The Ultimate Lake Atitlan Guatemala Guide: Top 40 Tours & Things to Do

Written by Rebecca Moy.

Lake Atitlan, or Lago de Atitlán, is a Guatemalan town famous for its rich Mayan culture and phenomenal natural beauty. This blog outlines the top 40 tours and things to do in Lake Atitlan so you can plan a vacation that you'll treasure forever.

Arriving at Lake Atitlan on a clear day is unforgettable. Picture a turquoise-blue lake amidst a striking backdrop of volcanoes and cloud forests where bright sunlight reflects off the water's surface like glitter. Lake Atitlan was recognized by National Geographic as the most beautiful lake in the world, and it's easy to see why.

Atitlan's sidewalks are a blaze of red, yellow, blue, and every shade in between, from the traditional clothing still worn by Mayan villagers, to the blooming flowers and ripe fruits on sale at street markets, to the colorful hand-painted "chicken bus" that bounces down the cobbled roads.

Hidden among the mountainside, you'll find bustling markets and sacred caves where locals pray and shamans practice the ancient ritual of fire cleansing. Locals belong to indigenous groups; the Tz'utujil Mayans are best known for their traditional weaving and vibrant clothing and the Kaqchikel people for their pottery-making skills, then there's the notably smaller K'iche' community residing in Santa Clara la Laguna. To this day, each group speaks their indigenous language with Spanish as a second language, so Lake Atitlan's culture is amazingly raw and authentic.

Indigenous Mayan woman smiling.

Beyond admiring the overwhelming natural beauty and culture, there are so many activities to do and experience in Lake Atitlan, as you'll discover in this blog!

About Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is a caldera lake formed by a supervolcanic eruption 84,000 years ago. After the eruption, the magma chamber underneath emptied, and a large depression was formed. Fast forward to today, Lake Atitlan is home to thousands of people.

The town is located in the picturesque highlands of Guatemala, just 115 kilometers (71 miles) west of Guatemala City, and just under 80 km (50 miles) from Antigua, where two of the country's main airports are located. Guatemala is a huge country, but Atitlan is considered relatively central and easily accessible.

Although Guatemala does not have great public transport, there are plenty of ways to get around. One good option is to use the shuttle services. Shuttles are cheap and run multiple times a day from Antigua, Guatemala City, and many other cities. Local agencies, hostels, and hotels offer the service and they can be booked last minute. But if you prefer private transportation, taxis can be pre-booked. For ultimate freedom, you can rent a car, but remember, driving can be a bit adventurous.

The Villages Of Lake Atitlan

There are 11 charming villages situated around the water. You'll be surprised, but each village really does offer a unique perspective on Mayan culture. Five of the villages are notably more popular with tourists, and they are Panajachel, Santa Cruz, San Pedro, San Juan, and San Marcos.


Panajachel is the entry point to Lake Atitilan. The town's streets are lined with charming shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars, catering to the diverse tastes of its visitors. Whether you're looking for authentic Guatemalan cuisine or international dishes, you'll find plenty of options to satisfy your cravings.

Santa Cruz La Laguna

Santa Cruz La Laguna is a hidden gem on the shores of Lake Atitlán, Guatemala. What makes this quaint village truly special is its authentic and laid-back vibe, offering visitors a genuine glimpse into the traditional Mayan way of life. Unlike some of the more touristy towns around the lake, Santa Cruz maintains a tranquil atmosphere, making it an ideal spot for relaxation, reflection and simply enjoying the beauty of nature.

San Pedro La Laguna

What sets this charming destination apart is its unique blend of local culture and international charm. Wander through the colorful streets to discover a lively and bohemian atmosphere, filled with art galleries, cozy cafes, and lively nightlife options. Among backpackers, San Pedro is known as the party destination of Lake Atitlan, but whether you join the fiesta or not, the warmth and hospitality of the local Mayan community create will make you feel right at home.

