17 Unique Things to Do in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

17 Unique Things to Do in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

It is not surprising that Lake Atitlan is one of the best places to visit in Guatemala. A beautiful volcanic lake surrounded by traditional Mayan villages and majestic volcanoes, Lake Atitlan is an absolute paradise.

Lake Atitlan spans a total of 130.1 square kilometers and is made out of 11 ethnic towns and villages.

Yes! There are 11 Lake Atitlan villages!

You could spend weeks here and not get through the list of things to do in Lake Atitlan.

That is the exact reason why I loved it so much when I was in Lake Atitlan. There are so many different Lake Atitlan activities that you will inevitably find something you like.

Without further ado, here is our guide on what to do in Lake Atitlan!

What To Do In Lake Atitlan: 17 Best Lake Atitlan Activities

1. Hike Indian Nose At Sunrise (One of My Favorite Things to Do in Lake Atitlan)

For any traveler looking for an epic sunrise where the skies burn with vibrant colors, the Indian Nose hike is one of the things you must do in Lake Atitlan.

The viewpoint at the top of the Indian Nose rises above the mountains, and for a second it feels like you are the guardian of Lake Atitlan when you are overlooking at the small villages down below. It is an unworldly feeling that can only be explained by experience. 

A short 30-minute hike that will reward you with the best views of Lake Atitlan, hiking Indian Nose is one of the best activities in Lake Atitlan.  

It is possible to hike the Indian Nose independently. However, I’ve heard of travelers getting solicited by bandits on the way up there. Hence, I recommend you getting an affordable tour in San Pedro or one of the other small towns in Lake Atitlan. 

2. Go Cliff Jumping at Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve in San Marcos

If you are tired of chilling in your fancy hotel in San Pedro and want to do something adventurous, go cliff jumping in San Marcos! The platform is about 10 meters above the lake and I have to be honest, I chickened out. A few of my friends did it and they said it felt like they were falling forever, and falling forever doesn’t sound like fun to me. 

But if the platform in Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve is too high for you to cliff jump from, there are some rocks near the bottom where you can jump from as well. Also a great place to swim or relax in the beautiful environment,  Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve is a hidden gem in Lake Atitlan!

3. Kayak From One Lake Atitlan Village to Another 

Not sure what to do in Lake Atitlan? Why not rent out a kayak for a few hours and kayak across the lake, from one village to another. It might seem like a daunting task but Lake Atitlan is actually not that big. We rented a kayak from San Pedro and kayaked to San Marcos and it only took 30 minutes.

If your heart desires, you can village hop on a kayak!  It is a great way to stay in shape especially if you are backpacking Guatemala for a long time. 

4. Do Yoga in Lake Atitlan at Yoga Forest

Yoga is one of the most popular things to do in Lake Atitlan. With beautiful and tranquil views, amazing natural environments, yogis ad yoga-lovers can absorb the zen atmosphere while doing the upward-facing dog pose.

The best place to do yoga in Lake Atitlan is unquestionably Yoga Forest in San Marcos. A fully-equipped yoga retreat facility featuring traditional Mayan altars and hot springs, yogis can connect with Mother Earth in a zen-like environment.

Yoga Forest has an activity for beginners to advanced yogis. First-time visitors are encouraged to try out one of their daily drop-in classes at 7 AM, 10:30 AM or 4 PM to see if they like it. 

5. Visit San Juan For Some Local Crafts

San Juan is one of the most authentic indigenous towns in Lake Atitlan. With about 95% of the population Tz’utujil, one of 21 ethic Maya groups, you can immediately feel that the vibe is different from the touristy San Pedro. Marked by their colorful outfits and their vibrant hats, you can find many indigenous Tz’utujil people walking around the tranquil streets or selling some of their local crafts.

San Juan is also one of the best places to buy souvenirs from Guatemala, as any purchase will go directly to the local communities you are buying from. Hand-woven clothing, paintings, other crafts, and jewelry, you will find lots of flavors of Guatemala not found anywhere else. Buying directly from locals is one of the best ways to travel responsibly!

6. Go Swimming In Lake Atitlan!

What is the point of coming to Lake Atitlan if you are not going to swim in the lake? That’s the equivalent of going to the beach and not swim, or going to a restaurant and not eat!

But can you swim in Lake Atitlan? Yes, and no. Lake Atitlan was officially labeled as a contaminated water source in 2009 due an excessive amount of cyanobacteria.

Polluted by aging sewage systems, agricultural fertilizers, and locals tossing their trash in the water, Lake Atitlan’s beauty is hindered. 

However, when I visited Lake Atitlan in 2019, everyone seemed eager to go in the water. No one suffered from any rashes or any illnesses. If you are afraid of the cleanliness of the water, I would suggest avoid swimming in the big villages such as San Pedro and Panajachel.

Swim at the Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve in San Marcos if possible, the water was spotless there!

For anyone looking for a proper swim session at the beach, visit the beach town Monterrico in Guatemala!

7. Visit Chichicastenango, the Biggest Outdoor Market in Central America

Anyone looking for the ultimate shopping experience in Guatemala cannot pass up a visit to Chichicastenango, the biggest outdoor market in Central America.

Hundreds, maybe even thousands of stores, including an indoor basketball court that has been transformed into an area with stalls and vendors, you can shop till your legs shake here.

