Lake Atitlan: things to do

Surrounded by volcanoes, forrest covered hills and dotted with tiny towns Lake Atitlan is a hikers paradise wether it’s an hour hike, or a day long venture, the hiking around here should not be missed.

Even going as little as 200 meters up a hill with give you a great view of Atitlan and its towns, but getting even higher allows you to see for kilometres and even see far away Acetanago and Fuego.

Top Hikes to do in Lake Atitlan:

1. The Idians nose: this hike is about a 10 minutes by tuk tuk out of San Pedro (10-15Q pp) or a 3 minute boat ride to San June (5Q) and then a 10 minute walk to the trail head. Be warned locals will probably try and scam you multiple times throughout this hike, from the tuk tuk ride, to the entrance fee and the top of the hill lookout fee, to making you re-pay on the way back down. Despite this if you can speak a little bit of Spanish and stand firm then this is an enjoyable hike!

The entrance fee should be no more than 30 Q but they might try and charge you 60Q claiming that this will cover the fee at the top of the hill. Don’t pay! You will have to then re-pay at the top if you choose to go all the way up! Just be firm and say you will only pay 30Q and insist on a receipt, so as to avoid the scam of re-paying on the way down.

The hike up is pretty straight forward and you don’t require a guide to do it, despite hat some tour companies may tell you. The only spot where you have two options is at this junction that says “myan cerimonial” don’t go the way that sign is pointing instead go up the stairs.

There will be 3 lookouts on the way up and on the third one, I would stop unless you want to pay an extra 30Q to get right to the top. We made this mistake and went slightly too far, crossing into another county and being asked to pay another 30Q per person. We refused and after a very heated discussion in broken Spanish we pushed past and ran down. We were also worried about having to re-pay on the way down as we were aware. About this scam but the man at the bottom told us that he had no receipts left…

All in all we made it up and down in about 3 hours (2 hours up and 1 hour down) unscathed, and having to converse in Spanish to avoid getting ripped off made it slightly more interesting.

Cost: 40Q to 80+ depending on if you let yourself get scammed or not

2. Santa Cruz to San Marcos (or the other way around): we started in Santa Cruz and began the walk towards San Marcos along the picturesque coastline. It’s a relatively easy walk if your fit but there is a it of scrambling and lots of up and down as you hug the cliffs that boarder Lake Atitlan.

This walk took us around 2 hours but this time will obviously depend on how fast you walk. San Marcos is a hippy, chilled town with a laid back vibe and there’s plenty of healthy alternative Cafes to have lunch at. We ate at Medicine Foods Cafe which was delicious and just what I wanted after a sweaty walk. You can either walk the same trail back to Santa Cruz or the more popular option is to get a boat back for 15Q.


3. Climb Volcano San Pedro: although we missed this one due to a lack of budget this is a popular hike to do for sunrise or early morning and takes around 4 hours up and a variable amount of time back down.

Tuk Tuk to the trail head from town will set you back around 10Q pp and the entrance fee is a high 100Q, hence why we chose to not do the hike.

Other Non-hiking things to do:

1. Go scuba diving insanta Cruz. See my post about it here.

2. Jump off a 7m cliff at San Marcos: once you get off at the dock hang a left at the first footpath and you will run into the sign at asks you to pay 20Q and then a trail will lead you to the cliff.

3. Go to the market or shop at one of the many beautiful textile stores in town.

4. Go swimming in the lake, if you don’t mind a bit of floating rubbish and the added charm of swimming with locals who are bathing and washing there laundry.

5. Make a day trip to any of the surrounding towns: we based ourselves in both Santa Cruz and San Pedro but other towns around the lake offer their own unique vibe and charm. Panajachal is the biggest and furtherest town from San Pedro and people either arrive at the lake via San Pedro or Panajachel. Other towns worth a visit are San Marcos, Santa Cruz and  Santiago.  General rule of thumb for the public boats are 5Q per stop. E.g. If your boat stops 4 times before you get off it will cost 20Q pp.



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