3 days relaxing and diving by the beautiful Lake Atitlan

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
10
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
5
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
8
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
9
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
3
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
9
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
90 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
North America
country
Guatemala
Length of time
3-4 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 300
Time of year visited
May
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
4th/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 1% SUMMARY RATING: The best of the best

Summary

The most beautiful place I saw in Central America and, quite possibly, the most beautifully idyllic place in the world.  Think Lake Como in Italy, but with volcanoes and indigenous villages dotting the side.  Think originally scheduling for 1 night, but extending to 3 nights after one look across the lake.  Think finding that spot nestled in the trees just above the water with a view looking across the lake and the volcanoes, and knowing your whole day will be happily spent there as you swing in the hammock only leaving for occasional swims

Ok, you get it, idyllically beautiful.  A must if in Central America

If you’re a diver, its also worth doing a couple of dives here.  Whilst the visibility is poor and not a huge amount of wildlife to see, its a good experience to be diving at altitude (1560m / 5100ft), plus checking out the now-underwater hotel and finding hot spots on the lake bed where the volcano heats the lake

highlights

#1 Taking the local boat transport from one beautiful spot on the lake to the next

#2 Trying high altitude scuba diving, exploring the now underwater hotel and finding the volcano-heated hot patches on the lake bed

#3 Walking up through the various idyllic sections of hotels that dot the lakeshore, in this case the Casa del Mundo hotel

#4 Jumping in for a swim at the various swimming points all along the lake

#5 Walking from one village to the next and . . . as is standard . . . gawping at the views!

#6 Enjoying drinks as the sun sets over the lake and with the volcanos in the distance

#7 Chilling in one of the shade of the trees while swimming in an ever-so-comfortable hammock . . . not a care in the world

#8 Jacuzzi by the lake . . . ahhhhhhh

Travel Tips

  • We stayed at La Casa del Mundo next to Santa Cruz la Laguna and it really added to the overall experience – the views across the lake towards the volcanos were stunning; the staff were great; food was lovely as you all sit together for breakfast and dinner; and the various levels and sections of the hotel grounds allow plenty of exploring.  For example, there are several terrace areas where you can sit in a hammock looking out across the lake, most rooms are at the end of their own winding stairs going up the hill; there is a wood-fired jacuzzi platform; the waterfront has a series of spots for lake swimming etc etc.  Would highly recommend
  • Don’t worry so much about having access to roads – you will arrive at the town of Panajachel by road, but from there you will get around using various motorboat services that link the key spots around the lake
  • Walks – from La Casa del Mundo, it is a very short walk to the nearby very small village of Jaibalito.  I would also recommend walking from the hotel to Santa Cruz la Laguna – a gorgeous 20min-30min walk.  Its a little steep as you walk the 5mins up to the top of the hotel, but largely flat for the rest of the way.  Any place you stay in will have stunning walks along the lakeshore
  • Scuba diving – I went with ATI Divers in Santa Cruz la Laguna and would recommend.  Q750 / US$100 for the half day 2 dive PADI high altitude course.  As with so many things with diving, its great to do something unusual and Lake Atitlan is one of the only places in the world where you can dive at altitude without a dry suit.  Tip – wear a hood and 2 wet suits – gets quite chilly!
  • If staying a bit longer in Guatemala, see my Itinerary for 10 wonderful days in Guatemala and generally for useful tips for your time there

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone