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A woman enjoying the best things to do at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

One of the most breathtaking places in Guatemala to relax and tune back into yourself is at Lake Atitlan. Situated in a massive volcanic crater, Lake Atitlan is known for its Mayan culture, hippie villages, beautiful nature and sustainability efforts. A trip to Guatemala is not complete without visiting Lake Atitlan and what is great about this area is that there are so many awesome things to do for all!

Guatemala is in Central America. Spanish is the official language of the country and the predominate religion is Catholicism. There are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Guatemala, it is renowned for chocolate and coffee and the country’s cuisine is influenced by Mayan and Spanish culture.

A woman at Laguna Lodge on Lake Atitlan

During March 2022, I did a wonderful Central and South America trip. I started my trip solo in Guatemala where I spent two nights in Antigua, one night hiking Volcan Acatenango and the remaining two nights on Lake Atitlan. I then flew to Colombia where I met Caitlin of My Darling Passport. We spent two nights on Isla Barú, which is an island off the famous city of Cartagena and concluded our trip in the city.

Unfortunately, Lake Atitlan is under a tough threat from pollution due to various reasons. Tourism is helping Lake Atitlan and its locals due to the economic benefits of it, but it’s important to always be mindful of the activities you do and what you consume (for instance, it is best to support locally-owned businesses versus big international corporations).

Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

In this travel guide, discover the 12 best eco things to do in Lake Atitlan during a Guatemala trip.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like. During my time at Lake Atitlan, Laguna Lodge hosted me for two nights. I was also hosted at Zotz restaurant for a few meals. I also partnered with Tinggly to attend a Mayan Ceremony.


Pin the Below Image to Keep Handy

Eco Things to do at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Is Guatemala Safe for Solo Female Travelers?

A woman on a solo trip in Guatemala

I traveled alone to Guatemala and a major thing I’d like to address is that Guatemala is safe and makes for a great solo trip, especially for females! Both Antigua and Lake Atitlan offer a lot of great things to do, plus both destinations boast a major digital nomad community.

Best things to do at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

I would be lying if I said that some loved ones were concerned about me traveling solo to Guatemala and tried to talk me out of it. (I’m glad I didn’t listen to them.) I understand that the media covers a lot of bad things that happen around the world, but I didn’t find Guatemala to be unsafe at all during my solo travels, so PLEASE don’t let that determine if you should travel to Guatemala or not.

A woman on the Acatenango hike in Guatemala

Of course, bad things happen everywhere! (Even in your hometown.)

Some great safety tips for visiting Atitlan Lake is to always be aware of your surroundings; do not put yourself in sketchy situations; watch your alcohol intake (wine is awesome, but one too many could be dangerous); DON’T DO DRUGS EVER; do your research and book a hotel/Airbnb/hostel in a safe area (I like to stay in accommodations close to the popular areas); negotiate the price of a cab before you hop in (Guatemala has Uber, so I recommend using that to get around); learn how to say NO; don’t walk around by yourself late at night; don’t show off your valuables and don’t be afraid to ask a staff member from your hotel to assist you somewhere.  

How to Get to Lake Atitlan:

A vintage car in Guatemala

Overall, it is easy to visit Guatemala. I took a flight from Newark Airport in New Jersey to La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City with a layover in Miami. You can find affordable flights through Skyscanner!

Other great ways to get around the country at a more affordable cost are by buses. Guatemala is known for its camionetas, which are known as chicken buses. Recognized as the most affordable and authentic mode of transportation in Guatemala, chicken buses are old North American school buses that are used to transport everything from luggage to live animals (like chickens)!

Taking the chicken bus at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

If you plan to use the chicken buses, make sure to have cash on you and be aware of getting scammed as a foreigner. You can hail a bus at public terminals, near a lot of markets. They are hard to miss!

The Pullman is usually considered a first-class bus in Guatemala and they are also a great way to get around the country. With a 25 percent higher cost than the chicken buses, the Pullman bus tickets can be bought in advance. Most Pullman buses leave out of private offices.

Another way to get around Guatemala is by renting your own vehicle or organizing private transportation through your accommodation. During my time in Guatemala, I organized all my transportation to and from each destination through my hotels.

Inside a chicken bus in Guatemala

One of the best ways to get around specific cities and popular spots in the country is by using Uber. I did use Uber a few times and I also got to ride the chicken bus when I was at Lake Atitlan. (It is a fun and authentic experience that must be on your list of things to do in Lake Atitlan.)

Tuk-tuks are another great way to get around Guatemalan cities at an affordable cost. It’s also one of the most authentic ways to travel from place to place. Even though they are more common in Southeast Asian and African countries, tuk-tuks are a motorized rickshaw that has three wheels. As a foreigner, you may need to haggle the cost of your ride like you would with a taxi.

A tuk-tuk in Guatemala

If you’re wondering how to get to Lake Atitlan from other parts of the country, there are shuttles that go to and from Guatemala City Airport to Panajachel, which is the major port on the lake. In fact, Panajachel is known as the “gateway to Lago de Atitlán“).

There are also shuttles that go to and from Antigua to Lake Atitlan. If you plan to take the shuttle from the airport, you can pick it up right there and it will cost you $25 USD. The shuttles from Antigua can be organized through your accommodation or a local travel agency. It costs $12 USD.

Other ways to get to Lake Atitlan is through taxi, Uber or a private car service. During my time in Guatemala, I organized private transfers through both hotels I stayed at. I stayed at Good Hotel in Antigua, who organized my transportation from Guatemala City Airport.  Laguna Lodge planned my car service to Lake Atitlan from Antigua and then from Lake Atitlan to Guatemala City.

