So, you’re spending time in gorgeous Lake Atitlan. Besides lazing around your accommodation and enjoying the jaw-dropping views of the lake, there’s plenty to do at this amazing Guatemalan destination! But what should you do and where should you go? Making the most of your trip can be a scary endeavor, so to help you, we’ve come up with the 25 absolute BEST things to do in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala!

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How to Get to Lake Atitlan

things to do in lake atitlan - how to get there

First things first, how do you get to Lake Atitlan? Getting around Guatemala is relatively easy, depending on the mode of transport you choose.

The three main modes of transport in Guatemala are:

  • Tourist shuttle: This is the option we chose and is the most popular way to get around, as it’s affordable, convenient, and safe.
  • Private car: If you have some cash to spare, getting a private car can save you a lot of time being herded around in a tourist shuttle.
  • Chicken bus: If you’re all about having an adventure and an authentic experience, you can take a chicken bus to get to Lake Atitlan, but keep in mind that you may have to transfer several times to get here.

Of course, the time and money it takes to arrive will highly depend on where you depart from.

If you are following our ultimate Guatemalan itinerary, you’ll be arriving in Lake Atitlan after a couple of days in Antigua. If this is the case, your tourist shuttle will take around 3 hours to arrive and will cost roughly 100 to 150 Q or $13 to $20 USD.

Where to Stay in Lake Atitlan

things to do in lake atitlan - where to stay

Accommodation is one of the most important aspects of your trip to Lake Atitlan. Lucky for you, Lake Atitlan is filled with some of the most amazing places to stay in the entire country. Whether you are looking for something more budget-friendly or a bougie villa to stay in with your loved one… Lake Atitlan has it all!

Some of our favorite places to stay in Lake Atitlan include:

  • Free Cerveza (Santa Cruz): A great budget option, perfect in particular for solo travelers, is Free Cerveza, which, you guessed it, offers free beer for 2 hours every evening!
  • Eagle’s Nest (San Marcos): Eagle’s Nest is the place to stay if you’re after a yoga retreat where you can spend your days soul-searching.
  • La Casa Del Mundo: We stayed here, and it is honestly one of the most picturesque accommodations we have ever experienced. This hotel is where you want to stay if you want a hotel that seems to come right out of a fairytale book. La Casa Del Mundo has gone viral on TikTok for a reason!

To see our complete list of our favorite hotels and hostels in the area, check out our post on where to stay in Lake Atitlan.

25 Things to Do in Lake Atitlan

There’s no shortage of things to do in Lake Atitlan! Here are just 25 of the many things you can do to spend your trip here.

1. Go Village Hopping

things to do in lake atitlan - go village hopping

Of course, one of the first things you’ll need to do when arriving in Lake Atitlan is explore the villages around the lake. Since most of the villages in the area can only be reached by boat, they almost feel like islands. In fact, we learned that some neighboring villages even speak a completely different dialect of the Mayan language!

While there are plenty of other small towns scattered around the huge lake, you’ll want to visit these four villages in particular. Each of these towns has its own distinct vibe that’s worth exploring and getting to know.

This is where most Lake Atitlan accommodation will be based as well:

  • Panajachel (Pana): This is by far the most developed town in Lake Atitlan and is a great base for exploring the rest of Lake Atitlan and surrounding towns.
  • San Pedro: San Pedro is a backpacker’s town that is popular with tourists who want to learn Spanish, but the town also offers some great hiking and Mayan cultural classes.
  • San Juan: San Juan is a gorgeous local town that is filled with artisan shops, coffee, and beautiful street art as well.
  • San Marcos: San Marcos is a hippie town where you can take yoga classes, participate in various workshops, and even go cliff-diving if you dare!

To visit the other villages, you will need to take a boat. We recommend taking a public boat, which will generally come around every 15 minutes. However, if you want, you can also take a private boat.

2. Paddleboard in the Lake

One of the most popular activities to do in Lake Atitlan is paddleboarding. You can rent a paddleboard pretty much anywhere right by the lakefront – probably even your own accommodation. Just ask around, and you should easily be able to find one that you can use for an hour. Take your paddleboard and enjoy being on the serene lake and take a couple of cute Instagram photos while you’re at it!

Our advice? Go earlier than later! The lake tends to be a bit wavier in the afternoons.

