Lake Atitlán

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Lake Atitlán: Our most recommended tours and activities

Lake Atitlán Boat Tour

1. Lake Atitlán Boat Tour

Start the day with a trip from Antigua or Guatemala City to the Maya town of Panajachel. During the drive there will be a brief stop in Katok, a very famous restaurant where you can indulge in a hot drink. Once at Panajachel, it's time for a boat trip to cross Lake Atitlán and visit the Tzutuhil Village of Santiago de Atitlán. In this village you will visit the confraternity of the local saint named Maximon or Ri Laj Mam, visited by people all over the world who come to ask for health and prosperity in their lives. The lake itself owes its grandeur to its enormous size and spectacular volcanic setting. Three large volcanoes, Atitlán Tolimán and San Pedro, rise gracefully from its southern shore, creating breathtaking views around the area. You will experience these views and the traditional practices still carried out by the Maya-Tzutujil and Cakchiquel women who live around the lake. After a short transfer, we will have lunch at one of the most exquisite restaurants of Panajachel. While in town, guestes will also Santander Street and experience its vast, bustling handicraft market.

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Lake Atitlan: Mayan Ceremony at the Sacred Caves

2. Lake Atitlan: Mayan Ceremony at the Sacred Caves

Experience an important ceremony of the Maya people of Guatemala at the most sacred and holy location on Lake Atitlan. Transfer to the trailhead from Panajachel. Then, walk to the 1st cave (a maximum 20-minute hike). Named “Nimajay,” “San Simon,” “Singing” and “Colorado,” the 4 caves have been used by the Mayans for centuries for their Fire Cleansing and Protection Ceremony. The highland tribes travel for hours to visit the holy caves, and you will feel the energy and power as soon as you approach the cave entrance. Watch the shamans perform the ceremony (not guaranteed, but available on most days), and experience an authentic part of the living Mayan culture of the Guatemala highlands. Your guide will explain why the ceremonies are performed, and teach you about the ritual and unique meanings of the Mayan calendar. Located 1,200 feet above Lake Atitlan, the caves offer panoramic views of the lake and caldera. Stand on top of Eagle Rock, and marvel at how the earth drops hundreds of feet around you. Feel your spirit soar like a bird as you stand with nothing but air on all sides. You can also visit the shrine of San Simon/Maximon, the colonial church, and a 200-foot waterfall.

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Chichicastenango and Lake Atitlan Tour From Antigua

3. Chichicastenango and Lake Atitlan Tour From Antigua

Your 10-hour excursion begins with a drive into the western highlands of Guatemala. The region is home to quaint and colorful mountain villages, highland lakes, pine forests and the majority of Guatemala’s indigenous peoples. When you arrive at the Chichicastenango market you’ll begin your walking tour. The market is at the center of the town and is the heart of commercial life for maxeños, the natives of Chichicastenango. Every Thursday and Sunday merchants head to the central plaza to sell their products in this impressive indigenous market that has changed very little over the centuries. Explore the pathways of the market and admire the colorful handicrafts and produce offered by the local people of the region. In Chichicastenango, you’ll also visit Santo Tomás Church, built in 1540 over the base of a pre-Hispanic temple. This church is a splendid example of colonial architecture, and the Mayan and Latino influence is evident in both the interior and exterior of the building. After exploring the market you’ll enjoy a delicious lunch (not included in the tour price). Next you’ll continue to the town of Panajachel, located at the edge of Lake Atitlan. Take a walk along Santander Street and enjoy the spectacular views of Lake Atitlan, considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. The volcanoes Tolimán, Atitlán and San Pedro form a natural frame for the lake. Lake Atitlan has a surface of 125 square kilometers and sits 1,560 meters above sea level.