Boats on Lake Atitlan

Once you’re at Atitlan, the best way to get from each lake village is by taking the public boat. Most hotels that are located on the lake, like Laguna Lodge, have a public dock where you can pick up the boat. It is best to ask the staff at your accommodation about the time schedule for the boat.

Depending on how far you’re going on the public boat, it will cost you anywhere from Q10 to Q25. It can take anywhere from 5 minutes to over an hour to get around Lago de Atitlan. When you’re in a specific lake town, the best way to get around is by walking, Uber, tuk-tuk or the chicken bus.

12 Best Things to do at Lake Atitlan:

A woman enjoying a trip to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

From immersing yourself in the Mayan culture to savoring delicious vegan cuisine, here is what to do at Lake Atitlan.

Stay at Laguna Lodge on Lake Atitlan:

Laguna Lodge at Lake Atitlan

During my time on Lake Atitlan, I stayed at Laguna Lodge, which is near the town of Santa Cruz. Laguna Lodge is one of the best Lake Atitlan hotels as it is a luxury eco-resort and nature reserve located right on the lake.

Staying at Laguna Lodge is a breath of fresh air as it is peaceful and rejuvenating. The resort has its own boating dock, an eco-cuisine restaurant, a spa, pool and hot tub and the suites are spacious and feature Mayan décor.

The Suites at Laguna Lodge:

A woman staying at Laguna Lodge on Lake Atitlan

I stayed in the Kucumatz Villa at Laguna Lodge. I loved the Adobe walls, wooden floors, chandeliers, indigenous artwork and beamed ceilings. It is authentic, cozy and charming.

What I liked most about staying in this specific villa is how spacious it was! I also didn’t realize at first that there are two floors to this suite! The first floor has a king bed, living room space, en-suite bathroom with his and her sinks and large windows that overlook the lake and nearby volcanoes.

Kucumatz Villa at Laguna Lodge in Santa Cruz

The second floor of the Kucumatz Villa has a king bed and double bed with an en-suite bathroom. This amazing suite also has a great mini bar where you can have complimentary water, coffee and tea. You can also enjoy wine, chocolate and other great snacks for an additional cost. At night, Laguna Lodge offers an evening service, which I always love before I go to bed at a hotel.

The Kucumatz Villa at Laguna Lodge

The Kucumatz Villa is the largest suite at Laguna Lodge. The other amazing suites to stay in at this beautiful lakeside resort are The Maximon Suite, The Ceiba Suite, The Monja Blanca Suite, The Pato Poc Suite, The Tecun Uman Suite, The Quetzal Suite and The Jaguar Suite.

Relaxation and Fitness at Laguna Lodge:

Laguna Lodge on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Laguna Lodge is an incredible place to relax, rejuvenate and tune into nature. If you plan to visit Lake Atitlan after doing the Acatenango hike, one of the best things to do is get a well needed massage!

The Hummingbird Spa at Laguna Lodge offers Swiss, Thai, Deep Tissue, Hot Stone and Reflexology massages using pure essential organic and natural oils. You can also enjoy a nice manicure and pedicure at Laguna Lodge on Lake Atitlan.

There are also plenty of great ways to stay fit during your time at the lake. Some of the best things to do at Laguna Lodge on Lake Atitlan is to enjoy swimming, kayaking, canoeing and hiking. Laguna Lodge also has a private yoga and Pilates instructor while overlooking the beautiful lake. The resort also offers meditation sessions as well.

Explore Laguna Nature Reserve – Best Eco Things to do in Lake Atitlan:

A margay on a Laguna Nature Reserve hike - top things to do in Lake Atitlan

One of the best things to do during a stay at Laguna Lodge on Lake Atitlan is to explore its Nature Reserve. Beginning at the lake front and sprawling behind the resort, the Nature Reserve is a high altitude tropical dry forest. Some days, the top of the Nature Reserve is covered in a cloud and on other days, it covers some of the most breathtaking views of the lake and volcanoes.

The Laguna Nature Reserve has beautiful trails where you can see Mayan ceremonial rocks. It is important that the biodiversity in Guatemala is protected, so native flora is replanted at the Reserve. Organic coffee is also grown on the lower slopes.

Some cool wildlife you can check out are margays, which are wild cats, foxes and a variety of different bird species. One of the coolest birds you can see in the Laguna Nature Reserve is the quetzal, which almost looks like a mix between a bird and flying snake. It’s so unique!

Sustainability at Laguna Lodge:

Laguna Lodge Eco Resort

Overall, Laguna Lodge is doing everything they can to conserve assets of nature and culture through sustainable tourism.

Laguna Lodge is considered a green hotel because it practices energy and water conservation, waste management, chemical reduction, low carbon cuisine and more. The resort also uses locally produced cotton towels, handwoven local wool blankets and hypoallergenic bedding and pillows. That is huge for me since I suffer from a skin allergy. Discover more about the details of Laguna Lodge’s conservation efforts.

Savor Eco Cuisine at Lake Atitlan:

Breakfast at Laguna Lodge on Lake Atitlan

Another reason why Laguna Lodge is one of the best places to stay on Lake Atitlan is because there is an incredible lakefront restaurant that serves the best eco cuisine in the area.

Zotz combines natural foods with flavor and quality. The award-winning chefs use fresh organic vegetables, herbs and eggs that are either harvested from the garden that is located on the property or procured from local farmers.

From breakfast to dinner, I loved dining at Zotz. The food was delicious and healthy! Zotz serves modern and sustainable plant-based dishes (and beverages) that include artisan cheeses, free range eggs, fresh organic produce along with organic and carbon neutral wines.