3. Kayak in the Lake

If SUP is not for you, you can instead go kayaking. Just like with the paddleboards, you should easily be able to find a kayak that you can rent. Whether you pick a single or double kayak is up to you! And don’t forget your lifejacket – the lake is incredibly deep (over 1,000 feet in some parts!).

Our earlier advice still stands. We highly recommend kayaking in the mornings rather than the afternoons due to the rougher water conditions.

4. Go Cliff Jumping

things to do in lake atitlan - cliff jumping

Are you a bit of a thrill seeker? In that case, you HAVE TO go cliff jumping while in Lake Atitlan. Of course, you can’t simply go cliff jumping wherever you please. There is one specific cliff that is famous for cliff jumping due to the sheer height of the platform. But don’t worry; it’s safe! This famous cliff-jumping spot is located in the town of San Marcos in the Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve. You’ll need to pay a small fee to enter, but once you do, you’ll get the thrill of your lifetime jumping off a 10 to 15-meter (30 to 45-foot) cliff! Not a place you want to belly flop…

5. Climb a Volcano

Since Lake Atitlan is surrounded by three volcanoes, it only makes sense that one of the main things to do here is to climb one of them! The three volcanoes are Volcan San Pedro, Volcan Toliman, and Volcan Atitlan.

If you’re not sure which volcano to climb, here’s a quick overview of all three hikes:

  • Volcan San Pedro: San Pedro is by far the most accessible hike in Lake Atitlan. It takes about 3 hours to summit.
  • Volcan Toliman: Toliman is another great option that starts at a local market. It takes around 3.5 hours to summit.
  • Volcan Atitlan: Atitlan is difficult but not impossible to climb. You’ll need to start the trek from the San Juan side. Since it takes about 6 to 8 hours to summit, you may want to spend the night on the volcano. Since it is a more difficult hike, we recommend going with a guide.

All three volcanoes are relatively difficult to climb, so only attempt it if you have a good level of fitness. We highly recommend going with a guide as well. Make sure to bring a lot of water, food, and warm clothes when hiking any of these volcanoes! While it may take several hours to get to the summit, the effort will be well worth it, as you’ll be rewarded with the best views of the area!

The most popular volcano hike in Guatemala is Volcan Acatenango, which is near Antigua. On this hike, you’ll get to see the active volcano, Fuego, erupt every 20 minutes! Check out our ultimate guide to climbing Acatenango if you are interested in making the trip.

6. Hike Mayan Nose at Sunrise

things to do in lake atitlan - mayan nose

If the idea of hiking a tall and difficult volcano seems like too much, another great viewpoint of Lake Atitlan is at Mayan Nose, also called Rostro Maya or Mayan Face. The Indian Nose hike is generally a sunrise hike, where you’ll be awarded with some absolutely stunning views over the lake. The hike takes less than an hour, so it’s a much easier commitment for the non-hikers out there. You can find this mountain at San Juan, so you can explore the towns after the hike and search for some good and filling Guatemalan breakfasts.

This small mountain gets its name from the shape of the mountain, which from a distance, looks like a man’s face lying down with his nose pointing up to the sky.

This is a highly rated sunrise hike we recommend, but you can also do it by yourself.

7. Take a Yoga Class

Head on over to San Marcos to participate in a yoga class. If you’re lucky, especially if you’re accommodation happens to be located in this village, your hotel or hostel may offer free yoga classes every morning. If not, however, don’t fret. There are plenty of places that offer yoga classes and retreats.

Some of the most popular places to check out include:

8. Check Out Chichicastenango

things to do in lake atitlan - chichi

What’s a trip or holiday without a bit of shopping? There’s no better place to go shopping for local crafts than in the surrounding towns of Lake Atitlan. But if you are looking for the largest market in Central America you should head to is Chichicastenango Market, which takes place every Thursday and Sunday. To get to this town, take a bus from Pana. Alternatively, you can go on a guided tour that leaves from Pana.

The journey takes around 1.5 to 2 hours, but to get to the largest market town in Guatemala, the effort is worth it. Here, you can buy pretty much anything your heart desires, but we recommend getting some textiles and jewelry.

Besides Chichi, you’ll find plenty of other smaller markets and stores in Lake Atitlan as you roam around.

9. Learn About Traditional Textile Making

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If you really want to immerse yourself in Mayan culture, learn all about the traditional Mayan way of weaving textiles. You can find plenty of textile shops scattered around San Juan in particular, so just pop in and ask for a demonstration. They’ll be more than happy to show you how everything is made, from spinning the yarn and dyeing it to weaving the patterns.

