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Travel Guide to Lake Atitlan & Highland Region, Guatemala

Map of the Area

  • 130.1 km2 (50.2 sq mi)
  • average yearly temperature of 64° F (18°C)
  • UTC (GMT) -6 hrs
  • Guatemalan Quetzal at Q7.16 Quetzal = $1 USD.
  • Spanish
  • Sololá Department (2003) 307,661
  • 14°42′N 91°12′W

Lake Atitlan and The Highland Region of Guatemala

Ultimate high for hopeless romantics and adventurers

Located in the western part of Guatemala, this mountainous region is known for its indigenous traditions, folklore and the resplendent Lake Atitlan. After the Maya abandoned the larger cities of the Petén region, they migrated south and up to the template climates of the highlands. The fertile soils of these winding mountains, magical volcanoes and beautiful valleys, became the land of the Cack'chiquel, Quek'chi, Mam and Tzutujil, ethnic Mayan groups whose traditional indigenous culture continues to reign and develop.
Lake Atitlan and Highland Region - Travel Guide - Tropical Discovery

Main attractions in Lake Atitlan and Highland Region

Scenic routes, beaches & lakeside villages, complement the lake's beauty. Its celebrated villages are situated lakeside at the skirts of the volcanoes & mountains, and are spectacles in their own right. Their Indian markets are great to shop for handicrafts and textiles, as well as sensational culture absorption. For more on Lake Atitlan and its shore side Indian villages, please click below.

Lake Atitlan and Highland Region - Travel Guide - Tropical Discovery


The area was made famous by breathtaking Lake Atitlan, a deep-blue volcanic crater lake surrounded by three picture perfect volcanoes and the colorful Maya villages resting on its shores. Described as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world by late British author Aldous Huxley, it is definitely one of Guatemala’s most spectacular natural attractions.
Lake Atitlan and Villages - Main Attractions - Guatemala

Viewpoint at lake Atitlan with the three volcanos San Pedro, Atitlan and Toliman - you can see the small villages San Pedro and San Juan at the lake in the highlands of Guatemala

The lake's formation is as dramatic as its beauty. According to geological history, the area was once an immense volcanic mountain that blew it’s top off some 85,000 years ago in a massive explosion. Its ashes and rocks are said to have been found as far south as Panama and had world wide climactic effects. Hence, today’s lake was actually the crater of a massive volcano.
Continued volcanic activity formed the three towering volcanoes we see today, El Tolimán, Atitlán, and San Pedro, reaching up to 3357 meters above sea level in the southern shores. These are joined by the Cerro Chicul or Santa Clara peak, reaching approximately 2430 meters above sea level. And on the western shores are Cerro San Marcos and Cerro Cristalino, subsidiary cones of the three volcanoes, with their peaks reaching 2918 and 2251 meters above sea level respectively. Adding the adjacent mountains and other nearby Cerros, rising up to a 1000 meters on both sides, and you have a natural picturesque frame for the lake. A true awe inspiring setting for the lake’s water surface which measures approximately 125 square kilometers, 18 km across at its widest point, 400m deep at the center, and situated at 1560 meters above sea level.
Travel Guatemala - Discover all it's Splendor - Tropical Discovery

Tours From Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Biking tours, hikes, water sports, culture...

Lake Atitlan with its three towering volcanoes El Tolimán, Atitlán, and San Pedro is one of Guatemala’s most famous natural attractions. Scenic routes, beaches & lakeside villages, complement the lake's beauty and make for impressive excursions. The lake’s celebrated villages are situated lakeside at the skirts of the volcanoes & mountains, and are spectacles in their own right. Their Indian markets are great to shop for handicrafts and textiles, as well as sensational culture absorption. Please see below a list of activities we highly recommend to see more of this spectacular lake and its people, segmented by Culture and Adventure type activities. All day tours can may be booked prior to departure or ordered a la carte from our office in Antigua once in the country. Please choose from:

Culture and Shopping

  • We will organize an all day Indigenous Villages tour for you with private driver (+ English speaking guide on request). Be picked up at 8 am from your hotel for a picturesque mountain drive to visit the celebrated villages of San Adres Xecul and its colorful cathedral, Zunil (where the market is always something special), and Almolonga (a truly unspoiled Indian village), with optional stops in San Francisco del Alto on Fridays for Market day and/or Fuentes Georgina's, natural volcanic pools for a dip and/or lunch. In the late afternoon you will be transferred back to your hotel on Lake Atitlan.
  • Take a private boat tour to some of the many lake side villages around Lake Atitlan. Your lanchero (boat driver) will pick you up from your hotel and take you by boat to one, two or three of the Indian villages along the shore of the lake. We recommend visiting Santiago de Atitlan, San Juan La Laguna, and/or San Antonio Palopo. Your guide will share many insights on local customs and traditions with you. Enjoy the spectacular scenery the lake has to offer and learn more about the villagers, whose traditional costumes still vary from one village to the other, as well as their history. Should you like to go for a swim we can stop at Playa Dorada close to the village of San Pedro or take you to the hot springs close to St. Catarina Palopo. We recommend having lunch in Santiago Atitlan at the Restaurante El Pescador or, on your way back, at the beautiful Hotel Casa Palopo in St. Catarina Palopo.
  • Depart in the morning from your hotel in private transportation to Chichicastenango (approx. 1 hr drive). Located at 2500 meters above sea level, this town is famous for its market on Thursdays & Sundays, where spats of traditionally dressed villagers in a kaleidoscope of colors, come to sell their very colorful textiles, fruits, vegetables and flowers. Also worth a visit is the cemetery and the idol Pascual Abaj. Enjoy the lively market, have lunch at Hotel Santo Tomas or one of the little restaurants throughout the town and return to your hotel in the early afternoon.

