This put up was written by Emily Becker, a Costa Rica-based freelance author for BMTM.
Excessive within the mountains of central Guatemala lies mystical Lake Atitlán, a spot that has lengthy attracted spiritualists, artists, writers, and adventurers. It captured my coronary heart with its dramatic blues, ultra-friendly locals, and wealthy cultural traditions. It’s no marvel why this vacation spot is without doubt one of the greatest locations to go to in Central America.
Discover out why I really like Lake Atitlán a lot with this record of my favourite issues to do, and keep tuned for knowledgeable recommendations on easy methods to get there:
Issues to Do at Lake Atitlán
1. Sunbathe in San Marcos
San Marcos is without doubt one of the many small villages alongside Lake Atitlán. It’s most well-known for being a religious hub of types, with a number of yoga studios, vegan eating places, and hip cafés. My favourite factor about San Marcos, nevertheless, is the Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve. This small park prices 50 quetzales (about $6.50 USD) to go to and has trails alongside the lakefront. You’ll discover a number of clean boulders which you can hang around on, catch some rays on, and bounce off from into the water.
Out of all of the superior locations to swim on Lake Atitlán, that is my best choice. It will probably get slightly crowded within the afternoon, so I like to recommend heading there within the early morning. There are additionally kayaks out there for hire, although it’s a must to return them earlier than midday.
2. Catch an epic dawn on the lake
There are few locations on Atitlán the place you’ll be able to see the sundown, however lots the place you’ll be able to catch a stunning dawn. Because the lake is surrounded by tall mountains and volcanoes, you received’t see the solar developing over the horizon. As a substitute, you’ll see its rays embellish the sky earlier than it peeks above the mountains, and the dawn colours make among the mountains look nearly purplish.
I really like watching sunrises right here. The pleasant colours make it definitely worth the early wake-up name, and it’s additionally peaceable to look at the birds and small fishing boats on the water.
3. Hire a paddleboard…
As paddleboarding is considered one of Lake Atitlán’s hottest actions, there may be an abundance of locations to hire them. Typical costs are round 50 quetzales ($6.50 USD) per hour, and I like to recommend doing no less than two hours if you wish to really make the most of the rental. Time at all times flies by too rapidly!
Once you hire a paddleboard, ensure you have loads of solar safety and a water-resistant bag in your valuables. The solar could be harsh right here due to the excessive altitude, and there shall be a number of boats passing by on the water, creating waves that would knock you off your board. I really like luggage like these that I can maintain my cellphone in. Or, simply go away your cellphone and pockets behind.
I rented my paddleboard at La Casa del Mundo (extra on that under), which I extremely suggest. You can even discover loads of choices in San Marcos and San Pedro, so ask round to see what your choices are.
4. …or a kayak
Kayaks are additionally loads of enjoyable on Atitlán and mean you can cowl extra floor than a paddleboard, although the rental costs are the identical. Most locations will ask you if you wish to hire a river kayak or an ocean one. Go for the ocean kayak, as a result of they’re extra secure and deal with the waves from passing boats a lot better. I made the error of renting a river kayak, and it was tough to paddle as a result of the currents of the lake stored sending me in circles.
5. Do a cultural tour of the villages
Every village on Lake Atitlán is exclusive and specializes within the manufacturing of a selected good. For instance, Santiago is known for its work, San Juan for its textiles, and so forth. One of the best ways to be taught in regards to the richness of the Mayan tradition right here is to do a cultural boat tour across the lake. I like to recommend this one, which has a cease at a espresso farm.
Moreover the bonus of getting an area information, a tour is a extra sensible technique to see all of the villages and is definitely cheaper in some instances. Because you’d must pay 25 quetzales (about $3 USD) for every boat journey and round 20-50 quetzales ($2.50-6.50 USD) in every village to get round by way of tuk-tuk, the associated fee can add as much as be greater than the tour.
6. Store for artesenías in Santiago
If you happen to choose out of a tour, be sure that to not skip out on visiting no less than one Mayan village. If you happen to’re in a pinch for time, make it Santiago. Although Santiago is technically the most important city on the lake (I beforehand thought it was Panajachel however was corrected by an area information), it retains its robust cultural identification. It’s identified for its distinctive artwork fashion, and also you’ll see plenty of retailers promoting unique work. Searching for handicrafts is the secret right here, together with a wide range of textiles, leather-based items, and wood-carved statues, amongst different gadgets. Even after going to some incredible markets in Antigua, I nonetheless assume the collection of artesenías in Santiago reigns supreme.
Whilst you’re right here, take into account exploring the city to be taught extra in regards to the tradition. There are lots of guides on tuk-tuks providing excursions, which I initially thought can be a complete rip-off — and determined to do anyway. It ended up being fairly attention-grabbing, and the information took me to a conventional Maya temple of types, a cool lookout, and an artists’ collective. The tour price 60 quetzales (lower than $10 USD).
