Lake Atitlán is consistently ranked as one of the most scenic lakes in the world, and as I recently found, it lives up to the hype. Apart from being surrounded by 3 towering volcanoes and lush jungle, its shores host a handful of villages, each with its own character and charm. On my day touring the towns of Lake Atitlán I found that there truly is a spot for every type of traveler out there. Where do you fit in? Let’s find out.
Panajachel – The hub
If you are someone that likes it all, settle in Panajachel. Pana is the largest tourist town on the shores of Lake Atitlán and offers a great jumping off point for adventurous activities and excursions. Touring the towns of Lake Atitlán can be achieved by boat and bus trips to Chichicastenango depart from here. With plenty of shopping and restaurant options, Panajachel is the perfect spot for those that want all.
It’s also an amazing spot to watch the sunset over Lake Atitlán.
The Los Volcanes hotel is a great spot to call home while touring the towns of Lake Atitlán. I could tell you about the hotels family run laid back style but all you need to know about it is Paco, the hotel’s resident parrot.
San Marcos – The hippie Yogi
If Panajachel is too touristy or crowded for your tastes, or if you’re looking for a spiritual yoga filled retreat, San Marcos is for you. This laid back village has become a mecca for barefooted vegan loving folk looking for relaxation and inner peace. If this is you, then you are home. As for me, I was OK with just touring the towns of Lake Atitlán and I was happy with a short visit to this granola town. I will get my beetroot ginger and kale juice to go, please.
Santa Clara– The local
Santa Clara is developed high aboveLake Atitlán making for a steep climb and sweaty workout. Santa Clara’s seclusion keeps visitors to a minimum so head here if you are looking for a true getaway. There are a few hotels along the shore but beyond that, it is local living. Santa Clara is also home to the lake’s only PADI dive shop.
San Juan– The Artist
Located on the westernmost shore of Lake Atitlán is Santa Juan. There is little to no tourists here and thus is friendly and inviting. Buildings are colorful and craftwork is a primary focus of locals. Here you can take a weaving class from a group of Mayan women at Lema. This 5-hour class costs only ~$35 USD and sounds fascinating…if that is your thing.
San Pedro – The backpacking partier
The most popular party spot of the towns of Lake Atitlán is San Pedro. With its high concentration of hostels and expat run bars, San Pedro has quickly become one of the best party spots on the Central American backpacker trail. Drink the night away then nurse your hangover with Lakeside bars that have diving boards off the patios.
This is only a selection of the towns of Lake Atitlán and ones I got to visit. There are a handful of other towns and villages that are worth checking out, but just as a day trip or jumping off point for a local activity. For example, visit Santiago Atitlán for its shrine to Maximón or stay in Jaibalito for an early morning departure on the scenic walking trail to Santa Cruz.
So there you have it. Which town on Lake Atitlán is for you?
What say you?
Thoughts on Touring the Towns of Lake Atitlán?
Let’s hear it!