Volcano on the edge of a lake with a village on the bottom.

Where to Stay at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Mark Stewart Destinations 10 Comments

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Many who visit Guatemala often struggle with deciding where in the country to visit and for how long. This is especially true when planning a visit to the magical Lake Atitlan. With so many wonderful villages to choose from, deciding on which one(s) fit your style can get overwhelming. So before you make your final decision, read through the guide we put together to help you choose where to stay at Lake Atitlan!

Keep in mind, all the Lake Atitlan towns are easily accessible by boat and/or tuk-tuk. So if you’re short on time, we recommend choosing one as your base and making day-trips to explore the others.

The Best Lake Atitlan Towns


Pana, as most people call it, is the main transport hub and central town of Lake Atitlan and the jumping off point for the rest of the villages. It’s the largest of all the towns and where the majority of tourists and expats make their base.

Along the main strip of Calle Santander, you’ll find a lot of western-style restaurants as well as a happening nightlife scene. Beginning late in the afternoon, street food carts make their appearance; offering a wider range of food options away from the burgers and pasta.

It’s also home to the largest supermarket on the lake, Dispensa Familiar, which is a large chain found throughout Guatemala. It’s a great overall one-stop-shop, but we prefer to shop as often as we can at smaller shops and local markets. One such market is located daily by the bus stop near the main church. Two other great options for groceries are Sandy’s and Chalos, both offering plenty of imported food as well as local provisions.

Why Stay in Panajachel?

Pana is the place to stay if you’re short on time, looking to meet up with other travellers, or make day trips to the villages. It also has the most shopping options; many stalls selling an assortment of local handicrafts.

Accommodation in Panajachel

Hospedaje El Viajero is an amazing budget option with a great location and comfy beds. A nice lift off point to hit up the rest of the lake towns or to head back into the city.

Reserve on Booking.com.

Villas Jabel Tinamit – A great place to stay with a lovely garden oasis right next to a bumpin’ bar. The garden area is sweet to chill during the day but the bar next door is going loud all night and really may be the place to be (if thats the vibe you are looking for).

Reserve on Booking.com

Selina Atitlan – Perfect spot for digital nomads and those needing a place to work. They offer amazing wifi, a great workspace, super comfy beds and yoga classes.  Dorms and private rooms available.

Reserve on Booking.com

Unique Experience in Panajachel: Visit the cemetery on the southeast end of town. Unlike most cemeteries in the western world, this one is bright and colourful, with unique sculptures, statues and shrines to lost loved ones. Just remember to be respectful, it is still a sacred place.
Colourful concrete caskets in a cemetery at Panajachel, Lake Atitlan.
The Oddly Beautiful Cemetery of Panajachel

San Pedro la Laguna

The second most popular village in Lake Atitlan, although much more laid back – it’s where the majority of budget backpackers come. There are plenty of great restaurants with a wide variety of food options, amazing accommodation choices and some of the cheapest Spanish language schools in the country.

For longer-term visitors, self-catering options are fantastic! In the upper end of town you’ll find the main local market offering fresh produce and meat for very decent prices. Just past the market is a small grocery store called Super Andy, which has a decent selection for great prices – including the cheapest beer in town. Another option, near the main dock and general tourist area, is Salud Para Vida. It’s a nice little organic shop that sells everything from gluten-free flours to meat alternatives and imported goods.

Some street food comes out at night, up near the market and Andy’s. It’s the cheapest food you will find in San Pedro and typically consists of grilled meats, with some potatoes and beans. Simple, but delicious.

Why Stay in San Pedro?

San Pedro la Laguna is the perfect backpacker town. It’s got cheap accommodation, a chilled-out vibe, tons of great restaurants, nightlife, and a youthful vibrance. There are a few higher-end hotels here, but most of the accommodation are hostels or AirBnbs.

This laid-back town is also home to plenty of activities to keep you entertained. It’s definitely our favourite village on Lake Atitlan.

Accommodation in San Pedro, Lake Atitlan

AmiGos – An amazing view with a small price tag, your own bathroom and kitchen; take it while you can get it.

Reserve on Booking.com

Zoola San Pedro Atitlan – A place with a little of everything, enjoy quiet time by the pool or fun times at the bar.