If you’re not sure exactly where to go, head over to Trama Textiles, a women’s weaving co-op!

10. Take a Coffee Tour

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One of the things Guatemala is known for is its delicious coffee. So, it’s only fitting that when you’re visiting Lake Atitlan, you take a coffee tour. On some tours, you’ll also be able to visit a plantation.

Beyond taking a tour, you should also sit down and drink some local Guatemalan coffee at a cafe. We found that San Juan had some really nice coffee shops in particular!

11. Go Paragliding

things to do in lake atitlan - paragliding

An activity you absolutely cannot miss when you are in Lake Atitlan is paragliding. I mean… gliding over the gorgeous water while you see the huge volcanoes in the distance sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? This super peaceful but extreme activity is likely cheaper here than in your home country, so definitely take advantage.

If you’ve never been paragliding before, you basically are strapped to a parachute as the wind lifts you off, letting you soar through the air.

Depending on the weather conditions, the flight is somewhere between 20 and 45 minutes and will cost you around 750 Q. We recommend paragliding with Real World Paragliding.

12. Do a Sunset ATV Tour

One of the best ways to go around Lake Atitlan while enjoying the gorgeous views is to take an ATV tour. Or – better yet – take a sunset ATV tour. This is a great tour to take if you want to get to know Lake Atitlan in a fun and engaging way. The ATV will take you all the way up the mountains and around the caldera lake before you head back down for a nice swim. Then, of course, you’ll also watch the sunset from a stunning viewpoint.

13. Learn Spanish

We bet you didn’t know that one of the most popular activities to do in Lake Atitlan is to learn Spanish! While we personally did not take any Spanish classes, we encountered SO many travelers who spent a week or two (or even a month!) in Lake Atitlan taking an immersive Spanish class! The reason Atitlan is a popular area for learning Spanish is that many of the locals speak Spanish slowly and clearly. In fact, Spanish is often the second language in the region, as most people speak a Mayan language as their primary tongue.

Generally, these Spanish classes will consist of 3 to 4 hours of one-on-one lessons with a teacher. You can also opt to stay with a homestay in order to further your Spanish-speaking skills!

One of the main reasons learning Spanish is so popular here is that it is relatively cheap. For example, the Lake Atitlan Spanish School costs 810 Q ($105) for 3 hours a day (15 hours a week) or 930-1,080 Q ($120-$139) with accommodation and food included.

14. Watch the Sunrise or Sunset

things to do in lake atitlan - learn sunrise sunset

There’s really no shortage of activities to do in Lake Atitlan, so in the early morning or late afternoon, it’s a great idea to slow down for a moment. Lucky for you, Lake Atitlan has some of the best sunrises and sunsets. So, head on over to the lakeside and watch the gorgeous sun rise or set, depending on the time of day. It definitely makes for some great photo ops, too!

15. Take a Mayan Cooking Class

One of our favorite activities whenever we go someplace new is to take a Mayan cooking class. You should be able to find various cooking classes across the villages surrounding the lake, but we recommend this cooking class held in Pana.

But whatever cooking class you end up taking, you’ll end up with some hands-on knowledge of traditional Guatemalan cooking. During the class, you’ll get to prepare a few different Guatemalan dishes and learn all about the blend of Mayan and Spanish influences on the local cuisine.

16. Check Out the Street Art in San Juan

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We have already mentioned San Juan a few times, but another thing this town is known for is its street art. If you take a guided tour of the villages, you’ll have a better understanding of the street art here, but it’s very easy to appreciate the artistic talent of the locals here even without the stories behind the artworks.

Just stroll around the San Juan streets, and you’ll be greeted by some amazing artwork depicting indigenous customs, which you should absolutely take pictures of to commemorate!

17. Learn About Chocolate

Besides coffee, Lake Atitlan, or rather, Guatemala in general, is famous for its chocolate. So, if you’re not a big chocolate lover like us, you’ll find plenty of chocolate to eat throughout the villages by the lake. We highly recommend stopping by Licor Marron Chocolate to really have a better understanding of Guatemalan chocolate and its flavors. They will even give you a little demonstration of how chocolate is made! You have to visit and try their chocolates, as their chocolates make great souvenirs to take back home and share with your loved ones.

18. Enjoy a Meal with a View

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There are many amazing restaurants around Lake Atitlan, and many of these offer a stunning view of the lake and surrounding volcanoes. Head over to any of these restaurants for a delicious bite to eat while enjoying the view.

