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Living a Lakeside Lifestyle in Lake Atitlan, GUATEMALA

Lake Atitlan and its surrounding towns  represent an interesting merge of cultures. The lake is the most popular tourist destination in Guatemala. The setting along the lake is remarkable. Three jungle covered volcanoes jut into the sky, barricading in the startlingly blue lake. Several towns are scattered around the lake. Four are home to significant ex-pat populations. Panajachel (Pana) has the most tourists and access to everyday needs. Across the lake are Santiago, San Pedro and San Marcus. Santiago is the largest, with a more local feel. Both San Pedro and San Marcus attract many foreigners with their small town feel and yoga studios.  The more touristy towns rent kayaks, bikes and horses, and offer guided hikes up the volcanoes. Swimming is also possible. The area has several language schools, a few national parks and plenty of markets and galleries to explore. In the towns, you can find restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, markets, bars and book exchanges.

Where to Retire in Lake Atitlan and Home Prices

Homes in the area generally fall into different categories: waterfront and not waterfront, lake and volcanoes views or not, in villages or outside villages  but in any of the cases you can expect to receive great value for your money. Because of the volcanic soil and weather expect to have great gardens (your own  lime, coffee trees, bananas, avocados etc).Each Location offers different options depending on if you are a bar-fly, a nature lover, a lover of Mayan culture , swimmer, hiker... There are basically 4 differents location to choose from.. Panajachel which is the entrance city of the lake, East Shore from Panajachel to San Antonio Palopo the area of most appreciacion with great views. North Shore from Panajachel to San Marcos La Laguna mostly only accesible by boat and little mayan villages and the rest...

What Is Special about Lake Atitlan

The towns around the lake offer a unique mixture of Guatemalan tradition and a significant foreign community. It is rare to find a place that has such a strong traditional culture with yoga centers and a granola lady. It also is set in one of the most stunning areas of Central America. Aldous Huxley called it "the most beautiful lake in the world."

What Is Not Special about Lake Atitlan

Panajachel has become overbuilt, and it might be off putting for some to see so many foreigners in the streets. Safety is definitely an issue here. Most foreign property owners employ a full time gardener/guard to keep an eye out for trouble. Walking in certain areas at night and hiking alone are unsafe. This is the third world, and setting up any sort of technology requires patience.

Climate and Physical Environment

This area is at 5100 feet above sea level, so it never gets too hot here. The area does have a wet and dry season. The rainy season, between May and October, means sun in the morning, with afternoon showers.

Restaurants & Cultural Scene

There are several excellent restaurants in the larger towns, and a few nightlife spots in San Pedro and Pana. Throughout the year, the more traditional towns have impressive indigenous festivals. Santiago, Pana and San Pedro also all have numerous galleries and weaving stalls selling indigenous art.


As a resort community Lake Atitlan is one of the safest places in Guatemala.

Medical Facilities

Santiago has a small hospital, primarily staffed by foreign doctors and volunteer western medical students. Larger hospitals are found in Guatemala City.


Guatemala is extremely well serviced by chicken buses, Pullman buses and tourist vans, all of which go wherever you would like to go. All are remarkably inexpensive, although none are entirely safe. Panajachel is 1.5 hours away from Antigua, and 2.5 hours away from Guatemala City. The major towns around the lake are connected by inexpensive lanchas (motorboats).

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