Evenings on Lake Atitlan are chilly, so dining at Zotz is nice and comforting as you can enjoy a five-course candlelit dinner by the stone fireplace.

A candlelit dinner from Zotz Restaurant at Laguna Lodge
Asian salad from Laguna Lodge
A vegetarian dinner at Zotz Restaurant

When I first checked into Laguna Lodge, I was greeted with a delicious tropical fruit cocktail. Then, on my first evening, I had spicy Indonesian peanut soup with chapati; Asian tofu salad; a grilled eggplant and squash tower with garlic rice and rich chocolate pudding for dessert.

For breakfast, I loved the cinnamon oat French toast with fresh orange juice, Guatemalan coffee and a croissant with fruity jam.

Rich chocolate pudding from Zotz at Laguna Lodge
French onion soup at wine from Zotz at Lake Atitlan
Sesame salad at Laguna Lodge
Molten chocolate cake from Zotz at Laguna Lodge

Dinner on my second night was vegetarian French onion soup, sesame salad with avocado and walnuts, vegetarian lasagna and molten chocolate cake for dessert. Everything was incredible and the imported Guatemalan red wine did not disappoint!

Relax on Lake Atitlan:

Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

In case you’re wondering if you can swim in Lake Atitlan, the short answer is yes you can, but with caution! The best places to swim on Lake Atitlan are away from the main towns like Panajachel, San Pedro and Santa Cruz and where you won’t run into boat traffic. What is nice about Laguna Lodge is that it is secluded on the lake, away from the heart of the main villages.

You should avoid swimming in Lake Atitlan when there is algae blooms. Unfortunately, the lake does carry cyanobacteria that causes skin rashes and other health concerns. For years, Lake Atitlan has had issues with people dumping trash into the water. It’s also important to watch what seafood you consume at Lake Atitlan.

In addition to swimming, you can also go kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing and boating on Lake Atitlan. Even if you don’t want to be on the water, spending time around it is relaxing and therapeutic. I love how Laguna Lodge has a pool that overlooks the lake along with a nice hot tub.

Attend a Mayan Ceremony:

Attending a Mayan Ceremony - Best things to do at Lake Atitlan

If you’re wondering what to do at Lake Antigua that is an authentic, unique experience and will allow you to immerse yourself in Mayan culture, I suggest attending a Mayan Ceremony. I did my Mayan Ceremony through Tinggly.

Mayan Ceremony Caves at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

During this amazing experience, I met up with Kimmy of Come Along with Pong and we both were transported into an ancient fire cleansing and protection ceremony. These ceremonies take place in Sacred Caves above Lake Atitlan and each ceremony is different as there are some for business/money (all the ones Kimmy and I experienced were for finance), there are also ceremonies for romance/love, friendship/socialization, family/conceiving and more!

A Mayan Shaman performing a ceremony at Lake Atitlan

A Mayan Shaman is a person chosen as the healer and usually performs these ceremonies. Mayans don’t always need a Shaman to perform the ceremonies if they already know what they’re doing, but most people like to schedule him ahead of time to ensure he is there.

Mayan ceremonial cave

Mayan civilization is one of the oldest in the world (2000 BC). Most Mayans are from Central and South America. To this day, it is a thriving culture with a lot of beauty and history! I’m so grateful I got to feel the energy and power from these caves!

A Mayan Shaman altar at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

During this experience, Kimmy and I also got to visit the Shaman’s altar, which is connected to his home. Anyone can come here if they let the Shaman know ahead of time. It’s very peaceful! The dolls, in the photo above, represent the Shaman throughout different stages of life. He’s an everyday person who is chosen based on how energetic people feel around him. It is said that they have a power most people don’t possess.

Mayan Ceremony Sacred Caves at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

If you can immerse yourself in this experience, I highly recommend it. It opens your eyes to Mayan religion and spirituality and it allows you to connect with the Mayan people first-hand.

Hike to Indian Nose for Sunrise:

The sunrise hike to Indian Nose - best things to do in Lake Atitlan

Another one of the most epic things to do at Lake Atitlan is to hike to Indian Nose for sunrise. Unfortunately, I personally didn’t get to do this during my time in Guatemala because the weather wasn’t great for it. If you plan to do this hike, it is best you go on a clear day, not when there is a lot of cloud coverage and/or rain.

For safety reasons, it is best to do the Indian Nose hike with a local guide. Even though Lake Atitlan is safe, unfortunately, some people have gotten lost and have also experienced robberies when doing this hike by themselves. Your accommodation can help you organize your hike to Indian Nose as well.

Overall, Indian Nose is a short, but moderate to difficult hike that is a little under two miles. There is also a 951-foot elevation gain. I recommend downloading the AllTrails app to learn more about this specific hike at Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan.

The trailhead for Indian Nose starts in Santa Clara and the top places to find tours, if you aren’t booking through your hotel or hostel, are in San Pedro and San Marcos.

Since this is a sunrise hike, it will be dark outside when you first start hiking. It is best that you have a headlamp! I also recommend using good hiking boots, sturdy trekking poles and having at least two liters of water and some snacks with you. (I also like to hike with a hydro backpack!)

There are three viewpoints on the Indian Nose hike and all of them are breathtaking! When you get to the top, you will be able to see the three volcanoes – Toliman, San Pedro and Atitlan as the sun makes its way up.

Adventure Around Lake Atitlan – Epic Things to do:

Beautiful views of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

For the adventure lovers visiting Lake Atitlan, the best things to do are listed below:

*A lot of these experiences can be booked through Laguna Lodge.

Visit the Hippie Village of San Marcos:

The hippie village of San Marcos in Lake Atitlan

A trip to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala is not complete without visiting the hippie village of San Marcos. If you’re wondering what to do in San Marcos at Lake Atitlan, there is everything from attending a yoga class to learning Spanish.

The town of San Marcos is filled with yoga studios, vegan restaurants, eco accommodations, artisan shops and more. During my time in San Marcos, I enjoyed eating lunch at a vegan Japanese restaurant and cooling off to some helado (ice cream)! I loved how dreamy a lot of the restaurants were in San Marcos. They reminded me of the restaurants in Bali.

A vegan Japanese dish from San Marcos, Guatemala

Some of the best things to do in San Marcos is to take a yoga or dance class, overlooking the lake, at Eagle’s Nest. They offer everything from Vinyasa to acro yoga!

In addition, you can also take a Spanish class at San Marcos Spanish School. Even though I took French in school growing up, I could benefit from taking some Spanish lessons, since I travel to a lot of Spanish speaking countries. San Marcos Spanish School provides both group and private lessons! It’s definitely something I will do next time I visit Lake Atitlan.

Another awesome thing to do in San Marcos is to stroll the streets and check out the artisan shops where you can purchase crafts, clothing, jewelry, artwork and more. It’s a great way to support locally owned and women-owned businesses in Guatemala!

Enjoy Wine Tasting at Lake Atitlan:

La Casa Zapote in San Marcos, Guatemala

In addition, another one of the top things to do in San Marcos is to go wine tasting!

A group of people walking in the woods at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

If you’re looking for a secluded haven in San Marcos, you must visit La Casa Zapote, which is a hotel, restaurant and winery. I will admit that you’ll need to walk through the woods and it can be a little confusing to get there, but once you arrive, you’ll be greeted to a rustic mountain setting. (I recommend walking there with someone else and not alone.)

White wine tasting from La Casa Zapote - best things to do at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

One of the best things to do at La Casa Zapote is their wine and cheese tasting. Since I was with Kimmy, she had a few friends from her hostel meet up with us and we had a fun time tasting Guatemalan white wine and enjoying a nice cheese board with different fruits, nuts, breads and olive oil.

Walk around La Galeria in Panajachel, Lago Atitlan:

If you’re someone who loves art, one of the top places to visit on Lake Atitlan is La Galeria in Panajachel. This exhibit opened in 1973 to showcase the work of the Guatemalan painter Nan Cruz, but it now houses an extensive collection of folk art.

Visit the Mayan Ruins Iximche – One of the Best Day Trips from Lake Atitlan:

Mayan ruins of Iximche, the best day trips from Lake Atitlan

One of the best day trips from Lake Atitlan is visiting the Mayan ruins of Iximche, which is in Tecpán. It is located a little less than two hours from the lake and I recommend booking a tour to go there because it will include transportation. During a stay at Laguna Lodge, you can book a day or half day tour through the resort.

Iximche is a small Mayan archaeological site that was once the capital of the Mayan group called Kaqchikel in the late 1400s into the early 1500s. It later became the first capital of Central America! When the Spaniards arrived, problems started to happen in Iximche. The Mayan capital was then moved to Ciudad Vieja, which is closer to Antigua.

In the 17th Century, Iximche was rediscovered, but excavations didn’t start until the 1940s. Iximche is now a peaceful, historical and fascinating educational site to visit during a trip to Guatemala.

Participate in a Mayan Cooking Class:

Traditional Guatemalan food

Guatemalan food is delicious and one of the best things to do during your Lake Atitlan trip is to take an authentic Mayan cooking class at Mayan Kitchen in San Pedro. This experience allows you to learn all about traditional Mayan cuisine from Anita.

There are a plethora of cooking classes that travelers can enjoy at Mayan Kitchen. It is also a great cooking school for vegetarians! During your experience, you will learn how to cook three authentic Guatemalan plates.

Experience Trama Textiles Weaving School:

Textiles from Central America

Trama Textiles, located in the town of San Juan, was created to advocate fair wages for Guatemalan women. By booking an experience through them during your Lake Atitlan trip, you are supporting local women, families and the community. Trama Textiles preserve Mayan cultural traditions by maintaining textile arts and its history.

During a Trama Textiles Weaving School workshop, you can learn the ancient art of backstrap loom weaving from professional weavers. You can also choose what to make from a sample piece to a table runner and clothing to multiple household items. This opportunity is one of the best ways to connect with local Mayan women. The San Juan location also offers a homestay experience for those looking to get a taste of what local Mayan life and culture is like.


A woman visiting Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

I hope you all enjoyed discovering the best eco things to do at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala and reading about my experience staying at Laguna Lodge. If you have any questions, please email me at [email protected]

Basic Facts of Guatemala:

Currency: Guatemalan Quetzal, Capital: Guatemala City, Time Zone: Guatemala does not follow Daylight Savings. During the summer months, Guatemala is on Mountain Standard Time and then it is on Central Standard Time during the winter months.

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*Anything could happen during your travels. Always make sure you are insured in case there are unforeseen circumstances such as lost luggage/theft, natural disasters, personal liabilities and more. Click here to get insured for your next trip.

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2 Comments

  1. Kim Deer on April 6, 2022 at 11:30 pm

    Great read about beautiful Guatemala ~ looks like such a fun place and seems there is alot to do. Love all the beautiful photography! Food looked amazing too. Glad you had a wonderful time. Love you, mom 👩🏻 xoxo ♥️

    • Taylor Deer on April 8, 2022 at 3:14 pm

      Thank you mom! It was a beautiful lake. Love you too!