San Juan La Laguna

The village of San Juan displays a deep-rooted commitment to preserving Mayan traditions and sustainable practices. As you stroll through its picturesque streets, you'll be welcomed by friendly smiles and talented local artisans showcasing their exquisite weaving and painting skills. The community's dedication to eco-friendly initiatives, like organic coffee production and natural dyeing techniques, highlights their harmonious relationship with the environment.

San Marcos La Laguna

San Marcos is a haven of serenity and spiritual exploration. This enchanting village is renowned for its holistic and wellness-focused atmosphere, making it a beloved destination for those seeking inner peace and rejuvenation. The nurturing and open-minded community welcomes travelers with open arms, creating a supportive space for self-discovery and personal growth. You'll find an array of yoga studios, meditation centers, and holistic healing practices, all set amidst breathtaking natural beauty.

With so many awesome activities on offer, here are 40 top-rated tours and things to do in Lake Atitlan.

What To Do Lake Atitlan

1. Rent A Kayak Or Stand-Up Paddleboard

The most mesmerizing activity on Lake Atitlan is undoubtedly gliding through the calm waters on a kayak or paddleboard. Adventurers can explore hidden coves and journey to neighboring villages, or, simply revel in the tranquillity of this magical place and take in its natural beauty. It's advisable to wake up early in the morning - that's when the water is most calm. Don't forget a waterproof camera too, you'll want to remember the beautiful views forever.

Rent a kayak at only $10 per hour or choose from a range of Lake Atitlan kayak tours.

Group kayaking on the waters of Lake Atitlan

2. Go On A Quetzal Birdwatching Tour

The Quetzal (ket-sal) is much more than your average bird to the people of Guatemala. With striking red and green feathers, the quetzal flies proudly as the official national bird of Guatemala. Also the namesake of the country’s currency, the Quetzal is considered a sacred bird, associated with divinity, freedom, and wealth, and its feathers are used to decorate royal headdresses.

Few places in Guatemala offer an experience to see the Quetzal in its natural environment since it can only be found in the humid highlands, but you'll have a good chance of spotting this extraordinary bird in Lake Atitlan if you have the help of a local guide. Joining a tour like the Guatemala jungle trek will give you the best chance at spotting this magnificent bird.

Guatemala's Quetzal bird sitting on a tree branch

3. Hike The Indian Nose At Sunrise

Among the mountainous backdrop of Lake Atitlan, the most magical sunrise viewpoint in all of Guatemala can be found. But, be prepared to rise early - pick-up is at 3.30 am!

Beginning in the lush cloud forest, the Indian Nose hike journeys through terraced farms. Once at the summit, you'll watch the morning sun break through a horizon of towering volcanoes. It's a completely postcard-worthy view.

At only 3km (2 miles) long, the Indian Nose is a short hike. That means it's manageable for families, and you don't need to be an experienced mountaineer to enjoy this beautiful excursion. It's recommendable to go with a guide who can navigate the terrain before dawn- the tour with Kayak Guatemala includes transportation and coffee or tea at the summit.

Sun rising over the volcanoes behind Lake Atitlan

4. Taste Gatemala's Coffee At A Viewpoint Cafe

Due to rich volcanic soils and high altitudes, Guatemala produces world-class coffee beans. Coffee lovers will want to get acquainted with local beans since there are eight delicious varieties to try and buy to take home with you.

There's no better place to sip an espresso than one of the viewpoint cafes at Lake Atitlan. Nestled in the mountainside of Santa Cruz La Laguna, Cafe Sabor Cruceño has one of the most magnificent views around the lake. As well as the delicious coffee blend, there is an incredible menu on offer. Everything is prepared by graduates of the Amigos de Santa Cruz Culinary Arts Program and profits help to improve the lives of local people.

The view of Lake Atitlan and its surrounging volcanoes at Café Sabor Cruceño

5. Visit Art Galleries In San Juan La Laguna

Tz'utujil people have a long history of creating brightly coloured textiles, pottery, and paintings. So, if you want to discover a diverse range of artistic styles and mediums, head to San Juan La Laguna.