Reserve on Booking.com

La Villa by Luxury Atitlan – Did you come to Lake Atitlan to get away from all the things and get your relax on? Here is the place. Beautiful location, amazing service and basically an oasis in San Pedro. And and they have a swimming pool. Treat yo-self to a villa, you deserve it.

Reserve on Booking.com

Unique experience in San Pedro: This is the place to be for Spanish lessons at Lake Atitlan. Pay some of the lowest prices in Guatemala while studying a new language in pristine surroundings!
Red, white, and blue boat in the water, with a colourful village of San Pedro in the background.
Colourful San Pedro la Laguna – Our Favourite Lake Atitlan Village!

San Juan la Laguna

Just two kilometres up the road from San Pedro, the vibe in San Juan la Laguna is similar but much quieter. It’s also the best place on Lake Atitlan to buy locally-made cloth and handicrafts. Local women here weave some of the finest quality textiles in the country. All the proceeds go directly back not only into the community but directly to the individual who crafted the item.

It’s only a short tuk-tuk ride to San Pedro if you need to shop for anything over and above what’s in the market. There is plenty to do if you are interested in handicrafts, learn how to spin yarn out of cotton and dye it naturally. You can even tour a local organic coffee plantation and visit an artisanal chocolate factory.

It’s definitely worth checking this place out if you get the chance.

When you’re there, be sure to eat at Alma de Colores for great food (including homemade bread), wonderful atmosphere and a chance to give back to the community. The restaurant and centre is staffed by locals with disabilities, so you’ll not only have a delicious meal, but you’ll be helping provide jobs for those who have few other options.

Why Stay in San Juan?

San Juan is a bit more of a sleepier town, regarding restaurants and nightlife, when compared to its neighbour. This results in prices being a little cheaper overall, and fewer accommodation options. If you’re looking for the convenience of San Pedro with more of a local vibe, this is definitely the choice for you.

Accommodation in San Juan la Laguna

Casa Maya Authentic homestay – As close as you can get to an actual authentic homestay around the lake while still being able to book it online.

Reserve on Booking.com

Eco-Hotel Mayachik – An amazing eco hotel option in the wilderness with decent prices and a private bathroom in each little bungalow. They also have dorms available that are well spaced out and comfortable. Massage is available as well for an extra fee.

Reserve on Booking.com

Unique experience in San Juan: Take part in a sacred Mayan cacao ceremony through the Licor Marron chocolate factory.
White walls covered in intricate patterned street art beside a chocolate shop in San Juan la Laguna, Lake Atitlan.
Street art Artisanal Chocolate Factory at Lake Atitlan

San Marcos

Prepare to have your chakras aligned; the new-age hippy vibe runs deep through this village.

It certainly doesn’t offer the same style of activities as some of the larger towns on the Lake, but if meditation and yoga is your thing, San Marcos is the place to be. Be sure to look into the courses and retreats happening here before arriving, as some retreats require pre-registration.

Aside from meditation and yoga, there are plenty of other smaller courses you can partake in. Everything from astrology and dream interpretation, to crystal healing and reiki. For those of the spiritual mind, San Marcos is definitely a place to expand yourself.

If the above-mentioned activities aren’t quite your thing, don’t let that steer you away. San Marcos is said to be the prettiest village on the lake and one of the only spots recommended for swimming (and cliff jumping!).

Why Stay in San Marcos?

If you’re one for healthy, clean living; yoga and meditation and a solid selection of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, San Marcos is for you. Even if you aren’t planning to stay for long, it’s worth a visit to take in the atmosphere of San Marcos.

Accommodation in San Marcos, Lake Atitlan

Hotel Villa Tzankujil – Gorgeous views of the lake, a great community hostel vibe. It is a bit away from the town and the walls are thin but don’t let that discourage you from the community vibe and the views, they are totally worth it.

Reserve on Booking.com

El Dragon Hotel – An amazing place on the lake with a wonderful view, midrange prices and a bar. Chill during the day and relax with a cocktail at sunset.

Reserve on Booking.com

Anzan Atitlan – Want to have an nice spa getaway with amazingly comfortable beds down a hidden path with outstanding meals. The peace and quiet serenity of this place is a thing of beauty. If you came here to escape, this is the place to be.

