LAKE ATITLAN. A MAGIC PLACE IN GUATEMALA!
January 1, 1970
by Pablo Osorio
Almost Paradise. A magic destination you would never forget!
Atitlan is a natural destination located in the department of Sololá, in Guatemala, where an 18 km length lake will brighten your eyes instantly. With a panoramic view of the lake and 3 volcanos: Atitlan, Tolimán and San Pedro, Lake Atitlan is a place you will surely fall in love with.
Before I write about its beautifulness, I want to tell you how you can get there, or at least how I did it.
First of all, the money they use in Guatemala are “Quetzales” (Q.) If you get to Guatemala by plane, then you will be landing in Guatemala City, where you can exchange your money to Quetzales. In the touristic places they will also accept US Dollars, so if you have them, don´t worry too much because you will be able to spend them.
The easiest way I found to get to Lake Atitlan is from “La Antigua”. You can also travel from Guatemala City to Sololá directly. Lake Atitlan has many little towns and there is three of them where you can arrive: “Panajachel” which is the most famous town. “Santa Cruz” a luxury little town, or “San Pedro La Laguna”, the other most famous town. I chose to go to San Pedro La Laguna because the first bus that was leaving at the moment was heading there. There is transport to any of this 3 towns and once you are in one of them, you can move by boat.
There are two kinds of transport in Guatemala:
Public: Between 3 Quetzales (“Tuc Tuc”) and 30 Quetzales (Bus from one city to another)
- Cheap, very cheap.
- Not organized (you will stand, seat, go tight, or everything at once)
- Very Cheap
- Hot (without air conditioning)
- Slow (lots of stops, and slow buses or tiny vans)
- Dangerous? Nothing ever happened to me, but I heard some bad experiences
Tourist/private: Between 25 Quetzales (taxi) and 100 Quetzales (shuttle vans)
- Expensive (compared to public)
- Air conditioner
- Faster than public, but still slow because of hard roads
Tourist vans/shuttle: The bus from La Antigua was about $30Q. There is also a shuttle van option (faster and more comfortable), the cost is $85Q. I wanted to sleep at Panajachel that night, but other backpackers told me there was a lot of parties there, and I just wanted to rest, so I stayed at San Pedro. Once I got to San Pedro, I looked for a hostel; there is a lot of options so don’t freak out if you didn’t book one. The one I chose wasn’t the best option, so I won’t event recommend it to you.
Sports at Lake Atitlán
There are many activities to do in lake Atitlan besides shopping traditional crafts:
Almost every town that has the lake by its side offers you kayaks. I would recommend doing it early in the morning. You will not get sunburn and you could watch one of the best views of the volcanos.
There are some hiking and trekking tours all over the towns, you have to take a tour and photograph all the stunning places they are going to take you.
If you don’t love hiking or trekking, taking a horse with you could be the best option! You will probably take the same road as hiking, but more quickly and probably more fun.
Climb a volcano:
For this option, it is highly recommended paying someone of the town to take you. Some of them already offer the tours and they will give you everything you need climbing. Forget about crampons or gaiters, the weather is hot up there. You can find many options to go. I think that if you have experience in climbing, then you only need a local that knows the road.
Mountain biking Biking/ Downhill:
Either going down the San Pedro Volcano or going from San Marcos to Santa Cruz la Laguna, riding a bike in Atitlan is one of the best experiences I’ve had when it comes to bikes.
I am not a big fan or expert in these topics and I didn’t to them, but there was a lot of offers on these type of activities.
In my opinion, this is the types of towns that you could find in Lake Atitlan:
Panajachel: Party! The biggest town by the lake. Is one of the easiest to get there and probably the town with most of the tourist. You are going to find any variety of food, hostels and activities and nightclubs (little bars), but maybe not the real culture of Atitlan.
San Pedro: party + relax + backpackers + restaurants. Another big town of Atitlan, easy to arrive and easy to stay. For me, was the perfect combination of friends, relax, activities and party. It is a great place to stay a night or two.
San Marcos: Hippie, very hippie + Yoga/meditation + relax + great view. It is way more relaxed because the backpackers go to find some spirituality. You will find some nice hostels and some incredible ones! In the mornings you will open your eyes and watch an amazing view of the three volcanoes surrounded by a variety of greens of nature, lake, and boats.
Santa Catarina de Palopó: Culture. They are not as touristy as other towns and people still follow a wide variety of traditions and culture. If you want to have this kind of experience, that’s your option.
Santa Cruz La Laguna: Luxury hotels. There is no way to get there by car. You can only get there by boat. I personally didn’t go there, but I heard great comments.
San Lucas Toliman: Shopping crafts. One of the cheapest places to buy crafts and textiles. You can get there by boat, and do all your shoppings in the street stores. It does not have much to see.
To look for a hostel or a place to stay, I would recommend looking in trip advisor in this link
There is some other little towns in which you will surely feel amazed.
With all of these been said, I can tell you that this has been one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Its nature, culture, activities and views make it an unforgettable destination.
This is a place I can label with: Sports and Travel Destination!