A huge body of deep blue water that stretches into the distance
and takes at least half an hour to cross by motorised boat, the
lake has an amazing setting, ringed by imposing volcanoes. This is
a fabulous place for hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, or just
relaxing in one of the elegant hotels around the lake's shoreline,
and it also has a strong spiritual feel too.
If you are interested in Guatemala's colourful indigenous
population, taking a boat trip to visit the villages that hug the
lakeshore, such as Santiago, Santa Catarina and San Antonio, is
Maya customs and beliefs are strongly adhered to in these tiny
remote communities, whose residents proudly wear traditional dress
that distinguishes each town from the next.
We recommend taking a helicopter from Antigua, which avoids a
long drive and means incredible views of the Mayan site of Iximche,
and the volcanoes surrounding the lake.
Lake Atitlan Itinerary Ideas
Best for: Couples, Honeymoons, Families and Solo Travellers
Head out on a privately guided hike up the active Pacaya
Volcano, starting in the surrounding pine forest before heading up
the trickier molten rock area where hot steam seeps through
crevices at the base of the volcano. Learn about Pacaya's formation
and evolution as you traverse its ever-changing face, and take in
views of neighbouring volcanoes, pacific lowlands and even El
If You Do Three Things
Kayak on the Lake
Take a leisurely kayak tour of Lake Atitlan, starting in San
Pedro la Laguna and ending up at Las Cristalinas beach where you
can relax on the white sand and swim in the lake. On your way,
enjoy views of the lake's surrounding volcanic chain including
Acatenango and Fuego, and the many lakeside villages that you can
visit en route.
If You Do Three Things
Two hours from Lake Atitlan, the traditional market town of
Chichicastenango, with its red-tiled roofs and narrow cobbled
streets, feels like stepping back in time and is the perfect place
to pick up some local artisan crafts. Visit on the market days of
Thursday and Sunday when indigenous Mayans from surrounding
villages come to trade their wares.
My highlight: There is no more spectacular way to travel to Lake Atitlan than by helicopter from Antigua: you'll pass over the city and the volcanoes of Agua and Acatenango before getting a bird's eye view of the lake itself.
Like much of Central America, Guatemala represents good value in comparison to its South American counterparts. Antigua Guatemala is full of reasonably priced boutique hotels (costing around £100 a night), but in Atitlan and Tikal, we’d recommend you go all out and stay in the best hotels, which means that a 10-day trip to Guatemala could cost from £2,000 per person including flights.