Lake Atitlán is considered the most beautiful lake in the world by National Geographic in its Spanish version, it is also number one in the list of the most beautiful lakes in the world by ListAmaze Magazine, which makes it a top destination in Guatemala. It is surrounded by volcanoes and beautiful, undeveloped towns where you can get in touch with the Mayan culture and have the perfect opportunity to relax and appreciate life. Just looking at the lake is an experience itself; there’s something in the beauty of the landscape that makes you forget about time and wish you could stay forever.
Panajachel is the closest town to the city, it is easy to get there in a car or a bus (it takes about two and a half hours) and offers more options for food and accommodation than the rest of the towns. If you are looking for handcraft, pottery or any authentic ethnical item, Calle Santander is the best place to get it directly from the artisans; Calle Santander is a street in Panajachel that leads to the lake, it is full of restaurants, hotels and street stores. As you make your way to the lake, you will find locals offering boat trips to the rest of the towns which usually includes a local guide, cultural experiences and gives you enough time to get to know the place and have lunch.
Tip: if you are on a budget, don’t agree on the price right away, they will make it a little cheaper if you say the price is too high.
If you are looking for nightlife, Panajachel and San Pedro La Laguna are the best options for you. You will find cheap drinks and food in both of these towns. Finding the perfect bar will depend on your personality, but the most popular ones are Pana Rock – in Panajachel – and Zoola – in San Pedro- . These towns are amazing if you enjoy live music and bar hopping, with the difference that San Pedro suits better a hippie lifestyle than Panajachel.
Where to stay
If you decide to stay in Panajachel or spend a morning there, breakfast at Porta Hotel Antigua is a good option, where you can get nice quality food and service for a great price. On the other hand, if you are looking to relax, release stress or a romantic getaway, consider finding a hotel in Santa Catarina Palopó or Santa Cruz La Laguna.
Casa Prana is a wonderful option if you enjoy doing yoga and meditating, it is a luxury boutique hotel with fantastic views and a pool of salt water, they send a nice private boat to pick you up at Panajachel and it takes around 20 minutes to get there. The interiors of this hotel are stunning, however, the food is a little expensive for what you get, which you should consider on your travel budget, but the amazing mojitos make it up. Also, if you are looking for luxury and an outstanding experience, then Casa Palopó is a perfect option; it was considered the best hotel in the Caribbean and Central America according to Condé Nast Travelers Reader’s Choice Awards in 2015 and it is currently number 6 in the top 10 of the same Awards. It is located in Santa Catarina Palopó, a small town characterized for being colourful thanks to the initiative “Pintando a Santa Catarina Palopó” (Painting Santa Catarina Palopó) of the Assosiation “Painting Change”. This project consists in painting the houses of the town with colors that represent the culture of the locals with a design inspired in a huipil. If you like colourful houses, this is the place for you.
For anyone who enjoys travel photography or posting on social media, Lake Atitlán is a must. The fantastic landscape will make it easy for you to get an amazing shot. Make sure to wake up early for the sunrise and do not miss the sunset; it will take your worries away and leave you speechless.
Describing this marvellous lake can be very difficult, there’s something about it you can’t put into words and can only experience. The locals are nice, the weather is fantastic – if you make sure you don’t visit during raining season, which is usually from May to September – and it is one of the cheapest destinations you will find in Guatemala. If you are looking to run away from a crowded, noisy city, you won’t regret visiting this lovely place. Make sure you find a spot with a hammock and allow yourself to have some time to breath and appreciate the present moment, let go of the bad and make room for all the good things this natural paradise offers to it’s visitors. Don’t forget a nice book if you are a reader and get ready for a life changing vacation in beautiful Guatemala.