Come find out how to travel from Panajachel To San Pedro La Laguna and all the towns in between. Lake Atitlan is a big place and there are so many beautiful places to explore here.
In this transport guide, I will let you know how to travel around Lake Atitlan, how to take a Lancha, what price you should be paying, how to avoid getting scammed, and more!
Lake Atitlan is one of the most beautiful spots in Guatemala, though overall I will say it is a pretty amazing country. It has become a tourist mecca with incredible volcano views, a beautiful lake, and amazing towns on the shores.
Each town here offers something different and generally appeals to different types of travelers.
Luckily enough it is relatively easy to travel between all these towns such as from Panajachel to San Pedro, which are two of the main spots, and all the towns in between, all information I will get into in this how-to travel around Lake Atitlan guide.
Though before that let’s talk about Lake Atitlan and its appeal. Well, no doubt one of the most breathtaking parts is definitely the surrounding three volcanos.
These are called Toliman (3100 meters), San Pedro (3000 meters), and Atitlan (3500 meters). Just being able to chill at your accommodation or down on the waterfront and look up to see these three magnificent works of mother nature right in front of you is quite a special experience.
By making your way around the different villages in Lake Atitlan you will get to see different views of the impressive volcanos, and surrounding lakes. Though you will also get a feel for each of these towns and what makes each one so special.
This is certainly one of those places where I constantly heard travelers say “if you enjoy yoga go here” or “if you are from country X you need to go here”.
It’s pretty easy to see that tourism runs this place and there is quite a strong divide between the local community and the constant stream of tourists visiting daily.
Now if you are wanting to explore the villages around Lake Atitlan, and trust me you will want to, it is super easy to do thanks to the lanchas or water taxis, but if you are like me then you will want to know everything there is to know before taking one.
For example, what is the Lake Atitlan boat schedule, which towns should I visit, how to travel between the two biggest towns of Panajachel to San Pedro, and is there any scams I should be aware of? Well, let’s get into all this and more on our how to travel around Lake Atitlan guide.
How To Travel Around Lake Atitlan: Panajachel To San Pedro And All The Towns In Between
- What Is A Lancha
- The Towns Of Lake Atitlan
- Lake Atitlan Boat Schedule
- Cost Of Boats Around Lake Atitlan
- Panajachel To San Pedro La Laguna
- Panajachel To Santa Cruz
- Panajachel To San Marcos
- San Pedro To San Marcos
- How Long To Spend Traveling Around Lake Atitlan
- Scams To Watch Out For
How I Book Cheap Transport In Guatemala: GuateGo
What Is A Lancha
Now it may sound fancy to us English speakers, but Lancha is just Spanish for a boat.
These boats act as water taxis and are essentially all over the lake, no matter where you are you should be able to head to the main pier in the closest town to catch one, or even many hotels and hostels will have a private dock where you can simply just flag down a passing one.
This makes life a lot easier as you don’t need to drag your luggage around. There are also some super obscure accommodations on the lake’s edge such as the popular Casa Del Mundo, which you will need to access by one of these taxi boats or lanchas in Lake Atitlan.
The lanchas you will find here on Lake Atitlan is simply fiberglass shell with numerous rows of plastic benches. It isn’t particularly comfortable in any way, though depending on full the boat is you may be able to spread out a bit.
Generally, boats from Panajachel will be the busiest since this is where the majority of tourists arrive, and I found that boats coming in the opposite direction from San Pedro were pretty damn quiet.
Generally, there will be two workers on each boat, one is the captain, and the other is an attendant, sorting out luggage, shouting out the village names, and taking payment when you jump off.
In my experience, I had nothing but positive encounters, though they are a bit notorious for taking advantage of tourists. It is best to know what your fare should be in advance and only pay this. Though we will get exactly into the costs of lanchas in Lake Atitlan a bit further down.
In the wet season when the weather is a bit more stormy, the lake can get quite wavy. If you are traveling in this season as I did you are best to explore in the morning when the weather is generally better and settle back at your accommodation for a rainy afternoon and evening.
Don’t worry if you get caught in a storm on the boat though. The captains are super experienced in navigating the lake and will adjust the speed accordingly. There are also life jackets on board the boats.
