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If you’re heading to Lake Atitlan then you have a big decision to make – where to stay?! This blog includes everything you need to know before deciding where to stay in Lake Atitlan including a description of all of the best areas and towns, as well as the best hostels and hotels to suit every budget!
Lake Atitlan, or Lago de Atitlán, is one of the most beautiful places you can visit in Central America. But with its wide variety of small Mayan towns dotted around the lakeshore, selecting not just a place to stay, but which town to stay in, can be overwhelming.
Here, I’ve written up a brief guide to the major towns you’ll find along the lake’s perimeter along with the pros and cons of staying in each! This will help you narrow down the best place for you on Lake Atitlan.
Make sure you have in mind what kind of stay you want to have at Lake Atitlan. While the lake provides adventure, nightlife, backpacking culture, ancient history, local customs, enlightenment, and tranquil relaxation, no one town does it all.
So while you should use this blog to help you decide where to stay in Lake Atitlan, be sure to venture out of your chosen town to see and do some of the amazing things to do around Lake Atitlan!
Where are the BEST Areas to Stay in Lake Atitlan?
The above map shows the best towns to stay in around Lake Atitlan. On this map, you can really see how spread out these towns really are and why choosing the right town to stay in is important!
Below I’ve written a little bit about each point on the map including what to expect from that town, and my personal hostel and hotel recommendations. With this information in hand, you should easily be able to determine where to stay in Lake Atitlan!
Getting Around Lake Atitlan
While it is important to choose a town suited to your personal interests because let’s face it, wherever your hotel is located is where you’re going to spend the most time, it’s actually fairly easy to get around between towns on the lake.
Not by road, but by boat!
Boats operate like buses and are the most commonly used form of “public transport” on Lake Atitlan. So, choose your town and accommodation wisely, but don’t get stuck there and be sure to explore a few of the towns!
San Pedro La Laguna
San Pedro is best known for its Spanish schools and its nightlife: as a popular backpacker hub, you’ll find plenty of people to talk to and places to go. It is likely the best place to stay in Lake Atitlan for backpackers or those looking for a social touristy vibe!
Populated for centuries by the Tz’utujil, it’s located directly beneath Volcán San Pedro, and is a starting place for many different hikes. Local legend has it that the midday Southern wind which passes through the town, called Xocomil, carries away sin.
San Pedro is particularly eco-conscious: in the last few years, it has banned single-use plastic, such as shopping bags and straws. Though the lake is largely known for its pristine cleanliness, recent years have seen an increase in pollution. In response, conscientious citizens volunteer their time taking boats out into the lake to collect roughly 700 lbs of trash per day!
Advantages to Staying in San Pedro:
- From here, there is boat transportation to every other town on the lake
- A great backpacker nightlife culture
- Great restaurants directly overlooking the lake
- Friendly locals who are happy to chat with you; More likely to find Spanish- or even English-speaking locals
- Has an ATM
Disadvantages to Staying in San Pedro:
- Less authentic town experience; shops and restaurants catered to tourists
Related read: For an authentic Guatemalan experience, be sure to visit Semuc Champey – this cute town is full of friendly locals!
Where to Stay in San Pedro, Lake Atitlan
This quiet hotel offers single rooms for $13 USD, with breakfast included. Close to the lake with a private garden, and neighboring local fields, it’s a great place for a solo traveler looking for a bit of peace and quiet, but a short 10-minute walk will still bring you to the lively town center.
$$ – Zoola
Beds in these 6-bed co-ed dormitories go for about $20-30 USD, depending on season and demand. With free wifi, a community lounge, onsite restaurant, pool, and hot tub with a view of the lake, and evening entertainment, Zoola is a great choice for the traveler interested in tourist social life.
$$$ – Sababa Resort
One of the few hotels you’ll find with flat-screen TVs and en-suite bathrooms, private rooms at Sababa Resort start at $97 USD per night. The property features a large pool with beautiful views of the lake and on-site tree houses for hanging out. The food is, according to many travelers, “to die for,” and they accommodate vegans, vegetarians, and gluten-free diets. Free breakfast and wifi are included, and the resort offers airport shuttles.
San Juan La Laguna
San Juan’s population is approximately 95% Tz’utujil (the once-rival people of the nearby Kaqchikel, which live in other towns on the lake such as San Marcos), and is agriculture-heavy. The town is known for its tranquility and cleanliness, as well as its cooperatives, including weaving, beekeeping, chocolate-making, and coffee-roasting.