Leave a Comment





Taylor-Laguna-Lodge3

A woman enjoying the best things to do at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

One of the most breathtaking places in Guatemala to relax and tune back into yourself is at Lake Atitlan. Situated in a massive volcanic crater, Lake Atitlan is known for its Mayan culture, hippie villages, beautiful nature and sustainability efforts. A trip to Guatemala is not complete without visiting Lake Atitlan and what is great about this area is that there are so many awesome things to do for all!

Guatemala is in Central America. Spanish is the official language of the country and the predominate religion is Catholicism. There are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Guatemala, it is renowned for chocolate and coffee and the country’s cuisine is influenced by Mayan and Spanish culture.

A woman at Laguna Lodge on Lake Atitlan

During March 2022, I did a wonderful Central and South America trip. I started my trip solo in Guatemala where I spent two nights in Antigua, one night hiking Volcan Acatenango and the remaining two nights on Lake Atitlan. I then flew to Colombia where I met Caitlin of My Darling Passport. We spent two nights on Isla Barú, which is an island off the famous city of Cartagena and concluded our trip in the city.

Unfortunately, Lake Atitlan is under a tough threat from pollution due to various reasons. Tourism is helping Lake Atitlan and its locals due to the economic benefits of it, but it’s important to always be mindful of the activities you do and what you consume (for instance, it is best to support locally-owned businesses versus big international corporations).

Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

In this travel guide, discover the 12 best eco things to do in Lake Atitlan during a Guatemala trip.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like. During my time at Lake Atitlan, Laguna Lodge hosted me for two nights. I was also hosted at Zotz restaurant for a few meals. I also partnered with Tinggly to attend a Mayan Ceremony.


Pin the Below Image to Keep Handy

Eco Things to do at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Is Guatemala Safe for Solo Female Travelers?

A woman on a solo trip in Guatemala

I traveled alone to Guatemala and a major thing I’d like to address is that Guatemala is safe and makes for a great solo trip, especially for females! Both Antigua and Lake Atitlan offer a lot of great things to do, plus both destinations boast a major digital nomad community.

Best things to do at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

I would be lying if I said that some loved ones were concerned about me traveling solo to Guatemala and tried to talk me out of it. (I’m glad I didn’t listen to them.) I understand that the media covers a lot of bad things that happen around the world, but I didn’t find Guatemala to be unsafe at all during my solo travels, so PLEASE don’t let that determine if you should travel to Guatemala or not.

A woman on the Acatenango hike in Guatemala

Of course, bad things happen everywhere! (Even in your hometown.)

Some great safety tips for visiting Atitlan Lake is to always be aware of your surroundings; do not put yourself in sketchy situations; watch your alcohol intake (wine is awesome, but one too many could be dangerous); DON’T DO DRUGS EVER; do your research and book a hotel/Airbnb/hostel in a safe area (I like to stay in accommodations close to the popular areas); negotiate the price of a cab before you hop in (Guatemala has Uber, so I recommend using that to get around); learn how to say NO; don’t walk around by yourself late at night; don’t show off your valuables and don’t be afraid to ask a staff member from your hotel to assist you somewhere.  

How to Get to Lake Atitlan:

A vintage car in Guatemala

Overall, it is easy to visit Guatemala. I took a flight from Newark Airport in New Jersey to La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City with a layover in Miami. You can find affordable flights through Skyscanner!

Other great ways to get around the country at a more affordable cost are by buses. Guatemala is known for its camionetas, which are known as chicken buses. Recognized as the most affordable and authentic mode of transportation in Guatemala, chicken buses are old North American school buses that are used to transport everything from luggage to live animals (like chickens)!

Taking the chicken bus at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

If you plan to use the chicken buses, make sure to have cash on you and be aware of getting scammed as a foreigner. You can hail a bus at public terminals, near a lot of markets. They are hard to miss!

The Pullman is usually considered a first-class bus in Guatemala and they are also a great way to get around the country. With a 25 percent higher cost than the chicken buses, the Pullman bus tickets can be bought in advance. Most Pullman buses leave out of private offices.

Another way to get around Guatemala is by renting your own vehicle or organizing private transportation through your accommodation. During my time in Guatemala, I organized all my transportation to and from each destination through my hotels.

Inside a chicken bus in Guatemala

One of the best ways to get around specific cities and popular spots in the country is by using Uber. I did use Uber a few times and I also got to ride the chicken bus when I was at Lake Atitlan. (It is a fun and authentic experience that must be on your list of things to do in Lake Atitlan.)

Tuk-tuks are another great way to get around Guatemalan cities at an affordable cost. It’s also one of the most authentic ways to travel from place to place. Even though they are more common in Southeast Asian and African countries, tuk-tuks are a motorized rickshaw that has three wheels. As a foreigner, you may need to haggle the cost of your ride like you would with a taxi.

A tuk-tuk in Guatemala

If you’re wondering how to get to Lake Atitlan from other parts of the country, there are shuttles that go to and from Guatemala City Airport to Panajachel, which is the major port on the lake. In fact, Panajachel is known as the “gateway to Lago de Atitlán“).

There are also shuttles that go to and from Antigua to Lake Atitlan. If you plan to take the shuttle from the airport, you can pick it up right there and it will cost you $25 USD. The shuttles from Antigua can be organized through your accommodation or a local travel agency. It costs $12 USD.

Other ways to get to Lake Atitlan is through taxi, Uber or a private car service. During my time in Guatemala, I organized private transfers through both hotels I stayed at. I stayed at Good Hotel in Antigua, who organized my transportation from Guatemala City Airport.  Laguna Lodge planned my car service to Lake Atitlan from Antigua and then from Lake Atitlan to Guatemala City.

