless plans.

Can I Trust You?

We have planned thousands of vacations for people just like you. Our mission to redefine and simplify travel planning began in 2006 in Costa Rica, and it continues to this very moment. With over a decade of travel planning experience, we are confident that we can craft your perfect vacation for free.

Lake AtitlanLake Atitlan4