You’ll find good, authentic food in the local comedores, and generally find the townspeople friendly and welcoming. This is a good place to stay in Lake Atitlan for anybody wanting some relaxation and authentic Guatemalan interactions.
Advantages to Staying in San Juan:
- Less touristy than San Pedro or San Marcos
- Everything is locally owned- foreigners are prohibited from buying land in this town
- Quiet, friendly atmosphere with local art galleries, women’s weaving co-op, and the chocolate factory
- Boat transportation to most other towns on the lake
- Short walk to La Indio Nariz hike
- Has ATMs
Disadvantages to Staying in San Juan:
- Little-to-no nightlife; not a backpacker scene.
- Less Spanish-speakers; get ready to mime!
Where to Stay in San Juan, Lake Atitlan
For $10 USD a night, you can book a small private room at Posada Mana with a shared bathroom and free wifi. It has a spacious garden with hammocks for relaxing, a community kitchen, and is just opposite the town market.
This hotel offers single and double rooms for $19 USD in authentic-feeling wood-paneled bungalows. This is one of the few hotels on the lake that offers a traditional Mayan sauna, the temazcal, and also provides free wifi and hot showers. True to its eco label, it has recycling facilities, vegetarian food, and bio toilets, and is located in a large garden.
With a private dock, free kayak usage, and pool overlooking the lake, you can book a room for $57 USD per night. All rooms have a private balcony with lake views, a private bathroom with hot showers, and free wifi. Breakfast is included in the price, and San Pedro volcano is only 5 minutes away. Bonus: this eco hotel also offers organic coffee and a traditional Mayan temazcal.
Save yourself a trip to Guatemala’s famed largest market in Chichicastenango and instead hop across the lake to Panajachel. Boasting a large tourist and ex-pat scene, the town is also home to the largest market of homemade goods on the entire lake. Shopping fans, Pana just may the best village on Lake Atitlan for you!
It is also the largest and quickest-growing of the lake towns, with an estimated 15,000 residents at the end of 2019.
Pana has a diverse history: becoming the site of a Franciscan monastery during Spanish rule, it has a long history of Catholicism mixed with local religious traditions. Today, the town is the host of the Atitlán Basin’s local radio station, Radio 5, FM 99.1, and one of the country’s oldest galleries, simply called La Galeria.
Advantages to Staying in Panajachel:
- Bustling, lively atmosphere
- Easy to get to by bus from other towns in Guatemala (for this reason, we recommend staying in Panajachel in our Guatemala itinerary!)
- Extensive local market featuring traditional Mayan art and souvenirs
- Large ex-pat community; plenty of coffee bars and cafes where you can speak English to the owner or fellow travelers
- Boat transportation to most other towns on the lake
- Has ATMs
- Has a museum and gallery which display the region’s history
Disadvantages to Staying in Panajachel:
- Very touristy; the town definitely caters to expats and travelers
- You might be hounded by merchants trying to sell you their wares if you walk down the main market street
- Loud and busy
- Higher likelihood of being taken advantage of as a foreigner
Where to Stay in Panajachel, Lake Atitlan
With rooms ranging from $5-$16 USD, free wifi, and English-speaking staff, this hotel is near the waterfront and just outside the busy center of town. Bathrooms have toiletries available and a hot breakfast is served every morning. A green and peaceful courtyard sits in the middle of the hotel.
$$- Selina Atitlán
Modern and trendy, Selina Atitlán has a restaurant, beach bar, garden, and pool. You can book a bed in a hostel-style room from $10 USD, or a private room with a double bed for $27. Larger and more luxurious rooms are also available at higher prices. The trendily-decorated grounds have a sandy hangout area with a fire pit, a wooden yoga platform right on the shore, and they even offer evening entertainment and a tour desk right onsight. Guests frequently comment on how clean the place is.