On the sides of the boat, you should have plastic flaps that you can drop down over the windows. Depending on the wind, the waves, and which direction the lancha is traveling you may find yourself getting quite splashed.
This isn’t fun for anybody on board so go ahead and close up the plastic flaps, you may still get some water dripping down, but at least it won’t be hitting you in the face now. This is also helpful if it starts raining while you are onboard.
The Towns Of Lake Atitlan
Before you jump on the water taxi you will need to know where exactly you are going. There is an assortment of towns around the lake which you will no doubt want to visit and stay at.
Here is a quick breakdown of each one and what they have to offer.
Let’s start with the main city around Lake Atitlan called Panajachel. This is the largest city in the area and often travelers’ first stop. There always seems to be a constant stream of shuttles arriving and departing, with travelers walking on down to the docks.
There are some excellent hostels in the area including Selina where I stayed for a couple of nights during my visit. They have a huge pool you can chill around at, super fast Wi-Fi, and can organize activities and shuttles around the country for you.
I would say it is worth spending a couple of days here. It is an easy place to book tours and organize transport. There is some awesome shopping to be done down the main street called Calla Santander. You can find heaps of cute cafes and restaurants and a delicious ice cream spot I fell in love with.
The perfect stay for backpackers and digital nomads. Dorm rooms start from $22.00 per night.BOOK NOW
Hospedaje El Viajero
This is an affordable option for a private room perfect for couples or friends on a budget. Starting from $27.00 per night.
Where To Catch The Water Taxi From In Panajachel
You can catch the Water Taxi from the end of Calle del Embarcadero, just down the road from Selina. If you are taking a shuttle from Antigua or elsewhere in Guatemala they will drop you off on this street so you will just need to walk a minute or so to the ferry dock.
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San Pedro La Laguna
This is another popular town worth checking out when traveling around Lake Atitlan. It is no doubt quite a backpacker hub with plenty of hostels and affordable cafes and restaurants. If you are looking to get the most bang for your buck this is certainly worth visiting.
The crazy Mr. Mullets hostel is the perfect place to be if you are keen on partying, it has even built up a worldwide reputation as THE party place in Guatemala.
You can also get direct shuttles to San Pedro La Laguna from Antigua if you do end up choosing this as the first stop on your adventures around Lake Atitlan.
This makes it super easy to simply arrive and get to your accommodation, there is no need to stress about catching a boat. You can instead do that when you have had a rest and a good meal after recovering from the likely motion sickness you got from traveling the windy roads.
This is the perfect town to position yourself in if you are planning to hike the San Pedro volcano. If you are perhaps looking for an easier hike you will also find plenty of tour agencies offering the popular Indian Nose Hike which only is 30 minutes of walking, though it is a steep incline.
Lastly, if you are looking at studying Spanish you may find a suitable school in San Pedro La Laguna. Though if you want a more relaxed studying experience this may not be the place.
Honestly, I still have no idea how I feel about San Pedro La Laguna. Did I fall in love? No, the tight compact streets surrounded by tall buildings in the center reminded me of Koh Phi Phi. Though, I had some of the best meals in Lake Atitlan there, maybe even Guatemala. I highly recommend Sababa Restaurant!
A party hostel perfect for those wanting to let loose and make friends. Prices start from $12.00 per night.BOOK NOW
Zoola San Pedro Atitlan
Enjoy the beautiful grounds and relaxation. Prices start from $11.00 per night.
Where To Catch The Water Taxi From In San Pedro La Laguna
The dock for the water taxi in San Pedro is actually quite nice, with a cute thatched roof hut you need to walk through. You can find it just down from Mr Mullets Hostel and my favorite Sababa Restaurant.
San Marcos la Laguna
Now if you are more of a free-spirited type of person or quite into the yoga scene you may want to think about basing yourself in San Marcos while you travel around Lake Atitlan.
There are so many accommodation options here, and truly some are incredibly beautiful with amazing views out to the volcanos. This is also an excellent spot for some delicious vegan and vegetarian food. On the main street, you will find many great cafes, bakeries, jewelry stores, and shops.
