Located in the highlands of Guatemala, Lake Atitlán is one of those places that finds a special place in your traveler’s heart for long after you’ve gone. Aldous Huxley famously described the lake as “too much of a good thing,” a fitting description for one of the beautiful corners of the world.
Read on if you don’t want to miss out! Here’s why Lake Atitlán is a must for your travel bucket list.
The views are unparalleled
The first image of Lake Atitlán sticks with you forever.
The lake lies at the bottom of an ancient volcanic caldera and is thus surrounded by a ring of mountains. Looking out onto the blue waters against a backdrop of high mountains and volcanoes is an experience you won’t soon forget, and observing the moon’s reflection on the placid waters by night will satisfy any romantic!
With three volcanoes around Lake Atitlán, it’s no wonder the place is a hotspot for travelers! These are Volcan Atitlán, Volcán San Pedro and Volcán Tolimán. Don’t worry, these aren’t active volcanoes, but the more active among you can certainly hike up to them for truly unforgettable views of the landscape.
The weather is always good in Lake Atitlán
Lake Atitlán’s weather is one of perennial spring and boasts year-round warm temperatures during the day and cool, breezy nights. It’s the perfect weather for all the activities you’d do around the lake, neither too hot nor too cold... just right.
Have a vacation during the winter? Exploring central America over the summer break? Any time is a good time to be in Lake Atitlán!
It’s an important center of Maya culture
The Maya have lived by Lake Atitlán’s gentle shores for centuries, leaving their mark on the landscape and infusing it with the color of their culture. In modern times, Kaqchikels, Tzu’tujil, and K’iche Maya all converge around the lake, each group concentrated within their own villages.
Known for their warm and hospitable nature, the Maya will make you feel at home during your travels. The local culture has survived tourism and locals keep to their traditional ways, many of whom still wear their hand-woven, colorful clothes and speak their ancient dialects.
If you’re one who likes to get immersed in the local cultures, this is the place for you. Be sure to visit one of the shrines to Maximón, the chain-smoking patron saint of the Maya!
FUN FACT: Did you know archaeologists have found ancient sunken ruins at the bottom of the lake?
There’s a place for everyone on Lake Atitlán
There are a variety of villages around Lake Atitlán, each one a different shade of awesome. Panajachel is a hip town that boasts one of the largest markets on the lake. San Pedro is a backpacker destination known for its lively night culture. San Marcos is a quiet place for those seeking to unwind and do some lakeside yoga or meditation. Santiago Atitlán is a hub of local Maya culture.
Each village or town boasts its own activities or quirks that distinguish them from each other. Why not explore them all?
Want to do some watersports? Of course you can! It’s a lake! Alternatively, go hike a volcano, dance the night away at one of the dance clubs, see the Maya weaving their cloths on traditional looms, go for a spa or a massage- life is always happening on Lake Atitlán!
Go loco shopping for local
From sneakers made with colorful Maya patterns to shirts and rugs woven in the traditional looms of the villages surrounding the lake, shopping in Atitlán not only helps the locals but also is an integral part of the magic of visiting the Lake. The bright colors of crafts sold in the stalls will entice you to stuff as much of the lake into your backpack as you can.
Local crafts will make thoughtful gifts for loved ones back home and memorable souvenirs of your travels. There’s a bit of everything for everybody, from traditional crafts to boutique stores where quality cloths and jewelry is sold.
If you’re having the time of your life, why not take a piece of Atitlán back home?
Yes, we have coffee!
Lake Atitlán, blessed with volcanic soil and year-round good weather, produces its own variety of coffee, which can be drunk all around the lake. An Atitlán coffee blend has a crisp chocolatey taste with notes of citrus in it, a delicious beginning for a morning of exploring a magical place!
~ Miguel Yga
Writer and Adventure Traveler