Lake Atitlan

Logo photo of sunset at Santa Cruz La Laguna, Lake Atitlán by Ben Pipe

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.  It is the ancestral home of the Maya People and my home for six months of the year.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala map

I’m Bill Nash, a social worker and journalist from Salt Spring Island, Canada.  Utz Epejtik!  Bienvenidos!  Welcome to

Adoptame Atitlán Bill

At Adóptame Atitlán, San Juan La Laguna 

This website is a labour of love for me.  On these pages you will learn about the past, present and future of the Maya People living along the shores of Lake Atitlán and the surrounding area.  I hope you enjoy your stay.

You’ll discover my favourite Lake Atitlán towns and villages and what I feel is the best Lake Atitlán hotel.  

I’ll introduce you to amazing individuals and groups like Anne of Maya Health Alliance - Wuqu' Kawoq, Emily of Adóptame Atitlán, and Selaine of Ayuda Para la Salud de Perros y Gatos who are making a big difference in the lives of people and animals here at Lake Atitlán.  And, of course, there are many here working hard to mitigate the effects of climate change.

So if you are here for a short stay or longer, I know you will find someone or something to make your Lake Atitlán journey unforgettable.

The main towns and villages on Lake Atitlan are: Panajachel, Santa Catarina Palopo, San Antonio Palopo, San Lucas Toliman, Santiago Atitlán, San Pedro La Laguna, San Juan La Laguna, San Marcos La Laguna, Tzununa, Jaibalito, and Santa Cruz La Laguna.

San Marcos: Poverty in Paradise.  A Video of Mayan Resilience and Hope 

Lake Atitlan, located in the cradle of Guatemala's serene highlands, contends for the title of 'most beautiful lake in the world,' – and if you ask me, coming from a country with more lakes than the rest of the world combined, it's a strong contender! I've been captivated by its rippling surface, bluer than the deepest azure, ringed by immense volcanic hills and verdant foliage. 

Just as I've been drawn to its captivating beauty, many other tourists and travellers are, too. That's the attraction of Lake Atitlan.  It’s not just visually breathtaking but also culturally immersive, a combination of active lifestyle and ancient traditions. 

Immediately upon arrival, I remember being struck by the welcoming atmosphere. Indigenous communities like the Tz'utujil, Kaq’chikel and Kʼicheʼ Maya who descend from the culturally rich and spiritually powerful Mayan Civilization have made their home along its shores for several thousand years.

Engaging with the local communities was one of the most rewarding portions of my Atitlan adventure. Practices passed down for generations, vividly colored textiles that narrate their stories, and delicious local foods are part of their everyday life. Like many visitors, I returned home with vibrant hand-woven textiles and ceramics, bought directly from the weavers and potters who created them.

My visit would not have felt complete without a gustatory adventure. Though I don't consider myself a foodie, the culinary delights I tried brought a new dimension to my understanding of the area. From the traditionally baked mushroom 'pepian' and tamales, to fresh 'ceviche,' the indigenous cuisine spoke volumes about the culture and provenance of this area. 

In terms of Lake Atitlan accommodations, there is a wide range for every type of traveller.  My personal favourite is a mountainside eco-hotel offering a harmonious blend of affordable luxury and nature, with jaw-dropping panoramic views of the Mayan Face and Lake Atitlán: Eco Hotel MayAchik’.  Imagine waking up to the sight of the sun rising over the volcanoes reflecting on the lake, it was truly a spectacle to behold!

You may wonder what activities can be indulged around the lake. Well, that's the fun element about Lake Atitlan! Be it a leisurely kayak paddle across its tranquil waters, hiking up the surrounding volcanoes, or simply strolling around the charming lakeside villages, there's something for everyone here.  

San Pedro San Juan

San Pedro La Laguna with San Juan La Laguna in the foreground viewed from the Mayan Face (Indian Nose)

My favourite village is Santa Cruz La Laguna which features a restaurant with the best view of Lake Atitlán and the only ATM.  Plus, the village is situated on the side of the mountain so you can enjoy the vista at every turn (and there are a lot of turns!). Home to the nonprofit CECAP, Santa Cruz offers amazing views of Lake Atitlán and the surrounding volcanoes. The village itself is home to one of the oldest churches in Guatemala and is a tight-knit community of indigenous Kaq’chikel Mayans. Any tour of CECAP wouldn’t be complete without a stroll around Santa Cruz to get a sense of village life.  

