What You Could Get in Lake Atitlan for $10 – How to Maximize Your Time and Minimize Your Budget at One of the Most Popular Destinations in Guatemala

Hi everyone!

It was only recently that we covered Antigua Guatemala in our $10 series. This week, we’re going back to the country in Central America to find out where else we could go around Guatemala to travel on a budget!

This time, instead of covering the city, we’re going to talk specifically about one of the famous travel destinations in Guatemala, and it’s Lake Atitlan.

FYI, the popular gateway to the lake is to get to the town of Panajachel… But, how far could you get around the lake for $10?! Dean and Laynni of Routinely Nomadic will answer our question this week!

How to Get Around the Picturesque Lake of Guatemala


Stunning Lake Atitlan is one of the most popular destinations in Guatemala, and for good reason. This picturesque crater lake is surrounded by steep hills on all sides, and features three impressive volcanoes lining the south shoreline, providing extraordinary photo opportunities and tremendous hiking possibilities.

However, the draw of Lake Atitlan doesn’t end at incredible scenery, it also features over a dozen towns and villages, vastly varied in size, look and feel, although all are traditionally Mayan.

Lake Atitlan Volcanoes, Guatemala.

Did you know?

Lake Atitlan is surrounded by 12 indigenous villages, inhabited mostly by Kkchiquel and Tz’utujil. Twenty-two distinctive linguistic groups are spoken around the lake.

This guide to Lake Atitlan can help you narrow your focus and plan your visit to maximize your time and overall experience but, rest assured, you really can’t go wrong whichever area you choose as your base.

The other great thing about Atitlan is just how affordable it is. In local currency, $1 is equivalent to roughly 7.75 Guatemalan quetzales. It may not make for easy conversions but, more importantly, your dollars go a long way here.

Where to Stay Around Lake Atitlan

There is a wide range of accommodation options but in San Pedro or Panajachel – the two most popular backpacker hangouts – it is possible to get a clean, basic dorm bed for 70-90Q ($9-11). Perfect for shoestring travelers.

What to Eat Around Lake Atitlan

Restaurants are mainly geared toward tourists but you will still have no problem finding a great pasta meal for 70Q ($9) or less, an absurdly filling breakfast special for 40Q ($5), or even baby back ribs and a side buffet at Smokin’ Joe’s Sunday bbq in San Pedro for just 80Q ($10).

San Pedro Market.
San Pedro Market.

The local street markets, however, are the best value. At 7Q ($1) for an entire pineapple, 4Q ($0.50) for a pound of tomatoes or 2Q ($0.25) per mango, you’ll be lucky if you can carry all the food you can buy for $10.

Drinkers will be thrilled to learn that popular local beers such as Gallo, Victoria, Cabro and Brahva won’t break the bank, either, with regular bottles usually going for 15Q each ($2) or liters for just 25Q ($3), meaning you are basically paying a buck a beer.

How to Get Around the Lake

Transportation is also great value. The easiest way to get around is by lancha, small public boats that run every 20 minutes or so between villages around the lake.

The minimum charge for tourists is generally 10Q ($1.25) per person between neighbouring villages and even the longest journey from Panajachel to San Pedro will set you back just 40Q ($6).

Lanchas at Sunrise.
Lanchas at Sunrise.

Tuk-tuks are also available for road journeys, costing just 5Q ($0.70) anywhere within town or 10Q ($1.25) to the next village.

Chicken buses (old North American school buses painted and decorated) start at 15Q ($2) and are great for longer journeys, while on very short trips you can get a spot in the back of a pickup truck for just 5Q ($0.70).

Bottom line, Lake Atitlan is not only spectacular, it’s also extremely easy on the budget. Make sure you add it to your list of future destinations.


Contributor: Dean and Laynni from Routinely Nomadic.

Dean and Laynni are a Canadian couple with a fondness for oceans and mountains that have been traveling the world for 12 years, sharing stories, photos and advice at Routinely Nomadic.


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