However long you’re planning on staying in Guatemala for, a visit to the country’s most famous lake is an absolute must. And once you’re there, you might just feel reluctant to move on. Luckily, there’s lots of places to stay in each of the towns that are dotted along the shore — here’s where to head to if you’re staying overnight in San Pedro, San Marcos, Santa Cruz or Panajachel.
San Pedro is the biggest party town on the lake, and Mr. Mullets is the place to go if you want to be right in the heart of the action. It’s located right on the main street, just a couple of minutes’ walk from the lakeside, as well as the best bars that the town has to offer. Alternatively, if you don’t want to leave the comfort of your hostel, stay in for one of the themed parties held every weekend. To help you recover, the hostel claims to have some of the hottest showers in all of Central America.
Located in San Pedro, but a respectable distance from the main strip — even if it’s still only ten or so minutes’ walk — Mikaso is a great option for anyone looking for a bit more of a relaxing stay. It sits right on the shore of the lake, with amazing views of the Indian Nose and Atitlan’s north shore. Undoubtedly the best spot to enjoy those views is from one of the hostel’s two hot tubs, located on the terrace.
To say that San Marcos has a different vibe to San Pedro would be a massive understatement. Despite being just a ten-minute lancha ride away, the town is probably the most chilled out place to stay on the lake. Circles, a cafe and hostel located in the centre of town, reflects that spirit. It’s a laid back spot popular among San Marcos’s many resident hippies. The (all vegetarian) food is a particular highlight: try the egg muffin or vegan stack.
It’s almost guaranteed that anyone on Guatemala’s backpacker trail has heard of Free Cerveza: most backpackers have probably stayed there. The free beer that gives the place its name is available if you partake in one of the three-course family dinners that take place each night. They’re a great way to meet up with fellow travellers, but aren’t the real reason to stay at Free Cerveza. Instead, come for the chance to glamp in a tent pitched right on the shore of the lake.
Despite being home to Free Cerveza, Santa Cruz is one of Lake Atitlan’s quieter spots, and La Iguana Perdida is a great place to unwind for a few days while you take in the stunning scenery that surrounds the water. The grounds are the real star of the show here, with plenty of spots to snooze under the shade of a tree. The huge range of accommodation options mean there’s bound to be something for you, whether you’re on a strict budget or want your relaxation with a bit of luxury.
Panajachel is the biggest town on the lake, and probably the place you’ll either arrive in or leave from, but there are plenty of reasons to stick around for a night or two. If you do decide to stay in town, the Dreamboat Hostel’s your best bet. It’s a large, social place, with an excellent common area and well-stocked kitchen. There’s always something going on, but this is by no means a party hostel — so you don’t have to worry about getting some solid sleep in one of the shared dorms.