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A Journey Through Magic: A trip to Atitlán Lake

In the highlands of Guatemala lies a place of unparalleled beauty, where mystical landscapes and vibrant cultures converge to create an experience unlike any other. Atitlán Lake, often described as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, is a destination that captivates the hearts of travelers from across the globe. Situated 5,000 feet above sea level in the Sololá Department, Lake Atitlán is surrounded by towering volcanoes: Tolimán, San Pedro, and Atitlán. The lake’s turquoise waters and dramatic landscape have inspired countless travelers. Just in this selection of towns you can already see the diversity, expertise and difference in weaving. We will give examples along the article.

One of the highlights of any trip to Atitlán Lake is exploring the charming villages that dot its shores. Each village has its own unique character and cultural heritage, offering visitors a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Mayan life. There’s something for everyone to discover: 

  1. Panajachel
  2. San Marcos 
  3. San Pablo La Laguna
  4. San Juan La Laguna
  5. San Pedro La Laguna
  6. Santiago Atitlán
  7. San Lucas Toliman
  8. San Antonio Palopo
  9. Santa Catalina Palopo

Nestled within this breathtaking setting, Ethny thrives as a beacon of artisanal excellence. Ethny is fortunate to call this stunning locale home where happened the meticulous assemblage of our bags and some of our weaver groups. This synergy of natural beauty and artisanal skill infuses every piece with a unique essence, embodying the spirit of Lake Atitlán. To discover more about Ethny artisanal treasures, visit www.ethnystore.com.

1. Panajachel

At Ethny the first weaver we have collaborated with, that is still part of our organization, is based in Panajachel. This town is the most developed in all of Atitlán Lake. It serves as a great starting point for a trip around the lake because it directly connects to the main road and offers lots of public transport options. Pana’s dock has frequent boats venturing to all other towns around the lake, so you can easily visit any other village from here. If you only have a few days in the area, I recommend staying in Pana and doing day trips to the other towns.
You will find a great diversity of craftsmanship as Panajachel is a key point for trade and artisan from all over the region come to sell their handicrafts.

Hotels

➡️ La Casa Del Mundo: Accessible only by boat. Don’t hesitate to go there for a meal. The standard rate per room is $60 per night. 

Visit their website: https://lacasadelmundo.com/

➡️ Villa Balam Ya: This is my go-to hotel located between Panajachel and Santa Catarina Palopó. Very relaxing. If you want to stay in this hotel your reservation needs to have a minimum of 2 nights and the price per night is around $215 for one bedroom villa. If you’re looking for a bigger villa, the price per night is around $375, the price can variate dependending on the size of the villa.

Visit their website: https://www.balamya.com/

➡️ More affordable budget hotel: Selina: It’s a hotel that also has private rooms, including a very nice suite. The price for a standard room with private bathroom is around $70 per night.

Visit their website: https://www.selina.com/guatemala/atitlan/

Activities

  • Stroll along Calle Santander, the main tourist street filled with trendy cafes, local restaurants, and colourful souvenir stands.
  • Visit the central market on Calle Principal for handicrafts.
  •  Explore the Chichicastenango market, located 1 hour and 15 minutes from Panajachel.

I recommend 100% to go to the Chichicastenango market. It is a vibrant tapestry of colors, aromas, and cultural heritage. Visitors can immerse themselves in the rich Mayan culture and witness centuries-old traditions come to life. A visit to this iconic market is an unforgettable journey into the soul of Guatemala’s indigenous communities. It is the region where Ethny fabric are originated. 

2. San Marcos La Laguna

Known as the hippie mecca of Lake Atitlán, San Marcos is a small town for backpackers who love to experiment and get in touch with spirituality. The town is full of yoga studios, massage centers, Reiki healing centers, vegan cafes, health food stores, and mystical street art. We recommend this town as a stop for 1 night before exploring other towns.

Hotel

➡️ Lush Atitlán: At this hotel you can enjoy simplicity and  elegance. The hotel is surrounded by nature and walking distance from downtown.The prices can vary from $80 to $140. 

Visit their website: https://www.lushatitlan.com/

Activities:

  •  Visit the Reserva Natural del Cerro Tzankujil, a Nature Reserve with hiking trails and a 12m high wooden platform for cliff jumping into the lake.

3. San Pablo la Laguna

This Village offers a tranquil escape,  perfect for swimming or kayaking. Visitors can embark on hikes to nearby viewpoints like Indian’s Nose. Accessible by boat from other lake towns, San Pablo provides an authentic, peaceful retreat away from the bustling tourist areas.

