Things to do in Santiago & around Lake Atitlán
You may be wondering…
What activities can you do during your free time in Santiago?
Over the years, our English Teacher Volunteers have gotten involved in many different types of activities in Santiago and around Lake Atitlán. Some activities include weaving classes to learn the traditional Mayan methods of weaving, or if you prefer something more active, there are multiple hiking trails with stunning views of the lake and the volcanos (you can even hike the volcanos too!) On the lake, many people enjoy going kayaking or paddle boarding. You can get involved with the local community and learn Tz’utujil, one of the Mayan languages spoken in the area. You can even try cacao and participate in a Mayan cacao ceremony.
There are tons of different activities to get involved in and fill up your spare time while soaking up the culture and the stunning nature in the area.
Here are some of the activities that you can look forward to:
There are many different organizations you can take classes with and support their weavers:
- 13 Batz’ Weaving Co-op
- Cojolya Association of Maya Women.
- Maria, Cojolya’s master weaver, has a store near Parque Central where you can learn all about traditional costumes
- Embroidery lessons with Mujeres de Maiz
- Trama Textiles (Women’s Weaving Co-Op in San Juan)
If you like the outdoors and physical activity, then these activities are for you! From hiking volcanoes to paragliding, to camping, here are some of the best options and tours to choose from.
- Climb Volcano San Pedro, Toliman or Atitlán
- Do a bird-watching tour around Mirador Tepepul to spot the quetzal, the national bird
- Visit the tulares of Santiago Atitlán in a cayuco with el tour del tul. You will get closer to ancestral culture, learn about the process of looking after the tul and the aquatic ecosystems as well as the process of making handicrafts out of it.
- Experience the Canopy in San Pedro
- Go paragliding in Panajachel
- Go horseback riding
- Do the beautiful Rostro Maya sunrise hike
- Hike from San Marcos or Tzununa to Santa Cruz de la Laguna, ending the hike at Cafe Sabor Cruceno (it has amazing views!)
- Explore Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve in San Marcos, Atitlan Nature Reserve with its hanging bridges and monkeys in Panajachel or Los Tarrales Nature Reserve in Patulul, close to San Lucas Tolimán.
- Explore Cerro de Oro, source of inspiration for Saint-Exupéry author of the famous book The Little Prince
- Experience a traditional Temazcal (sauna)
- Go to the solar pools in San Pedro
- Camp in the woods and watch the sunrise at Chuitnamit – we have local friends who are guides and can take you on this tour – simply ask us about it when you’re here!
- Go to Mirador Kaqa Siwaan in San Juan la Laguna (a beautiful lookout point)
Since you’ll be living on this beautiful lake, you might as well take advantage of it! These are a few popular water sports that you can participate in.
- Cayuco-ing – Paddle as a local to see the sunrise from the other side of the lake
- Scuba Diving – The only dive shop on the lake, ATi Divers, is located in Santa Cruz, and it is linked with La Iguana Perdida
- SUP – Some of our volunteers have enjoyed the SUP experience at Free Cerveza Hostel in Santa Cruz la Laguna or at La Casa del Mundo in Jaibalito. Both hotels rent their equipment at affordable rates so you can explore the surrounding areas.
Culture/ Local life
Immerse yourself in the culture and local communities surrounding the lake to gain a deeper connection to and understanding of Guatemala and the Mayan culture.
- Visit Chichicastenango, Central America’s largest outdoor market.
- Do a Coffee Tasting Tour at CoAtitlán.
- Visit the local market of Santiago. It is a vibrant place full of fresh vegetables and fruit. Most of what’s available is locally grown, so you can enjoy seasonal produce, try new flavors, and support the local economy. Do not forget to try jocotes, zapote and pitaya when they are in season.
- Visit Santiago Central Park. Besides being a nice spot with a 3D map of the lake in the middle of the park, it’s surrounded by street food which is very popular amongst locals, and worth trying. You can try tostadas, dobladas, chuchitos, tamales, rellenitos, atol & patín (traditional food from Santiago Atitlán made with tomato sauce and spices).
- Visit the Catholic Church built in the XVI century and Parque de la Paz in Santiago to learn about recent history. ANADESA a community NGO based in Santiago offers walking tours on Santiago’s recent history. Have a look at their website for more cultural activities.
- Walk down “Ruta de los murales” an alley filled with street art made by various local, national and international artists reflecting on origin and identity of Santiago Atitlán.
- Visit Casa Museo Concepción Ramírez in Santiago, dedicated to the Tz’utujil woman appearing on the Guatemalan 25-cent coin
- Try a chocofruta (frozen fruit dipped in chocolate). They are sold across the Lake, just ask the locals
- Have a coffee at Space Coffee and let Diego, the best barista in all of Santiago, talk you through the different coffee varieties.
- Eat at Le Antigua, Maria Chula, or Germinaciones, all of them are cosy places to try creative cuisine and hang out with friends.
- Have ceviche in one of the many cevicherias in Santiago
- Enjoy a picnic of barbeque and tacos at the local parks (Xechivoy and Pachichaj). Everyone loves going to hang out and eat at the picnic tables with lake views and surrounded by nature.
- Visit Hotel Bambú and its beautiful garden or La Posada and its magnificent views towards the lake (ask for their terrace!)
- Play basketball or soccer with local friends and students from our Learning Center.
Learn a new skill such as pottery, Tz’utujil, or painting while gaining even more knowledge of the local culture.
- Learn Spanish & Tz’utujil – our host families have recommendations for excellent local teachers, some of our volunteers have taken Spanish classes and were happy with their progress, and some have taken Tz’utujil classes, which is an amazing opportunity to understand other cultural aspects from daily life in this Mayan community.
- Visit local artists from Santiago – Galeria Iglesia de Arte, Diego y Gherardi Mesia or Galeria de Arte Juan Sisay
- Visit art galleries and take painting classes – La Galeria in Panajachel, Galeria de Arte Chiya or Galleria Imox in San Juan
- Try Pottery workshops and Shopping in San Antonio
- Learn about artisanal chocolate at Liccor Marron Chocolate in San Juan and at Ruk’ux Ulew at Bosque Encantado in San Marcos
- Participate in permaculture and ancestral Mayan wisdom workshops at IMAP (Mesoamerican Institute of Permaculture) in San Lucas Tolimán
- Learn the traditional recipes from local friends and host families. As part of their services ANADESA offers traditional cooking classes and Tz’utujil cultural heritage workshops in Santiago Atitlán.
- Do you like mushrooms? Visit the Fungi Academy in Tzununa
Support the community
If you are interested in sustainable and ethical tourism during your stay here, there are a few options for you to have an impact in the community, beyond the work you are doing with One, Two…Tree!
- Visit CECAP and support a local community project
- Support the local community at Cafe Sabor Cruceno in Santa Cruz
- Participate in a recycling project with Atitlan Recicla
- Learn how to make compost and support a community project with Addecap Santiago Atitlan
There are so many ways to get involved in the local community, immerse yourself in the Guatemalan culture, and soak up the nature of beautiful Lake Atitlán.
When you are in Guatemala, we can help direct you to any of the organizations or companies we mentioned above to ensure that you feel comfortable, safe, and happy during your entire time with us!
Volunteer with us this year!
We are currently seeking more English Teacher Volunteers to join us this year to support our growing Learning Center and English programs in Santiago. If you or anyone you know is interested, please contact us at: email@example.com