Lake Atitlan Preparation Guide

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  • Best Time To Visit
  • How To Pack
  • Visa Information

  • Health
  • Safety
  • Resources

The Best Time To Visit Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is characterized by two seasons.

  • Summer:  lasts from early November and lasts till around late May. This season is characterized by hot and dry weather. Day time temperatures can reach into the upper 80’s F/ 20’s C, while nights often see temperatures in the low 60’s F/ 15-17 C.
  • Winter:  is also known as Inveirno or the rainy season. It lasts from early April and ends around mid to late October. It is characterized by afternoon rain showers and cooler day and night time temperatures.
  • Hurricane: season is from August till September. Although Lake Atitlan is not as affected as more coastal regions, the lake can receive prolonged heavy winds and rains. This sometimes causes damaging floods and landslides, and a rise in lake waters.

Although Lake Atitlan is great to visit throughout the year, aside from Hurricane prone months, the best time of year to travel is right after the winter season. In late Oct and early Nov the landscape is lush after winter rains, there are far fewer tourists and expats, and it’s generally easier to bargain down prices for both market textiles and budget hotels.

How To Pack For Lake Atitlan

The key to packing for any trip is to pack light. This is especially true for travel to and around Lake Atitlan.  You’re going to be getting in and out of trucks, tuk tuks and rocky boats. The bigger and heavier your bag the more hassle and the less freedom you’ll have.

Plus, once you arrive on the lake and realize there’s something you need, you can almost always buy it in Solola, Panajachel or San Pedro. Not only that, but whether it be clothes or medicines, it’s going to cost a lot less than back home.

Below are a few essentials you won’t want to forget:

  • Footware: 1 pair of sandals for warm afternoons and 1 pair of shoes for hiking Volcano San Pedro.
  • Bathing suit: for saunas, hot tubs, and lake swimming.
  • Wind Breaker: combined with a light sweater is the perfect combination for staying warm on hikes and during the evenings.
  • Long Pants: 1 pair of long pants is necessary on cool evenings and also when visiting churches and traditional Maya towns.
  • Toiletries: Pharmacies and supermarkets are full of american brand shampoos and creams. Unless it’s something really special, you might want to consider leaving all liquids at home. This way you won’t have to check your bag, can eliminate the possibility of losing your bag and you can avoid budget airline fees.
  • Documentation: Passport photocopies, passport sized photos, vaccination pappers, travel insurance papers, and ticket information are all good things to carry while traveling anywhere.
  • Technology: Atitlan is a photographers dream. Definitely don’t forget to bring a good travel camera.
  • Comfort: Ear plugs, sleeping mask to block out church bells and stray dogs.

Do You Need A Visa?

Citizens of US, CA, UK, EU, AU, NZ & 84 more nationalities: receive a free 90 day tourist visa on arrival at Guatemala City International Airport.

Guatemala is part of the CA4: which means your tourist visa is valid for travel among Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua for 90 days (Not 90 days within each country). Although the CA4 is akin to the Schengen Zone, most borders do enforce passport control and some will even charge you an extra fee (ex/Guatemala >> Copan Ruins, Honduras).

For information on extending your visa, please see, How To Extend Your Guatemalan Visa (Coming Soon!).

For the latest visa information for all nationalities check out the Ministerio De Relaciones Exteriores.

Staying Safe On Lake Atitlan

Among the regions of Guatemala, Lake Atitlan is one of the safest. This is largely because the lake is inhabited almost entirely by Maya communities where crime, even petty crime, is met with harsh punishments. It’s also because the lake’s economy is largely based on tourism, which makes safety for tourists a priority for both locals and police.

However, like anywhere, crime does occur. In order to stay safe, and enjoy the lake without incident, check out the safety tips below.

  • Be conscious of speeding Tuk Tuks
  • Watch your pockets at markets to avoid being pick pocketed
  • Don’t take photo’s of children unless given permission
  • Avoid hiking around the lake at night
  • Avoid hiking alone (there have been reports of tourists being robbed)
  • Avoid late night walks alone (especially for girls)

Staying Healthy On Lake Atitlan

The lake’s high elevation, climate and isolation means the risk of many diseases common in Central America is relatively low.  As long as you’re up to date with your routine vaccinations you will be protected from the most common diseases.

However, the Center For Disease Control (CDC) also recommends getting vaccinations against Hep A and Typhoid, both of which can be transmitted through contaminated food or water.

But by far the greatest health risk on Lake Atitlan is travelers diarrhea.

Here’s how to avoid it:

  • Avoid swallowing water while swimming in the lake
  • Avoid all tap water
  • Rinse with bottled water
  • Don’t eat pre-cut fruit (knives are often cleaned in dirty water)
  • Don’t eat anything that doesn’t look or smell right

If you do end up getting sick and are in need of a doctor, below are a few doctors and clinics we highly recommend.

General Practitioner(s)

Louis De Pena


Dr. Luisa De La Guarda – Panajachel

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