You can find numerous yoga and meditation classes, as well as healing sessions, and learn about medicinal herbs, plants, and mushrooms. It is a great place for those who are more open-minded or looking to open their mind.
Make sure to visit Cerro Tzankujil nature reserve during your visit to San Marcos. Here you can find the Mirador de San Marcos with an excellent view over the lake.
There are also famous cliff-jumping spots from one of the lower trails. Even if you decide you don’t want to jump you can still watch people doing it from the comfort of your water taxi.
For free-spirited travelers. All-inclusive rates start from $80.00 per night in a dorm room.BOOK NOW
A more affordable option in San Marcos. Dorms start from $16.00 per night.
Where To Catch The Water Taxi From In San Marcos La Laguna
At the bottom of the main street you will find the pier in San Marcos. There is a shaded area with seating underneath in case you find yourself needing to wait a little for the next boat, though to be honest they are never that far away.
San Juan La Laguna
Next up we have San Juan La Laguna which is the town over from San Pedro. Though what makes this village special is the beautiful handicrafts and murals lining the streets displaying parts of their culture.
Undoubtedly this is the place to experience the arts of the area, you can even learn about the traditional weaving and the techniques used at LEMA. This is also a great place to do some shopping and buy some authentic souvenirs. Seriously there is such an assortment of shops selling all sorts of local handicrafts.
There are definitely fewer tourists here than in other villages around the lake, so it can be nice to get away from all the crazy and come here for a breather.
Generally, this isn’t a town people base themselves at, rather they visit here on a day trip and spend a couple of hours exploring. Nevertheless, there are still some excellent accommodation options here for people wanting more of a unique stay on Lake Atitlan.
The perfect stay for backpackers with dorms starting from $13.00 per night.BOOK NOW
Eco Hotel Uxlabil Atitlan
A comfortable eco-hotel with incredible views over the lake. Prices start from $44.00 per night.
Where To Catch The Water Taxi From In San Juan La Laguna
It is super easy to find the dock in San Juan La Laguna as it’s right down the end of 2Da Calle. There are a couple of restaurants before entering the hut leading to the docks.
Santiago de Atitlan
Tucked away and completely across the lake from Panachjel you will find the township of Santiago de Atitlan. This is actually the largest town on the lake and is well worth checking out when you travel around Lake Atitlan.
There are a couple of things that make this spot special, one of them being that this is one of the most authentic indigenous villages in the area. You will find people here still wear beautiful traditional clothing, as well as their habits still being deeply ingrained with their beliefs.
Though many people travel to this town to visit Maximon. This is a wooden statue and a spiritual figure that the local community worships. Every year it moves to a new location with a different family taking on the responsibility to look after it.
If you are keen on visiting you are best to talk to a tuk-tuk driver who will know of its current location. Be aware you may get asked for a small payment to take photos, and you can also bring along with you cigarettes and alcohol as a donation.
Again this isn’t really a town that tourists stay in, instead, it is just visited as a day trip when they travel around Lake Atitlan.
A luxe stay and they even have dorm beds. These shared rooms start from $30.00 per night.BOOK NOW
Casa Josefa Hotel
An affordable and clean hotel. Rooms start from $30.00 per night.
Where To Catch The Water Taxi From In Santiago de Atitlan
So Google Maps may not picture a dock, and instead just have it marked in the middle of the water, but trust me there is an actual dock, and quite a decent one as well. You will find it just down from a restaurant called Don Cangrejo.
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Santa Cruz la Laguna
Another popular spot is Santa Cruz la Laguna. This has grown quickly in popularity with backpackers over the last couple of years thanks to the affordable hostels on offer. You can find the popular Free Cerveza which gives summer camp vibes, and it is pretty cool you get to sleep in a teepee.
Secondly, there is La Iguana Perdida which was the first hostel in the area and has a really homely feel. They also do some freakin delicious food and I found the common areas a lot cleaner than Free Cerveza.
One thing Santa Cruz is known for is its incredible views, from the lake, the volcanos, and the picturesque village, it is a feast for your eyes.
On clear days you can also see Volcan Fuego erupting near Antigua, though best to visit in the dry season for this as in the wet season the days quickly clouded over around 3 pm with thunderstorms rolling in around 7 pm.
