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The Eight Main Villages Surrounding Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

The Eight Main Villages Surrounding Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Last Updated on January 11, 2024

Lake Atitlán has been described as the most beautiful lake in the world, considered a dangerous beauty one could lose themselves in. No matter which of the villages surrounding Lake Atitlan you visit, the views are stunning – the sprawling lake,  green mountains and the looming giant of the San Pedro Volcano. Seated on a kayak in the middle of the lake, you can even see the famously ever-erupting Volcán de Fuego, also visible from equally far away Antigua. But is there one village that stands out? Which are the best villages around Lake Atitlan?

“Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but (Lake) Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing.” Aldous Huxley on Guatemala’s Lake Atitlán

where to stay lake atitlan

I spent a whole month at Lake Atitlán, and explored several lakeside villages during that time. I found it surprising just how different all the communities are. Lake Atitlán is mandatory on any Guatemala itinerary, but for those who are short on time or just want to find where you might ‘fit’, read on for a breakdown of the towns surrounding the lake, to help you decide where to stay on Lake Atitlan.

The eight best villages at Lake Atitlan

Panajachel – Buy souvenirs and eat Gringo food

Panajachel is easily accessible from Antigua or Guatemala City, most buses and shuttles end up here and all the boats to Lake Atitlán’s surrounding villages leave from Pana’s docks. As a result, Pana receives loads of tourists of all kinds – Guatemalan day-trippers, package tour groups and backpackers all pass through here. The original village is located up on the hill, whereas the main street towards the docks, Calle Santander, seems to be constructed exclusively for tourists. One market stall lines up next to another, and there are plenty of restaurants and hotels, including an all-inclusive resort right by the lake. This is where to stay at Lake Atitlan if you don’t want to take a boat across the lake.For a more authentic experience, stay somewhere in the ‘old’ town center (further away from the lake, about 20 mins walking), where there is a daily market. If you are not staying there, make the hike up there to visit the local market and to get a glimpse of everyday Mayan life. The Saturday artisan market, spreading from the top of Calle Santander down to the docks, brings busloads of tour groups through Pana on weekends. Rumor has it that Guatemala souvenirs here in Pana are the cheapest in the country.

You can eat international food, rent kayaks, hike to the nearby village of Santa Catarina Palopo or visit the famous Sunday market in Solola – located on top of the mountain and the spot for breathtaking villages lake atitlan

Where to eat in Panajachel:

  • Delhi 6 (vegetarian options), any of the restaurants right by the lake for cheap breakfast and stunning views
  • 80’s Coffee right next to the Selina Hotel has great coffee and crepes, plus free wi-fi
  • The Little Spoon on Calle Santander has a nice terrace, wifi and healthy options (a great Burrito Bowl)
  • Tuscani for Italian food
  • Las Chinitas has healthy food in a lush green setting
  • Head to Taquero Mucho to get your Mexican food fix
  • Crossroads Cafe – towards the local part of the village, but worth the trip up there. This cafe is one of the longest-standing establishments in Panajachel – it’s been around since 2000! You can also buy coffee beans to take home, and their home-baked pastries & cakes are fantastic.

Where to stay in Panajachel:

  • Hotel El Sol is a short walk from the town center and has super cheap clean rooms (US$6)
  • Selina Atitlan – beautiful newish co-working hotel (opened in December 2018) that has both dorms (starting at US$14) and private rooms (from US$48). Close to the lake, and it has a lovely outdoor pool. Book through the Selina website for long-term stays (if you stay for a month, you’ll only pay around US$30 per night).
  • ABU hotel has dorms and private rooms and a lovely patio with hammocks
  • If you need a larger place, check out Villas Jucanya. They’re fully-equipped lakefront villas, including kitchen. A 3-bedroom villa is US$60.

