Everything to Know About San Juan La Laguna, Lake Atitlán

If you only have a few days to visit Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, like we did, then you’re probably a bit overwhelmed by choice, like we were. (I don’t know about you but I am not good at making decisions.) I was travelling in Guatemala with my friend Ellie, and we spent quite some time chatting to people in our hostel about where to stay on the shores of Lake Atitlan. Of course, everybody had a different answer! You’ll find my full guide on where to stay in Lake Atitlan here, but for now, let’s talk about San Juan La Laguna.

Ellie and I didn’t actually stay here – we actually stayed in San Pedro La Laguna and took a tuk tuk to San Juan for the day. It’s really easy to get from San Pedro to San Juan La Laguna by tuk tuk, and cheap, too, because they’re so close together. 

Like I always say, don’t worry too much about choosing where you are going to stay in Lake Atitlan, unless you’re going for a few weeks, for example, to go to Spanish School. For example: everyone will have heard that San Pedro is a great place to go for a party, so if you go to Spanish school in San Pedro, you’re likely to find yourself amongst party-minded students. Likewise, San Juan is known for being laid back and chill with low-key hippie vibes, so if you choose a Spanish school around here, those are the kinds of people you’ll likely meet in class. 

If you’re just going to hang out for a few days, you’ll be able to visit just about everywhere by boat anyway! No matter where you are, as long as you’ve got a dock, you will be able to visit all of the towns and villages that surround Lake Atitlan.

Like I said in my post on San Pedro, if you’re travelling from Antigua to Lake Atitlan (like we did, and like most people do), it’s not a good idea to try and get the chicken bus (or private shuttle, or anything else) all the way to this side of the lake where San Pedro and San Juan La Laguna are. Ellie and I actually went all the way round to San Pedro by chicken bus, and we did end up a little bit stranded in the mountains at one point and the descent back into the valley of Lake Atitlan was NOT fun and clearly not for tourists. Take a bus or shuttle to Panajachel and then take a boat ride from the main docks there, trust me, it will be so much easier.

If Lake Atitlán is going to be the first stop on your trip, find out how to get to Lake Atitlán from Guatemala City Airport.

San Juan La Laguna: The Practical Stuff

San Juan La Laguna is known for a more laid-back and understated “hippie” vibe than its sister hippie town San Marcos (which is for the 100$-a-day-yoga-retreat kind of hippies). In San Juan you’ll find the streets and buildings full of colourful art, dazzling graffiti and handmade crafts for sale. The local life goes at a comfortable, relaxed pace and it shows through the warmth and welcoming nature of its residents. You’ll find a lot of artisanal crafts and works of art on sale by the locals, small art galleries, chocolate tastings and coffee tours. You can also walk down La Calle de las Sombrillas, a street full of shops shaded by colourful umbrellas that get beautifully lit up at nighttime.

The main attractions in San Juan La Laguna are Casa Flor Ixcaco, a local woman-owned weaving cooperative, and Mirador Cerro de la Cruz (a great viewpoint):

Casa Flor Ixcaco in San Juan La Laguna

Casa Flor Ixcaco is a woman-owned weaving cooperative based in San Juan La Laguna. Casa Flor Ixcaco is owned by Maya women who are keeping alive the process and creation of handmade fabrics, working with organic cotton and natural dyes using a traditional backstrap loom. Their shop is in the heart of San Juan La Laguna, not far from La Calle de Las Sombrillas. You can buy their handwoven fabrics, talk to the woman about how they are made, and even watch them weaving in action.

Mirador Kaqasiiwaan (Cerro de la Cruz)

The trailhead to Mirador Kaqasiiwaan, also known as Mirador de San Juan La Laguna (which is a bit easier to say for us English natives), is right in the town of San Juan La Laguna. That means that you can do this small hike/walk with little effort. There’s no hopping into a shuttle for half a day before you even get started or rushing back to make the last bus home, you can do this as you please. The entry fee to climb up to the mirador is 30-40 Guatemalan Quetzales (I like to give a range in case it’s changed since I was there!), and it takes around half an hour to get to the top of the steps. Once you reach the top of the steps you’ll find a walkway with incredible views either side that leads to the mirador, which overlooks San Juan and Lake Atitlan. This is a great afternoon activity and a family-friendly kind of walk. It’s also a great way to get your blood pumping if you’re preparing to do the Acatenango Volcano Hike.

Read more about Guatemala: Is Guatemala City Airport Safe?

Where to Stay in San Juan La Laguna

Like I said before, we didn’t actually stay in San Juan itself, so I don’t have a personal recommendation for you! There are a lot of popular hostels and hotels around San Juan, but a lot of them haven’t quite made their way to Hostelworld or Booking just yet, so it’s best to look them up on Google or Google Maps and contact them directly. One hostel that I did hear great things about from a friend in Antigua was Chirris Hostel, which does happen to be on Hostelworld!

Best Things to Do in San Juan La Laguna

Other than climbing to Mirador Kaqasiiwaan and visiting the Maya women at Casa Flor Ixcaco, there are quite a few things to do in San Juan. They have quite a few Spanish schools here, if you’re interested in learning the language, plus quite a few different coffee and chocolate tours that let you taste some of the local delights. San Juan La Laguna even has its own website that you can use to explore local restaurants and coffee shops, which I wish I had discovered before we went!

Of course, no matter where you stay in Lake Atitlan, one of the best things you can do is to visit some of the other unique towns and villages around the lake. All you have to do is go down to the docks and hop onto a public boat that will take you to the various other towns surrounding Lake Atitlan.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *