Lake Atitlan Trip Recommendations

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October 2006   (Updated July 2007)

Steve & Deborah, s/v ARGO


(See, Pictures/Journal page 21, for great slide shows and pictures of these places)

“LP p. xxx”  refers to page number in Lonely Planet Guatemala book, 2nd ed., Jan. '04.  (New edition came out Sept. '07.)


OVERVIEW:    Traveling with stateside friends we were limited on time, so we just hit the high points.  From Guatemala City we arrived in Panajachel on the eastern side of Lake Atitlán.  One night in Panajachel, day trip to Chichicastenango for the huge Sunday market (too crowded to shop leisurely for textiles), a night in Jaibalito at La Casa del Mundo (WOW!), a day trip to Santiago Atitlán to buy textiles, a night in San Marcos at Aaculaax, then on to Antigua. 

On our second trip there, we spent one night in Santiago Atitlán at Posada de Santiago and then 2 nights at La Casa del Mundo.  We did not stay in Panajachel nor go to Chichi.


PANAJACHEL – on east side of the lake

Panajachel is a good place to stage for a trip to Chichicastenango for the huge market days (Sunday and Thursday).  All transportation (1-hour ride) to Chichi leaves from Panajachel, so to stay elsewhere on the lake entails an early morning lancha ride back to Panajachel.

Hotel Primavera   Tel 7762-2052; Calle Santander;  $35/double.  Very nice, very clean, pleasant courtyard, centrally located.  As we had limited time in Panajachel, we opted for a place close to all the “action”.  If one had more time to enjoy here, there are places that have lake/volcano views.  (LP p.112)

Posada de los Volcanes  Tel 7762-0244; Calle Santander 5-51;   We did not stay here but heard good things – sounds similar to Hotel Primavera.  (LP p.112)


JAIBALITO  –  on the north side of the lake

La Casa del Mundo   Tel 5218-5332, 5204-5558 ;; Owner Bill & Rosie Fogarty.  Ranges from $12 - $50.  This is a * DO NOT MISS * place.  About 15 rooms with private or shared baths.  Located right on the lake, rooms scattered up and down the high cliff side, ALL rooms have lake/volcano views and patios.  There are lots of terraced patios, sitting areas, hammocks.  The hot tub, which hangs over the lake with view of the volcanoes, is heated by a wood burning “stove” so you have to reserve this at least 24 hours in advance, plus they fill it with fresh water just for you – costs about $33 but if you let other guests use it they will share in the cost (holds about a dozen people easily).  They offer a family style dinner – everybody sits at one big table – and choice of normal or vegetarian for $10.  There is nothing nearby so you eat all meals there, which is fine as the food is very good.  Rooms with private bath max $50, shared bath $25 and below – well worth it.  We HIGHLY RECOMMEND this place including the hot tub and group dinner.  If you have time, we recommend spending 2 nights so you can enjoy the wonderful, relaxing atmosphere.  The water is beautiful and the swimming excellent;  they also have kayaks to rent.  Their lancha, for a reasonable price, will take you around the lake (for us, Santiago Atitlán for a couple of hours, then dropped us off at our next destination,  San Marcos).   Alternatively, you can hire a private water taxi to do the same.  Also, you can buy their homemade granola by the pound (the best I've ever had) and their chai tea mix (also excellent).  (LP p.126)  (See slide show of this place.)


SAN MARCOS LA LAGUNA  –  on north side of lake, west of Jaibalito 

San Marcos is a little community known for yoga, massage, meditation, etc., parlors.  We expected cute little “hippie” shops, but actually there wasn’t much more than the multitude of spas.  I’m sure with more time we would have discovered more.  There was a nice French restaurant on the beach between Aaculaax and the public boat dock, but can’t remember the name – it’s the only French restaurant there!

Aaculaax;  No phone available when we went, have to make reservations via their website or by email – they were very responsive (Lili and Nicholas).  About 15 rooms with private or shared baths.  Located just back from the lake, rooms are staggered on the cliff side.  All rooms have lake/volcano views and private patios.  The whole place is built from recycled and natural material (e.g., walls are stuffed with stuffed plastic bottles), and the owner is into stained glass so there’s lots of it all around including embedded into the rooms’ walls.  Baths may be outside (Mirador room – fantastic view of the volcanoes from the toilet!) or built into the side of the mountain (Pescador).  Really cool place, a bit funky, clean and uniquely interesting.  They have a restaurant that was closed for updating when we were there.  The “honey-moon” suite (2-story Mirador with outdoor bath and hot tub) was $40, Pescador $27, and a lot less for sharing a bath.  We highly recommend this place - this rates right up there with La Casa del Mundo, not as refined but definitely an experience not to miss.  (LP p.126)  (See slide show of this place.)