San Pedro – Chill out, learn Spanish and eat gringo food

A 45-minute trip across the lake brings you to San Pedro La Laguna. All the ingredients for a super chill out spot come together in San Pedro. There is international food galore (relatively cheap and mouth-watering), bars readily serve up cheap booze during long happy hours, there are plenty of places for a cheap massage, hot pools and spas to relax, and no one looks down their nose at those who wish to hang out in a hammock all day long. San Pedro is the most popular among the villages for backpackers, and the best village at Lake Atitlan to learn Spanish and spend a few weeks.There is enough to do for the more active backpackers – climb Volcano San Pedro, go on a horseback ride, kayak around the lake, learn Spanish at one of the highly recommended Spanish schools, spend an afternoon in the gorgeous town center (pictured below) or hike to the neighboring village San Juan. San Pedro is a great place if you want to get some work done, too. The large semi-permanent foreigner population has ensured that San Pedro has the best wi-fi at the lake – at hostels, bars and restaurants everywhere.San Pedro La Laguna Guatemala

Where to eat in San Pedro La Laguna:

  • Sabij Pita (Israeli food, vegan and vegetarian friendly)
  • The Fifth Dimension (100% vegetarian, plus vegan options)
  • Sababa Restaurant (international and Guatemalan dishes and fantastic views over the lake)
  • Italian Bakery aka Idea Connection (for your carb fix and good breakfast and fast wifi)
  • Tornado’s Coffee (enjoy the best coffee in San Pedro in a hummingbird-filled backyard, with great wifi)
  • Casa Blanca has the best sabich sandwich (well, it’s actually a tie with Sabij Pita)
  • Restaurante Da Alfredo has delicious pasta dishes

Where to stay in San Pedro La Laguna:

  • Sababa Resort – beautiful resort with an awesome swimming pool and patio (dorms start at US$25 per night)
  • Shanti Shanti – solid rooms at a great price, breakfast included for around US$30 a night
  • Amigos Resort has dorms and private rooms and stunning lake views from the rooftop terrace (dorm bed US$8, private room US$30)
  • Zoola – lovely lakefront resort with a swimming pool and on-site restaurant & bar (dorms start at US$12, private rooms at US$30 including breakfast)
  • Hotel Xetawaa´l – double rooms from only US$20, single rooms around US$13 (book directly at the hotel to get the best price)
  • Eco Hotel Sak’Cari El Amenecer – double rooms start at around US$40, best price at the property.
  • El Delfin has spacious rooms, a lovely backyard, and a restaurant on-site (US$33 per double room, breakfast included)

San Pedro La Laguna sababa resort

San Marcos – Meditate, do yoga, eat gringo food

The village of San Marcos, located on the northern shore of the lake, is a place to meditate, refresh your energy and, if you know how, cleanse your aura. The local Mayan population lives high up in the village, separated from the hippies foreigners, who stay in the hotels around the dock. (If you decide to stay further away from the lake, be aware that you’ll most likely have to climb up the hill to get to your accommodation).

Should a friendly looking foreigner not respond to your attempt at conversation, do not think them rude. They are currently taking part in their ‘silent week’, part of the program over at Piramides del Ka meditation centre reportedly the best of many such medi-yoga spots. San Marcos is the best village at Lake Atitlan for those who seek meditation, yoga, or a silent retreat.

For those whose auras need no cleansing, hike up to the Indian’s Nose mountain summit for unparalleled  views over the lake, sunbathe at ‘the rocks’, or have a picnic at the ‘sacred place’ (marked “altar kab’lajuj ee” on Googlemaps) which also offers excellent vistas, but is not as high up as the Indian’s Nose. There’s also a 7-meter (22 feet) high platform off of which you can jump right into the lake. Note that these places are inside the Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve, which costs 20 Quetzales to enter (US$2.55). It’s worth the fee if you’re spending a few hours here, so bring a book, a beach towel, your bathing suite, and some snacks.Lake Atitlan villages

Where to eat in San Marcos La Laguna:

  • Fe (yummy food in the center of town)
  • Il Giardino (vegetarian)
  • Circles Cafe & Bakery (amazing breakfast), Comedor Casa Juanita (traditional Guatemalan dishes with superb lake views),
  • Moonfish Cafe (international and Guatemalan dishes)
  • Arati Cafe – the owner is very passionate about coffee – you can even get a Chemix pour here, a solid Flat White, and your Frappuccino fix.