Boats on Lake Atitlan

Once you’re at Atitlan, the best way to get from each lake village is by taking the public boat. Most hotels that are located on the lake, like Laguna Lodge, have a public dock where you can pick up the boat. It is best to ask the staff at your accommodation about the time schedule for the boat.

Depending on how far you’re going on the public boat, it will cost you anywhere from Q10 to Q25. It can take anywhere from 5 minutes to over an hour to get around Lago de Atitlan. When you’re in a specific lake town, the best way to get around is by walking, Uber, tuk-tuk or the chicken bus.

12 Best Things to do at Lake Atitlan:

A woman enjoying a trip to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

From immersing yourself in the Mayan culture to savoring delicious vegan cuisine, here is what to do at Lake Atitlan.

Stay at Laguna Lodge on Lake Atitlan:

Laguna Lodge at Lake Atitlan

During my time on Lake Atitlan, I stayed at Laguna Lodge, which is near the town of Santa Cruz. Laguna Lodge is one of the best Lake Atitlan hotels as it is a luxury eco-resort and nature reserve located right on the lake.

Staying at Laguna Lodge is a breath of fresh air as it is peaceful and rejuvenating. The resort has its own boating dock, an eco-cuisine restaurant, a spa, pool and hot tub and the suites are spacious and feature Mayan décor.

The Suites at Laguna Lodge:

A woman staying at Laguna Lodge on Lake Atitlan

I stayed in the Kucumatz Villa at Laguna Lodge. I loved the Adobe walls, wooden floors, chandeliers, indigenous artwork and beamed ceilings. It is authentic, cozy and charming.

What I liked most about staying in this specific villa is how spacious it was! I also didn’t realize at first that there are two floors to this suite! The first floor has a king bed, living room space, en-suite bathroom with his and her sinks and large windows that overlook the lake and nearby volcanoes.

Kucumatz Villa at Laguna Lodge in Santa Cruz

The second floor of the Kucumatz Villa has a king bed and double bed with an en-suite bathroom. This amazing suite also has a great mini bar where you can have complimentary water, coffee and tea. You can also enjoy wine, chocolate and other great snacks for an additional cost. At night, Laguna Lodge offers an evening service, which I always love before I go to bed at a hotel.

The Kucumatz Villa at Laguna Lodge

The Kucumatz Villa is the largest suite at Laguna Lodge. The other amazing suites to stay in at this beautiful lakeside resort are The Maximon Suite, The Ceiba Suite, The Monja Blanca Suite, The Pato Poc Suite, The Tecun Uman Suite, The Quetzal Suite and The Jaguar Suite.

Relaxation and Fitness at Laguna Lodge:

Laguna Lodge on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Laguna Lodge is an incredible place to relax, rejuvenate and tune into nature. If you plan to visit Lake Atitlan after doing the Acatenango hike, one of the best things to do is get a well needed massage!

The Hummingbird Spa at Laguna Lodge offers Swiss, Thai, Deep Tissue, Hot Stone and Reflexology massages using pure essential organic and natural oils. You can also enjoy a nice manicure and pedicure at Laguna Lodge on Lake Atitlan.

There are also plenty of great ways to stay fit during your time at the lake. Some of the best things to do at Laguna Lodge on Lake Atitlan is to enjoy swimming, kayaking, canoeing and hiking. Laguna Lodge also has a private yoga and Pilates instructor while overlooking the beautiful lake. The resort also offers meditation sessions as well.

Explore Laguna Nature Reserve – Best Eco Things to do in Lake Atitlan:

A margay on a Laguna Nature Reserve hike - top things to do in Lake Atitlan

One of the best things to do during a stay at Laguna Lodge on Lake Atitlan is to explore its Nature Reserve. Beginning at the lake front and sprawling behind the resort, the Nature Reserve is a high altitude tropical dry forest. Some days, the top of the Nature Reserve is covered in a cloud and on other days, it covers some of the most breathtaking views of the lake and volcanoes.

The Laguna Nature Reserve has beautiful trails where you can see Mayan ceremonial rocks. It is important that the biodiversity in Guatemala is protected, so native flora is replanted at the Reserve. Organic coffee is also grown on the lower slopes.

Some cool wildlife you can check out are margays, which are wild cats, foxes and a variety of different bird species. One of the coolest birds you can see in the Laguna Nature Reserve is the quetzal, which almost looks like a mix between a bird and flying snake. It’s so unique!

Sustainability at Laguna Lodge:

Laguna Lodge Eco Resort

Overall, Laguna Lodge is doing everything they can to conserve assets of nature and culture through sustainable tourism.

Laguna Lodge is considered a green hotel because it practices energy and water conservation, waste management, chemical reduction, low carbon cuisine and more. The resort also uses locally produced cotton towels, handwoven local wool blankets and hypoallergenic bedding and pillows. That is huge for me since I suffer from a skin allergy. Discover more about the details of Laguna Lodge’s conservation efforts.

Savor Eco Cuisine at Lake Atitlan:

Breakfast at Laguna Lodge on Lake Atitlan

Another reason why Laguna Lodge is one of the best places to stay on Lake Atitlan is because there is an incredible lakefront restaurant that serves the best eco cuisine in the area.

Zotz combines natural foods with flavor and quality. The award-winning chefs use fresh organic vegetables, herbs and eggs that are either harvested from the garden that is located on the property or procured from local farmers.