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Lake Atitlan Maya Kitchen: 3-Hour Cooking Class

4. Lake Atitlan Maya Kitchen: 3-Hour Cooking Class

Experience Guatemala in an authentic and personal way as you discover the flavors of Guatemala cooking at the Lake Atitlan Maya Kitchen. A 3-hour cooking class will help you understand how Mayan culture and Spanish colonial influences produced a variety of mouth-watering dishes. You’ll have lots of hands-on fun learning how to prepare up to 3 authentic Guatemalan dishes during this class. Learn how to prepare traditional recipes and come away with all the skills you need to prepare them in your own kitchen. If you like you can visit the market with your instructor to purchase the ingredients, or leave the chef do the shopping without you. After your lesson you’ll have a sufficient amount of the prepared food to feed your family or other group members. You’ll take home a printed copy of the recipes as well. The instructor will demonstrate the preparation of each recipe with explanations so you’ll have a complete understanding of the ingredients and the process. Private classes can be arranged for individuals, in addition to the shared classes for small groups. The Mayan cooks in the program are native to Lake Atitlan, and they carry on the rich traditions and culture that are expressed in the food. If you choose to include a market visit with your cooking program, you should plan on an additional 1-2 hours. Note that the instructors speak English or Spanish, or a little of both. All proceeds support the community of Santa Cruz La Laguna through the local nonprofit Amigos de Santa Cruz which runs education and economic empowerment programs (check out amigosdesantacruz.org or Amigos de Santa Cruz Foundation on Facebook for more information) Classes are taught by Claudia, a local graduate of Amigos' culinary program, and run for 3 hours with a plated 3-course lunch included on the patio overlooking Lake Atitlan. 

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Lake Atitlan Full-Day Tour from Guatemala City

5. Lake Atitlan Full-Day Tour from Guatemala City

Spend a day on Lake Atitlán, the deepest lake in Central America, on a full-day trip from Guatemala City. Enjoy a cruise along the waters, and visit nearby villages. Departing from Guatemala City in the morning, travel to Panajachel. Then take a public boat across Atitlán and visit Santiago Atitlán, where you will learn about the local saint; Maximon. Enjoy the vibrant colors and local flavor of this village as you experience the traditional Tz’utujil Mayan lifestyle. Santiago is the most popular lakeside settlement outside Panajachel, and many atitecos (as its people are known) cling to a traditional Tz’utujil Mayan lifestyle. Women weave and wear huipiles (tunics) embroidered with brilliantly-colored birds and flowers, and the cofradías towns maintain the ceremonies and rituals of tradition — the syncretic traditions and practices of Mayan Catholicism. There’s also a large arts and crafts scene here as well.  You'll then be given free time for lunch, after which you’ll be returned to Guatemala City via Antigua Guatemala.

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From Guatemala City: Chichicastenango and Lake Atitlan

6. From Guatemala City: Chichicastenango and Lake Atitlan

Explore the Western Highlands, the region of Guatemala that most travelers familiar with Guatemala think about when daydreaming about a trip to this country. The region is home to quaint and colorful mountain villages, highland lakes, pine forests, and the majority of Guatemala’s indigenous peoples. Arrive at Chichicastenango Market and begin your walking tour inside the market. It is the center of the town and heart of commercial life for the maxeños. The merchants go down to the central plaza every Thursday and Sunday to sell their products in this impressive indigenous market that has changed very little throughout the centuries. Explore the pathways of the market and view the colorful handicrafts and produce offered by the local people of the region. In Chichicastenango, we will also visit Santo Tomás Church, built in 1540 over the base of an archaeological pre-Hispanic temple. This church is a splendid example of colonial architecture, as the Mayan and Latino influence is mixed throughout both the interior and exterior of the building. You will have some free time for lunch (not included). Then, continue to the town of Panajachel, which sits on Lake Atitlan, where you will have time to explore. Visit Santander Street and enjoy a spectacular view of Lake Atitlan, considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Three spectacular volcanoes, Tolimán, Atitlán and San Pedro form the natural frame of the lake itself. It has a surface of 125 square kilometers and sits 1,560 meters above sea level.

