San Juan Travel Guide

Explore the culturally rich San Juan in Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, with our comprehensive travel guide that includes hiking and biking routes, best things to do, food and drink scene, where to stay, local culture, safety, transportation, and nearby destinations.

Introduction to San Juan

San Juan is a picturesque village located on the northwestern side of Lake Atitlán in Guatemala. It is a hidden gem with a unique blend of indigenous Mayan culture and Spanish influence. The village is known for its textiles, paintings, and murals, which reflect the cultural heritage and natural beauty of the area. The friendly locals welcome visitors to experience the warmth of their hospitality and explore the traditions of their ancestors. Travelers can indulge in outdoor activities, immerse themselves in the indigenous culture, and get lost in the stunning landscapes of San Juan.

List of Places to Visit in San Juan

San Juan offers a variety of cultural and natural attractions. Here are some of the must-see places to visit in San Juan:

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Cooperativa San Juan La Laguna - A cooperative that supports local Mayan weavers and artisans. Visitors can learn about the traditional practices of textile making and see the weavers at work.
  • Museo Tz’unun Ya’ - A museum showcasing the history and heritage of the Tz’utujil Mayan culture. It houses a collection of artifacts, textiles, and religious objects.
  • Iglesia de San Juan Bautista - A colonial-style Catholic church with intricate carvings and a unique facade.

Natural Attractions of San Juan: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Cerro de Oro - A scenic viewpoint overlooking the lake and the surrounding volcanoes. It is also a popular spot for paragliding.
  • San Juan Waterfall - A hidden gem with crystal-clear water cascading down from the mountains. It is only accessible by hiking.
  • Finca Xetuc - A sustainable coffee farm with a beautiful garden and a breathtaking view of the lake. Visitors can take a tour of the farm and sample freshly brewed coffee.

Hiking/Biking Routes of San Juan

San Juan offers some of the best hiking and biking routes in Guatemala. Here are some of the most popular ones:

  • Las Cristalinas - A moderate-level hike that takes you through coffee plantations and dense forests. The trail ends at a viewpoint from where you can see the entire lake.
  • Cerro Tzankujil - A challenging hike that takes you to the summit of the mountain with panoramic views of the lake and the neighboring volcanoes.
  • San Juan-La Laguna Trail - A scenic bike route that takes you through the villages of San Juan and San Pedro La Laguna. The route is flat and passes through stunning landscapes.

Best Things to Do in San Juan: Activities and Tours

San Juan offers a plethora of activities to indulge in, from learning about the indigenous culture to exploring the surrounding nature. Here are some of the best things to do in San Juan:

  • Textile Tour - Take a tour of one of the weaving cooperatives and learn about the traditional practices of textile making.
  • Spanish Classes - Learn Spanish from the locals and immerse yourself in their culture.
  • Visit a Shaman - Learn about the spiritual practices of the indigenous Mayans and experience a traditional healing ceremony.

Week-Long Itinerary for San Juan

If you are planning to spend a week in San Juan, here is an itinerary to help you make the most of your trip:

Day Activities
Day 1 Arrive in San Juan, explore the village, and visit the Cooperativa San Juan La Laguna.
Day 2 Take a textile tour, visit the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista, and enjoy the sunset at Cerro de Oro.
Day 3 Hike to the San Juan Waterfall, visit the Museo Tz’unun Ya’, and explore the village’s art galleries.
Day 4 Relax on the beach, learn Spanish from the locals, or visit a shaman.
Day 5 Take a coffee tour at Finca Xetuc, explore the nearby village of San Pedro La Laguna, and take a bike ride along the lake shore.
Day 6 Climb Cerro Tzankujil, visit the natural hot springs of San Pedro La Laguna, and relax in a spa.
Day 7 Shop for souvenirs, say goodbye to San Juan, and head to the airport or the bus station for your next destination.

Food and Drink Scene of San Juan

San Juan offers a variety of traditional dishes and local beverages. Here are some of the must-try dishes and drinks:

Must-Try Dishes

  • Pepián de Pollo - A traditional Mayan chicken stew made with spices and vegetables.
  • Chuchitos - Corn tamales with chicken or pork filling, wrapped in a banana leaf.
  • Tamalitos de Chipilín - Miniature tamales made with a local green leaf called chipilín and filled with beans or cheese.

