Guatemala

Day Trip to Lake Atitlan from Antigua, Guatemala

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Lake Atitlan was one of the top places to visit in Guatemala that I wanted to see during my trip. Since my Central America itinerary was tight, I decided to go for a day trip to Lake Atitlan from Antigua, which turned out to be a perfect solution.

Not only did I not have to deal with the hassle of navigating public transport in a new country (and with a language barrier), but I also could see more during my short trip to Lake Atitlan and enjoy the place to the fullest.

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

In this article, I will share my experience on the day trip to Lake Atitlan from Antigua Guatemala, what you can expect, what you will see, and if it’s worth going at all. Read on and get ready to visit Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

Where is Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Lake Atitlan, one of the top tourist attractions in Guatemala and the most beautiful lakes in the world, is located in the southern part of the country at an altitude of 1563 meters above sea level. Guatemala City, the capital of the country, is 110 km away from Lake Atitlan, and Antigua – the most popular place to visit Guatemala – is 80 km away. The short distance makes Lake Atitlan a perfect day trip destination from Antigua.

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

Is Lake Atitlan worth visiting

Definitely! Lake Atitlan was one of the reasons why I decided to go on a trip to Central America in the first place. Not only is the lake beautiful, but the landscape surrounding it is simply stunning, with three volcanoes dominating the area (the highest one is Atitlan, with an altitude of 3537 meters above sea level). Lake Atitlan is also home to the indigenous Mayan population, where you can observe and learn about their history, culture, and customs.

The area is also perfect for relaxing holidays as the vibe is laid-back. At the same time, some of the towns are party hubs if you need a bit more of the exciting nightlife. If you are more into active holidays, this is a perfect destination for that as well – you can enjoy hiking in beautiful scenery or numerous water sports. Lake Atitlan offers many different activities; everyone should find something interesting for their taste there.

There are 11 towns and villages around the lake; each has a different vibe and offers something else so that you can see and experience a lot of diversity in such a small area.

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

Visiting Lake Atitlan from Antigua

If you decide to go for a day trip, there are two ways of visiting Lake Atitlan from Antigua – independently or with the tour. As a very independent traveler, I was researching the first option mostly until I realized that the tour to Lake Atitlan from Antigua is the most efficient one; hence, that’s what I did eventually.

If you want to go to Lake Atitlan independently, here is what to do:

  • Book a transfer from Antigua to Panajachel (the main town at Lake Atitlan and the transportation hub in the area). The first one leaves Antigua at 5:30 in the morning, arriving at Panajachel around 8; the ticket costs $25. You will be dropped in the center of the town.
  • After a bit of sightseeing in Panajachel (which is not all that interesting, to be honest, but the views over Lake Atitlan and volcanoes are pretty spectacular), you can catch the boat across the lake to some of the more popular towns, such as San Juan La Laguna or San Pedro La Laguna. There are scheduled departures between towns. The custom here is to pay when you leave the boat – if you are asked for the payment at the beginning, it’s most likely a tourist trap.
  • After sightseeing in one town, you can catch a boat to another one (and another) until it’s time to return to Panajachel to catch your shuttle back to Antigua.
  • The last shuttle from Panajachel to Antigua departs at 16:00, arriving at your destination three hours later.

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

When booking the shuttle, you must indicate the pick-up and drop-off location in both Antigua and Panajachel – you will be collected from these spots. This was my biggest concern on the way back from Lake Atitlan to Antigua and was why I chose the tour.

As it turned out later, it was a perfect choice anyway, as not only could I visit Lake Atitlan hassle-free, but I also learned so much about the place from the local guide, and I have seen more places than I could have covered myself.

There is also the option of a private shuttle from Antigua to Lake Atitlan and back – it is more expensive, but this way, you can arrange the departure times according to your needs.

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

Day trip to Lake Atitlan from Antigua

All the tours to Lake Atitlan from Antigua look more or less the same: you are picked up from your accommodation and taken by minibus to Pajanachel, where you start the main part of the tour with the sightseeing around. Somewhen during the day you also have a lunch break. Usually, you visit a few villages – how many and which ones depend on the tour you take. In the evening, you are back in Antigua, dropped off at your accommodation or in the central part of the town.

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

My tour from Antigua to Lake Atitlan was the same. I was picked up by the 6 a.m. shuttle to Panajachel. After arriving, it was time for breakfast in the local restaurant (included in the tour price).

Around 9 a.m., the whole group met – I was the only person visiting Lake Atitlan on the day trip from Antigua; everyone else was staying in the area. I was also the only English-speaking person; everyone else was from Central and South America. But this was not a problem; the guide (a very friendly local lady) was bilingual and translated everything for me.