From breakfast to dinner, I loved dining at Zotz. The food was delicious and healthy! Zotz serves modern and sustainable plant-based dishes (and beverages) that include artisan cheeses, free range eggs, fresh organic produce along with organic and carbon neutral wines.

Evenings on Lake Atitlan are chilly, so dining at Zotz is nice and comforting as you can enjoy a five-course candlelit dinner by the stone fireplace.

A candlelit dinner from Zotz Restaurant at Laguna Lodge
Asian salad from Laguna Lodge
A vegetarian dinner at Zotz Restaurant

When I first checked into Laguna Lodge, I was greeted with a delicious tropical fruit cocktail. Then, on my first evening, I had spicy Indonesian peanut soup with chapati; Asian tofu salad; a grilled eggplant and squash tower with garlic rice and rich chocolate pudding for dessert.

For breakfast, I loved the cinnamon oat French toast with fresh orange juice, Guatemalan coffee and a croissant with fruity jam.

Rich chocolate pudding from Zotz at Laguna Lodge
French onion soup at wine from Zotz at Lake Atitlan
Sesame salad at Laguna Lodge
Molten chocolate cake from Zotz at Laguna Lodge

Dinner on my second night was vegetarian French onion soup, sesame salad with avocado and walnuts, vegetarian lasagna and molten chocolate cake for dessert. Everything was incredible and the imported Guatemalan red wine did not disappoint!

Relax on Lake Atitlan:

Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

In case you’re wondering if you can swim in Lake Atitlan, the short answer is yes you can, but with caution! The best places to swim on Lake Atitlan are away from the main towns like Panajachel, San Pedro and Santa Cruz and where you won’t run into boat traffic. What is nice about Laguna Lodge is that it is secluded on the lake, away from the heart of the main villages.

You should avoid swimming in Lake Atitlan when there is algae blooms. Unfortunately, the lake does carry cyanobacteria that causes skin rashes and other health concerns. For years, Lake Atitlan has had issues with people dumping trash into the water. It’s also important to watch what seafood you consume at Lake Atitlan.

In addition to swimming, you can also go kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing and boating on Lake Atitlan. Even if you don’t want to be on the water, spending time around it is relaxing and therapeutic. I love how Laguna Lodge has a pool that overlooks the lake along with a nice hot tub.

Attend a Mayan Ceremony:

Attending a Mayan Ceremony - Best things to do at Lake Atitlan

If you’re wondering what to do at Lake Antigua that is an authentic, unique experience and will allow you to immerse yourself in Mayan culture, I suggest attending a Mayan Ceremony. I did my Mayan Ceremony through Tinggly.

Mayan Ceremony Caves at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

During this amazing experience, I met up with Kimmy of Come Along with Pong and we both were transported into an ancient fire cleansing and protection ceremony. These ceremonies take place in Sacred Caves above Lake Atitlan and each ceremony is different as there are some for business/money (all the ones Kimmy and I experienced were for finance), there are also ceremonies for romance/love, friendship/socialization, family/conceiving and more!

A Mayan Shaman performing a ceremony at Lake Atitlan

A Mayan Shaman is a person chosen as the healer and usually performs these ceremonies. Mayans don’t always need a Shaman to perform the ceremonies if they already know what they’re doing, but most people like to schedule him ahead of time to ensure he is there.

Mayan ceremonial cave

Mayan civilization is one of the oldest in the world (2000 BC). Most Mayans are from Central and South America. To this day, it is a thriving culture with a lot of beauty and history! I’m so grateful I got to feel the energy and power from these caves!

A Mayan Shaman altar at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

During this experience, Kimmy and I also got to visit the Shaman’s altar, which is connected to his home. Anyone can come here if they let the Shaman know ahead of time. It’s very peaceful! The dolls, in the photo above, represent the Shaman throughout different stages of life. He’s an everyday person who is chosen based on how energetic people feel around him. It is said that they have a power most people don’t possess.

Mayan Ceremony Sacred Caves at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

If you can immerse yourself in this experience, I highly recommend it. It opens your eyes to Mayan religion and spirituality and it allows you to connect with the Mayan people first-hand.

Hike to Indian Nose for Sunrise:

The sunrise hike to Indian Nose - best things to do in Lake Atitlan

Another one of the most epic things to do at Lake Atitlan is to hike to Indian Nose for sunrise. Unfortunately, I personally didn’t get to do this during my time in Guatemala because the weather wasn’t great for it. If you plan to do this hike, it is best you go on a clear day, not when there is a lot of cloud coverage and/or rain.

For safety reasons, it is best to do the Indian Nose hike with a local guide. Even though Lake Atitlan is safe, unfortunately, some people have gotten lost and have also experienced robberies when doing this hike by themselves. Your accommodation can help you organize your hike to Indian Nose as well.

Overall, Indian Nose is a short, but moderate to difficult hike that is a little under two miles. There is also a 951-foot elevation gain. I recommend downloading the AllTrails app to learn more about this specific hike at Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan.

The trailhead for Indian Nose starts in Santa Clara and the top places to find tours, if you aren’t booking through your hotel or hostel, are in San Pedro and San Marcos.

Since this is a sunrise hike, it will be dark outside when you first start hiking. It is best that you have a headlamp! I also recommend using good hiking boots, sturdy trekking poles and having at least two liters of water and some snacks with you. (I also like to hike with a hydro backpack!)

There are three viewpoints on the Indian Nose hike and all of them are breathtaking! When you get to the top, you will be able to see the three volcanoes – Toliman, San Pedro and Atitlan as the sun makes its way up.

