There is no doubt about it, if you are travelling in Guatemala, you’re more than likely going to be heading to Lake Atitlan. A beautiful lake known as Lago de Atitlan to the locals and a 3-hour drive from Antigua (well, kind of). The lake is surrounded by a backdrop of stunning volcanos and each town around the lake offers a little something different.
How to get there
If you are arriving from Antigua, you will likely arrive in Panajachel, or Pana as it is more commonly known. The shuttle from Antigua costs around 70Q and takes anywhere from 3 hours to 4.5 hours, depending on traffic. You can take a boat across to San Pedro from here for around 20 Quetzales return.
San Pedro is the most popular place for backpackers to stay and is a busy town with tons of guesthouses, bars and restaurants. I must admit, I was a little overwhelmed when we arrived here as I was expecting somewhere a lot more peaceful and laid back. In hindsight we should have stayed on the quieter side of San Pedro but then I guess hindsight is a wonderful thing!
Where to stay
We stayed at Hotel Helen, which is just a 5-minute walk from the main ferry port and it has amazing views of lake Atitlan. The accommodation was cheap and cheerful and had a hammock outside the room, always a winner for me! The accommodation cost £17 per night for a double private room with your own bathroom. The rooms are basic but comfortable. The only negative is the loud music from the bars opposite but by law they have to turn the music off at 11pm.
Things to do
So, what can you do at lake Atitlan? Well, there are heaps of activities and things to do such as drinking, hiking and hammock swinging. One of the more popular activities is the sunrise hike to Indian’s nose. It’s a 3.30am wake-up call to hike Indian’s Nose viewpoint which sits at 2,863 meters looking over the stunning lake. There are other hikes you can do which include Volcano San Pedro. There are plenty of travel agencies selling excursions to the volcanos so shop around and find the best deal, oh and don’t forget to haggle! Usually you can save a few bucks.
Food and drink
One of the most popular past times seems to be drinking and you can do your fair share of that at the lake. I wasn’t able to drink when I was visiting, but I still had a great time at Sublime bar which hosts various nights during the week. We happened to be there for the open mic night and I must say there was plenty of talent performing. Food at Sublime is really good and they have a pretty large menu with lots of veggie options. The added bonus of eating here is that you can enjoy your food whilst looking out over the lake.
Another amazing foodie spot we went to was Sababa, which served the best breakfast I have ever had! I am a sucker for a good breakfast, good coffee and good Wi-Fi and this place delivered on all counts. On my first visit, I had eggs which came with cheese, avocado, black olives and pesto and a bowl of delicious baked bread. It was heaven!! I didn’t think it could get any better until Chris and I shared the Shakshuka with is an authentic Israeli breakfast and holy crap it was good! We have since recreated this masterpiece breakfast ourselves as it was so good! I honestly can’t rate this place highly enough. If you go to the lake, eat here!
Visiting other towns
One of the favourite things Chris and I did was to take a boat trip across the lake and visit the neighbouring town of San Marco. You can jump on the public boat from the main ferry port and take the relaxing 10-minute journey across to San Marco for only 20 Quetazles. San Marco is gorgeous place to escape the madness of San Pedro which is a hippy haven full of yoga, relaxation, crystals and dreadlocks!
Just a short 10-minute walk from the ferry port you can find a guesthouse called Hostel Del Lago which has a pier where you can relax by the lake all day, soak up the sun and enjoy the sound of the waves crashing on the shore with amazing views of the volcanoes. Hostel Del Lago also has a yoga studio which is on a raised platform overlooking the lake and have various yoga and meditation classes going on throughout the day. They do have a bar and restaurant – just don’t be in a rush when you order food as it takes time.
If I was to go back to lake Atitlan, I would stay in San Pedro to enjoy a wild night out and then hop over to San Marco to relax and rewind for the remainder of my time there. There really is something for everyone so make sure you check out as many of the villages as you can to decide which is your favourite!
Have you ever been to lake Atitlan? Where was your favourite town? Let me know in the comments below.
Keep on wandering!