Where to stay in San Marcos La Laguna:

  • Casa Madera (best budget option – dorms are US$10 and private rooms start at US$13)
  • Lush Atitlan (beautiful rooms overlooking the lake. Rooms start at around US$33 per night)
  • Baba Yaga (gorgeous lakefront bungalows – perfect for a splurge. US$61 per night)
  • Anzan Atitlan, outside of town, is a divine option if you’re looking for a splurge. The property has a private beach, sun terraces, and room rates include a tasty breakfast (US$146 per night)

Note: There is only one ATM in San Marcos, but I recommend bringing some cash, in case it is out of service, which does happen occasionally.

San Marcos La Laguna lago atitlan

Santiago – visit Maximon, buy souvenirs

The town of Santiago is the largest and most ‘native’ of all the towns around the lake. Located on Atitlán’s southern shore, Santiago is best known for being home to Maximon, Guatemala’s folk saint. As soon as you get off the boat, the local children will offer to bring you to Maximon’s house (he moves house every year). Make sure to bring donations: rum, cigarettes or simply cash are favorite offerings of Maximon.

In addition to the favored saint, Santiago offers great views of volcano San Pedro if you make your way up the hill to the church which sits on the end of a big, empty square. The church inside is lined with wooden saints who are dressed in new handmade clothes every year.

Most of the Maya in Santiago, including the men, still wear their traditional clothes. Though hotel space is limited, floods of daytrippers make for central souvenir market stalls on the main street starting at the dock.

Where to eat in Santiago Atitlan:

  • Pasteria y Cafe Lolita (coffee, pastries and wifi. Try the cinnamon rolls)
  • Quila’s (bar – great for beer, cocktails and bar food)
  • Cetcafe (coffee, pastries, doughnuts, pancakes, smoothies, sandwiches, wraps, vegetarian options)
  • Restaurante El Mana (excellent seafood)
  • TACO MAR (tacos, burritos, and cocktails)

Where to stay in Santiago Atitlan:

  • Casa Josefa – new budget hotel right in the center of town with a small swimming pool, open since 2018. Double rooms are around US$22 per night
  • Hosteria Del Centro – basic rooms, centrally located. They offer both dorms and private rooms. Double rooms are US$22
  • Hotel Tiosh Abaj – 10 mins walk from Santiago’s main square. Right on the lake, huge patio & gardens, outdoor pool. Rooms start at US$47 per night
  • Eco-Hotel Bambu – a bit outside of town, cozy bungalows made of carved stone and thatched roofs, plus private gardens, five mins from the lake. Rooms from US$70 per night
San Pedro La Laguna Miradores Viewpoints

Cafe Panorama and Mirador Tz’unun Ya (both in walking distance from San Pedro)

San Juan – Street art, coffee and sweeping views

San Juan really surprised me when I returned to Lake Atitlan in 2022 – this village had changed so much since my last visit! I didn’t remember San Juan being particularly touristy when I first visited the small village on the western shore of the lake, but it has definitely become a firm fixture on the tourist trail. The tall viewpoint, Mirador Kaqasiiwaan, is definitely a big draw, because from here, you can see almost the entire lake. I love the views from there, well worth the climb and the 20 Quetzales fee (US$2.55). There are lots of artisans in this town – from weaving studios and pottery studios to art galleries and jewelry makers – it’s worth having a look at all the hand-made products here if you want to pick up some souvenirs that support local artisans.

There is also a lot of street art in San Juan – you can find murals on many streets. The main street leading down to the dock, Calle Chi Nima Ya’, is now better known as “Calle de los sombrillos”, “Umbrella Street”, which is where you find most of the artisans and souvenir shops.

Lake Atitlan villagesThen there’s also “Calle de los Sombreros“, “Hat Street”, (because of decorative hats here), a brightly painted and decorated street that is also very instagrammable. San Juan makes for an easy day trip from San Pedro (I walked and it took me less than half an hour, by tuktuk it would take 10 – 15 minutes), but there are also some great places to stay there. This would be a great base if San Pedro is too touristy for you and it’s a great base for the Indian’s Nose hike.

