Santiago Atitlán Travel Guide

Discover one of the most culturally vibrant cities in Central America with our comprehensive guide to Santiago Atitlán. Learn about the top things to do, where to stay, where to eat, local customs, and more.

Introduction to Santiago Atitlán

Santiago Atitlán is a small town nestled in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, on the shores of Lake Atitlán. This picturesque town offers visitors a glimpse into the rich and authentic Mayan culture that has thrived here for centuries.

The town is home to a fascinating mix of traditional Mayan customs and modern amenities, making it a popular destination for those looking to experience the true essence of Guatemala. From its vibrant markets and colorful festivals to its stunning natural landscapes, Santiago Atitlán offers something unique and unforgettable for every type of traveler.

List of Places to Visit in Santiago Atitlán

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

Casa del Abuelo - Maximón

The Casa del Abuelo is a shrine to Maximón, a deity revered by the local community. Visitors can witness traditional Mayan rituals and offerings made to the effigy of Maximón, which is swapped between different homes each year in Santiago Atitlán.

Museo Tz’utujil

The Museo Tz’utujil is a small museum showcasing the ancient culture and modern history of the Tz’utujil people, a Mayan ethnic group native to the area around Lake Atitlán. The museum displays a range of artifacts, textiles, and traditional arts and crafts of the Tz’utujil people.

Natural Attractions of Santiago Atitlán: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

Volcan San Pedro

The impressive Volcan San Pedro towers over the town of Santiago Atitlán, and offers incredible views of the lush greenery surrounding the lake. The climb to the summit of the volcano is challenging but hugely rewarding, and visitors can take guided tours or make the journey independently.

Lake Atitlán

Lake Atitlán is the heart of this region, and is one of the most beautiful natural attractions in Central America. Visitors can take boat tours to explore the different towns and villages lining the shores of the lake, or rent kayaks to paddle out and appreciate the stunning scenery.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Santiago Atitlán

San Pedro Volcano Hike

This challenging hike ascends to the top of the Volcan San Pedro, rewarding visitors with a view of volcanic formation and surrounding communities.

Tzantizotz Nature Reserve Bike Tour

Explore the natural beauty of the town’s surrounding via bike tour in the Tzantizotz Nature Reserve. Tours are led by local guides who share knowledge of the flora and fauna of the area.

Best Things to Do in Santiago Atitlán: Activities and Tours

Market Tour

The Santiago Atitlán Market is one of the most vibrant and colorful markets in Guatemala, and provides a fascinating insight into local Mayan life and customs. Explore the market with a guide to learn about the history and significance of each product being sold.

Coffee Tour

Guatemala is renowned for its coffee, and Santiago Atitlán has a thriving coffee culture. Take a tour of a local coffee plantation to learn about the growing and roasting process, and enjoy a delicious cup of coffee amid stunning views of Lake Atitlán.

Week-Long Itinerary for Santiago Atitlán

Day Itinerary
1 Arrival in Santiago Atitlán - Explore the town and the museum
2 Volcan San Pedro Hike - Take in the stunning views from the summit
3 Boat tour of Lake Atitlán - Visit different towns and villages around the lake
4 Cultural Tour of Santiago Atitlán - See the market, religious sites, and traditional Mayan ceremonies
5 Tzantizotz Nature Reserve Bike Tour - Get close to nature with a guided bike tour
6 Free Day - Relax by the lake or explore the town at your leisure
7 Departure from Santiago Atitlán

Food and Drink Scene of Santiago Atitlán

Must-Try Dishes


This hearty stew features chicken or beef cooked in a savory sauce made with ground pumpkinseeds, peanuts, and sesame seeds.

Chiles Rellenos

These stuffed chiles are filled with a mixture of minced meat, rice, and vegetables, and then fried in a crispy batter.

Local Beverages

Atol de Elote

This popular drink is made with sweet corn and milk, seasoned with cinnamon and sugar. It is typically served hot, especially in the cool evenings.


Tiste is a traditional maize and cacao drink, made with ground maize, cacao, and cinnamon, and typically served with a sweetener like panela.

Where to Stay in Santiago Atitlán: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Hotel Tiosh Abaj

Affordable but comfortable, this family-run hotel features quaint rooms with colorful decor and on-site dining. It is located in the heart of Santiago Atitlán.

Posada de Santiago

This lush hotel features comfortable accommodations and a beautiful garden, complete with a pool and restaurant. It is located just outside of Santiago Atitlán and offers stunning views of the lake.

What to Buy in Santiago Atitlán: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home


Santiago Atitlán is famous for its high-quality textiles, especially the traditional huipil blouses worn by local women. Visitors can buy colorful woven fabric, bags, and other handicrafts at the local market.


Guatemalan coffee is renowned for its rich, bold flavor and is a perfect souvenir to bring home. Visitors can buy whole bean coffee from local shops and roasters.

Local Culture and Customs of Santiago Atitlán

Santiago Atitlán is a predominantly Mayan community, and its traditional customs and culture remain deeply ingrained in the daily lives of locals. Visitors should be respectful of local customs and religion, which play a huge role in everyday life.

Best Time to Visit Santiago Atitlán

The best time to visit Santiago Atitlán is during the dry season, which runs from November to April. This is the most comfortable time to explore the town and enjoy its outdoor activities, with mostly sunny and warm weather.

Do’s and Don’ts of Santiago Atitlán


  • Dress appropriately, covering shoulders and legs when visiting religious sites
  • Respect local customs and traditions
  • Try the local cuisine


  • Take photos of the Maximón effigy without first seeking permission
  • Disrespect religious artifacts or leave litter in sacred sites
  • Speak loudly or behave obnoxiously in public spaces

Safety and Health

Safety in Santiago Atitlán

Santiago Atitlán is considered safe for visitors, but it is always important to be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings. Avoid walking alone at night, and take taxis in well-lit, busy areas.

Health in Santiago Atitlán

Visitors should take precautions to avoid the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue fever and Zika virus, by using mosquito repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants. It is also important to drink only bottled or filtered water to avoid waterborne diseases.

Getting to Santiago Atitlán: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Santiago Atitlán

The closest airport to Santiago Atitlán is La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City. From there, visitors can take a taxi or shuttle bus to reach the town, which is approximately a three-hour drive away.

Bus Stations Near Santiago Atitlán

There are several bus stations in Santiago Atitlán, and visitors can reach the town by bus from Guatemala City or other nearby cities.

Other Options

Visitors can also consider hiring a private driver or taking a shuttle bus service, which are both convenient options that offer comfort and safety.

How to Get Around in Santiago Atitlán

The most common way to get around Santiago Atitlán is by tuk-tuk, a small three-wheeled vehicle that is perfect for navigating the narrow, winding streets of the town. Visitors can also take a boat tour of Lake Atitlán to explore the different towns and villages dotting the shores of the lake.

Where to Go Next from Santiago Atitlán: Nearby Destinations and Excursions


Antigua is a charming colonial town that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located about three hours away from Santiago Atitlán. Visitors can explore the town’s cobbled streets, colorful architecture, and rich history, and nearby natural attractions.

Guatemala City

Guatemala City, the country’s capital, is approximately three hours away from Santiago Atitlán and offers a range of cultural and historical attractions. Visitors can explore the country’s rich history and art at the various museums and galleries, and shop for souvenirs and local handicrafts.


If you’re looking for an authentic and culturally rich travel experience, look no further than Santiago Atitlán. This charming town has something for every type of traveler, from natural wonders to vibrant markets, traditional Mayan customs to modern amenities. Follow our comprehensive guide to make the most of your time in this fascinating corner of Guatemala.