“The most beautiful lake in the world”, lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Day 3, Central America trip, Dec 2012
Day 3, Lake Atitlan, San Pedro  village, Guatemala

After spending 2 nights in Antigua, Guatemala to recoup from my flights across the 2 U.S. coasts with long layover; today, I  have arrived in the village of San Pedro in lake Atitlan (Lago de Atitlan in Spanish) in the Western highland of Guatemala. Hailed as “the most beautiful lake in the world” by famous author Aldous Huxley has inspired many travelers to visit the region, including myself.

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San Juan dock

I must admit that I knew nothing about lake Atitlan nor Guatemala prior to my trip to Central America, except for an old song that shared a name with the country, Guatemala. But then…..somehow a picture of one of the lake’s dock  miraculously came up during one of my Google search and I casually add it to my perhaps someday “wanderlust” list. Little did I know that my desire to wander to lake Atitlan, Guatemala turned into realization sooner than I had thought of.

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This volcanic lake is ringed by more than 24 Mayan villages (San Pedro, San Juan, San Marcos, Santa Cruz, Jaibalito, San Jorge, San Lucas, Santiago, etc…) with a few are favorites among backpackers. Each of the village around the lake carry a different vibe and often have specialty products or unique arts and crafts specific of the village. Panajachel is known as the most touristy and serve as the base for traveling around the lake to neighboring villages.

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View from San Pedro

A more off the beaten path, laid back smaller town with a hippy vibe town is San Pedro. It is also known as the “naughty town” or the “marijuana capital” of the lake due to its active night life with lots of parties where other towns are nature or meditation oriented and much more quiet.

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View of the lake from the streets of San Pedro

I am currently calling San Pedro “home” for the next few weeks. I hoped you didn’t frown at my choosing San Pedro because it is known as “the naughty town”. Besides the hippy stuff, San Pedro also have many Spanish language schools. My school of choice: Casa Rosario simply happens to be in San Pedro.

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San Pedro welcome sign

Since San Pedro is less touristy than Panajachel and obviously less souvenir shops and more Spanish language schools. San Pedro is among the top destination to study Spanish in Guatemala besides Antigua and Xela. Using any of the village as a base, you can visit any other village around the lake as a day trip.



  1. I must say it’s very brave of you to travel as backpacker like this. I like to explore on my own at my own pace & time, but I don’t think I can handle this style of traveling given my health. :~) Thanks for the beautiful photos of the lake; especially like the San Juan dock! Chi Van


    • chi. Van,

      There’s always the first time for everything, right? 🙂 It was nerve racking doing the pre-trip for planning. The worst of all fear is the anxiety due to the uncertainty and the incapability to comprehend the language. The region is definitely among backpackers’ favorites due to budget friendly but under tourists radar, which I loved. Hence, there are many natural and unspoiled, commercialized locales because it’s no Cancun here with all inclusive resources and superior service. But then, you pay according to for the added-on convenience and tourist friendly infrastructures.

      It wasn’t a walk in the park at first being a female solo backpacker but I’m getting a little more use to life on the road now. You’re always in transit, to somewhere but I think that’s the beauty of being an independent traveler.

      I knew you would enjoyed the lake as much as I do. Perhaps to our someday bucket list to travel here together? Hey…we didn’t plan our last road trip but we had a splendid one. Indeed some day!


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