A visit to the magical Lake Atitlan is a must when in Guatemala, we chose the village of San Pedro La Laguna to stay at whilst we were there opting to stay out of town a little, for a quieter more relaxed vibe.
Sitting right at the foot of the Volcan de San Pedro the village itself is an eclectic mix of traditional Guatemalan villagers, backpackers, a strong ex-pat community & people who are drawn to the healing powers of this mystical Lake.
There’s all sorts to do here, It’s a great place to while away a few days, enjoy some of the activities on offer, party if you wish or even feed your inner hippy. To help you out a little if you’re thinking of heading this way, we’ve put together a list of our top San Pedro picks….
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What To Do In San Pedro La Laguna?
Stay In A Treehouse
We always look at a variety of accommodation options when booking & check out Airbnb every time. We found a really cool option in San Pedro in a tree house, it was fully equipped with everything that we needed AND had the most amazing views of the lake.
At 25 minutes it was a little walk into town but personally, we prefer it that way, close enough to the hustle & bustle when we wanted it but far away enough for complete peace & quiet.
If you’ve read our blog before you’ll know that we love hiking! There are plenty of mountains & well, volcanoes too just screaming to be climbed around San Pedro. Our favourite hike was the Indian Nose which passed through authentic Guatemalan villages from San Pedro La Laguna all the way to the village of Santa Clara with a rather spectacular viewpoint at the top of the “Indian’s Nose”. The Volcan de San Pedro, Lake Atitlan is also a popular hike that takes around 4 hours, however it is worth noting that there’s an entrance fee to access the trail even if you choose to go without a guide.
We also took a hike over to an old coffee finca just outside of the village. We took the road out of San Pedro in the opposite direction of San Juan, towards the Hotel Cabana del Arco. We followed the road all the way to the end until we reached a path that continued right around the edge of the mountain for about 45 minutes to the old coffee finca. It’s an interesting place to wander around & chat with the friendly locals who now live in some of the finca’s old out buildings.
Rent A Kayak On Lake Atitlan
Another one our favourite things to do & a great way to see Lake Atitlan from another angle. You can rent kayaks at various places, just ask around, we opted for hiring one from the Hotel Cabana del Arco which was not far from the tree house we were staying at a charge of 30 Q per hour.
We stayed in the kayak the whole time, passing by local fisherman & jumping into the lake when we wanted to cool off but you can opt to stop off at one of the small beaches if you would like a rest or to make a bit more of “a day” of it.
Take Spanish Lessons
Ok, so we didn’t do this here as we’d already had a ton of lessons in Cuba, however San Pedro La Laguna is rammed with schools offering, from what we heard some decent lessons at very reasonable prices. From the people we spoke with the going rate was around 5 USD per hour with it being advisable to shop around & get recommendations beforehand.
We think it’s a pretty cool place to spend a bit of time back at school, mornings at class & afternoons chilling around the lake (or vice versa) seems like a pretty good deal to us!
Talk To The Locals
The location that we stayed in was great for wandering into town & just talking with people along the way. I was (& still am) practising my Spanish as much as I can so I absolutely loved all the friendly locals that would give me half an hour of their time for small talk! Adam who doesn’t talk half as much as me in our own language was known to drag me away a few times (!!) but seriously it was great for both of our newly found Spanish-speaking skills & for getting to know people a little better.
Guatemala is a country with a deep & very saddening history & whilst you can read all about this in guide books no-one will give you information like someone who actually experienced something or has a family member who did. Some of the conversations involved snippets of Guatemala’s complex history & gave us a deeper understanding into what has shaped its people into what they are today. We would always advise however not to ask & rather wait until someone would like to share these things with you, which we found they quite openly did.
Visit The Local Market
A visit to the local market is an experience in itself, being surrounded by mountains & farmland makes this area great for local produce. Remembering to haggle & take a good look around at everything before making any purchases would be our top tip here. The whole village descends on the market in the morning & everyone is packing up by around 1pm.
We loved visiting the market & listening to the locals, wearing traditional weaved clothing from techniques that have been passed down through centuries & chattering away in their local language. Tz’utujil is a fascinating language to listen to, it’s all clicks & rolls & is honestly like listening to a bird singing at times, we found it amazing but we’re relieved that the locals speak Spanish too as we were nowhere near ready to get our heads around another language!
After visiting the market spending the evening cooking at the tree house we were staying at was great & a good way to save some pennies too!
Yoga In San Pedro La Laguna
The big place for yoga, meditation & really feeding your inner (our outer) hippy is across the water in San Marcos La Laguna but I did find some great classes with a lady called Mindy who we met on our first day in San Pedro.
You can also find a ton more yoga, meditation & some alternative experiences across the water in San Marcos, a boat across costs 15 Q from San Pedro’s dock. We attended a cacao ceremony with a bit of an Atitlan legend, which we’ll write all about soon so remember to subscribe to our blog for updates!
Guatemalan coffee is sooooo good! We drank a lot of it & enjoyed lazy mornings with a cup in hand just taking in the views!
There are dozens of lakeside spots to choose from as well as great quality coffee being sold in most stores, the “Health Food Store” being our favourite as they had some very yummy but healthy treats on offer too!
There are a lot of happy hours & a lot of places to go out & let your hair down in true backpacker party style in San Pedro. Hostel Fe where a friend of ours was staying has daily happy hours, various events including a quiz night & awesome views of the lake. El Barrio & Bar Sublime were also good spots to hang out.
And that’s our San Pedro, Lake Atitlan wind up, we really enjoyed our time there! Have you been too & have anything to add, tell us in the comments! Thinking of going & have any questions? Please ask away.
Thanks for reading & happy travels 🙂
Kelly & Adam x