Lake Atitlan, Guatemala is definitely a special place. We lived there for about six weeks – one month in the Mayan village of San Pablo, and after that we lived for a few weeks in the backpacker haven of San Pedro.
We also spent time in lesser-known villages, such as San Juan, San Marcos, and Tzutzuna on day trips- although San Juan has many more tourists today that it did not too long ago, according to people who live there.
One of the neat things about the lake – travel methods. Outside of Panajachel, there aren’t too many cars. You mostly get around the lake from village to village by boat or by tuk tuk – especially in San Pablo, San Marcos, Santa Cruz, and Tzutzuna.
In San Pablo, we were basically the only gringos in sight. It made me think twice about what I wore, especially when I exercised. There were so many things to love about this village! This is really living like a local – and it’s so different compared to American life.
If you want an uncomplicated getaway, a simple life, few distractions, beautiful views, this is your place. It’s definitely not what most tourists and vacationers would enjoy – but we loved it because we are slow travelers with no time limit.
Read an overview here. It is a longer blog entry that includes links to hikes and day trips, and ton of general info. There is also a link to video our kick-ass Airbnb bungalow.
In San Pedro, there were many bars and restaurants, places to rent kayaks and sign up for hikes in the area. This was more of a party town, and while we had fun, I’m glad we only stayed a few weeks. If you stay in one of the other villages, you should still visit San Pedro for the Sunday barbecue! Read more about San Pedro here.
Also, kudos to San Pedro for their plastics ban. Read about that worthy and inspiring effort here.
San Marcos and Panajachel and Santa Cruz are other well-known spots on Lake Atitlan, all worth a visit. While we did not stay in these villages, it’s always worth exploring a new place!
There are several individual Facebook groups based on the villages. Also, because it’s a retirement destination for stationary retirees, there is a huge expat community there. We have no doubt we would be welcomed back by expats and locals alike.
We would return to Lake Atitlan in the future – and I do hope the pollution issue can be fixed, before it’s too late.