Lake Atitlan is a lake in the Sierra Madre Mountains in southwestern Guatemala. It is Guatemala’s deepest lake and is also the biggest tourist attraction in the country. The lake is surrounded by many small Mayan communities like Santiago Atitlan, Panajachel, and San Lucas Toliman.
Lake Atitlan was created from a volcanic eruption over 11 million years ago; there are numerous volcanoes in the area but the three main ones are San Pedro, Atitlan, and Toliman. They are all within the crater and while Toliman and Atitlan are both active, Atitlan is the only one showing any signs of recent eruptions.
The towns around Lake Atitlan are small, but they pack a big punch. Panajachel attracted a large number of hippies in the 1960s, both Guatemalan and foreign, and as a result the town is entirely reliant on tourism, unlike some of the other towns. You'll find most of the hostels here. Santiago Atitlan is the largest town and is known mainly for its worship of Maximon, a Mayan idol. It is also notable because of the assassination of an American missionary inside the church during the Guatemalan Civil War in 1981. San Pedro La Laguna is the backpacker’s haven; it’s on the lake and has the best access to hiking. To get here, you’re going to need to take a bus from Guatemala City or have your own transport. Once you’re at the lake, boats are your best option for getting around. Panajachel has the best connections to the city, but you’ll definitely want to see some of the other towns around the lake.
There are a few hostels scattered around the lake, mainly in San Pedro La Laguna and San Marcos La Laguna, but you can find budget accommodation in all of the towns. Hostels around the lake tend to cater to hikers as well as backpackers, so expect spacious areas and lots of lounging areas.
Hi, I'm Jakob Lombardi,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Lake Atitlan hostels. Welcome.