Famously home to several art cooperatives, San Juan aim to empower indigenous artists, both economically and by showcasing their beautiful work to a wider audience.

Stroll through the streets and see towering murals everywhere you go. Make sure to stop at the small roadside galleries as you pass. There's something unique and captivating around every corner.

A Tz'utujil artist standing in front of a wall of oil paintings

6. Search For Bargains At The Solola Market

Each and every day, locals head to the Solola market to buy groceries. But this is no ordinary market. First off, the Solola market is 7000 ft. above sea level on a mountainside overlooking Lake Atitlan. Handicrafts, textiles, and even live animals are bought and sold at Solola, and everything the eye can see is an explosion of red, blue, and yellow.

Embark on a treasure hunt for rare goods and try your hand at bargaining with local sellers on this Solola Market Tour, or navigate the chaos on your own, and get there by jumping on the chicken bus from Panajachel.

Locals selling flowers at the Solola market

7. Get To Know Maya Spirituality In Santiago

If you're seeking an off-the-beaten-track experience in Lake Atitlan, head to the village of Santiago. Barely touched by outside influences, Santiago upholds Tzutujile Maya traditions and spiritual beliefs to the highest degree.

Visit the town’s Catholic church to see architectural artifacts from the 1500s amidst locals praying to Maximon - a Mayan deity - for healthy crops, to cure illness, to find love, or even cast a spell on a neighbor. Be sure to buy some candles, cigarettes, or liquor to make your own offering to Maximon.

Solola's white-painted catholic church

8. Stay At A Lakeside Resort

There's no better way to experience Lake Atitlan than staying at a lakeside resort. Wake up to picturesque vistas and enjoy a peaceful morning coffee whilst you watch kayaks gliding through the glimmering water. You'll truly soak in the tranquil atmosphere and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

With a private beachfront, shaded cabanas, and hammocks to put your feet up and relax, Los Elementos Resort offers one of the most magical views around the lake. Located in the lake's most stunning village, Santa Cruz la Laguna, there are spectacular views in all directions at Los Elementos. The property can only be reached by boat, so serenity, nature, and privacy are unparalleled.

Lakeside views from the open-air kitchen at Los Elementos resort

9. Take A Cooking Class In A Mayan Kitchen

Taste the delicious flavors of Guatemalan cuisine and learn to cook a typical dish in a cooking class. Local chefs carry the ancient tradition of Mayan cooking and can show you recipes that have existed for centuries, explaining the significance of each dish, and how they are made using clay ovens and locally grown vegetables and spices. In this Lake Atitlan cooking class, a local chef will show you how to make Pepian de Pollo, a traditional chicken stew made from cinnamon and masa. Plus, revenue helps to support a local NGO.

A Mayan chef showing tourists how to prepare the Guatemalan dish.

10. Attend A Mayan Fire Ceremony

The Mayan fire ceremony is an ancient tradition still important for indigenous communities today. Inside the sacred caves of Lake Atitlan - an already magical setting - Mayan shamans speak to spirits and ask for help from divinity, mother nature, and ancestors. Candles, flowers, and incense are all burned in the fire as a "gift" to the Gods.

If you wish to experience a Mayan fire ceremony, you have two options. The first and the most authentic format is the Mayan fire ceremony with shaman. Beforehand they will ask for your general intention, may it be good health, good luck with business, or perhaps to find love. You will be silent, meditate, hold candles, and watch whilst the shaman chants prayers in his indigenous language, the fire burns and smoke fills the caves.

The fire ceremony with a local guide is more conversational. Just like the traditional ceremony, items will be contributed to the fire, but it will be led by an English-speaking guide rather than a Mayan shaman. You will play a more active role in the ceremony and have the opportunity to talk with the group and verbally send messages to your ancestors. Open up as much or as little as you choose, share personal wishes, express gratitude, and let pain and suffering release with the smoke.

