A view of San Pedro la Laguna from Lake Atitlan

Everything to Know About San Pedro La Laguna, Lake Atitlán

When it comes to visiting Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, there’s a lot to choose from. When I went with one of my best friends, Ellie, we spent quite some time talking to people in our hostel, asking questions, and trying to figure out where was best to stay. If I’m being really honest with you, I don’t think it matters that much. Especially if you’re going for a short amount of time and just want to see as much as possible! Although we stayed in San Pedro, we spent all of our days at Lake Atitlan taking the public boat around the lake visiting the other towns and small villages nearby.

(If you want to know more about each town and what they have to offer, check out my guide on where to stay in Lake Atitlan.)

It’s also worth noting that, if you’re travelling from Antigua to Lake Atitlan (like we did), San Pedro La Laguna (which from now on I’m going to call just San Pedro, like the cool kids), it’s on the opposite side of the lake from Antigua. Which is fine, because the boat ride takes about ten minutes from Panajachel, but please don’t try and take the chicken bus all the way there like we did. It was a mistake (and it was my fault, sorry Ellie!).

By far the best way to get there from Antigua, whichever mode of transport you decide to use, is to arrive in Panajachel and take the boat from there. If you’re arriving from Quetzaltenango, it may be easier to get straight there.

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

San Pedro La Laguna: The Practical Stuff

So, what’s San Pedro all about? You’ll probably hear that San Pedro is the place to go around Lake Atitlan if you want to party, and whilst this is true, this is pretty much confined to the weekend. Ellie and I went mid-week and found no such party. We also didn’t stay in the famous Mr Mullet’s Party Hostel, which I would imagine has parties through the week, too! But if you want to find somewhere to party beyond the hostel, make sure you go on a weekend. 

We found that San Pedro was a great jumping off point for all of the places we wanted to see during our trip to the lake. It was the perfect place for a great view of the river and easy access to the other towns and small villages in the area. You can even take a cheap tuk tuk ride to San Juan (more on that in a minute!)

There are two cash machines in San Pedro La Laguna, but they are both of the bank 5B which is the most expensive brand of cash machine in Guatemala. The exchange rate does fluctuate, but when we were there it was $8-9 per transaction to withdraw cash. So, not cheap! There was a cheaper cash machine in Panajachel, which is just a boat ride away and definitely worth a visit, but make sure you take plenty of cash before you arrive in San Pedro.

There are plenty of places to eat out along the main road in San Pedro, which runs along the shorefront of the lake.

Read more about Guatemala: What to Wear & Packing List for Guatemala

San Pedro’s Local Market

The local market in San Pedro is one of the town’s biggest attractions, because prices are typically low although they are becoming more expensive now thanks to the huge influx of tourism to San Pedro in recent years (this is a great thing for the economy of the towns around Lake Atitlan; remember that locals deserve to put up their prices for tourists and they are not necessarily trying to rip you off). 

At the market you’ll find fresh fruits, vegetables, and a range of traditional Guatemalan foods, dishes and delicacies to try. You’ll also find a range of handcrafted clothes and artisan crafts made by the locals, also on sale for a great price.

Whether you’re on the lookout to buy something or not, it’s well worth a wander around San Pedro’s market to soak up the atmosphere and practise your Spanish with the locals.

Where to Stay in San Pedro

As I already mentioned, if you’re up for a party then the best place to stay is Mr Mullet’s Party Hostel. We didn’t personally stay there but we met a lot of travellers that had been and said great things about it! As well as a great atmosphere in the hostel itself, which has two bars, they have pub crawls and boat parties throughout the week. 

The hostel we stayed in was called Hotel Amigos. Yes, it says Hotel, but yes, it was a hostel (or, at least, a combined hotel and hostel). We met some great people in this hostel, although I wouldn’t say it had the most social vibe ever. What it did have going for it, however, was the most insane views of the lake. And you could sit right there and have your breakfast overlooking it! The hostel was cheap, clean, and well organised, but the views were by far the best part.

If you’re going to San Pedro to study at a Spanish school, they will often offer to provide accommodation for you either with a host family or within dorms with your classmates. I’d recommend both of these options as they are great for practising your Spanish, especially if the only common language with your classmates is Spanish!

Read more about Guatemala: Everything You Need to Know About Guatemala City Airport

Best Things to Do in San Pedro

There’s not much more than a day’s worth of activities in San Pedro itself, but the same goes for each of the small towns around Lake Atitlan. The charm, and the experience, comes from visiting the different towns as each one has a unique feel and vibe. San Marco, for example, is known as the hippie town – a “yoga retreats and incense” kind of vibe. San Juan is known to be more artsy, with a laid back and less-commercialised hippie vibes.

Click here for my guide to the towns around Lake Atitlan.

You can literally just walk down to the dock and hop on a boat to any of the towns (just make sure it’s going the right way before you get on!). If you want to buy a return ticket, be aware that there are different boat operators so you will have to wait for your boat company to take you back to San Pedro. (They don’t usually take long to arrive, but we had a couple of boats turn us down because we didn’t have a ticket for their company!).

The quickest and easiest town to visit is San Juan (La Laguna), and you can get there by tuk tuk really easily from San Pedro. In fact, tuk tuk is the next most common way to travel anywhere after the lanches (boats) that offer transportation on the lake. 

Another reason people choose to stay in San Pedro specifically is to hike San Pedro Volcano. You can walk to the trailhead for this hike from San Pedro town itself, which is convenient (obviously). The round trip is just 7km, but it is a challenging hike with an elevation gain of 1,300m! There are no resupply points along the trail (aka nowhere to buy food, water or supplies), and the entrance fee to the park is around $15USD.

Although you can do this hike unaccompanied, it is advisable to take a local guide, unfortunately due to the number of robberies that happen on this trail. With a local guide you are quite safe, but tourists (both alone and in groups) are a popular target.

Spanish Schools in San Pedro

Lake Atitlan (and Guatemala in general, actually!) is known for its Spanish schools. They are quite cost effective, and often provide you with accommodation as well, either with a host family or in a dorm with other students. 

From a quick Google search you can see that there are four commercial Spanish schools just within San Pedro. There are many more smaller Spanish class providers and immersive experiences in the area; just make sure you read some reviews before you turn up!

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