Lake Atitlán is a mysterious freshwater lake that flows between a volcanic crater. The lake is the deepest in Central America and was created thousands of years ago by a massive volcanic eruption.
Looking out over the lake, you'll see vast volcanoes towering in the distance and glassy blue water meandering gently through local villages. Rocky cliffs and lush vegetation surround the lake, sprinkling small houses throughout the jungle. Here is a great list of what to do in Lake Atitlan that will fulfill your travel needs. It is one of the best things to do in Guatemala.
Amazing things to do in Lake Atitlan
We are sure you can't wait to know how you can enjoy the lake. Let's discover its beauty together.
1. Hike Indian Nose
Hiking to the top of the “Indian nose” is one of the most wonderful things to do in Lake Atitlán. This peninsula is part of a ridge known as the “Rostro Maya” or “Mayan face” on the lake's western shore. The climb there is worthwhile because it provides some of the nicest views.
We always advise hiring a local guide to support the community's economy, but if you'd rather go it alone, you can take this trail to the Nariz. Spending the night here is something to consider if camping is your thing. The stars and the sunrise are magnificent from its high perspective, despite the windy conditions on the exposed “nose.”
Pro Tip: If you want to camp, you might have to pay some extra.
2. Do a Three-Day Hike Through the Mayan Highlands
This is only for some, but if you love hiking, take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime chance. It's a tough three-day journey through the Mayan Highlands from the lake to the hot springs of Xela, so you'll need to be reasonably fit to undertake it. This tour is for you if you seek an engaging, real-world cultural encounter that will physically challenge you.
There will be few Spanish or English speakers while you hike into the Mayan Highlands, so be prepared. It will be appreciated by the natives you will be staying with for the two nights if you can master a few K'iche terms.
3. Go Shopping at the Market in Panajachel
The best market, the nicest sunset, and a town you will likely need to travel through on your journey to and from the lake make Panajachel one of the lake's most developed and tourist-friendly locations. We recommend spending at least one night there.
After shopping at the main road market, head to the Sunset Café Bar to watch the sunset while eating nachos and drinking beer.
4. Go Kayaking on Lake Atitlan
Taking a kayak out into the middle of Lake Atitlan is one of the nicest things to do when you first get there. It's the ideal way to connect yourself with nature and appreciate how small you are within this enormous volcanic crater lake. Kayak rentals start at 15 Quetzals for an hour. You can find a local renting out his kayaks by going to the main pier in San Pedro or the main pier at the other lakeside settlements.
Alternatively, you may request assistance from your hotel's front desk staff to find a kayak rental.
5. Practice Yoga At San Marcos
San Marcos is one of the small towns on Lake Atitlan. This small town's laid-back “hippie” atmosphere makes it a favorite of many people. You may buy homemade goods in San Marcos' small cafes and shops. But there are also plenty of chances to take a yoga class!
Classes are offered for all skill levels; most are on decks with lake views. This is a fantastic way to unwind and enjoy being in utter heaven.
6. Go Cliff Jumping at Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve.
Go cliff jumping at Cerro Tzankujil Natural Reserve in San Marcos if you're sick of lounging around your posh hotel in San Pedro and want to do something new.
Nonetheless, there are some rocks towards the bottom where you can jump from if the Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve platform is too high for you to cliff jump. Cerro Tzankujil Natural Reserve is a secluded area perfect for swimming and relaxing in gorgeous surroundings.
7. Birdwatch at Tarrales Nature Reserve
Another fantastic option to explore Lake Atitlán is at Los Tarrales. Various activities are available at this privately owned Finca, including hiking, birdwatching, and coffee tours of an old plantation. Birdwatchers can see up to 100 species in a single day thanks to some of the greatest birding guides in the country. Motmots, Blue Seedeaters, and Azure-Rumped Tanagers are a few species you may see.
Los Tarrales also includes a restaurant for dining and cozy cottages where you may stay for a night or several.
Pro Tip: Reservations should be made at least 48 hours before trips to Los Tarrales.
8. Hike Volcano Toliman
Although Volcano Tolman is not active, it is unsuitable for those afraid to hike. You must be in good physical shape to climb this volcano, which generally takes approximately 12 hours. Also, you need to travel with a local guide.
Also, remember that you are ascending at a high altitude, making the air thinner and more difficult to ascend. Therefore, be careful, take your time, and bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. Pack plenty of food and snacks, insect repellent, and you must begin the hike early, around 3 am.
9. Learn Traditional Mayan Weaving
Although San Juan offers various activities, you should take advantage of this. Why not master the art of traditional weaving if you want to engage yourself in the community's culture? For just $40, you may enroll in a 4-hour course to teach you a new skill.
You'll cherish this for the rest of your life, plus you'll get to make your souvenir, which is always nice.
10. Go Handicraft shopping at Chichicastenango (Chichi) Market.
This market frequently referred to as “Chichi,” is loved by tourists. This is Central America's biggest handicraft market, and it's worth a trip.
You will find pottery, hand-woven textiles, traditional clothes, and many things there. The main market days are Thursdays and Sundays. While you can take a tourist shuttle there, for a more genuine and memorable experience, we recommend taking local transportation like chicken buses.
11. Visit the Hot Springs.
Located just before Panajachel, Santa Catarina Palopo is a charming village with some magnificent hot springs that seem to be carved into the lake. Hot volcanoes and the local geothermal energy create springs.
These, however, are unquestionably worthwhile visits as well!
The hot springs around Lake Atitlan are similar to sitting in a warm bath, but you also get to take in the scenery.
12. Have Lunch at Sababa Restaurant.
You'll need to refuel your energy after kayaking on the lake and burning all those calories. The food at Sababa Restaurant in San Pedro tastes the nicest and most reasonably priced. The restaurant serves Israeli-inspired food, and there are a variety of drinks and meal choices to suit every palate.
In addition to the mouthwatering food at Sababa Restaurant San Pedro, your table will offer a stunning view of the lake and the ideal setting for an Instagram-worthy photo.
13. Go Paragliding at the Lake.
When traveling, paragliding is a terrific opportunity to push yourself outside of your comfort zone while having a lot of fun and excitement. In essence, you are tied to a parachute and are propelled over a high cliff by the wind while enjoying the scenery as you glide over the lake.
Although paragliding requires some courage, it is not as scary as activities like skydiving or bungee leaping. Flying around is fairly pleasant and not too fast once you are airborne.
14. Ride in the Water Taxis.
The fastest way to get to the towns and small settlements surrounding the lake is by boat. Although there are roads that connect them, the trip is arduous and lengthy. It's much quicker and more exciting to take a boat!
Hence, these taxis are useful for moving around and a delightful experience that will allow you to enjoy the stunning views from the water and get to know some of the welcoming inhabitants that Lake Atitlan is famous for.
15. Support the Community at CECAP.
This company, also known as Amigos de Santa Cruz, is based in the tiny town of Santa Cruz La Laguna and offers practical skill training to village residents and the surrounding areas. Their goal is to provide their students with opportunities and skills that lead to meaningful and fulfilling jobs, along with providing industrial, culinary, and handicraft training.
You can help this charity by dining at their on-site restaurant, where students will serve you and will be your chefs.
Lake Atitlan is the most beautiful lake in Guatemala. To make your trip the memorable one, let's try all of the things we have discussed above. Be adventurous enough to try all the water activities and hiking!
I’m Steve. I’m an English Teacher, traveler, and an avid outdoorsman. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@thefrugalexpat1). Many of my posts have been written to help those in their journey to financial independence. I am on my journey, and as I learn more I hope to share more. And as always, thanks for reading The Frugal Expat.