Mayan shaman and his assistant stood around a newly-lit fire inside the sacred caves

11. Tour A Coffee Or Chocolate Farm

With its fertile volcanic soils, San Juan La Laguna famously produces delicious coffee and chocolate crops. Some local farms offer guided tours, showcasing the skilled hands that harvest coffee cherries and cocoa plants, transforming them into perfect beans.

The San Juan La Laguna day excursion includes a tour of both a chocolate and cocoa farm. You'll discover the secrets behind the most beloved foods in the world and, of course, sample the goods for yourself.

Man picking coffee cherries from the tree.

12. Visit A Vocational Training Center & NGO

Located up in the mountains of Santa Cruz la Laguna - just a 5-minute tuk tuk ride from the docks - is a world far different from the luxury of the lakeside villas down below.

The NGO Amigos De Santa Cruz provides crucial support to the people of Lake Atitlan. They offer subsidized training courses in textile production, the culinary arts, tourism, and woodwork, to help local people get into jobs or make products to sell. You can visit the CECAP building where these training courses take place.

The Lower Mayan Trail is a hybrid hike and walking tour where you'll also visit a neighboring junior school and a typical family home. It offers a look below the poverty line, and after the tour, you'll appreciate how local people benefit from tourism. If you're someone who is interested in going beyond a surface-level tourist experience and engaging with the local community, here's your opportunity.

Mayan lady points to a book over a table where another girl is sat

13. Visit The Santiago Waterfall

Nature lovers listen up! Hidden among the depths of the Guatemalan jungle is the mystical Santiago waterfall, where you can witness water bursting out of the mountainside and giving life to the region. It's one of the few waterfalls in Lake Atitlan, meaning it's a really unique hiking trail in the area,

To reach this natural phenomenon you must hike for 3 hours through lush cloud forest. It's common to spot monkeys, rare birds, and even snakes on the way, so it's helpful to go with a local guide who can point them out from a safe distance. Check out our Guatemala Jungle Trek.

Water cascades down the mountainside, framed by lush greenery

14. Go Cliff Jumping

For thrills in Lake Atitlan, cliff jumping is undoubtedly one of the best activities. Fearless souls head to San Marcos La Laguna and jump from the famous 12m (40 feet) platform at Cerro Tzankujil nature reserve. The background of volcanoes makes for some of the coolest photos you'll ever take. Run and jump from the wooden platform and land in the deep water below.

There are also dedicated cliff jumping tours with a variety of heights and a great focus on safety. On this kayak and cliff jump tour, you'll be given life jackets and have a first-aider on hand at all times, just to be safe. There are shorter jumps of 2 to 3 feet so you can start small and build up if you choose. Jump as many times as you like knowing you're in safe hands.

Man jumps from a two metre cliffside in Lake Atitlan.

15. Visit A Women's Weaving Co-Op

From indigenous clothing to tablecloths, all the textiles you will see in Guatemala are bright with color and are hand-woven by local women. There are several weaving cooperatives and workshops in the villages of Lake Atitlan - especially in San Juan La Laguna - where you can experience the tradition of weaving, watch the process, and purchase handmade textiles.

As well as providing income for local women, weaving fosters community for the people of Guatemala. Women come together at cooperatives to share knowledge, techniques, and resources, so it's a beautiful tradition for tourists to support and a fascinating skill to see in action. Check out our San Juan & weaving cooperatives tour.

Mayan woman demostrating a weaving technique.

16. Climb A Volcano In Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is home to three epic volcanoes of similar height: San Pedro (3,020m/9,908ft), Volcan Atitlan (3,537m/11,604ft), and Volcan Toliman (3,144m/10,315ft).

Be warned, hiking a volcano in Lake Atitlan is no easy feat. You'll traverse through rugged terrain with a steep incline that lasts a few hours. Not every tourist is brave enough to attempt these hikes, but the hardworking few who do are rewarded with phenomenal views and an unforgettable experience.