Just outside of Panajachel, a room at this tranquil getaway runs about $70-80 USD. In addition to private bathrooms, free wifi, and laundry facilities, the premises offers hiking through coffee groves, kayaking, birdwatching, and ziplining, plus plenty of local animals scampering about. The hotel even has a geodome with its own butterfly sanctuary.
$$$- Hotel Atitlán
The fanciest lodging you’re likely to find in Guatemala, Hotel Atitlán boasts luxurious private rooms (some with fireplaces), a large pool, beautifully manicured gardens, and a glorious view of the sunrise over the lake. Prices range from $140 for a double bed, to $300 for a Master Suite. The restaurant offers international cuisine, private bathrooms offer free toiletries, and free wifi and cable TV are available in your room. Guests love the pool overlooking the lake, the hot tub, and the botanical garden.
San Marcos La Laguna
On the western shore of Lago de Atitlán sits San Marcos, which is mainly inhabited by the indigenous Kaqchikel. A quiet town, its considerable ex-pat population continues to grow as it becomes a hub for spiritual practice and guidance.
Yoga, meditation, massage, cacao ceremonies, ecstatic dance, crystal therapies, temazcal ceremonies, and more can be found throughout the community of foreign nationals near the shore. Those who wish to spend a day in nature can also take a short walk to the nearby nature reserve.
San Marcos is one of the most popular places to stay in Lake Atitlan simply due to its large community of ex-pats and range of things to do and see.
Advantages to Staying in San Marcos:
- Quiet and tranquil: great for meditating and yoga
- Plenty of fellow ex-pats to get to know
- Close to Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve
- Lots of great cafes and restaurants
Disadvantages to Staying in San Marcos:
- Not a super-authentic Guatemalan town
- You will mostly interact with other tourists and ex-pat residents
- No ATMS
Where to Stay in San Marcos, Lake Atitlan
Simple and homey, this hotel offers private rooms with a double bed and shared bathrooms starting at $13 USD. With its own garden and communal kitchen, you’ll feel at home in your cozy casa, which also has a bar, free wifi, and a restaurant serving free American breakfast.
$$- Lush Atitlán
Set among the jungle and overlooking the lake, you’ll feel like the sun-soaked, fresh-air hippie you’ve always dreamed of being. High-ceilinged private rooms with exposed timbers, a double bed, and a hot shower in a shared bathroom start at $38 USD. Ranging into the $100s, you’ll find larger beds, private bathrooms, and private balconies with great views. Guests rave about the amazing breakfast, which you can eat on a sunny balcony overlooking the lake. This place also has free wifi and a kitchen for guest use, as well as a garden, beautiful outdoor hangout spaces, and communal open office space for you fellow digital nomads out there.
$$$- Eagle’s Nest Atitlán
This hotel truly does give you a bird’s eye view of the lake. Situated on the mountainside overlooking the lake, it features hammocks overhanging the jungle, a yoga platform with endless aerial lake views, cozy pools, and a traditional temazcal. It also has unique outdoor showers, and an open-air kitchen, where you can brew your coffee while gazing out over the lake. You can book a private studio apartment starting at $90 USD.
Santiago Atitlán was the capital of the Tz’utujil people in pre-Columbian times and was known by the name Chuitinamit. During the 60-year Guatemalan Civil War, it was the site of a considerable amount of state-sponsored violence. Today, however, it is home to the Cojolya Weaving Center and Museum, which tells the history of backstrap loom weaving, and the evolution of the traditional clothing of the Tz’utujil people as well as the history of the people of Santiago Atitlán. The town is flanked by Volcán San Pedro and Volcán Toliman.
Advantages of Staying in Santiago Atitlan:
- Quiet, non-touristy town
- The atmosphere is mostly local and traditional, with residents leading their normal Tz’utujil Mayan lives
- Lots of local history, specifically centered around traditional clothing, weaving, and boat-making
- Big market days on Fridays and Saturdays
Disadvantages of Staying in Santiago Atitlan:
- Limited nightlife
- Not a backpacker town; unlikely to find a backpacker crowd to hangout with
Where to Stay in Santiago, Lake Atitlan
Double or twin rooms start at $22 USD at this lodging, each with their own private bathroom and kitchen. A large pool and modest courtyard are available for relaxing, along with a sauna for an extra fee. Hot showers with good water pressure, clean rooms, and friendly staff are the top accolades at this hotel. Casa Josefa is within walking distance of the dock and the market, and also has free wifi.
A beautiful garden that lights up at night for evening relaxing and dining is the centerpiece of this hotel. They also offer room service, free wifi, 24-hr desk service, a restaurant, and paid airport shuttle service. Visitors can book a queen or deluxe single room starting at $32 USD, with private bathrooms, a fridge, and garden views.