Adventure Around Lake Atitlan – Epic Things to do:

Beautiful views of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

For the adventure lovers visiting Lake Atitlan, the best things to do are listed below:

*A lot of these experiences can be booked through Laguna Lodge.

Visit the Hippie Village of San Marcos:

The hippie village of San Marcos in Lake Atitlan

A trip to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala is not complete without visiting the hippie village of San Marcos. If you’re wondering what to do in San Marcos at Lake Atitlan, there is everything from attending a yoga class to learning Spanish.

The town of San Marcos is filled with yoga studios, vegan restaurants, eco accommodations, artisan shops and more. During my time in San Marcos, I enjoyed eating lunch at a vegan Japanese restaurant and cooling off to some helado (ice cream)! I loved how dreamy a lot of the restaurants were in San Marcos. They reminded me of the restaurants in Bali.

A vegan Japanese dish from San Marcos, Guatemala

Some of the best things to do in San Marcos is to take a yoga or dance class, overlooking the lake, at Eagle’s Nest. They offer everything from Vinyasa to acro yoga!

In addition, you can also take a Spanish class at San Marcos Spanish School. Even though I took French in school growing up, I could benefit from taking some Spanish lessons, since I travel to a lot of Spanish speaking countries. San Marcos Spanish School provides both group and private lessons! It’s definitely something I will do next time I visit Lake Atitlan.

Another awesome thing to do in San Marcos is to stroll the streets and check out the artisan shops where you can purchase crafts, clothing, jewelry, artwork and more. It’s a great way to support locally owned and women-owned businesses in Guatemala!

Enjoy Wine Tasting at Lake Atitlan:

La Casa Zapote in San Marcos, Guatemala

In addition, another one of the top things to do in San Marcos is to go wine tasting!

A group of people walking in the woods at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

If you’re looking for a secluded haven in San Marcos, you must visit La Casa Zapote, which is a hotel, restaurant and winery. I will admit that you’ll need to walk through the woods and it can be a little confusing to get there, but once you arrive, you’ll be greeted to a rustic mountain setting. (I recommend walking there with someone else and not alone.)

White wine tasting from La Casa Zapote - best things to do at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

One of the best things to do at La Casa Zapote is their wine and cheese tasting. Since I was with Kimmy, she had a few friends from her hostel meet up with us and we had a fun time tasting Guatemalan white wine and enjoying a nice cheese board with different fruits, nuts, breads and olive oil.

Walk around La Galeria in Panajachel, Lago Atitlan:

If you’re someone who loves art, one of the top places to visit on Lake Atitlan is La Galeria in Panajachel. This exhibit opened in 1973 to showcase the work of the Guatemalan painter Nan Cruz, but it now houses an extensive collection of folk art.

Visit the Mayan Ruins Iximche – One of the Best Day Trips from Lake Atitlan:

Mayan ruins of Iximche, the best day trips from Lake Atitlan

One of the best day trips from Lake Atitlan is visiting the Mayan ruins of Iximche, which is in Tecpán. It is located a little less than two hours from the lake and I recommend booking a tour to go there because it will include transportation. During a stay at Laguna Lodge, you can book a day or half day tour through the resort.

Iximche is a small Mayan archaeological site that was once the capital of the Mayan group called Kaqchikel in the late 1400s into the early 1500s. It later became the first capital of Central America! When the Spaniards arrived, problems started to happen in Iximche. The Mayan capital was then moved to Ciudad Vieja, which is closer to Antigua.

In the 17th Century, Iximche was rediscovered, but excavations didn’t start until the 1940s. Iximche is now a peaceful, historical and fascinating educational site to visit during a trip to Guatemala.

Participate in a Mayan Cooking Class:

Traditional Guatemalan food

Guatemalan food is delicious and one of the best things to do during your Lake Atitlan trip is to take an authentic Mayan cooking class at Mayan Kitchen in San Pedro. This experience allows you to learn all about traditional Mayan cuisine from Anita.

There are a plethora of cooking classes that travelers can enjoy at Mayan Kitchen. It is also a great cooking school for vegetarians! During your experience, you will learn how to cook three authentic Guatemalan plates.

Experience Trama Textiles Weaving School:

Textiles from Central America

Trama Textiles, located in the town of San Juan, was created to advocate fair wages for Guatemalan women. By booking an experience through them during your Lake Atitlan trip, you are supporting local women, families and the community. Trama Textiles preserve Mayan cultural traditions by maintaining textile arts and its history.

During a Trama Textiles Weaving School workshop, you can learn the ancient art of backstrap loom weaving from professional weavers. You can also choose what to make from a sample piece to a table runner and clothing to multiple household items. This opportunity is one of the best ways to connect with local Mayan women. The San Juan location also offers a homestay experience for those looking to get a taste of what local Mayan life and culture is like.


A woman visiting Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

I hope you all enjoyed discovering the best eco things to do at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala and reading about my experience staying at Laguna Lodge. If you have any questions, please email me at [email protected]

Basic Facts of Guatemala:

Currency: Guatemalan Quetzal, Capital: Guatemala City, Time Zone: Guatemala does not follow Daylight Savings. During the summer months, Guatemala is on Mountain Standard Time and then it is on Central Standard Time during the winter months.

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2 Comments

  1. Kim Deer on April 6, 2022 at 11:30 pm

    Great read about beautiful Guatemala ~ looks like such a fun place and seems there is alot to do. Love all the beautiful photography! Food looked amazing too. Glad you had a wonderful time. Love you, mom 👩🏻 xoxo ♥️

    • Taylor Deer on April 8, 2022 at 3:14 pm

      Thank you mom! It was a beautiful lake. Love you too!

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