Hotel

➡️ The Lodge: Located at the  lakefront, this  cozy house is the perfect escape for those looking to immerse themselves in nature and relax. You can enjoy a night at this cabin for $140 per night.

Visit their website: https://thelodge.world/

Activities

  • Experience the vibrant local market, where you can buy fresh produce, traditional foods, and handcrafted souvenirs.
  • Relax by the serene lakefront, swim in the clear waters, or rent a kayak for a peaceful paddle

4. San Juan la Laguna

San Juan is one of the most beautiful towns in Lake Atitlán. Known for its artistry and traditional handicrafts, the Tz’utujil Mayan people sell stunning artwork to tourists.

Hotels

➡️ Uxlabil: It has a wonderful view of the lake and the Cerro del Rostro Maya. The standard price for a room is $60 per night. Do not expect high confort and cleanness in any of the hotels in San Juan La Laguna.

Visit their website:https://uxlabil.com/

➡️ Eco-Hotel Mayachik: You can enjoy a peaceful retreat in a natural environment. Their restaurant offers delicious vegetarian and vegan food, with Guatemalan influences. The price per night is around $65. 

Visit their website:https://mayachik.com/

➡️ Glamping El Pajarero: The luxury tent offers a continental or American breakfast. There is a coffee shop and bar and sightseeing tours are available in the area. The price for a double room is around $50 per night.

You can book here: https://www.booking.com/hotel/gt/glamping-el-pajarero.es.html

Activities

  • Do a weaving workshop at Tinte Maya
  • Visit Casa Flor Ixcaco Weaving Cooperative
  •  Walk to the dock

5. San Pedro La Laguna

This is the most popular backpacker town in Lake Atitlán, full of backpacker lodges and hostels, cafes, restaurants, bars, yoga studios, massage studios, Spanish schools, traditional textile shops, and a local street market.

Hotel

➡️ Sababa Resort: This is the perfect  blend of luxury, relaxation, and adventure. The price for a quadruple bedroom is around $170 per night.

Visit their website:https://sababaresort.com/

Activities

  • Visit Tz’unun ‘Ya: its is a themed museum dedicated to Tzutujil culture, featuring a room where a film about the formation of Lake Atitlán, Tzutujil culture, and history is shown.  There is an exhibition that showcases the process of making textiles and traditional clothing. The entrance fee is $5. 

6. Santiago Atitlán

Known for its striking natural beauty, it is framed by majestic volcanoes and lush landscapes. The town is a cultural hub for the Tz’utujil Maya people, who maintain their traditional customs, language, and vibrant artisanal crafts. Visitors are often drawn to the bustling markets, historic church, and the revered shrine of Maximon, a local deity. 

Hotels

➡️ Tiosh Abaj:  Located at the Lake Atitlán shores, from here you can easily walk to the public pier, mayan markets, and the main street. Where you will find the indigenous arts and crafts. You can book a room for $65 per night.

Visit their website: https://www.tioshabaj.com/?lang=en

➡️ Palmera Dorada: This accommodation stands out for its modern facilities that make the most of the Sololá landscape. The price for a room is $176 per night. 

You can book here: hoteles.com/palmeradorada

Activities

Spend half a day or a full day in Santiago Atitlán, a town rich in culture and tradition. Here are some highlights to explore:

  • Visit Cojoyla Textile Association: Discover the intricate craftsmanship of local artisans at the Cojoyla textile association. The town is renowned for their huipils adorned with birds. Be sure to check out some of these beautiful examples. 

Visit their website: https://cojolya.org.gt/

Enjoy the Scenic Views: Santiago Atitlán boasts a wonderful view of the lake and the Cerro del Rostro Maya, a picturesque hill that adds to the town’s charm.

Birding Atitlan Expedition:This adventure allows you to walk around the beautiful Lake Atitlán, where you can observe various bird species. This adventure can take up to 4:30 hours.

Whether you’re there for a few hours or the whole day, Santiago Atitlán offers a unique glimpse into the vibrant culture and stunning landscapes of the region.

7. San Lucas Tolimán

San Lucas Tolimán, situated on the southeastern shores of Lake Atitlán, offers a serene retreat with a strong sense of community and traditional Mayan culture. While less frequented by tourists, this charming town boasts stunning views of the lake and surrounding volcanoes, providing a peaceful atmosphere for relaxation and exploration.

Hotel

➡️ Hotel Tolimán: A great spot to enjoy the beauty of Atitlán’s natural surroundings and delve into the rich Maya cultural heritage. This hotel is located next to the volcanoes Tolimán and Atitlán, Cerro de Oro and many other great hiking spots, which you can explore on your own or with one of our experienced guides. The price for a room is around $70 per night. 