There is also a beautiful hike from Santa Cruz to San Marcos which is well worth checking out. It does take between 2 to 3 hours but can be shortened by taking a water taxi from Tzununa.
One thing to be aware of is that some people have reported being robbed on this trail, though our hostel advised it is actually because the trail goes through private land and the owners charge an entry fee. Nevertheless, it is probably best to hire a guide just to be on the safe side or travel in a large group.
A lovely homely hostel right by the pier. Dorm rooms start from $11.00 per night.BOOK NOW
Enjoy summer camp vibes and tipi dorm rooms. Prices start from $16.00 per night.
Where To Catch The Water Taxi From In Santa Cruz la Laguna
You will find the pier in Santa Cruz directly opposite La Iguana Perdida Hostel. There always seems to be a couple of tuk-tuks waiting out the front if you want to head up the hill to see the main village.
Santa Catarina Palopo
Another town worth visiting on a day trip is Santa Catarina Palopo. This is a very beautiful part of the lake and the perfect place to capture some awesome photos.
What makes this spot unique is that incredible buildings and houses have only been painted with their own theme and in the most beautiful colors. Bright hues and patterns are to be discovered around every corner.
This was actually an initiative by the local organization Pintando el Camibo in hopes of increasing tourism to Santa Catarina Palopo. Many of the designs on the buildings are based on traditional weaving patterns.
This is certainly a highlight for people visiting the lake and is well worth checking out when traveling around Lake Atitlan.
Where To Catch The Water Taxi From In Santa Catarina Palopo
Looking directly at the volcanos across the lake you will find the pier which is similar in size to that of San Marcos. It is located a short walk off the main road down a small street with plenty of locals selling souvenirs.
Though if you want to visit Santa Catarina Palopo by boat you will need to hire a private water taxi, instead, you are best to catch a 10-minute shared pickup truck from Panajachel.
San Antonio Palopo
A little further along the lake from above, you will find the village of San Antonio Palopo. This is definitely not a touristy place and you could certainly end up being the only traveler visiting while you are there. Though this doesn’t mean it isn’t worth checking out, actually it’s the opposite.
Now we well know that each town has its own special factor and San Antonio Palopo is also known as the pottery village. During your visit, you can browse, buy, and even learn about what it takes to make these impressive ceramics.
The downside of visiting here is that it is quite off the touristy path it isn’t really set up for travelers. You can either visit as a day trip from Panajachel or by doing a village-to-village tour by boat.
Though in saying this, because they don’t receive too many tourists the locals are genuinely excited when they meet people exploring their village.
How To Get To San Antonio Palopo
You will need to take a shared pickup truck from Panajachel for the 30-minute journey to San Antonio Palopo. Alternatively, you can also hire a private water taxi but this will end up costing you quite a bit more.
A short distance from the ever-popular San Marcos you will find the village of Tzununa tucked away. Some of the more free-minded population has spilled over and ended up in this agricultural area.
As a result, you can learn all about permaculture farming techniques, and herbal medicine, and of course, it has yoga retreats as well.
This is certainly one of the most up-and-coming towns on the lake with a steadily growing ex-pat community.
Where To Catch The Water Taxi From In Tzununa
The pier here is located on the left-hand side of the village of Tzununa and down a side street off Rd Sol 6 which connects to San Marcos.
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Next up we have the small village of Jaibalito, this is the only one around the lake that is not accessible by road. Instead, you will need to chuck on your sneakers or take the water taxi. This is the perfect spot for travelers who are looking to slow down and relax.
There isn’t a whole lot to do here, no major hotels, and only a couple of restaurants. This is because it is more of a day trip location, though this doesn’t mean it isn’t worth visiting. Jaibalito is actually one of the most authentic villages around Lake Atitlan.
Where To Catch The Water Taxi From In Jaibalito
The pier here is located down the only laneway in the village which leads to the water. The restaurant El Indigo is located nearby on the waterfront.
San Lucas Toliman
Last up for the villages to visit when you travel around Lake Atitlan we have San Lucas Toliman. This is no doubt one of the less known and less visited destinations around the Lake.