These short breaks when she spoke Spanish were an excellent opportunity for me to take pictures, so I was actually grateful for this tour structure. During sightseeing, fellow travelers from Mexico and Costa Rica took care of me, engaging in conversations, so I didn’t feel lost being the only non-Spanish-speaking person there.

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

After a walk through Panajachel and a short introduction to Lake Atitlan, we took a boat across the lake to the first stop – San Juan La Laguna. I loved this place and all its colors! It was maybe a bit too busy for my taste, but overall, I enjoyed it so much. The views of the lake, the streets lined with hanging umbrellas, the street art around – it was all perfect.

In San Juan La Laguna, we also had two stops: in the chocolate and textile factories. This could be a bit too touristy for some, and I would probably have shared the sentiment, but since everything was so new and different to me, I found both places interesting. I have never seen how chocolate is made, and I’ve never tried cocoa seed, so I enjoyed this part of the tour much more than I expected. Of course, after the presentation you could do some shopping but no one was pushy and forcing you to spend money there.

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

After exploring San Juan La Laguna with a guide, we had some free time and then took a boat to another town – San Pedro La Laguna. Even if these two towns are located very close to each other, they are completely different. San Pedro La Laguna is more laid-back, a true backpacker destination.

Here, everyone had two choices: visiting the local church with the guide or having free time to explore the town independently. I chose the second one, and it was really good to wander around a bit and get a feel of the place (plus enjoy some more views of Lake Atitlan and surrounding volcanoes from a different perspective).

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

The last stop of the tour was Santiago Atitlan, where, after arriving by boat, it was time for a lunch break and then a bit of exploring.

This town was again different from the two previous ones. Home to the largest indigenous population of Tzutujile Mayans, you could feel it’s more of a regular place to live, not a tourist destination (like two previous places that were great anyway).

We wandered around a bit, learned more about the town, and saw a local Mayan woman wrap a tocoyal around her head (this traditional hari wrap is even pictured on the 25 centavos cion). The last stop in Santiago Atitlan was visiting the Catholic church, one of the oldest in the area, from the second half of the 16th century. Then, it was time for a bumpy boat ride back to Panajachel and to catch the shuttle back to Antigua.

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

To be honest, I have nothing but good things to say about the tour; everything was perfect. Even if I was the only one who didn’t speak Spanish, I didn’t feel excluded; the guide and other travelers ensured that I knew everything. Even if typical touristy things were included in the tour (like visits to the chocolate and textile factories), no one pushed visitors to buy anything or leave tips.

Since we had the boat for ourselves, the whole logistic part of the tour was very smooth. The sightseeing didn’t depend on the boat’s schedule; we just went to another place when we were ready.

The guide, a local indigenous woman, was very knowledgeable, explained everything in great detail, and answered all the questions (I had quite a lot of them). What I really appreciated was that once we were back in Panajachel, she arranged the pick-up place for me and waited with me until the shuttle arrived.

Overall, it was a great day and a perfect way to discover Lake Atitlan in the limited time I had. The only downside was that I lost my lens cover in the lake in San Pedro La Laguna, but I can blame only myself for that (although at least three locals tried to save it even if I kept saying that’s okay).

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

For me, a tour from Antigua to Lake Atitlan was the perfect choice. Even if it was slightly more expensive than organizing everything on my own (but the difference wasn’t too big, really), it was worth it. I didn’t have to worry about any practicalities or logistics; I could see more than on my own and learn so much from the guide.

If you would like to go for a day trip to Lake Atitlan from Antigua, here are some of the highly-rated tours you can take:

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

Final thoughts on visiting Lake Atitlan

I loved every moment at Lake Atitlan and wished I had more time to explore the area. The beauty of the place, the serene atmosphere, and the fascinating indigenous culture were all amazing and good reasons to plan longer holidays there. Too bad my itinerary was packed, and I could afford only one day at Lake Atitlan, but I’m more than happy that I could have seen the place even so briefly.

If you are wondering if it’s worth going to Lake Atitlan for one day only, I can assure you that yes, it is. You will not be disappointed! And who knows, maybe this short visit there will inspire you to plan a longer trip to this stunning area in the future. I know I want to go back!

day trip to lake atitlan from antigua

Travel Resources

You can find the best accommodation options at Booking. They have many discounts and excellent customer service. Click here to look for the place to stay in Guatemala

Never travel without travel insurance, you never know what might happen and better safe than sorry. You can check the insurance policy for Guatemala here.

I recommend joining organized tours to get to know the place better and to visit more places during your trip. You can find a great selection of tours at Get Your Guide – click here.

Make sure to have the offline map always installed on your phone, they can save you so many troubles. I always use the free app Maps.Me.


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day trip to lake atitlan from antigua


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