Visit their website: https://hoteltoliman.com/

➡️ Casa Qatzij: A great spot to enjoy the beauty of Atitlán’s natural surroundings and delve into the rich Maya cultural heritage. This hotel is located next to the volcanoes Tolimán and Atitlán, Cerro de Oro and many other great hiking spots, which you can explore on your own or with one of our experienced guides. The price for a room is around $70 per night. 

Visit their website: booking.com/casaqatzij

Activities

  • Kaslem Mural: Enjoy a  stunning panoramic view of the surrounding landscape, providing a perfect vantage point to appreciate the beauty of Lake Atitlán and its environs. The name “Kaslem” translates to “life” in the local language, reflecting the vibrant natural beauty and life you can observe from this viewpoint.
  • Tolimán Volcano: Standing tall among the trio of volcanoes that dominate the skyline of Lake Atitlan, the 3,000-meter summit of Volcan Toliman presents both a formidable hiking challenge and an unparalleled, intimate encounter with nature. The ascent can take 4-5 hours and the descent 3 hours.

8. San Antonio Palopó

A small uncrowded village with an inspiring local charm. The locals here are Kakchiquel, one of the many indigenous Mayan groups of Guatemala. Traditional clothing and lifestyles thrive in this town, and you’ll notice the locals are always decked out in colourful woven garments

Hotels

➡️ Hotel Terrazas del Lago: This hotel has a restaurant and a private beach area. You can book a room for around $50 per night.

You can book here: booking.com/hotelterrazasdellago

➡️ Atitlán Villas: This hotel has rustic style architecture and offers a pool and a hot tub with views of Lake Atitlán. A two bedroom village is around $239 per night.

You can book here: booking.com/atitlanvillas

➡️ Casa Tribu: This hotel has rustic style architecture and offers a pool and a hot tub with views of Lake Atitlán. A two bedroom village is around $239 per night.

You can book here: booking.com/casatribu

Activities

  • Learn about Pottery: Visit a pottery studio, for example Ceramica Palopo Multicolor to watch the processes. 

9. Santa Catarina Palopó

This tiny local town is just 4km from Panajachel. There aren’t many tourists here, so you can meet lots of locals. This village is known for its traditional artistic design that covers many of the buildings here with blue paint, colorful patterns, and captivating designs as part of the community project Pintando Santa Catarina.

Hotel

➡️ Casa Palopó: Relais & Châteaux,  it’s really beautiful with a great view. Don’t hesitate to go there just for dinner. The price per night depends on the room you choose, they offer standard and deluxe rooms so prices can go from $284 to $670. 

Visit their website: https://www.casapalopo.com/

➡️ Hotel Villa Santa Catarina: The hotel is set in pretty gardens at the edge of Lake Atitlan. It offers elegant rooms with a furnished balcony and an outdoor pool. It’s 5 minutes  away from Panajachel by car. The price for a standard room is $85 per night. 

Visit their website: https://www.villasdeguatemala.com/es/villa-santa-catarina

Activities

  • Cultural Center:  With the rise in tourism, an increasing number of shops are emerging, offering handcrafted goods and unique souvenirs for you to bring back home. A guided tour is offered to visitors in order to lean about the handcrafted goods.
  • Photograph the colourful houses: This is clearly the main reason to visit, and locals are more than happy for you to photograph the buildings.

Lake Atitlán is a magical destination that offers a blend of natural beauty and cultural richness. Whether you are looking for adventure, relaxation, or cultural immersion, this enchanting place has something to offer every traveler. From the picturesque villages and vibrant markets to the serene waters and towering volcanoes, every moment spent at Lake Atitlán is sure to be memorable. So pack your bags, set your spirit free, and discover the enchantment of Atitlán Lake for yourself.

How to get around Lake Atitlán? 

The primary mode of transportation for traveling between villages on Lake Atitlán is by boat, commonly referred to as a lancha.

To get around the villages you can take a Tuk Tuk, Lake Atitlán is filled with them. They are quick and convenient,  you can catch one anywhere within a downtown area for less than a $1 per person. 

As you can tell, the villages around Lake Atitlán are incredibly inspiring, each offering a unique blend of natural beauty, rich culture, and vibrant local life. Drawing from this inspiration, at Ethny we created a   wonderful and unique collection that captures the essence of these beautiful locations. 

Alexandrine Michelas

Founder and Artistic Director

Valeria Villeda

Graphic Design Intern

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