Here are some of our favorite restaurants with a view:

  • Cafe Sabor Cruceño (Santa Cruz)
  • El Indigo (Jaibalito)
  • El Gato Perdido Bistro (San Pedro)
  • The Fifth Dimension (San Pedro)

19. Spend the Day at Casa del Mundo

things to do in lake atitlan - casa del mundo

We’re biased because we actually stayed at Casa del Mundo, but this hotel went TikTok viral for a reason! If you want to get those gorgeous photos of the hotel without having to shell out a pretty penny for staying here (not to mention they tend to book out fast!), simply head over to Casa del Mundo and purchase a day pass!

You can spend the day taking photos, exploring the grounds, and even eating at the hotel restaurant, where you can get a stunning view of the lake.

20. Go Diving

The only PADI dive center in Lake Atitlan is located in Santa Cruz (Ati Divers). So, if you’re a diver and you’re up for a unique experience, head on over to the village to book a dive.

Diving in Lake Atitlan is a much different experience than diving pretty much anywhere else due to the altitude, so only dive here if you are a fairly confident diver used to dealing with a greater change in pressure.

But if you do dive, you’ll be rewarded with some pretty unique views of sunken buildings, volcanic hotspots, and, of course, some wildlife as well, such as freshwater fish and plants.

21. Take a Weekend Trip to Antigua

things to do in lake atitlan - antigua

Lake Atitlan and Antigua are the two most popular tourist areas in Guatemala, and for good reason! You simply cannot visit Guatemala without spending at least a few days in the magical colonial capital of Antigua. Like Lake Atitlan, Antigua is surrounded by massive volcanoes and is the perfect blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.

While you could technically see most of the city in just one day, there are so many things to do in Antigua, so we recommend staying at least 2 to 3 days. You can reach Antigua from Panajachel in 3 hours with a tourist shuttle.

Antigua also has some delicious restaurants where you can try local and international cuisine and has some of the best nightlife in Guatemala.

22. Go Horseback Riding

Do you want to explore Lake Atitlan in a unique way? One of the coolest ways to get to know the surrounding villages and landscapes is to go horseback riding along the shores. Sounds magical, doesn’t it? This horseback riding tour is a 4-hour adventure around the gorgeous village of San Juan.

During this horseback riding tour, you’ll make stops along the way, including at a coffee plantation, textile centers, and even art galleries. What better way to get to know this cute town than by bonding with a stunning animal at the same time?

23. See a Traditional Mayan Ceremony

A really unique experience you can partake in when visiting Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is seeing and witnessing a traditional Mayan ceremony. During this 2-hour traditional fire-cleansing ceremony, you’ll head to the Sacred Caves of Lake Atitlan, which have been used by the locals for centuries!

Your guide should tell you all about the rituals and explain the history and traditions behind them all as you witness the shaman perform these ceremonies. You’ll really learn to appreciate the local customs when you witness something as powerful as this!

24. Check Out the Local Cafes

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As mentioned, Lake Atitlan is home to some of the most delicious coffee in Guatemala, so it only makes sense that you’ll also find some awesome local cafes in the area. Pretty much every town in Atitlan is littered with locally owned coffee shops selling coffee sourced from small farms in the region. Coffee production is one of the largest industries in Guatemala, and while a lot of the best-quality coffee is exported, you can still try some absolutely delicious coffee in cafes in Atitlan.

Here are some of our top picks:

  • Arati Café (San Marcos)
  • Cafe Las Marias (San Juan)
  • Tornado’s Coffee (San Pablo)
  • Flor De Café (Panajachel)

25. Relax in a Hot Tub at Los Termales

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Since Lake Atitlan sits at more than 1,500 meters (5,000) above sea level, it can get quite chilly at night, even in the summer. So, what better way to warm up than in a warm hot tub with an amazing view? 

At Los Termales in San Pedro, you can enjoy a warm hot tub with a beautiful view of the lake and surrounding mountains, which is the perfect activity for sunset! For a higher price, you can combine the hot tub with a sauna and a private massage for the full spa experience.

Enjoy Your Time in Lake Atitlan!

As you can probably tell by now, Lake Atitlan is more than a lake with beautiful views. It is a cultural hotspot with a plethora of activities, amazing foods to try, and other things to do. If you are planning to spend some time in Guatemala, Atitlan should definitely be on your itinerary. We had an amazing experience in Atitlan and hope that with this guide, you will, too!

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