It's a good idea to check weather conditions and volcanic activity before attempting a volcano trek. Rain, fog, or strong winds can significantly impact the hiking experience and visibility on the volcano. Stay updated on the volcano's status and heed any warnings or advisories issued by local authorities.

Engaging a local guide or joining a guided tour can be beneficial as they have knowledge of the area, can provide safety guidance, and offer a more immersive experience. The San Pedro volcano hike, Toliman volcano hike, and 2-day Atitlan volcano hike and camping trip all include an experienced guide and return transportation.

Hikers just above the clouds of Volcan Atitlan.

17. Watch Locals Make Tortillas At The Tortilleria

In Lake Atitlan, almost every local dish is served alongside a parcel of warm tortillas wrapped in a hand-woven cloth. Corn has been a staple crop in the region for thousands of years, and as the prime ingredient in tortillas, the food holds significant cultural importance.

The process of making tortillas is deeply ingrained in the daily lives of Guatemalans, passed down through generations, and celebrated as a symbol of community and family ties. In every Lake Atitlan village, you will find at least one "tortilleria" where you can observe skilled artisans expertly hand-press and shape the dough into perfectly round discs. You'll remember the rhythmic process and joyous chatter of the tortillerias long after you leave Lake Atitlan.

Flat cirles of tortilla dough cook on a wood fire.

18. Zipline And Explore Atitlan Nature Reserve

Visiting the zipline trail at Atitlan Nature Reserve is the perfect activity to get your heart racing. Home to two impressive 1,290m and 2,381m long zipline courses, the beautiful Atitlan Nature reserve is nestled within the cloud forest. Whilst whizzing through the canopy 60m in the air, you'll have views of the surrounding waterfalls, volcanoes, and the lake itself.

Be prepared for a short but steep hike to reach the starting point, and hold your nerves as you cross suspension bridges. This 2 in 1 kayak & extreme zipline excursion is a great option for anyone looking to get out of the water as well as whizz through the trees.

Zipline cable above the tree canopy with lake Atitlan behind.

19. Ride In A Tuktuk

Riding a tuktuk in Guatemala is an experience that will undoubtedly add a touch of adventure and cultural immersion to your vacation. These vibrant, three-wheeled vehicles weave through the bustling streets, offering an exhilarating glimpse into the daily life of locals. As you zoom past colorful markets and colonial architecture, you'll feel a sense of connection with the heart of Lake Atitlan.

Red tuktuk's pass through a street where the floor is painted in bright colours.

20. Hike From Santa Cruz To San Marcos

Otherwise known as the Lower Mayan trail, the lakeside path between Santa Cruz La Laguna and San Marcos La Laguna is frequently used by travelers and locals alike. At 8.7km each way, it's a low-impact day hike that passes through the lesser-traveled villages of Tzununa and Jaibalito on the North-West shore. This rugged section of Lake Atitlan has barely been touched by the outside world, so you'll see local farmers working in their fields as you pass by. Whether you go alone or with a guide, be sure to start hiking early to avoid the sun.

Mother, father and two daughters surrounded by green leaves.

21. Try Top-Rope Climbing At Los Elementos Adventure Centre

With outdoor climbing routes of varying difficulties, Los Elementos Adventure Centre is the number one destination for rock climbing in Lake Atitlan.

If you're new to this adrenaline-inducing sport, prepare to overcome tough physical challenges and feel exhilarated. Search for nooks and crannies to use as handholds, gather all your strength to push against the rock, and look down with pride once you reach the top of the rock. You'll gain a newfound appreciation for these impressive natural rock faces.

Los Elementos will help to choose the right route for your level and can plan your climbs over multiple days if you want to try all the routes available. Tackle impressive rock formations, navigate a tree climb, or challenge yourself to one of the more tricky routes inside the Pumpatin Canyon. Book a day of climbing at Los Elementos here.

Man scaling a flat rock face in Lake Atitlan.

