Lake Atitlan: the most beautiful lake in the world

Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase we will earn a commission at no additional cost to you. We chose these companies / hotels because of their quality and not because of the commission we receive from your purchases.

Lake Atitlan is often described as the most beautiful lake in the world. At this lake, you will be enchanted by beautiful volcanoes, amazing sunsets and serene tranquility. Mix this with the vibrant Mayan community in colorful costumes, and you'll understand why Atitlan has something magical. Contrary to popular belief, Lago Atitlan is much more than one place. Around the lake, you will find numerous villages, each with its unique vibe and highlights. In this article, you can read exactly what to expect around Atitlan, where to sleep and eat the most delicious food.


Panajachel is where most backpackers and other travelers arrive when they go to Atitlan. It is the largest village and quite busy, mainly due to the traffic. Nevertheless, a lot of people still choose to stay here because of the good connection with other villages. Ideal if you have little time and want to see a lot. Panajachel is also a place where many people learn Spanish and volunteer. In addition, you can find nice restaurants and cafes. It can be a bit of a party town so be prepared.  

Reserva Natural Atitlan
Are you looking for peace? Then you might want to stay at Reserva Natural Atitlan.
They have very big and clean rooms. Super friendly staff and in a very quiet area. The trails, wildlife viewing and butterfly sanctuary are amazing. 

San Marcos La Laguna

San Marcos is hippy heaven. So do you feel like practicing yoga? Or maybe you like to eat delicious vegetarian food? I'm sure you will find a place that suits your needs. San Marcos is also one of the most beautiful villages on the lake. You won't find an overly loud nightlife here, but you will find many restaurants with healthy dishes. Life here is less primitive than in the more traditional villages. San Marcos La Laguna is relaxed enough to linger a little longer.

Lush Atitlan
This hotel is the nicest place to stay in San Marcos. It’s a haven of tranquility in the most beautiful setting.The treatment of the people who attend the hotel is incredible and the location is very nice. It is hidden but still close to the town of San Marcos.

San Antonio Palopo or Santa Catarina Palopo: The place for culture lovers

Are you more looking for culture than hotspots or parties? Then San Antonio Palopo or Santa Catarina Palopo is the best choice for you. Both villages are known for their costumes and beautiful vieuws. In San Antonio you will find two amazing white churches. Do you like shopping? This little village is also full of ceramic pots and nice home accessories. Santa Catarina is famous for its relaxing hot springs!

San Pedro

San Pedro is the party village of Atitlan. Here you will find many bars and restaurants where you can sit down for a drink or ten. It is also the budget destination for backpackers with a wide range of hostels. In addition, you will find all kinds of tour agencies where you can book different activities. The downside is that in this village you have no views on the volcanoes. 

Santa Cruz the Laguna 

This is a very small village with fantastic views of the lake. The water here is clean and you can take an ice cold dip. We recommend to put this village on your itinerary. 

Laguna Eco Lodge
This lodge is very idyllic and beautiful on the lake with a fantastic view. We loved that the the food was exclusively vegetarian.The Nature Reserve in which it is situated is well suited for morning hikes.

San Juan de Laguna 

Do you want to escape the tourists? Then San Juan de Laguna is a very relaxing place. It's an excellent place to start your sunrise hike to the Indian Nose, but it's not the most exciting village. For a couple it is definitely a good option, but you really have to be able to enjoy yourself. We stayed at the Mayachik eco-hostel with very large rooms and a nice garden and felt at home.

How do you get to Lake Atitlan?

You can travel from Chichicastenango in just over 1.5 hours drive to a village like Panajachel. But also from Guatemala City or a place like Antigua you can arrange a shuttle bus. It'll take you three hours to do this. From Panajachel you can then easily go by boat to one of the other villages.

Best restaurants

The Fifth Dimension (vegetarian)
Absolutely amazing meals with the most spectacular view of the lake. Open late on Fridays and Saturdays for dinner. The co-owner, from Ireland, is super kind. This was by far the healthiest food we’d had in long time in Central America. Amazing vegan stuff. 

Moonfish cafe
Cute little cafe with a wide selection of vegetarian and even vegan options. I had the tempeh scramble breakfast with freshly baked bread and it was delicious. My friend had the fruit salad. The service was friendly and fast. It's well located in the center of San Marcos.

Cafe El Artesano
A slice of Italy tucked away in a small, lakeside Guatemalan city. Amazing food and reservations are absolutely required!! Please do not show up without one. 

Cafe Sabor Cruceno
This place has one of the best views on the lake. The drinks are always fresh and delicious and the coffee is great. The food might be the tastiest food you will ever find in Guatemala. On top of that they have a humanitarian mission as well.

Prices Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is arguably one of the best value destinations in the world. Everything from accommodation and food to transportation and activities is at least 50% less than in the US or Europe.

Best time to visit

Lake Atitlan can best be visited from November til April which is the dry season. Click here for more climate information. 

This article was last updated on April 19, 2023.