7. Spend the day at La Casa del Mundo
I might write a sonnet about this place. La Casa del Mundo is a boutique lodge on the facet of a cliff subsequent to the village of Jaibalito. Earlier than arriving in Guatemala, I’d seen quite a few TikToks about this place and couldn’t imagine it was actual. Many examine it to the lakeside chalets on Lake Como, and I’ve to agree that the comparability is truthful.
I didn’t keep at La Casa del Mundo, as a result of it was totally booked, however the lodge provides day passes for 50 quetzales ($6.50 USD). The day move permits you entry to the frequent areas of the lodge, together with the lounge chairs proper on the lake. There isn’t a higher place to loosen up and revel in the great thing about Lake Atitlán than La Casa del Mundo, interval.
8. Discover Atitlán’s smallest village: Jaibalito
Talking of Jaibalito, this tiny city is correct subsequent to La Casa del Mundo and is value a fast go to. There’s an awesome restaurant known as Indigo proper off the dock; it’s a candy spot to seize a chunk or a drink and soak within the lake views. I selected to remain in an Airbnb in Jaibalito due to its popularity for being tranquil and much from the vacationer traps, and I cherished it.
9. Day journey to the Chichicastenango Market
I sadly wasn’t capable of make it to the Chichicastenango Market, so that is on my bucket record for subsequent time. This market is the most important in all of Central America, and well-known for its insanely low costs for textiles and different souvenirs. It’s additionally an vital cultural web site with a wealthy historical past of non secular worship and celebrations.
As with every giant market, observe loads of warning at Chichicastenango, as pickpocketing is quite common. You possibly can simply go to the market by yourself by catching a bus from Panajachel on to Chichicastenango, however the most secure and best technique to get there may be by becoming a member of a tour.
10. Take a look at the San Juan viewpoint
San Juan is an enthralling small city subsequent to the big backpacker haven of San Pedro. Right here you’ll get pleasure from strolling the streets and admiring the road artwork, however the actual gem of San Juan is the Mirador Kiaq’Aiswaan. This viewpoint takes a couple of 30-minute hike to achieve, and as you ascend, you’ll discover that the steps start to vary, getting an increasing number of colourful.
When you attain the highest, you’ll see that your entire deck is painted as one big mural, with brilliant colours depicting the wealthy agricultural traditions of the area: there are ladies selecting espresso, males harvesting corn, and lots of different scenes. The work themselves are stunning, however the view of the lake and surrounding mountains is equally as excellent.
The way to Get to Lake Atitlán
The way to get to Atitlán is dependent upon the place you’re beginning. All transfers and public transportation will take you to Panajachel, one of many bigger villages on the lake. After that, you’ll be able to take a ship to the village the place you’re staying.
From Guatemala Metropolis, Guatemala
From Guatemala Metropolis, the best and quickest technique to get to Lake Atitlán is by shuttle service. Most shuttles decide you up on the airport, however you can even organize for them to select you up at your lodge if you happen to’re staying in a single day in Guatemala Metropolis. I don’t suggest this, although, and assume staying in Antigua is a greater possibility, as a result of it’s a safer metropolis with extra issues to do. Nonetheless, in case you are already planning to go from Guatemala Metropolis to Lake Atitlán, this shuttle is simple and reasonably priced.
From Antigua, Guatemala
Since Antigua is a a lot smaller metropolis and has extra tourism infrastructure, it’s the perfect place to journey to Lake Atitlán from. I did this shuttle, and it couldn’t have gone extra easily. It picked me up from my lodge and dropped me off on the dock in Panajachel, the place I caught a ship to Jaibalito, the place I deliberate to remain. The journey takes about three hours and winds by means of the mountains. I get automotive sick however took Dramamine for the journey and had no points.
From San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico
Many backpackers make the journey from San Cristóbal de las Casas in Mexico all the way in which to Lake Atitlán as part of their worldwide route. I’ve executed this journey two methods: by way of public transportation (aka “rooster buses”) and by way of shuttle. After the complicated rooster bus expertise, I can’t suggest it for solo vacationers, particularly if you happen to don’t communicate Spanish. It may be harmful on account of frequent highway closures alongside the way in which. As a substitute, you’ll be able to simply e-book a shuttle with Gekko, which is $50 USD every means.
The way to Get Round As soon as You’re There
When you get to Panajachel, attending to any of the villages you may be staying in is simple. Simply go to the dock and inform one of many individuals working there the place you’re headed, they usually’ll level you to the suitable boat. Rides price 25 quetzales (about $3.25 USD), which is at all times paid after your journey. If somebody tries to make you pay earlier than, simply say no and get on the boat. Within the uncommon case that persons are paying earlier than the journey, simply look and see if any locals are doing it. If not, it’s a rip-off.
When you get to your village, one of the best ways to get round is by way of tuk-tuk. They’re normally dependable and low-cost, although many of the villages are sufficiently small to get round on foot.
Now you’ll be able to see why Lake Atitlán makes so many vacationers’ bucket lists and the way it’s even rumored to be the inspiration behind the well-known e-book The Little Prince. So, when will you be reserving your journey?