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 finest locations to go to in Central America.
Discover out why I really like Lake Atitlán a lot with this listing of my favourite issues to do, and keep tuned for professional recommendations on how you can 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 non secular hub of kinds, 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 that you could hang around on, catch some rays on, and leap off from into the water.
Out of all of the superior locations to swim on Lake Atitlán, that is my best choice. It may well get slightly crowded within the afternoon, so I like to recommend heading there within the early morning. There are additionally kayaks accessible for lease, although it’s important to return them earlier than midday.
2. Catch an epic dawn on the lake
There are few locations on Atitlán the place you may see the sundown, however lots the place you may catch a stunning dawn. For the reason that lake is surrounded by tall mountains and volcanoes, you received’t see the solar arising over the horizon. As an alternative, you’ll see its rays enhance 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 well worth the early wake-up name, and it’s additionally peaceable to look at the birds and small fishing boats on the water.
3. Lease a paddleboard…
As paddleboarding is considered one of Lake Atitlán’s hottest actions, there’s an abundance of locations to lease them. Typical costs are round 50 quetzales ($6.50 USD) per hour, and I like to recommend doing not less than two hours if you wish to really make the most of the rental. Time all the time flies by too rapidly!
Once you lease a paddleboard, ensure you have loads of solar safety and a water-resistant bag on your valuables. The solar will be harsh right here due to the excessive altitude, and there might 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 hold my telephone in. Or, simply go away your telephone and pockets behind.
I rented my paddleboard at La Casa del Mundo (extra on that under), which I extremely suggest. You can too 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 lots of enjoyable on Atitlán and will let you cowl extra floor than a paddleboard, although the rental costs are the identical. Most locations will ask you if you wish to lease a river kayak or an ocean one. Go for the ocean kayak, as a result of they’re extra steady and deal with the waves from passing boats significantly 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 legendary for its work, San Juan for its textiles, and so forth. One of the simplest ways to study concerning 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.
Apart from the bonus of getting a neighborhood information, a tour is a extra sensible approach to see all of the villages and is definitely cheaper in some circumstances. Because you’d need to 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 through tuk-tuk, the price 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 to not skip out on visiting not less than one Mayan village. If you happen to’re in a pinch for time, make it Santiago. Although Santiago is technically the biggest city on the lake (I beforehand thought it was Panajachel however was corrected by a neighborhood information), it retains its sturdy cultural id. It’s identified for its distinctive artwork model, and also you’ll see a number of outlets promoting authentic work. Looking for handicrafts is the secret right here, together with quite a lot of textiles, leather-based items, and wood-carved statues, amongst different gadgets. Even after going to some improbable markets in Antigua, I nonetheless suppose the number of artesenías in Santiago reigns supreme.
Whilst you’re right here, take into account exploring the city to study extra concerning the tradition. There are various 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 kinds, 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 aspect 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 honest.
I didn’t keep at La Casa del Mundo, as a result of it was totally booked, however the lodge gives day passes for 50 quetzales ($6.50 USD). The day move permits you entry to the widespread areas of the lodge, together with the lounge chairs proper on the lake. There isn’t any higher place to calm down 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 true subsequent to La Casa del Mundo and is value a fast go to. There’s a terrific 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 status 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 listing for subsequent time. This market is the biggest in all of Central America, and well-known for its insanely low costs for textiles and different souvenirs. It’s additionally an essential cultural website with a wealthy historical past of spiritual worship and celebrations.
As with every giant market, observe loads of warning at Chichicastenango, as pickpocketing is quite common. You’ll be able to simply go to the market by yourself by catching a bus from Panajachel on to Chichicastenango, however the most secure and best approach to get there’s by becoming a member of a tour.
10. Try the San Juan viewpoint
San Juan is an enthralling small city subsequent to the massive backpacker haven of San Pedro. Right here you’ll take pleasure in strolling the streets and admiring the road artwork, however the true gem of San Juan is the Mirador Kiaq’Aiswaan. This viewpoint takes a few 30-minute hike to achieve, and as you ascend, you’ll discover that the steps start to alter, getting an increasing number of colourful.
When you attain the highest, you’ll see that your complete 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 plenty of different scenes. The work themselves are lovely, however the view of the lake and surrounding mountains is equally as excellent.
The right way to Get to Lake Atitlán
The right way to get to Atitlán depends 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 may take a ship to the village the place you’re staying.
From Guatemala Metropolis, Guatemala
From Guatemala Metropolis, the simplest and quickest approach to get to Lake Atitlán is by shuttle service. Most shuttles choose you up on the airport, however you can too organize for them to select you up at your lodge in case you’re staying in a single day in Guatemala Metropolis. I don’t suggest this, although, and suppose staying in Antigua is a greater choice, as a result of it’s a safer metropolis with extra issues to do. Nonetheless, if you’re already planning to go from Guatemala Metropolis to Lake Atitlán, this shuttle is simple and inexpensive.
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 experience takes about three hours and winds via the mountains. I get automobile sick however took Dramamine for the experience 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 finished this journey two methods: through public transportation (aka “hen buses”) and through shuttle. After the complicated hen bus expertise, I can’t suggest it for solo vacationers, particularly in case you don’t communicate Spanish. It is also harmful because of frequent highway closures alongside the way in which. As an alternative, you may simply e-book a shuttle with Gekko, which is $50 USD every means.
The right way to Get Round As soon as You’re There
When you get to Panajachel, attending to any of the villages you could be staying in is simple. Simply go to the dock and inform one of many folks 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 all the time paid after your experience. 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 experience, simply look and see if any locals are doing it. If not, it’s a rip-off.
When you get to your village, the easiest way to get round is through tuk-tuk. They’re often dependable and low cost, although many of the villages are sufficiently small to get round on foot.
Now you may 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?