I know I have said that each village has something special about them, and for San Lucas Toliman it is simply the fact that it is a hidden secret compared with everywhere else.
It is a pretty large place, though basically none of it is set up for tourism. Here you can find a beautiful 16th-century church and colorful mosaics.
You can catch a public water taxi from Panajachel to San Lucas Toliman, though these only run at specific times of the day, so make sure to research in advance.
Where To Catch The Water Taxi From In San Lucas Toliman
You can find the pier at San Lucas Toliman down my Playa Toliman.
Lake Atitlan Boat Schedule
There isn’t a super serious boat schedule when you want to travel around Lake Atitlan, I mean you are on Guatemala time now, relax. Though the water taxis run from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm daily between Panajachel to San Pedro and vice versa.
Some boats will make stops at the villages in between such as Santa Cruz, Jaibalito, Tzununa, San Marcos, San Pablo, and San Juan, whereas others will be a direct service from Panajachel to San Pedro short cutting it directly across the lake.
Generally, the captain will wait until the lancha is full before departing to the next destination, or 30 minutes, whichever happens first. This is only for boats departing Panajachel as obviously, you will be waiting a long time to full a boat in the smaller villages.
Personally, I have never had to wait more than 10 minutes for a water taxi to pull up when I was staying in Santa Cruz, and I could tell whether it was going to Panajachel or San Pedro depending on what direction the boat was driving.
Cost Of Boats Around Lake Atitlan
Prices for boats when you travel around Lake Atitlan:
|Panajachel To Santa Cruz||Q10||from $1.28|
|Panajachel To Jaibalito||Q10||from $1.28|
|Panajachel To Tzununa||Q15||from $1.90|
|Panajachel To San Marcos La Laguna||Q25||from $3.20|
|Panajachel To San Pedro||Q30||from $3.80|
|Panajachel To Santiago||Q25||from $3.20|
|San Marcos To Santa Cruz||Q10||from $1.28|
|San Pedro To Santiago||Q10||from $1.28|
|San Pedro To Santa Cruz||Q20||from $2.60|
|San Pedro To San Marcos||Q10||from $1.28|
Panajachel To San Pedro La Laguna
Even if you are staying in Panajachel during your trip, it is still worth making a day trip from Panajachel to San Pedro to experience a different side of Lake Atitlan. Luckily this is super easy to do, though the first step is to make your way down to the pier in Panajachel at the end of Calle del Embarcadero,
Once there you will be asked where exactly you want to go by one of the attendants, let them know you wish to go to San Pedro and they will usher you onto the correct boat. Depending on how many people are on board will affect how long it takes before the lancha departs,
You will find it’s a nice straight journey across Lake Atitlan until you arrive in San Pedro. If you happened to leave on one of the boats that stop at all the small villages along the way you could kind the journey takes approximately an hour, so sit back and enjoy the scenery.
The price for this journey from Panajachel to San Pedro should be Q30 / $3.80 on a public lancha and you don’t pay until departing at San Pedro.
Panajachel To Santa Cruz
Perhaps you are like me and have booked one of the hostels in Santa Cruz and arrived in Panajachel in a minivan from Antigua. Then luckily enough the minivan will drop you off right up the road from the pier.
It is a super short walk down to the boat past little cafes and tour agencies. When the attendant on the pier asks where you are going let them know Santa Cruz.
They will then usher you to the boat and take any luggage to be safely stored, Grab yourself a seat on one of the plastic benches and prepare yourself for this short but sweet trip. It will only take around 10 minutes until you are pulling up to the pier in Santa Cruz.
If your accommodation happens to have a private dock such as Free Cervaza you can ask for the captain to drop you off there.
The price for this journey from Panajachel to Santa Cruz should be Q15 / $1.90 on a public lancha and you don’t pay until departing.
Panajachel To San Marcos
Another popular route when traveling around Lake Atitlan is Panajachel to San Marcos. This town is a busy spot for travelers and is somewhere many people choose to stay.
To get there you will need to first head to the pier in Panajachel located at the end of Calle del Embarcadero. Once there let the boat attendants know where you want to go and they will guide you to the correct boat to take.