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From Antigua: 2-Day Chichicastenango & Lake Atitlan Tour

7. From Antigua: 2-Day Chichicastenango & Lake Atitlan Tour

In Chichicastenango, explore the indigenous market and be witness to the incessant exchange of fruits, vegetables and handicrafts between the locals and foreigners. Lake Atitlán was formed when a volcanic caldera depleted its magma. Three stately volcanoes - Atitlan, Tolimán and San Pedro - rise gracefully from its southern shore, their perfect cones reflected in the azure mirror of the lake. Discover weaving made and worn by the Maya-Tzutujil and Cakchiquel women who live around the lake and many of the men also wear traditional, hand-woven clothing. Day 1 – Chichicastenango: - 07:00: Transfer from your hotel in Guatemala City or Antigua to Chichicastenango - 10:00: Arrival to Chichicastenango’s market.  In the center of town you will find the local market where you can buy wood products, ceramics and even gifts that the Mayan priests offer on their prehispanic altars. You can also admire the Church of Santo Tomas which was built by Dominicans and Kichen in 1540 on a Maya altar, which is used even today on the front steps of the church. On the other side, you will find Calvary Church and in the square, you will see a high stick where each year the Palo Volador is presented - 12:30: Transfer from Chichicastenango to Panajachel - 13:30: Have lunch at one of the most exquisite restaurants in Panajachel (own expense) - 14:30:  Free time to relax. Overnight accommodations in Panajachel Accommodations: Posada de Don Rodrigo or similar Day 2 – Lake Atitlan - 08:30: Take a private boat to cross Lake Atitlan and visit Tzutuhil village of Santiago de Atitlán. In this village, you will visit the confraternity of the local saint named Maximon or Ri Laj Mam, visited by different people of different ethnicities who come to ask for health and prosperity in their lives. Transfer back to Panajachel by boat - 13:30: Have lunch in one of the most exquisite restaurants of Panajachel (not included) - 14:30: Visit Santander Street of Panajachel and the handicraft market of this town - 15:30: Transfer back to Guatemala City or Antigua Guatemala

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Los Elementos Adventure Center: Kayak, Swim, and Relax

8. Los Elementos Adventure Center: Kayak, Swim, and Relax

The day begins in Panajachel or Santa Cruz La Laguna, where your guide will meet you at your hotel and bring you to the boat docks along Lake Atitlan. From there, take a boat transfer to the Adventure Center in Santa Cruz, where you'll spend the day with a bilingual guide and plenty enjoy activities, all in line with USA safety standards. Kayak for an hour or so, take a swim in the crystal blue waters, or go for a cliff jump if you dare!   For lunch, enjoy a home-cooked meal by the center's very own chef; you're free to pre-order your meal selections based on your own tastes and preferences. After lunch, hike through the hidden Pumpatin Canyon through the lush local forest to a rock wall, where you'll have to chance to enjoy an invigorating and safe rock climb, with secure top-rope systems (harnesses, ropes, etc.). Climb up to 45 feet (14 meters), before rappelling down.   When you're ready, return to the Adventure Center for more free time to go for a swim, kayak, or just to hang out and relax. You can even try your hand at archery, try out a trampoline, or lie in a hammock and enjoy the splendid views. You can also schedule a professional massage or facial (for an additional charge).   You'll return to your hotel at around 16:00. Just pick your favorite activities and enjoy!

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From Antigua: Lake Atitlán Mountain Biking Adventure

9. From Antigua: Lake Atitlán Mountain Biking Adventure

Get your adrenaline pumping with a mountain biking adventure through the Guatemalan countryside. Meet your guide in Antigua and set out for the 2.5-hour drive to Panajachel, stopping along the way for a coffee and restroom break. Upon arrival in Panajachel, get fitted out for your mountain bike followed by a quick safety briefing before your adventure begins. Start the trail on a downhill country road and ride towards a quiet lake. Follow a route that combines backcountry dirt roads and jeep tracks as well as tight technical singletrack climbs and descents. Enjoy biking through a landscape of rolling pine forests, intermixed with local agricultural plots of corn, beans, and squash. After a couple of hours of riding, take a 2-kilometer climb to a viewpoint located high above Lake Atitlán where you will enjoy a healthy and well-deserved fresh picnic lunch as you admire spectacular views of the lake. After lunch, continue cross-country and downhill on the technical cliff-side trail that traverses some 2000 vertical feet above the lake. Complete your day with a ride on some of Guatemala’s best singletrack, from the rim of the vast caldera down to Santa Catarina Palopó, finishing with an awesome staircase into this lakeside Mayan village. Take some time to recover with a swim or a stroll through the village before heading back to Antigua.