Posada Schumann   Tel 5202-2216, 5299-4711;  For a more conventional room or cottage, this lakeside posada looked nice and clean.  We enjoyed breakfast there.  (LP p.126)



SANTIAGO ATITLAN  - on the southwest side of the lake

Posada de Santiago    Tel 7721-7366/7167, Cell 5784-9111;; Owner David and Susie Glandville.  A very nice posada (ranging from budget rooms to suites to casitas); large and lush, beautifully landscaped property including avocado, banana, lime, orange, coffee and lots of flowering trees; various outdoor seating areas (we reserved the Mirador - the "view" -  for breakfast); a pool, hot tub and sauna; nice big restaurant with very good food.  The property is about 1/2 mile outside of Santiago Atitlan, situated on a hill rising up from the lake, so most places afford a lake/volcanoes view.  As there were 5 people in our party, we stayed in La Rosa, casita #1, which included private bedroom (headboard carved out of the stone hill), a living area that slept 3 comfortably, a fireplace stoked with plenty of firewood and lots of candles everywhere, a shower/bath tub with a great view of nature, a private porch with a great view and hammock - $90/night (for 5 people).  They do have their own dock, so a private water taxi can take you straight there.



Atitours  (previously I.R.C. Travel)  We have always worked directly with Miguel Hernandez (Tel 5720-5268) in Guatemala City (18 Ave 09-25, zona 12), although they have an office in Antigua (Eusebia Garcia 7832-9032, -9232, 5th Ave Sur).  As we had stateside guest and time was of the essence, we opted for van shuttle service to our various destinations.  We used (and have used in the past) I.R.C.  We have always found them to be 100% reliable with conscientious drivers, flexible and very accommodating to our needs.  For this trip, we had 7 travel legs and it cost $75/person, which we thought was reasonable – our friends’ perception of travel safety was very important + we were able to leave our luggage with the van when doing day trips in between destinations.  I.R.C. has shuttle van service all over Guatemala and to Copán, Honduras and can do custom trips.



  • Market day at Chichicastenango for some is a “must see” and others say “don’t bother”.  For us, it was quite a sight to see such a huge market spread out over many blocks and the locals burning incense and leaving offerings on the Church’s steps.  But it was extremely crowded (mostly locals) so doing any serious shopping for textiles was frustrating, although we did find a reputable booth selling beautiful antique textiles that we purchased.  (LP p.129)


  • We spent a few hours in Santiago Atitlán mainly shopping for huipiles, which were plentiful.  Bargain hard (pay 25-50% of original asking price);  they will follow you down to the lancha and that’s where you can really get a bargain.  We also paid our respects (i.e., paid money) to Maximόn, the cigar-smoking, silk-draped highland Maya deity that embodies all the “good” things in life – he likes offerings of rum, cigars, candles.  He lives with a lucky family (lucky ‘cuz they get all the goodies) for a year, then is paraded through the streets during Santa Semana (Easter) before moving to another family for a year.

  •   Entrance fee was less than 50 cents + about $1 per picture.


  • An hour north of Antigua are Sumpango and Santiago Sacatepéquez which are known for their gigantic kite festivals every November 1st, All Saints Day (Day of the Dead).  We attended the festival in Sacatepéquez (the larger of the two) where kites ranging from small to gigantic (40 ft. wide) were flown in the large cemetery on top of the hill.  It’s quite a sight seeing everybody running or wondering across the graves, including the ice cream cart, cotton candy guy and Dominoes selling pizza-by-the-slice.  We HIGHLY RECOMMEND this for November 1, any year.  As it is crowded, don’t take any purses or backpacks, but a [secured] camera is a must.  (LP p.98)


  • If we had had more time around the lake, we would have visited other villages, namely Santa Catarina Palopό and San Pedro La Laguna, which we heard might be worth an afternoon visit.


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