Sports and Adventure

    • In the morning your guide will pick you up at your hotel and take you by boat across this beautiful lake to a Coffee farm near San Pedro la Laguna. From here you will bike through local villages along the Lakeshore and stop at a crystalline beach for a refreshing swim. Throughout this trip there are many opportunities to meet the local Maya people and to enjoy the local culture as well as marvel at the spectacular views of the impressive volcanoes and the gorgeous crater lake of Atitlan. A picnic lunch is included before you will head back to your hotel.

*Recommended: 9:00 - 15:00 / Level: Moderate

    • Guests are met at their hotel by our boat driver and enjoy a short transfer to the Cerro de Oro area, where we disembark and start our adventure in the village of Cerro de Oro. Here we start our hike passing through this charming local village. A 1 hour climb brings us to the top and will give us spectacular views over the area. After a short walk down a ride in a local truck brings us back to Santiago de Atitlan.

*Recommended: 09:00 - 13:30 / Level: Moderate

    • The tour starts with a boat transfer to the town of San Pedro, a short pick up transfer brings us to the visitor center, from where the actual climbs starts. Within 3 -4 hours of climbing through fields and cloud forest we reach the top of the volcano on almost 3000 meters. Often enjoy magnificent views over the Lake and its mountains and volcanoes while having our well deserved lunch. After lunch we will start the climb down and take you back to your hotel.

*Recommended: 09:00 - 16:30 / Level: Challenging

    • You are met by your guide for a nice hike along the shores of the beautiful Lake Atitlan. Together you will walk through villages and will pass local Maya people working in the fields, washing clothes and fishing from their unique wooden boats. After lunch you will visit the village San Juan or Santiago. After a visit to the village you will be transferred by boat back to your hotel.

*Recommended: 9:00 - 13:30 / Level: Easy to Moderate

    • Guests are met at their hotel by our boat driver and enjoy a short transfer to the Cerro de Oro area, where our adventure guide awaits you for a spectacular kayaking tour from where your begin their exploration of Lake Atitlan. First you will learn about the trip and the equipment before embarking to our paddle adventure. We will pass local Maya people working in the fields, washing clothes and fishing from their unique wooden boats. We start our hike in the interesting village of Cerro de Oro situated at the base of the Cerro de Oro mountain. A spectacular clime with a picnic lunch on top awaits us. A short walk down and a transfer on a local truck bring us to back to Santiago Atitlan from where we head back to your hotel.

   * Please inquire for details & pricing   * Please note: Information on this page is believed to be correct but not guaranteed

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Visit Guatemala - Nature and Adventure Tours by Tropical Discovery
$1, 236.00

Guatemalan Nature (11 days/10 nights tour)

  • 2 nights in Antigua (Guatemala)
  • 2 nights in Atitlan
  • 1 night in Antigua (Guatemala)
  • 2 nights in Coban-Veraparces (Semuc Champey)
  • 2 nights in Peten (Tikal)
  • 1 night in Guatemala City (Departure)

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Hotel Villa Santa CatarinaLake Atitlan & Villages Guatemala

Hotel Villa Santa Catarina is located 5 minutes from Panajachel in Santa Catarina Palopo, on the shorelines of Lake Atitlan.

Hotel Atitlan

Hotel AtitlánLake Atitlan & Villages Guatemala

Hotel Atitlán is considered one of greatest in Guatemala, a place where the view alone from its shores is worth the stay. 

Pension Bonifaz

Pension BonifazLake Atitlan & Villages Guatemala

Located across the main central park, which is the center of most commercial and entertainment in the city, the Hotel Pension Bonifaz is comfortably and nicely decorated.

Casa Palopo

Hotel Casa PalopóLake Atitlan & Villages Guatemala

Casa Palopó is a beautiful villa built on the hills surrounding Santa Catarina Palopó village, on the shores of lake Atitlán and overlooking it's magnificent volcanoes.

Laguna Lodge

Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort & Nature ReserveLake Atitlan & Villages Guatemala

The Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort & Nature Reserve conceived and created the eco-lodge, designing, engineering, building and decorating in an organic process that is still unfolding. The hotel sees nature and culture as an asset to be protected and respected by sustainable tourism.

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