When we started our blog, we wanted to make sure that we documented the best in “adventure activities” in as many places as possible. Naturally, this means we have to try as many of these activities out ourselves as we can! One of our favourite places in Central America both in terms of beauty, but also for things to do, is Lake Atitlan. It’s the ideal location for outdoor enthusiasts, with so many activities to choose from. Here are our top picks for what to do in Lake Atitlan!
Where did we stay around Lake Atitlan?
It’s worth us starting off by saying that we chose to stay in San Pedro la Laguna. We found a beautiful AirBnB (read here exactly why AirBnB can be the cheapest and best option!)
There are towns and villages spread out on all sides of Lake Atitlan. We had read that San Pedro has a little more to offer in terms of bars, restaurants, and shops. It is also a good place to base yourself whilst enjoying one of the many activities, as there are lots of travel agencies where you can book what you want to do.
What to do in Lake Atitlan?
1) Hike Volcan San Pedro – Lake Atitlan
Volcan San Pedro is a dormant volcano, located off the shore of Lake Atitlan. It stands 3020 metres / just short of 10,000 ft looming above the village of San Pedro la Laguna which sits at its base.
This was the first volcano we had ever attempted, so we opted to book through one of many agencies in San Pedro to include the round-trip transport, our national park entrance fee, and a guide all the way to the summit.
This cost us $12 per person.
For more experienced hikers, you could easily take a tuk-tuk to the start of the trail and just pay your entrance, as it is a clearly marked path to the summit. BUT: make sure you have spoken to someone at the entrance office about safety!
Due to the extremely hot weather, we chose to do this early in the morning, setting off from San Pedro at 6am to reach the summit before it got uncomfortably warm. For this reason, we were grateful we had chosen to stay in San Pedro, as otherwise it would have been an earlier start to reach the entrance!
It was a challenging hike with some pretty steep patches! But after approximately 3 hours trekking through coffee trees, corn fields, and lush green jungle we reached the top. And it was worth every minute of the hike for the view!
The whole of Lake Atitlan is spread out in front of you, surrounded by hills, mountains and other volcanoes. Clouds were just hanging below and around us, it was spectacular!
We stayed at the summit for about 30 minutes, enjoying snacks, including some banana bread we had picked up in the village the day before. And of course, taking countless Insta worthy photos!
Coming down was naturally a little easier. It took us just over 2 hours to be back on flat ground, making it a 6 hour round trip in total, depending on how long you want to stay at the summit.
Despite being challenging for both of us, this has to go to the top of our list for what to do in Lake Atitlan. It makes us both quite proud to say we have taken on and beaten a volcano!
TIP: Definitely start this trip early before it gets too hot, but also make sure you take a jacket. Despite sweating pretty much all the way up, it gets chilly once on top. Make sure you take at least 2 litres of water per person, and some sugary snacks to keep you going!
2) Kayaking on Lake Atitlan
This is something everyone should do in Lake Atitlan. Kayaking can be done pretty much anywhere around the lake. Again, we just walked into one of the agencies and said we wanted to kayak for between 1 – 2 hours. We couldn’t believe how cheap this was – just $1.50 per hour!
Unfortunately for us, when we actually got out into the middle of the lake, it was a lot windier than we had anticipated from the shore, which made it pretty challenging! But, it was a good workout for us, and we had a lot of fun racing each other back to shore.
This was a really fun and inexpensive way to spend a couple of hours, and the views from the middle of the lake of the surrounding volcanoes was incredible.
3) Watch the Sunrise from Indians Nose – Lake Atitlan
This is another must do on Lake Atitlan. Indians Nose is a rock formation / viewpoint overlooking the lake and the surrounding mountains and volcanoes. It is also a popular activity to hike up early in the morning and see the sunrise.
Another early start, this time with a hotel pick up from San Pedro at 4am. You reach the entrance approximately 30 minutes later.
Whilst not as challenging as the volcano, at that time of morning it is still fairly hard. Our trek involved numerous steps and a steep path to reach the top between 45 minutes – 1 hour later, just in time for sunrise.
You are provided with a coffee and bread-roll at the top, which you can enjoy whilst watching the sun appear beyond the volcanoes on the other side of the lake.
This is a breathtaking view, watching as the sun gets brighter and brighter, changing from pale pink to a deeper orange, all the while the colours are reflected in the still waters of the lake. It makes the early wake up and the hike more than worth it!
We booked our Indian Nose tour through a local agency, and paid $10 per person including round trip transport, a guide, and a drink and a snack at the top.
4) Horse Riding around Lake Atitlan
This was something that had been on Bens radar ever since we first looked into what to do in Lake Atitlan! A keen horse-rider for pretty much all his life, he couldn’t wait to try the local style of relaxed, Western riding, especially in such a stunning location!
Who did we use?
There are mixed opinions around booking a horse-riding excursion in this area. Mainly due to concerns about the welfare of the horses themselves. Some don’t appear to be the most well looked after, and upon visiting the “stables” don’t have the best living conditions.
We couldn’t agree more about how important it is to take care when choosing whether or not you want to do this activity, and if you do, which company you decide to go with. For this reason, we chose to look around first and use Bens expertise rather than booking through an agency.
This is how we stumbled upon Pedro and his family.
Pedro runs completely independent excursions, and his business doesn’t have a name. There is no way of us directing you to him, but try asking around though! He lives on a tiny farm with his family, multiple dogs and 4 horses.
The love and care given to these animals by the whole family was very evident. It was clear that they were exceptionally well looked after, in stark contrast to some others. Once Ben vouched it was fine to book with Pedro, we enjoyed a fantastic ride!
How much did it cost?
For just $8 an hour (we chose to go for 2) we were taken all the way to San Marcos, around the lake, and to a popular beach where the locals go to swim.
Even better, once Pedro knew Ben was an experienced rider, he was given “free rein” (sorry!) to canter and gallop ahead. Pedro stayed and made sure Sion wasn’t going to fall off! It was a great excursion through some stunning landscapes, and gave Ben enough of a horse-fix to last a while.
5) Not necessarily an outdoor activity as such, but….Go for Brunch at El Barrio
This is something you definitely need to do at least once during your time in Lake Atitlan, providing your stay takes you over a weekend.
We were wandering the back streets of San Pedro and came across El Barrio, and saw a 4 course brunch advertised for $4. No, we couldn’t believe it either! But it really is what it says on the tin, and it was delicious! So good we went back the following day.
But, just to be aware, its only available Saturdays and Sundays.
The 4 courses are made up of:
- fresh fruit with granola and yoghurt
- a homemade soup using local produce (we had carrot and ginger when we visited)
- a full plate of eggs with sausage or bacon, beans, toast etc…., and;
- finally, IF you still have room, pancakes with fruit and syrup.
- and it includes unlimited tea and coffee too.
We made it as far as the eggs, but had to share a portion of pancakes as we couldn’t continue.
A great little find, and one we definitely recommend you visit!
We hope you enjoyed our shortlist of what to do in Lake Atitlan. It definitely lived up to our expectations regarding adventure activities and excursions.
As well as our list there were plenty more activities to choose from. Let us know what you think of our ‘What to do in Lake Atitlan’ shortlist and if there is anything you would add!