22. Bike Downhill Through The Coffee Fields

If you want to experience views of Lake Atitlan from 3,000 feet above without exhausting yourself too much in the process, this easy 2-hour bike tour is the perfect thing to try. The route is 98% downhill and almost entirely paved, meaning its manageable for rookies. You'll begin in the clouds and gradually descend through picturesque coffee farms and Mayan villages, with plenty of opportunities to stop and soak in the views of Atitlan's majestic volcanoes.

Cyclist poses proudly in front of Lake Atitlan from 3,000m above.

23. Relax & Take In The View At Santa Cruz

Much less crowded than other villages around Lake Atitlan, the laid-back vibe and peaceful ambiance of Santa Cruz La Laguna makes it the perfect place to simply sit back and relax. Grab a book, a beer, or both, and jump into a hammock.

If you don't have enough time in your itinerary to stay the night at Santa Cruz, you can still absorb its beauty by getting a day pass to one of the lakeside lodges. Los Elementos lakeside resort offers rest and relaxation day passes, so you can soak in the tranquil atmosphere of Santa Cruz even if you're staying in another village.

24. Go partying in San Pedro

Known for its thriving nightlife scene, the streets of San Pedro La Laguna are lined with all kinds of pubs and saloons from laid-back beach bars to energetic clubs. Bar Sublime is rocking every night of the week with live music and bands that play everything from reggae to rock to Latin music. Ola Bar is another great spot for cocktails and Colombian street food. If you go, make sure to try the Ola Mi Guate (OMG) cocktail!

Live band playing at Bar Sublime

25. Take A Yoga Class In San Marcos

Bustling with yoga and meditation studios, San Marcos La Laguna is the spiritual center point of Lake Atitlan. Practice your downward dog looking onto the lake at Eagle's Nest with its stunning open-air platform made from wood. They also offer all-inclusive yoga packages so you can fully immerse in spirituality and enjoy three delicious vegan meals a day, with cozy accommodation, 2 yoga activities each day, and sauna access. It's a yogi's dream.

Yogis meditating in the open-air studio at Eagle's Nest.

26. Have A Mayan "Nahual" Reading

Learning about your Nahual in Lake Atitlan is a wonderful way to connect with ancient Mayan culture and gain a unique perspective on your past, present, and future. This traditional practice, performed by spiritual guides or Mayan priests, connects you to one of 20 Nahuales from the Mayan calendar based on your date of birth. During the session, your guide will identify and explain your nahual, what animal it represents, and both the positive and negative aspects of your personality. They'll help you recognize your talents and how you can use them to serve your community. Head to the Tzunun' Ya' museum in San Pedro where you can receive a Nahual reading and learn about the geological history of Lake Atitlan.

The Mayan symbols for each of the 20 Nahuales.

27. Homestay With A Local Family

By staying with a host family in Lake Atitlan, you'll gain invaluable insight into Mayan traditions, language, and customs, forging genuine connections that extend beyond mere tourist encounters. Sit at a dinner table with your host and her children to eat a homemade meal, cooked on a traditional wood-based fire, and sleep in a house most likely built by the family themselves.

This eye-opening experience is far from the luxury of a lakeside villa, but it will leave a lasting impression, and you'll be touched by the warmth and hospitality of the Guatemalan people. It's rare for indigenous people to speak English, but if your Spanish is good enough to converse, your hosts will share stories and you'll gain even deeper insight into life for indigenous Mayan people.

We recommend organizing your homestay through the NGO Amigos de Santa Cruz because you can be sure your money will go directly to the family you are staying with. You'll need to contact them directly to find out more.

Mayan woman welcomes a couple into her home.

28. Visit The Painted Village Of Santa Catarina Palopó

One of the most eye-catching towns in Guatemala, the pueblo of Santa Catarina is a sight to behold. Stroll through the sidewalks on the Santa Catarina tour and you'll realize that almost every home is hand-painted in vibrant colors and decorated with Maya symbols like the Ixcot, a traditional two-headed bird, deer, and geometric patterns. This stunning work is a result of the “Painting Santa Catarina Project” whereby local families could have their houses painted for free.

