Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Thu May 07 2015

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  • Nick and Dariece | May 7, 2015 9:00 PM ET

    5 Must-Visit Villages on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

    5 Must-Visit Villages on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

    Lake Atitlan sits in the highlands of Guatemala at 5,125 ft (1,562m). The air here is warm and dry, with a springtime feel year-round. This lake is the deepest in Central America, and actually, the lake fills a huge caldera formed by a volcano eruption around 84,000 years ago!

    This is a popular spot for travelers to Guatemala, expats that have been here since the hippie days, and as of recently, digital nomads are choosing to put down some temporary roots here.

    Flanking its southern shores are three volcanos - San Pedro, Toliman and Atitlan. There are many villages along the lake's shores, but these are the five must-visit towns for tourists.


    This is the entry point to the lake. You will most likely arrive here and can catch a lancha (taxi boat) to take you to other villages nearby. The city is filled with happening bars, international restaurants, a church, a market, big grocery stores, many shops, lots of hotels and ample shopping opportunities. Panajachel is the busiest village on the lake, and although it's interesting to check out, we recommend moving on.

    San Pedro

    This is the backpacker hangout on Lake Atitlan. There is a road that runs parallel to the lakefront, which has many hostels, bars, restaurants and tour agencies. Most of the things of interest to tourists can be found here, while up the hill, you'll find the local village, market and church. San Pedro is a great base for learning Spanish and hiking the towering volcano as well.

    San Marcos

    Known as the spiritual center, this village attracts yogis, massage therapists, musicians, healers, and other wandering souls. There are no proper roads in the actual town (but there is one to take you to nearby suburbs). Instead, there are little cement and dirt paths meandering their way through the village. There are restaurants here, healthy food shops, rocks for jumping off into the water and an overall quiet and peaceful feel.

    Santa Cruz

    This village is accessible only by boat, which is how it retains its charm. A 10-minute boat ride from Panajachel will bring you to Santa Cruz. This is a popular spot for holistic retreats and a great spot for swimming in the suburb of Paxanax. The only scuba diving shop on the lake is located here, and there is a Saturday morning market, a funky hostel and an important project called CECAP, which helps create jobs for women and young people.


    This is the most "local" of all of the villages. Unlike the rest of the villages, where typically only the women wear their traditional clothes, the Maya men here also don traditional outfits. This is a popular day-tripping spot and a great place to learn about Maximon, Guatemala's folk saint. There are many souvenir stalls here, as well as a church, a square and great views of San Pedro Volcano.

    Have you ever been to Lake Atitlan? Which village is your favourite?

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Nick and Dariece Notes from the Goats

Nick and Dariece Nick and Dariece are the couple behind Goats On The Road, a website designed to inspire others to live a financially sustainable, location independent lifestyle. Masters at making money abroad and turning their travels into a way of life, they've been on the road since 2008 and have explored some of the least visited places on earth, finding adventure wherever they go. They are also full time contributors at Credit Walk where they share their expertise of making money and travelling forever. Check them out at Goats On The and follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
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