A spectacular natural wonder, Lake Atitlán is surrounded by several >3,000m volcanoes and a number of villages and towns, the attractions of which decline rapidly with increasing size. The largest Santiago Atitlán is devoid of interest, and Panajachel is mostly hideous, filled with rubbish and stray dogs, while tiny San Marcos La Laguna is full of hippies and an ecological reserve. Thankfully the views from all of them are pretty impressive.
Panajachel is the main hub for the lake, though there is little to do in the town itself other than book tours and enjoy the lakeside views.
San Marcos La Laguna is a bit of a hippie hub and home to Cerro Tzankujil, a beautiful nature reserve with lovely views of the lakes and plenty of places to sit and enjoy them.
San Juan La Laguna is home to a lovely church and a relaxing cafe by the waterfront.
San Pedro La Laguna is a lively place and the Parque Municipal de San Pedro La Laguna a lovely town centre park with neighbouring church. It is also the base for walks up the San Pedro volcano, unfortunately not advisable when I visited due to recent robberies, a increased risk during high season.
Santiago Atitlán had little to recommend, with surprisingly few places to eat near the docks, and an unexciting church, though the weed collectors were interesting to watch.
To end with a highlight on the way from San Cristóbal in Mexico to Lake Atitlán, staying in a homestay in a village near Totonicapan. It was wonderful to spend a night with Carlos and Carolina their children Heidi and Melvin, learning a bit about their way of life, and sharing a bit about life in New Zealand. They’ve had people staying with them since 2005 so are used to having guests, and making sure that they’re looked after. They’re now on Air BnB if anyone is looking for a memorable experience a couple of hours from Lake Atitlan.