My favourite Lake Atitlán town, San Juan La Laguna, home to the best restaurant in town, has many indigenous women-led cooperatives featuring artwork, ceramics, textiles, and more.  With stunning murals at every turn, San Juan La Laguna is my home away from home.

For education enthusiasts, there is a lot to learn at Lake Atitlan.  You can study Spanish at one of the many language schools around the lake.  But if you really want to experience the local culture, learn some local Maya phrases too.  Its very much appreciated.  I‘ve visited museums showcasing Maya artifacts from the pre-colonization period and marvelled at the legacy of this great civilization.

There is also the incredible flora and fauna that surround the lake and contribute to its charm. I've been on birdwatching quests. The area is quite the birders' paradise, with over 300 bird species documented including the elusive quetzal, which is also the name of the Guatemalan currency. 

Speaking of currency, cash is king here in Guatemala.  So put away the credit card and return to the freedom of cash because it really helps the local economy.  Plus, you won’t return home with all that accumulated debt.  

One cannot help but be filled with wonder at the spectacular vistas at Lake Atitlán.  The view from the Mayan Face, a landscape akin to an indigenous prince’s profile, at sunrise was unlike anything I had seen before. I could shout ‘maltiox’! (Tz'utujil for ‘thank you’!) from the hilltops for Mother Nature's beautiful masterpiece!

This respect for the environment was noticeable among the locals too. Initiatives like reforestation and recycling are undertaken to preserve this natural gem and boost its eco-tourism.

But for me, one of the strongest sentiments I experienced during the trip was a sense of connection, with the people, the animals, the environment, and the wonderful mosaic of cultures.


The staff of Eco Hotel MayaChik’, San Juan La Laguna 

In additional to all the aforementioned activities, I was invited on a special daylong hike with Eco Hotel MayaChik’ owner Evelyn Leithner, general manager Elvia Cholotio, and their staff and families, experienced the joy of stingless bees making honey (the texture and taste is like nothing else!) and marveled at the exquisite murals that decorate the village streets.

It was important for me to respect the local customs and traditions during my journey across the lake. As visitors, we must remember that this is their homeland, and preserving their way of life should be a top priority.

But don't assume that Lake Atitlan is entirely stuck in time. There's a unique blend of traditional and contemporary. Art galleries, exquisite dining spaces, lively farmers' markets, even a yoga retreat – are all at your disposal.

Nightlife at the lake was a surprise element. The communities like San Pedro La Laguna and Panajachel boast lively bars with local brews, salsa nights, and live music that will have you shaking a leg!

Journeys are not just about sightseeing, they're about experiences, and Lake Atitlan reinforced this for me. The rich tapestry of life around Lake Atitlan is filled with countless individuals, each with their own heritage and story to tell.

Getting around wasn't a challenge either. Lake Atitlan is well-connected with frequent shuttle services and 'lanchas' (local boats) that operate between the villages around the lake. 

Lake Atitlán is 50 kilometres in circumference and the weather, like its landscape, varies.  At an elevation of 1552 metres (5125 feet) the Lake Atitlán area has a subtropical highland climate, making it comfortable for visiting at any time of the year, hence, the title, “Land Of Eternal Spring”.

Before I conclude, did I mention the sunsets over Lake Atitlan are magical?  As the day ends, the sky weaves a vibrant tapestry of hues, reflecting off the serene lake – another spectacle that makes you realize why it's considered the ‘most beautiful lake in the world’.

There's a certain tranquility about Lake Atitlan, a magical allure that moves beyond its visual beauty, and an ambiance that will make you reminisce your journey long after it has ended.

Lake Atitlan, in its resplendent natural beauty, cultural riches, and heartfelt warmness, is indeed a gift for every traveler. Its allure draws you in, and its charm makes you stay. If you're seeking more than a destination, but an experience, I heartily recommend a visit to Lake Atitlán. 

lake atitlan ogo

Sunset at Santa Cruz La Laguna, Lake Atitlán  Photo by Ben Pipe

Great news!  Lake-Atitlá is featured in the updated version of the Amazon bestseller “Living in Guatemala: Antigua, Lake Atitlan and Other Expat Hot Spots”. supports UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)

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