Lake Atitlan, Guatemala is considered to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. The lake fills the caldera of a volcano, and the volcanic activity has caused three more volcanoes in the caldera. Lake Atitlan is surrounded by several villages, the most popular for tourists to stay at being San Pedro La Laguna and San Marcos.
Overall, I found the Lake Atitlan views to be beautiful, but I also found it quite costly to stay there. The cost of food at restaurants was expensive. And, I prefer a beach where I can lie in the sun and swim in the ocean. The lake is not recommended for swimming, and there were no places to lie in the sun here. Here are my tips for Lake Atitlan, Guatemala to make your stay more enjoyable. Also, if you are headed to Guatemala for the first time, make sure you read this.
Your Lake Atitlan Guatemala Guide
Arriving At Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
The easiest way to arrive to the villages is by boat which you catch from Panajachel. There are several shuttle companies that will take you to Panajachel, the biggest Lake Atitlan village. Note that the shuttle companies aren’t always reliable. For this reason, I don’t recommend booking with Atitlan Tours. They left me stranded on the boat dock on my way back from Panajachel. I called them once thirty minutes had gone by after they were supposed to pick me up. They said they forgot about me. I think they just didn’t have any other passengers and decided not to take me. They did refund my money, but that was no solace for the extra three hours I wound up waiting for the next shuttle on the side of the road.
I also don’t recommend using the Cajero 5B ATM in Panajachel. This ATM scammed me out of $500 which I didn’t receive, but was still charged for. This issue is still being resolved by my bank.
Be careful of the boat scams in Panajachel. You shouldn’t pay more than Q25 to any of the Lake Atitlan villages.
Where To Stay
I am glad that I decided to stay in the village of San Marcos. San Marcos is Guatemala’s version of Ubud, Bali, and it is a spiritual center with offerings such as yoga, Reiki, healing services, and meditation classes. It’s also the prettiest of the villages that I visited.
San Pedro had a touristy feel to it. It was full of shops and restaurants. I did enjoy going there for the health food store and the Home Cafe, but not for much else.
I stayed at a rental I found on Airbnb. While the views were stunning, it was quite a hike from town, one that included walking through the jungle at night, so I would recommend staying somewhere in town. However, I did enjoy walking through the area the locals lived in each day. I loved the glimpses of local life, such as watching them do their laundry each day.
Where To Eat
Dragon fruit margarita from Il Giardino
Hands down, the best place to eat in San Marcos was Il Giardino. The owner, Marc made me feel so welcome. Everything he makes is incredible from his breakfasts, the wood oven pizza, the veggie burger, and the homemade kombucha. And, don’t miss the desserts! Everything from the carrot cake, to the banana cream pie, and the homemade chocolates are perfect. Il Giardino mostly serves vegetarian food, and even though I am not a vegetarian, I really enjoyed it. The garden offers a tranquil environment, and the candlelit setting at night offers just the right touch of magic.
Las Abrazos Mayan Restaurant
Las Abrazos is the place to go for local Mayan food. Be ready to wait, as there is only one woman cooking. They also serve pizza from the wood-burning oven in the evenings. This is some of the best priced food in town.
Gypsy’s is more of a juice bar than restaurant, but I stopped here for my daily juice fix. The owner also sells bagels and vegetarian chili. I also adored her used clothing store with cool clothes in all sizes, and filled my suitcase with plenty of her finds.
Home Cafe was an outstanding restaurant that I made a few trips all the way to San Pedro for. This vegetarian/vegan restaurant makes its own kombucha and kefir, and serves fresh food in a gorgeous setting. I loved the goat cheese on homemade bread with the mango chutney and salad. The stir-fried veggie burrito was also delicious. Don’t miss their addictive chocolate/peanut butter bars which they keep in the refrigerator.
Massages And Holistic Therapies
East West Center
I had one of the best massages of my entire life with Suzi at the East West Center in San Marcos. I had the Neuro Muscular Trigger Point Massage from her. The East West Center also offers Deep Tissue and Swedish massage, Acupuncture, Chinese Cupping, and many courses and workshops. They also have a small store where they sell remedies, medicines, and local honey.
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