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Lake Atitlan is a beautiful volcanic lake in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. It is ringed by small towns, many of which are favourites among backpackers. The region encompasses the lake and the towns around them. Panajachel is best known, and a good entry point, but more off the beaten track are San Pedro La Laguna or the less party, more meditation village of San Marcos. Due to the region's popularity, other towns along the lake, such as Santa Cruz la Laguna and San Juan, are now starting to see growing tourism.
Travel Guatemala and visit Lake Atitlan, famous for its natural beauty and colorful Mayan villages.
Santa Cruz La Laguna is the lake's scuba capital and there's some excellent diving to be had here. Once a volcanic crater, Lake Atitlan has an average depth of 200 metres and at its deepest point plunges to a whopping 340 metres. The opportunity to dive in a high altitude lake should not be missed and the underwater scenery is otherworldly. Because the lake is still rising it has swallowed up whole villages over the years – swimming among the submerged shells of hotels and houses is really eerie. This is a must thing to do on your Lake Atitlan tour.
While Catholicism has been the predominant religion in Guatemala since the arrival of the Spanish, what people in the West think of as Catholic is often quite different from what the Mayans practice. Mass, baptisms, weddings and funerals are preformed by ordained priests as the Church prescribes. However there are Mayan priests that hold their own ceremonies – ceremonies the Pope wouldn't begin to recognize, much less sanction. A Mayan ceremony is run by a Mayan priest who holds what is called a 'cemada' or burning in which he or she makes offerings to God. Ceremonies are held for many reasons such as your or someone else's health, or the success of a business. It's a good to have an idea of what you need before going to visit Candelaria. Visit their website to learn more about the ceremonies for your Lake Atitlan tour.
During your Lake Antitlan tour, do not miss the San Juan village. San Juan is a lovely little village that is much less touristy than some of the tourist hotspots like Panajachel and San Pedro. The main attractions here are the many women's coops that make and sell beautiful and authentic Mayan textiles. This is a great place to do your shopping because the coops make sure that the women are compensated fairly for their amazing work. There are a large number of women's coops, all creating beautiful, well-made goods. Take a day to explore each one. Many of the coops also do weaving and natural dye demonstrations. The weaving is done by traditional backstrap loom, and the demonstrations are really interesting and informative. This is one of the best things to do at Lake Antitlan.
This shop is famous for tuna.
San Marcos is the most laid-back place at the lake, and the Yoga Farm is the perfect place to relax and unwind. The property is found in the hills behind the village, and you can sign up to a residential yoga course or just come up for the day. This is one of the best things to do at Lake Atitlan, make sure you don't miss it!
Next amazing thing to do at Lake Atitlan is to visit Jaibalito. It's a tiny town only accessible by water or by hiking, it's home to three great establishments, the local community is very friendly, and the views of the lake are wonderful. It's also conveniently located for day trips to other towns on the lake. At night, noise swells — competing churches play incredibly loud and boisterous music, while in the middle of the night, all of the dogs on the lake seem to be barking at each other.
How to Get Tickets?
The admisson to Lake Atitlan is free. You just need to pay for the activities you want to do while you're on Lake Atitlan tour, such as hiking, climbing, scuba diving, and shopping.
How To Get Around?
During your Lake Atitlan tour, the best and often only way to get around is by lancha. Lanchas are small water taxis that ferry people from place to place. With no official schedule, no official pricing structure and no official routes, lanchas will take you wherever you want to go, when you want to go, for around 7-20 GTQ each way. Just wave a boat down from any of the jetties on the lake. Most of the villages on Lake Atitlan are so small you can get about on foot but there are plenty of tuk - tuks around for when you' re feeling lazy or can' t be bothered with an uphill hike– remember, you' re in the mountains so the streets tend to be steep and winding.
What Should I Wear?
Lake Atitlan is a hiking and sightseeing paradise. Lightweight pants, jeans and a short sleeved shirt are perfect attire. Good sturdy shoes or hiking boots are recommended. Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are a must when hiking as the sun is very strong during daytime hours. Pack a lightweight jacket for the evenings. If traveling during rainy season you will want to pack rain gear. Most of the rain during rainy season comes in the late afternoon. While showers don't typically last more than a few hours they can be torrential at times.
Best Time to Visit
Lake Atitlan has a temperate climate; mild with average temperatures of around 26°C during the summer (November to April). Rainy season is between May and October. Heavy rainshowers are interspersed with sunny spells – watching the storm clouds race across the lake is an awesome sight but, watch out, as the streets often become temporary rivers. If you plan to hike the mountains or volcanoes, it can be up to 20 degrees cooler at altitude than at the lakeside, so don' t set off without suitable hiking gear. Easter is a major event around here and the villages are in full party mode– crammed with tourists and backpackers, it's kind of like Spring Break and an excellent time to see the lake locals in full swing.
Will I Need a Guide?
To enjoy the things to do at Lake Atitlan, you will not need a tour guide service. The Lake Atitlan tour is best to be done by yourself. You can easily meet other travelers and make friends with the locals here.
How To Get There?
While you can get occasional buses to other villages around the lake, you're better off going to Panajachel and using the boats to reach other destinations. The road to Panajachel is safe and there are better connections to other parts of the country. Chicken buses (camionetas) from Guatemala City leave approximately every hour to Panajachel, from 6 AM to 4 PM, and cost 30 Q.These recycled U.S.school buses are poorly maintained, and drivers do not adhere to speed limits or dangerous road conditions. The ride is also long, and it can be quite uncomfortable if the bus gets crowded (which it almost certainly will). Alternatively, you can take a bus to Los Encuentros for 25 Q, and change there.A bus from Los Encuentros to Sololá costs 2 Q and from there you can take another to Panajachel, for 2.50 Q. Many tourist agencies will arrange tourist buses transport(shuttles) to Panajachel. A minibus from Antigua to Panajachel is USD $12 per person each way, though some among the number of agents offering the service could charge USD $20 - 25.
Atitlan Solutions, (+502 5104 2485), is a multiservice company offering solutions on and around Lake Atitlan. With over 25 years of experience they have a wealth of knowledge and know the Lake inside out. Whether it be touristic activities, accomodation (short or long stay), transportation (ground and boat), logistics or other services that may help you to enjoy your stay.