Popular 10 Things to do at Lake Atitlán
Lago de Atitlán, nestled between three imposing volcanoes in the Central Highlands of Guatemala, has often been called “the closest thing to Eden on Earth.” Indeed, the lake’s stunning natural beauty is a huge draw for tourists, but it’s the warm-hearted people who live there that brings visitors back again and again.
There is much to do in the area to keep visitors busy, but here are ten suggestions on how to best spend your time while sampling the area’s spectacular scenery and enigmatic culture.
1. Explore Panajachel
Located just 90 miles from Guatemala City, the resort town of Panajachel lies on the lake’s northern shore. Pana, as the town is affectionately called by locals, is an ideal base for exploring the surrounding area. Replete with shops, restaurants, cafés and hotels, tourists flock here by the dozens, which is why the town’s nickname is “Gringotenango.”
2. A room with a View
The Porta Hotel del Lago is a comfortable, modern hotel overlooking the lake with spacious rooms and a sumptuous buffet breakfast. The rooms offer expansive views, but take the elevator to the rooftop for the best view — a breathtaking panoramic vista of the lake, volcanoes and lakeside villages.
3. Dine on Salvadorian Pupusas
For dinner, forego the fancier restaurants and spend an evening at Pupuseria Cheros, a Salvadorian Pupuseria owned by Ricardo Rochac and his wife Carmen Garcia. These friendly folks serve up thick, mouth-watering pupusas – corn tortillas stuffed with a mixture of cheese, beans or meat. The chocolate shop across the street makes a good desert stop. Both are located on the corner of Calle Principal and Avenida de los Árboles.
4. Visit the Market at Sololá
The Friday Market in nearby Sololá is well worth a visit. Relax and enjoy the traders and villagers from all around the highlands who besiege the plaza and neighboring streets. Decked out in brilliantly colored traditional costumes, they come here to bargain and sell their wares.
5. Ride in a Lancha
A trip to Lake Atitlán’s lakeshore villages is a must. Board a lancha, one of the boats that take passengers to the surrounding villages. Enjoy magnificent views of the lake’s towering volcanoes: San Pedro, Atitlán, and Tolimán, as the lancha speeds across the deepest lake in the Western Hemisphere.
6. Visit Santiago Atitlán
The Tzutuhil Maya village of Santiago Atitlán, set against the western flank of Volcán Tolimán is easily reached by lancha. As the boat approaches, delight in the children’s laughter as they play tag on the shoreline while women wash clothes in nearby water channels. Stroll up the street from the dock, stopping at one of the shops to buy vibrantly colored masks or multi-hued embroidered huipiles (blouses).
7. Pay Respects to Maximón
Hop in a cherry-red tuk-tuk for a ride up the hill to the shrine of Maximón. Part evil saint, part pagan idol, Maximón is a cigar-smoking figure covered in a hat and silk scarves. Inside his smoke-filled den, attendants greet visitors, who should offer him a few cigars to puff on or a small bottle of Venado rum.
8. Climb up to the Church in San Antonio Palopó
The lakeside village of San Antonio Palopó clings to the edge of a steep hillside as if it were about to tumble into the water. Onshore, familes sit cleaning the scallions they grow in their terraced fields. Purchase several of the renowned weavings made by local vendors while walking up to see the colonial church on the hill.
9. Explore the San Buenaventura Nature Reserve
Hike the San Buenaventura Nature Reserve’s light-dappled trails for a glimpse of spider monkeys lolling in the thick tangle of leaves up above. Explore 500 species of butterflies and 50 species of orchids here in the reserve’s lush 247 acres on the shores of Lake Atitlán.
10. Harness up for an Adrenaline Rush
Soar through the air on Cables X-Tremos’ zip line canopy tour at the San Buenaventura Nature Reserve. Each of the six lines has a different velocity, and all have spectacular views of the lake. When the thrilling experience is over, there won’t be any doubt whyLake Atitlán is called “Guatemala’s Eden on Earth.”