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5 Surprising Truths About Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala has long been heralded as one of the most stunning lake vistas on the planet. Luminaries such as Aldous Huxley and Alexander Von Humboldt have labeled it as the most beautiful lake in the world.

The communities around Lake Atitlan have steadily gained popularity, among both tourists and expats looking for a unique destination off the beaten path. The nine lakeside communities that surround the lake have undeveloped potential waiting for those adventurous enough to take a closer look.

lake atitlan guatemala


5 Truths That May Surprise You About Lake Atitlan Guatemala

There are some important facts about Lake Atitlan Guatemala that will dramatically impact how you view the potential of this highland community as a place to live and invest. The top five of these truths are listed below (in no particular order of importance).

Atitlan Is Easy to Access

Located in the highlands of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountain range, the pace of life in and around Lake Atitlan is certainly far less hectic than other, more populous locations. However, in spite of what may at first appear to be a remote location, the area is a short two and a half hour drive from Guatemala City. The international airport there is continuing to expand the number of international flights that will connect Guatemala with many U.S. and European cities.

After arriving in the lake region, getting to the various villages that make up the Atitlan, Guatemala community is accomplished by taking one of the many lanchas (small boats) that can be found at the docks. These water-going “buses” have no regular schedule but, generally, can be expected to run on the half hour. This local mode of commuting is both inexpensive and a great way to immerse yourself in the culture of “Lago Atitlan.”

Not Cheap, But Affordable

The truth is that real estate in Lake Atitlan Guatemala is affordable. This is not to say that it is cheap, however. Articles that make claims about living in this tropical paradise for $500/month, for example, are truly overblown.

For example, a modern apartment, utilities, groceries, some modest entertainment, transportation and miscellaneous expenses for two people could run in the $1,400 to $1,500 per month range. While this is certainly less than other Latin American locations, such as Playa del Carmen in Mexico, living lakeside still requires some budget considerations.

lake atitlan

Nathalie Verwilghen

It Isn’t Crime-Free

Like any other area, the truth is that there is crime in Atitlan.  After all, it is still Guatemala. While generally safe for expats and tourists, taking simple precautions (locking your doors, keeping valuables in a strong box, safe, or locked room, avoiding areas known for criminal activity, etc.) can certainly reduce the likelihood of become a victim.

As Guatemala continues to emerge as a growth opportunity, the disparity of wealth does lead to problems. However, this is no different than the situation in many American cities. Being aware of this simple truth can help make your Atitlan adventures safer and more enjoyable.

There Are Many Opportunities and Options For Investing And Living In The Atitlan Area

The several communities that border Lake Atitlan have great potential for those entrepreneurs looking to purchase land to either develop or hold as an investment in their portfolio. Additionally, there are turnkey properties that expats can immediately occupy.  The variety of locations surround the lake range from modern to authentic. Here are some examples of what’s currently available.

  • 3 bedrooms waterfront with car access – Located in the magical community of Santa Cruz La Laguna, on the north side of the lake, this all concrete house sits on a .75 acre lot with 200 feet of waterfront views and a caretaker’s house. The large windows make enjoying the beauty of Lake Atitlan a comfortable proposition. Fully furnished, the large master bedroom contains a king-size bed with ample closet space. The well appointed kitchen has modern appliances and plenty of pantry space. The second floor mezzanine can be an additional bedroom or den area. The $325.000 asking price also includes a 30 year, renewable, government lease contract.
  • 3 bedrooms near the center of town – The community of Panajachel is the most visited community on Lake Atitlan and is the transportation hub for all the smaller lakeside communities that surround it. Priced at $165,000, these brand new three bedroom houses are just a block from the main pier to San Pedro, within walking distance to restaurants and tourist attractions. The design is ideal for a family retreat or a rental property for those who are seeking a second home in Latin America. Owner financing is possible during the pre-building stage (50% down, $5,000 per month for ten months, with the balance on delivery).
  • Vacant lots for development or investment – The smaller, more rustic lakeside villages also provide an opportunity to purchase lots for development or holding for a later investment. The growing number of expats and tourists coming to Guatemala, and the highlands in particular, are providing a viable growth market and a wealth of opportunities for those with enough foresight to get in on the ground floor.
lake atitlan guatemala

Michael Swigart

It Has 9 Completely Distinct Villages

In addition to the principal hub city of Panajachel, there are nine other villages that are located around and across Lake Atitlan. Each of these smaller towns have their own distinct flavor.  San Marcos La Laguna, for example  has the reputation of being a quiet community focused on meditation; San Pedro La Laguna is at the other end of the spectrum with a laid-back kind of vibe favored by the backpacker crowd.

San Antonio Palopo and Santa Catarina Palopo are authentic Mayan communities perfect for anyone wishing to immerse themselves in that timeless lifestyle. Similarly, Santiago Atitlan, the largest town on Lake Atitlan is famous for its Maximón shrine (blending Mayan and Catholic traditions). San Juan is becoming known for the stunning natural dyed fabrics made there.

And for those just looking to get away from it all while being surrounded by inspiring natural beauty and solitude, the villages of Santa Cruz la Laguna, San Lucas Toliman and Tzununa are the epitome of a magical highland, lakeside escape. Having so many options is a surprising and welcome truth about Atitlan

The Most Important Truth About Atitlan

Perhaps the single most important truth about Atitlan is that the region is definitely in the growth stage. The rich, vibrant Mayan culture of Guatemala is alive and thriving in Atitlan. Primarily consisting of two Mayan tribes-the  Tz’utujil and Kaqchikel- this ancient cultural heritage is part of daily life in several of the smaller communities around the lake.

Being able to see and experience Mayan culture, not just as a tourist presentation, but as a way of daily life, is a profound experience that cannot be had in many places in the world. The moderate highland climate only adds to the ambiance of the region.

Combine that with the natural beauty, great climate, unique cultural blend all make this Guatemalan destination a place that must be seen and experienced firsthand to appreciate the potential for prosperity that it holds long term.


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