Where to eat in San Juan La Laguna:

  • Cafe San Juan – This cafe is right on the main street to the dock. They grow the beans locally, and they’re roasted right there. They also have cakes and savory dishes, and you can buy coffee beans to take home with you.
  • Alma De Colores – This restaurant employs disabled people – their mission is to “decrease disability stigma and promote social and economic inclusion through training and income generation.” They also have a small shop across the street where you can buy ornaments, jewelry and other handicrafts.
  • El Gato Perdido – Run by a local family, this restaurant has a wide range of dishes, including pasta & pizza, Guatemalan food, and vegetarian options.
  • Caffe La Cabaña – Located right by the pier, this cafe offers splendid views over Lake Atitlan, and you can eat, as the name suggests, under a Cabaña. They don’t just have coffee, but a full food menu as well.

Where to stay in San Juan La Laguna:

  • Eco-Hotel Mayachik – Rustic cabins, surrounded by lush gardens, on the outskirts of town. Bungalows start at US$29 per night
  • Mundo Abu San Juan La Laguna – Basic cabins right on the lakeshore, with lots of watersports available, and very hospitable owners. Cabins start at US$51 per night
  • Posada Woochooch – Small guesthouse with basic rooms and beautiful gardens right in the heart of San Juan. Rooms start at US$38 per night
  • Alojamiento San Juan – small family-run guesthouse in a central location, almost like a homestay. Double rooms from US$23

San Juan La Laguna Guatemala

Santa Cruz – SUP, kayak, hang out under the radar

Santa Cruz is a small village between Jaibalito and San Marcos, and can only be reached by boat, which keeps visitor numbers low. A few hotels dot the shore, and the main village stretches up the hill behind them. There’s not much to do except hang out, relax or hike in the surrounding hills – or be active on the lake. There are several places that offer kayak and stand-up paddle board rentals. Hotel Isla Verde offers salsa classes on Fridays and daily movie nights, as well as yoga. Santa Cruz is the best village at Lake Atitlan for those who want to get away from other tourists for a villages lake atitlan

Where to eat in Santa Cruz:

  • Cafe Sabor Cruceno -excellent Guatemalan food
  • Restaurant Nimajay – organic restaurant with vegetarian options
  • KEM Artesania y Cafe – you can support local women who weave here and sell their products (bags, blankets, and other hand-woven items) and enjoy a cup of coffee.

Where to stay in Santa Cruz:

  • La Iguana Perdida (budget lakefont hostel, dorms US$10, private rooms from US$20, luxury rooms from US$56)
  • Arca de Noe (right on the lake, double rooms with shared bathroom US$19, private bathroom US$42)
  • A more luxurious option is the Atitlan Sunset Lodge, formerly known as the Atitlan Tree House (around US$79 per night)
  • a good mid-range option would be a chalet at Ruby Hideaway (US$37 per night)

Note: There is one ATM  in Santa Cruz, but I recommend bringing enough cash with you, in case it isn’t working.

where to stay lake atitlan

Jaibalito – find solitude

Other than a couple of hotels, the village of Jaibalito offers nothing for visitors. This makes it, along with San Juan, the most authentic (if not poorest) of Lake Atitlán’s villages. Wi-fi is limited. Mentioning you would like to go to Jaibalito at any of the docks usually means a trip to the popular and moderately luxurious La Casa del Mundo hotel near to Jaibalito. Secluded from the village (and everything else) the hotel has its own dock, and comes with a restaurant, hot pool, lake-view rooms and terraces to hang out. Jaibalito is the best village at Lake Atitlan for those looking for tranquility and serenity.

Where to eat in Jaibalito:

  • El Indigo is fantastic and close to the pier
  • Club Ven Aca has solid food and cocktails (plus lake views!)
  • Cafe El Escondido has good cheap Guatemalan food

Where to stay in Jaibalito:

  • Hotel Y Cafe La Casa del Mundo has its own dock and gorgeous lake views. Rooms start at around $111 per night
  • Posada Jaibalito is the cheapest option right in the village.
  • Casa Pamakanya is an Airbnb that consists of three houses that sleep 10 – 13 guests, a 15 – 20 mins walk from Jaibalito. The houses are surrounded by lush gardens, fruit trees, and there are multiple patios and hammocks. Stairs lead down to a dock and kayaks are provided. Perfect if you’re traveling with friends or family and want nothing but peace and quiet for a few days.