Reserve on Booking.com

Unique Experience in San Marcos: Sticking with the common theme, come here for spirituality. Take part in a ceremony or healing retreat and reconnect with yourself.
People doing yoga on a platform in San Marcos overlooking Lake Atitlan.
Yoga during a retreat through the Momentom Collective

Santa Cruz

The least developed of the main villages, Santa Cruz is a traditional Mayan town built on a steep hill. It’s location and layout make it the best spot around the lake for taking those iconic sunset photos.

While physically the closest town to Panajachel, it’s one of the most isolated due to its boat-only access. Although that is, of course, part of the charm. People tend to either visit this village for a short day trip or stay for several weeks at a time. One thing to note is that there is little to no shopping here. and no ATM’s; but seeing as Pana is only a ten-minute boat ride, you’ll have no issue.

Why Stay in Santa Cruz?

Santa Cruz is for those looking for calm and quiet. It’s ferry-only access keeps it from getting too busy or congested. If you’re looking to settle in for a few weeks and get away from it all, head to Santa Cruz.

See Booking.com for accommodation.

Unique Experience in Santa Cruz: It’s home to the only dive shop on Lake Atitlan, so if Scuba is your thing, definitely check it out!
Looking down at a large lake surrounded by green hills.
This is just a random photo of Lake Atitlan

How to get to Lake Atitlan

As mentioned above, the main kick-off point to the rest of the lake is Panajachel. The ferries to all of the main villages leave from the docks here and range from Q10 to Q30, depending on distance. The boats follow no strict schedule and simply leave when full; however they do stop running after 7 pm.

Red school bus with chrome and colourful decals beside a blue building.
Take the Chicken Bus to Lake Atitlan

To Lake Atitlan From Mexico:

There are many shuttle companies that run between San Cristobal and Lake Atitlan; you can even book one all the way to San Pedro. Prices vary, but we paid 400 pesos. You’ll be driven to the Mexico border where you cross on foot and catch another shuttle which will take you through to Panajachel.

A few things to note if you’re taking this trip:
First, the trip can take much longer than expected and often arrive in Panajachel after the ferries stop running. It may be best to book your first night there to avoid issues.

Also, the price to San Pedro includes the ferry fee. Occasionally, shuttle drivers will pocket this fee and leave you at the docks, where you’ll have to pay the fee again. Be sure the driver pays the ferry driver before driving away.
Read our post about our journey from San Cristobal to Lake Atitlan

How to Get to Lake Atitlan From Antigua

For this most recent update, we’ve put together an entire post detailing the methods of getting from Antigua to Lake Atitlan!

How to Antigua from Lake Atitlan

Shuttles are always the easiest and quickest route, but chicken busses are always an option, and a cheaper one at that. Check out this post in the opposite direction to do the multiple bus route.

There is also a daily direct bus from Lake Atitlan to Antigua that leaves Panahachel at 10:45 am. Pick it up on Calle Principal by Hotel Primavera, it will be around 35Q.

Pick One, Pick All

With so much variety, it’s easy to see why Lake Atitlán is a favourite destination for travellers of Guatemala. It’s also no surprise that many people show up and end up never wanting to leave.

Sunset over a Lake with a boat in the foreground and two volcanoes in the back.
Lake Atitlan Sunsets will leave you Speechless
And remember, no matter where you’re going, regardless of how safe you play, anything can happen. We never travel without travel insurance, and we suggest you travel the same!

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About the Author

Mark Stewart

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Mark is a multi-passionate creative with a fascination for getting the most out of the human experience. While he isn't chasing adventures around the globe as a travel journalist and photographer, he works as a freelance writer, private chef and web developer.

Comments 10

  1. Nice! You took lovely pictures of women while working and doing everyday things. I’ve never been there myself but I would love to visit. Looks interesting and beautiful

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  2. I love that lake 🙂 Second post and it looks like such a different world. Well, the most important thing about me is photography. How do people react? Is it safe to hang out here with a camera? I liked the “chicken bus” most fall, crafted vehicles are so cool.

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      Yeah, the chicken buses are great! We didn’t have any issues with the camera being out, although we never had it with us in the evenings.

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