Set around a beautiful garden with a walking path, seating areas, and even a trampoline, this hotel offers triple rooms with ensuite bathrooms and either mountain or garden views starting at $52 USD. Room service, a shared lounge, and flat-screen TVs will have you relaxing your whole stay.
Santa Cruz is a municipality on the northern shore of the lake, consisting of Santa Cruz, Tzununá, and four other small villages. It is not very popular with tourists, as it lacks typical attractions such as large, lively markets or nightlife, and therefore is populated almost entirely by indigenous Maya.
If you are searching for a quiet place to relax and indulge yourself, one of the few resorts in the area might be just the place for you!
Advantages to Staying in Santa Cruz:
- Close to Tzantizotz Nature Reserve
- Quiet and traditional
Disadvantages to Staying in Santa Cruz:
- Only accessible by footpath or boat
- No commercial center or roads
Where to Stay in Santa Cruz, Lake Atitlan
We spent a couple of nights at this wonderful hostel. It is more of an experience, or as they call it, “a summer camp” rather than a hostel. Staying at this hostel means you’ll have access to kayaks, yoga classes, and so much more. They also offer free beer (hence the name) with their nightly communal dinners. It is an eco-friendly hostel perfect for anybody who wants a social stay. Highly recommend!
This is where we stayed for a couple of nights and absolutely loved it! Bed down in a cozy lakeside cabin and wake to a dazzling sunrise through the enormous windows in this lodging option. Rooms come with an attached private bathroom, and you can step outside to enjoy a peaceful morning in the garden surrounded by birds. La Iguana Perdida features a restaurant, as well as a private garden. You can book a double room for less than $90 USD, and treat yourself to one of their selections of wines from the bar as well. The location is quiet but located right on the lake with a calm section perfect for swimming!
You can also book this hostel on HostelWorld
If you really want a relaxing, luxurious stay on the lake, this is the place to go. All of the suites have private bathrooms with complimentary bathrobes. A fitness center, yoga, and massage are offered, and guests can go hiking, horseback riding, or cycling in the area. The grounds offer a huge pool, outdoor daybeds, and of course amazing lake views. Free wifi is a given, and there are plenty of outdoor terraces, balconies, and patios where you can relax on a comfy lounge chair. There is also an award-winning restaurant on-site. King suites start at under $300 USD.
Santa Catarina Palopó
The majority population of this small town are native Kaqchikel Maya, whose culture and history you can learn all about in the town’s museum. The church square sells local coffee which you can sip while browsing the shops selling traditional clothing.
In an effort to create a more beautiful and pleasant environment for the citizens, local craftsmen have undertaken a project called Pintando Santa Catarina Palopó. Families get to choose colors and designs for their homes, which the craftsmen then paint.
Advantages to Staying in Santa Catarina Palopó:
- A more traditional, authentic experience of Maya village life.
- Learn more about regional history at the local museum.
Disadvantages to Staying in Santa Catarina Palopó:
- No budget lodging: this is a place to splurge.
- Limited nightlife.
Where to Stay in Santa Catarina Palopó
$$$-La Casa Polopo
Dine by candlelight while looking out at the lake at La Casa Polopó, then wake the next morning to the sun shining on your own private balcony. Starting at $177 USD per night, each room at the hotel also has its own private bathroom with free toiletries. The on-site restaurant serves American or continental breakfast, and also offers French, vegetarian, and vegan dishes. The hotel also has free wifi, and a communal lounge and bar.
You’ll feel spoiled at Tzampoc Resort. The large outdoor pool lights up at night as you watch the sun disappear behind the volcanoes on the other side of the lake, and if you’re sore, you can relax in the hydro-pool hot tub. For $158 USD per night, you’ll get your own private room and bathroom with cable TV. The resort also houses a traditional temazcal, and a communal lounge with a fireplace. Some rooms, as well, come with their own fireplace and/or private terrace. Enjoy a free breakfast in the resort’s restaurant, and even book a massage.
Before you go…
I hope this guide has helped you understand the different villages around Lake Atitlan, and in the end, helped you choose where to stay in Lake Atitlan! With so many choices, I’m sure you’ll find the perfect hotel for you!
If you found this blog helpful, be sure to check out the rest of our Guatemala blogs including some related articles below:
I hope you enjoy Lake Atitlan!