Two houses painted turqoise and purple geometric patterns.

29. Eat Pulique De Pollo

This traditional dish is a true culinary delight embodying the rich flavors of Lake Atitlan's gastronomic heritage. Prepared with tender chicken, hearty vegetables, and a blend of aromatic herbs and spices, Pulique de Pollo has a slightly bitter flavor, unlike any dish you've tasted before. Love it or hate it, the dish offers insight into the spirit of Guatemalan hospitality and tradition since it's often shared during special gatherings and celebrations. Head to a local restaurant like Cafe Sabor Cruceño where you'll find this one-of-a-kind dish on the menu.

30. Head To The Vegan Restaurants Of San Marcos

Renowned for its holistic and eco-friendly lifestyle, the charming village of San Marcos has a vibrant vegan food scene. Explore vegan eateries like Samsara's Garden and discover a wide array of plant-based dishes that cater to every taste and preference, from mouthwatering vegan tacos to hearty Buddha bowls brimming with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. You'll nourish your body and participate in the ethical practices that define San Marcos all at once.

Tofu Buddha bowl held in front of the welcome sign at Samsara's Garden.

31. Ride On The Chicken Bus

Riding the iconic chicken bus is a classic Guatemalan adventure you simply can't miss. These colorful and vibrant old American school buses have become an integral part of local culture. As you hop aboard, you'll be immersed in a lively atmosphere, surrounded by locals and fellow travelers alike. Villagers have been known to carry live chickens on these buses, which is how they earned such a name. Plus, the affordability of the chicken bus makes it a budget-friendly option for exploring the area.

Brightly hand-painted american school bus driving through cobbled streets.

32. Take A Spanish Class

So many travelers love studying Spanish in Lake Atitlan, not only because the classes are so affordable, but also because the immersive study experience makes learning a new language so much easier and enjoyable.

Schools like Atitlan Spanish School provide an ideal setting and tranquil environment for focused study. You'll develop a new skill that will last a lifetime, meanwhile opening the door to deeper connections with local people and culture. By gaining the ability to speak the native language, your travel experience can become authentic and powerful on a newfound level. Plus, you'll finally understand restaurant menus and can ask anyone for directions when you're lost in the street!

Two people sat around a table looking at study materials.

33. Try Out A Mayan Sauna

For centuries, Mayans have bathed in a Temazcal. These dimly lit, domed structures fill up with aromatic steam to cleanse the body and mind, much like a sauna. Inside, you may pray, meditate or simply relax and use the calming space for inner reflection and emotional release. This ancient tradition has been passed down through generations, and bathing in a Temazcal is a unique opportunity to honor Mayan culture and find harmony within yourself. Some hotels have Temazcals for guests to use, but if yours doesn't, then head to Doron Yoga & Zen Centre.

34. Visit A Medicinal Herb Garden Run By Midwives

The Qomaneel Center in San Juan is a medicinal and curative herb garden operated by "comedrones", otherwise known as midwives. The garden aims to supply local families with natural medicinal and personal hygiene products that they otherwise would struggle to access.

The midwives of San Juan have established an orchard with 15 species of plants including rosemary, chamomile, and eucalyptus. Upon visiting the center, you are guided through the garden and given samples of each plant with a description of its curative powers. Natural soaps, teas, and shampoos are made on the premises, and you can buy some for yourself at the gift shop and show support for this noble organization.

You can visit the Qomaneel Center individually or as part of the San Juan tour.

An allotment divided into sections with labels of what is grown there.

36. Tour The MayanKe Ceramics Factory

MayanKe is a ceramics cooperative made up of talented artisans in San Antonio Palopo. They create beautiful hand-painted coffee mugs, decorative crosses, and all kinds of pottery. There's an array of designs on sale at the factory where you'll also learn about the interesting history, tracing back to when famous ceramics artist, Ken Edwards, came to Guatemala looking for clay. All of the profits from these products go back to the artisans that made them. 