Unfortunately or fortunately the water taxi will make stops along the way at other villages like Santa Cruz, Jaibalito, and Tzununa to pick up and drop off passengers. Though this is a great way to see local life down on the lake and take in the epic views.
Soon enough you will arrive in the busy San Marcos and jump off with plenty of other travelers also heading there.
The price for this journey from Panajachel to San Marcos should be Q25 / $3.20 on a public lancha and you don’t pay until departing.
San Pedro To San Marcos
Next up we have the same trip, but starting in San Pedro this time, rather than traveling Panajachel To San Marcos. Luckily enough it is still just as easy of a journey to make, seriously you may be a bit nervous on your first lancha, but after you’ve done one you’ll be ready to conquer the lake.
To catch the water taxi head to the bottom of the main street you will find the pier in San Marcos. There is a shaded area with seating underneath in case you find yourself needing to wait for a little for the next boat, though to be honest they are never that far away.
Once you are on the boat you will find it stops at San Juan and San Pablo before pulling in at the pier in San Marcos. It is a beautiful journey across the lake and it takes around 15 to 20 minutes.
The price for this journey from San Pedro to San Marcos should be Q10 / $1.28 on a public lancha and you don’t pay until departing.
How Long To Spend Traveling Around Lake Atitlan
Now part of the magic of Lake Atitlan is that there are so many beautiful towns and villages to visit with each one offering something new and unique. As a result, I highly recommend staying in at least two during your visit.
One of the larger towns, and one of the smaller villages, that way you get a good overall experience of what the lake has to offer.
Now in terms of how long to actually spend here, that is the difficult part. Seriously people fall in love with the vibe and scenery and end up living here for months.
If you are following a strict itinerary then I recommend spending 5 days here. I know it is a lot of time, but seriously there is a lot of exploring or a lot relaxation to be had.
Scams To Watch Out For
So the difficult part of Lake Atitlan is the relationship between a lot of the local community and the foreign travelers who have fallen in love with this beautiful spot in Guatemala. Tourists started imposing on their once-tight villages and they came in large numbers.
I won’t try to get too much into politics as I am probably not the best person to explain it, but a lot of it boils down to a tourist tax, and tourists thinking they should be paying local prices.
For example, you may get charged an extra 5Q / $0.60 to take the water taxi over the standard rate. A lot of people will oppose this and cause quite a scene.
I had a guy when I caught the water taxi with me from Santa Cruz to Panajachel laugh at me because I paid the tourist rate, whereas he stood on the jetty arguing with the driver for 5 minutes, to get the cheaper rate.
For me, I am lucky because this amount of money is nothing, but has a greater value to the locals. Seriously this is as much as I got scammed in Guatemala, and in terms of scams, I was 100% more comfortable traveling here than anywhere in Southeast Asia. I just didn’t have to have my guard up.
Similar note I traveled from Antigua to Panajachel with a digital nomad who had been living in Santa Cruz on Lake Atitlan for the last few months. She made a point of letting me know to not let the boat driver take advantage and overcharge me.
I know that those who have lived in and experienced a destination long term generally know the do’s and don’ts better than those passing through, but this is questionable to me.
Things To Do In Lake Atitlan
Seeing as Lake Atitlan is such a popular spot to visit in Guatemala you can be sure there is plenty of things to do here. This is just a quick breakdown of some of the top options:
Study Spanish: Studying Spanish in Guatemala is a popular thing to do here, but even more so at Lake Atitlan. This is because of the relaxing atmosphere, beautiful scenery, and affordable living.
You can find an assortment of Spanish Schools in a lot of the towns and they will even do outdoor learning where you can enjoy the incredible views.
Hike: There is an assortment of hikes available in Lake Atitlan, where you can capture the best views this area has to offer. Whether you decide to hike a Volcano, do the popular Indian Nose hike, or simply to a viewpoint. It’ll be sure not to disappoint.
Yoga: Lake Atitlan is yogi heaven, and that’s not just San Marcos. You will find yoga classes in nearly all the towns around the lake. One of the most popular is called Eagles Nest and it has one of the best views you could imagine from its studio.
How I Book Cheap Transport In Guatemala: GuateGo
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