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Lake Atitlán: Peddle and Paddle Overnight Trip

10. Lake Atitlán: Peddle and Paddle Overnight Trip

This overnight trip to Lake Atitlán gives you a great mix of activities without wearing you out on any one of them. Through the diversity of biking, kayaking and hiking, you get to experience the majestic lake in a variety of speeds, angles and perspectives. Whether you are cruising on the crest of the caldera ridge, paddling the azure-blue waters of Lake Atitlan, or hiking lakeside through the local towns – you’ll surely enjoy the fantastic views. At night you will rest easy in one of the most beautiful hotels in all of Central America. Day 1: Country Road Ride The group leaves from Antigua at 08:00, where you can fill up your water bottles and purchase any additional gear you might need. After meeting your guide and checking your gear, load up the vehicle and set out for a 2.5-hour road trip up into the highlands towards Lake Atitlan. Stop on the road for a coffee and bathroom break at a quaint rest-stop outside the mountain town of Tecpán (breakfast not included). Upon arrival to the lake highlands area, you'll receive instructions on bicycle operation, safety tips, and a brief orientation of the surrounding terrain. Everyone has a chance to ask any questions they may have, apply sunscreen, and adjust clothing layers. Start out down a steep country road traversing the high tableland above Lake Atitlan. This mostly downhill ride takes you through several small villages and towns before rounding a final ridgeline and joining the road up from the Pacific coast bound for Panajachel. At the first vista overlooking Lake Atitlán, your guide will stop and prepare a picnic lunch (included) and orientate you to the lakeside towns and geographic features of Lake Atitlan. After lunch, continue breezing down the quick and windy road to the lakeside town of Panajachel. From here, you will catch a boat taxi to Jaibalito, and the beautiful hotel Casa del Mundo. Casa del Mundo Hotel – built into the cliff-side - affords lake-front access alongside wonderful vantage points to appreciate the lake’s volcanic backdrop. You’ll check-in mid-afternoon and be free to rest and relax in a hammock, enjoy the beautiful sunset, or go for a cool dip in the lake! A delicious family-style dinner (included) is served at the hotel restaurant around 18:30. Day 2: Kayak and Lake Hike Breakfast and coffee (included) are served at 08:00, after which you will gather what you need for the paddle and lakeside hike. Paddlers don their swimsuits, apply sunscreen and meet down at the dock to load into their kayaks. Leave your hiking daypacks with your private boat taxi and board your kayaks for the north-shore paddle. Paddle westward 1½-2 hours past small towns and villages perched high on the steep sides of sheer ridges that rise right out of waters of Lake Atitlan. After passing the villages of Jaibalito and Tzununá, cruise into the bay of San Marcos la Laguna and trade your kayaks for your daypacks and hiking gear. Climbing out of town on the lake trail which connects village to village, you'll be treated to spectacular vistas of volcanoes San Pedro, Tolimán and Atitlán. After 1.5hrs of hiking, roll back into Casa Del Mundo. From there, head back to Panajachel in a boat taxi, hop back on your private transport, and arrive back to Antigua just before sunset.

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Other Sightseeing Options in Lake Atitlán

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What people are saying about Lake Atitlán

Overall rating

4.5 / 5

based on 56 reviews

Incredible experience.

Juan Pablo is a very knowledgeable and experienced tour guide. He made the tour very enjoyable and repeatedly went out his way to help us. Since we decided to stay on the lake, he helped us book a private boat on the lake to get to the hotel and even called transfer services to help us on the next leg of our trip. He makes the tour worth it. Highly recommend taking this tour with Juan Pablo.

Everything about this tour was great, our guide was extremely knowledgeable. The ride was safe. The only thing to be aware of this does include the lake in the extent of eating at a restaurant overlooking the lake. I went for the market so I didn’t mind but if you want a more immersive lake experience this might not be the tour for you.

It may seem a bit pricey but well worth it. Your guide, Lee, will take you places you would not find on your own. As a Mayan in the know he can explain everything to you. You will not be disappointed

although we came late for the ceremony. the local tour guide was extremely knowledgeable. He showed me some great spots around and its overall history of his people.

Great tour! If you are interested in learning more about mayan culture or how cristianity has merged with local religion you should definitely give it a go.