Note: Jaibalito does not have an ATM either, cash only.

best villages lake atitlan

Santa Catarina Palopo – explore and hike off the tourist track

Santa Catarina is only 2.5 miles (four kilometers) south of Panajachel and makes a great day hike from Pana. There are several trinket vendors on the road down from the village square to the lake shore, and a few shops in town, but other than this is a town for locals and a great way to see vibrant lake life. From here, take a hike to San Antonio Palopo, six kilometers to the south and famous for its traditional clothes (especially of the men) and hot springs or hop in a pickup back to Pana. This village is the best village at Lake Atitlan when it comes to fancy hotels – you don’t really find much in terms of budget accommodation here, so you’ll be able to escape the backpacker crowds.

Update 2023: Apparently, Santa Catarina has become a lot more touristy in recent years, mainly spurred by a mural project that made the little town look much more vibrant. The murals were supposed to attract more visitors, and it looks like the project has been successful – I think it’s worth taking a day trip and checking out the art and artisan crafts shops.

where to stay lake atitlan

Where to eat in Santa Catarina Palopo:

  • Restaurante Palopo (lakefront restaurant)
  • Cafe TUK (coffee shop serving artisanal coffee)
  • Artesanal Cafe & Mirador – fantastic terrace overlooking Lake Atitlan, and they have not just coffee and cake, but also savory breakfast and lunch dishes. It’s right on the road from Panajachel.

Where to stay in Santa Catarina Palopo:

  • Villa Santa Catarina – stunning boutique hotel with a large outdoor pool (US$68 per night)
  • Hotel Villas Balam Ya (Robinson Crusoe-esque boutique hotel with fabulous lakeviews and lush gardens, private dock, kayaks, hot tub. Outside of town on the road to Panajachel. Double rooms incl breakfast US$99)
  • Hotel Casa Palopo – beautiful spacious & stylish rooms, each one has a balcony and a stunning view over Lake Atitlan. Deluxe rooms are around US$370. The hotel is a short walk from town, but there is an on-site restaurant.
Views over San Juan La Laguna and the volcanoes

Views over San Juan La Laguna and the volcanoes



Wednesday 1st of March 2023

Hi !

I am interested on going with my two boys (3&6).. are there any activities or camps or recommendations for traveling with children ?

Thank you !


Monday 4th of December 2023

@Dani, wife, two teenage boys. first trip. what Lake Atitlan village has the best mix of food, bars, coffee shops walkable. not too crazy….maybe a little quieter/photogenic. but not too quiet. bonus points for hotel with pool. thx


Thursday 2nd of March 2023

Hi Niya, just be aware that the lanchas, the small boats that go across the lake, can be quite uncomfortable.. ie. it's often a bumpy ride. (But the local kids take the lanchas too). I think the kids would just enjoy swimming in the lake, so choosing a place with good lake access would be great (Pana has a small beach, San Marcos is more suitable for older swimmers who can jump off of the platform / cliffs..)..


Monday 17th of October 2022

Who took the first picture? I would like to give credit to whoever took it


Thursday 27th of October 2022

Hi Angel, all pictures used in this article were taken by me :)


Tuesday 26th of July 2022

Wow... thanks so much for this detailed list! It was really helpful!

Judy schellinger

Friday 30th of July 2021

You MUST stay at my son's gorgeous Refugeo del Volcan overlooking Lake Atilan on the Finca in San Pedro. It's on airbnb if you want a peek. You would never be disappointed. He has a 5 star top rating


Monday 16th of August 2021

Judy - thanks so much for the recommendation. Please feel free to share the link in a comment. I'm heading back to Lake Atitlan soon!

Guatemala | A Guide to Guatemala for the Bausse In You

Monday 3rd of July 2017

[…] give you a synopsis here of some of the villages around the lake, but the Globe Trotter Girls do a great job on this one too if you want some more […]