Local Beverages

  • Atol de Elote - A sweet corn drink made with cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Horchata - A rice drink made with cinnamon and vanilla.
  • Café Maya - Freshly brewed coffee with a touch of cinnamon and panela (unrefined sugar).

Where to Stay in San Juan: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

San Juan offers a variety of accommodation options to suit all budgets. Here are some of the best places to stay:

  • Casa del Mundo - A boutique hotel with panoramic views of the lake, luxurious amenities, and a unique atmosphere.
  • Hotel Bambú - A budget-friendly hotel with comfortable rooms and a tranquil garden.
  • Mayachik - A family-run guesthouse with a cozy atmosphere, delicious breakfast, and friendly staff.

What to Buy in San Juan: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

San Juan is known for its textiles, paintings, and pottery. Here are some of the best souvenirs and local products to bring home:

  • Textiles - Handwoven clothing, tablecloths, and tapestries made by local Mayan weavers.
  • Paintings - Colorful paintings depicting the traditions and landscapes of San Juan.
  • Pottery - Handcrafted pottery made by local artisans.

Local Culture and Customs of San Juan

San Juan has a rich cultural heritage that is reflected in its traditions, festivals, and daily life. Here are some of the customs and etiquette to keep in mind:

  • Respect the Mayan culture - San Juan has a rich Mayan heritage, and visitors should respect their customs and traditions.
  • Dress modestly - Mayans value modesty, and visitors should dress accordingly, covering their shoulders and knees.
  • Practice sustainable tourism - San Juan is a small village, and visitors should practice sustainable tourism by reducing waste and supporting local businesses.

Best Time to Visit San Juan

The best time to visit San Juan is from November to March, when the weather is mild and dry. Visitors can enjoy hiking, outdoor activities, and cultural events without the inconvenience of rain. The peak tourist season is from December to February, so travelers should book their accommodations well in advance.

Do’s and Don’ts of San Juan


  • Be respectful - Respect the local customs and traditions of the Mayan culture.
  • Try new experiences - San Juan offers unique opportunities to learn from the locals, taste local cuisine, and immerse yourself in the indigenous culture.
  • Practice sustainable tourism - Reduce waste and support local businesses.


  • Wear revealing clothing - Mayans value modesty, and visitors should dress accordingly.
  • Disrespect the culture - San Juan has a rich cultural heritage that visitors should respect.
  • Litter - Visitors should not litter, and should leave the environment cleaner than they found it.

Safety and Health

Safety in San Juan

San Juan is generally a safe place for travelers. However, visitors should exercise caution when traveling alone or at night, avoid secluded areas and carrying valuables. It is recommended to take a taxi instead of walking alone after dark.

Health in San Juan

Visitors should drink only bottled or purified water and avoid street food to avoid stomach issues. Visitors should carry travel insurance and consult their doctor before traveling to Guatemala to guide them on necessary vaccinations and medication prescriptions.

Getting to San Juan: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near San Juan

The nearest airport to San Juan is La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City. From Guatemala City, visitors can take a shuttle or private transfer, or take a bus to Panajachel and then take a boat to San Juan.

Bus Stations Near San Juan

Visitors can take a bus from Guatemala City or Antigua to Panajachel and then take a boat to San Juan.

Other Options

Visitors can also hire a private taxi or take a shared shuttle service, which is a more comfortable and convenient option than taking public transportation.

How to Get Around in San Juan

San Juan is a small village, and visitors can easily explore it on foot. Visitors can also take a tuk-tuk or a taxi to visit nearby villages or destinations.

Where to Go Next from San Juan: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

There are many nearby destinations and excursions to explore from San Juan. Here are some of the popular ones:

  • San Pedro La Laguna - A neighboring village known for its lively nightlife and hot springs.
  • Santa Cruz La Laguna - A quiet village with stunning lake views and hiking trails.
  • Volcán San Pedro - A popular hiking destination with breathtaking views of the lake and the surrounding volcanoes.


San Juan is a hidden gem that offers a unique blend of indigenous Mayan culture and stunning natural beauty. Visitors can immerse themselves in the traditional practices of textile making, explore the surrounding nature, and indulge in the local cuisine and beverages. With our comprehensive travel guide, visitors can plan their trip to San Juan with ease, and experience the warmth of the hospitable locals and the richness of their culture.