A tour of the Mayane ceramics factory is included in the Santa Catarina and San Antonio tour.

Green, blue and white hand painted plates, jugs and mugs.

37. Visit The Church Of St. Francis

In Lake Atitlan, one of the most notable cathedrals to visit is the Church of St. Francis (Iglesia de San Francisco) in Panajachel. This beautiful cathedral stands out with its impressive architecture and historical significance. While its exterior showcases a beautiful colonial-style facade, its interior incorporates indigenous Mayan elements, creating a fascinating cultural fusion. The Church of St. Francis is a must-visit site for architecture lovers and history fanatics.

A worn-looking white bricked cathedral.

38. Take The Lancha Between The Lakeside Villages

Riding the lancha in Lake Atitlan is the quickest and cheapest way to travel between each lakeside village, but the truth is, the trip is worth it for the beautiful views alone. Whilst peering out of the low-rise boat windows, you'll see majestic volcanoes behind fresh splashes of water. Picturesque landscapes encircle the lake, and as you glide across the crystal-clear waters, you'll feel a sense of serenity and connection with the natural beauty that surrounds you. Lanchas depart regularly from all village ports. Hop aboard, chat with friendly locals, and embrace their heartwarming hospitality as you journey across the lake.

Lancha gently gliding through the lake.

39. Enjoy The Family Dinner At La Iguana Perdida

Family dinners at La Iguana Perdida hostel in Santa Cruz are the perfect opportunity for strangers to become friends. Over a delicious home-cooked meal, you'll meet fellow travelers and share stories of your adventures. The sense of camaraderie and connection during these dinners is truly special, and the delicious food is the cherry on top. At around 70Q for three courses, it's exceptional value for money. But make sure to sign up in advance at reception or message them via Instagram.

Travellers fill their plates with food in a candle-lit room.

40. Try The Ice Cream At Dolce Gelato

If you're one with a sweet tooth, the ice cream at Dolce Gelato will make your taste buds sing with joy. There's a wide array of mouthwatering flavors at Dolce Gelato, each handcrafted with love using locally sourced ingredients. From classic favorites to unique, exotic blends inspired by the region's rich culinary heritage, there's something to satisfy every craving, but our favorite has got to be 70% dark chocolate. Pop into one of their parlors around Lake Atitlan and sample the flavors for yourself.

Four different flavours of ice cream in cups.

How many days to spend at Lake Atitlan?

As a general suggestion, spending at least 3 to 5 days at Lake Atitlan would give you a good balance of relaxation and exploration. This duration allows you to explore a few different villages, take boat tours, enjoy the stunning views, and experience some of the unique activities and cultural offerings around the lake. However, if you have more time available, extending your stay will allow you to delve deeper into the local culture and fully embrace the tranquility and beauty of this magical destination.

What if I only have one day in Lake Atitlan?

If you have just one day to explore the enchanting Lake Atitlán, here's a whirlwind plan to help you make the most of your visit.

Morning: Get up early to witness the stunning sunrise over the lake – trust us, it's worth the early rise!

Breakfast: Fuel up with a tasty breakfast at a local spot to kick-start your day.

Mid-Morning: Hop on a speedy boat tour to get a taste of the lake's beauty and visit some of the charming villages.

Late Morning / Early Afternoon: Explore one of the villages during your boat tour – there's a mix of cultures and crafts waiting to be discovered.

Lunch: Refuel with a delicious lakeside lunch – you'll love the flavors of Guatemalan cuisine.

Afternoon: Dive into the local scene, check out the markets, and embrace the cultural vibes.

Late Afternoon: Relax by the lake, take it all in, and soak up the serene atmosphere.

Evening: End your day with either a sunset boat cruise or a short hike for breathtaking views.

Dinner: Savor a delightful dinner at a restaurant of your choice – a great way to wrap up your Lake Atitlan adventure.


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