I cannot count the number of the times I have gotten lost there, as the tight little streets lined with vendors and stalls on both sides look very similar. It is a complete maze here and might seem overwhelming at first.

The cool thing about Chichicastenango was that it was never intended to sell things to tourists. It was a market for locals from around the country where they can buy and sell their goods. However, nowadays it is starting to transform as more and more tourists are visiting this beautiful and traditional market.

With beautiful textiles and mysterious Mayan artifacts amongst other unique things, it is not surprising that Chichicastenango has become so popular. So come visit Chichicastenango before it becomes a tourist trap!

You can visit Chichicastenango with tourist transport from San Pedro, Panajachel, and even San Macros (though more difficult). If you are feeling adventurous, you can also take the chicken buses from San Pedro or Panajachel to Chichicastenango.

8. Stay at Free Cerveza, The Crazy Fun Hostel in Santa Cruz

Looking for a fun hostel in Lake Atitlan? You have to check out Free Cerveza in Santa Cruz.

I am quite positive you already know what the word “Cerveza” means in Spanish because that’s pretty much the first Spanish word you learn traveling in Latin America. If you haven’t learned the word yet, free Cerveza means free “beer”.

Every day right before dinner, Free Cerveza hostel offers unlimited (yes you heard that right) for one hour to everyone that has signed up with them for dinner.

One of the most social and fun hostels in Guatemala, come to Free Cerveza and get sloppy drunk on unlimited beer, wake up late with a hangout the next morning, and then jump into the lake with your new friends!

Free Cerveza Things To Do In Lake Atitlan Guatemala

9. Participate in a Temazcal Ceremony

A Tezamazcal Ceremony is a traditional shamanic Mayan cleansing ritual.

Typically, you enter a tiny sweat lodge made of stone or other impermeable material to help trap the heat in. In the center of the hut is a dirt pit where severals extremely (I mean EXTREMELY) hot stones will be put.

As you sit there inside this little hut without any ventilation, you will feel the heat amass even before the ritual begins. After they have put enough hot stones inside, they shut the door, leaving you, the shaman, and other members of the group in complete darkness. But your mind won’t be focused on the darkness, but rather on the risk of suffocation in this trapped space.

Water will be poured on top of these hot stones, creating enough steam in the hut to feel like you are drowning. As you are trapped in this steamy and hell-like hot room, the shaman will chant as part of the ritual. Typically sage and copal are added to this healing process that lasts for rounds.

The Tezmazcal Ritual is known for its power to purify the body and mind, heal the sick, and offer a haven for birth-giving mothers. Sometimes the effects can be hallucinogenic due to the condition you are in.

You can find a Tezmazcal ceremony at Yoga Forest in San Marcos.

10. Visit San Pedro For Trendy Cafes and Amazing Nightlife!

Located on the Southwestern shore of Lake Atitlan, San Pedro is the most popular village in Lake Atitlan. A village with some of the best attractions in Lake Atitlan such as trendy Cafes, high-end accommodations, and great bars, San Pedro is place you must visit in Guatemala.

My favorite bar and restaurant is Bar Sublime. A place that serves amazing food with outdoor seating overlooking Lake Atitlan, you can end up spending hours with your friends. 

If you are looking for a proper pub, check out Alegre pub. Located next to the dock, it is easy to get there even if you are not staying in San Pedro. 

If you have extra time, I recommend you to check out Tzunun’ Ya’ museum. It is an interesting museum that highlights the Mayan culture and the geological formation of Lake Atitlan.

San Pedro is also very connected with other parts of Guatemala, making it very easy to visit other tourist attractions such as Chichicastenango and Antigua. 

11. Hike San Pedro Volcano

Lake Atitlan is surrounded by volcanoes, namely Volcano Atitlan, Volcano Toliman, and Volcano San Pedro. San Pedro is the lowest of and three its peak still sits at 3020 meters above sea level.

If you are looking to do some serious hiking in Lake Atitlan, I recommend Volcano San Pedro.  The view up top is uncomparably to anywhere else on Lake Atitlan (maybe except Indian Nose).

On a clear day, you can also see Volcano Acatenango and Fuego near Antigua.

The hike takes about 5 hours in total round-trip and it is totally doable independently as the trail is clear. However, San Pedro has a reputation for its bandits on the path, people who will try to rob and solicit you. As a result, I recommend going with a local tour guide.

12. Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) on Lake Atitlan!

Rent a paddleboard at one of the towns in Lake Atitlan and go stand-up paddleboarding! It is one of the best activities in Lake Atitlan to enjoy the spectacular views of the lake and admire at the majestic volcanoes that surround Lake Atitlan!

13. Try Guatemalan Coffee!

Disclaimer, I am not a coffee snob.

However, it isn’t obvious to separate good coffee and bad coffee. Guatemala has some of the best coffee in the world due to its high elevation and warm and humid climate. Guatemala’s coffee is known to be the perfect balance between full-bodied, sweet and strong, and with hints of acidity. 

The best place to try Guatemala Coffee in Lake Atitlan is Crossroads Cafe in Panajachel

14. Do a Homestay with a Local Guatemalan Family

Interested in taking a deep dive into Guatemala culture? There is no better way than doing a homestay with a local Guatemalan family. In a homestay in Lake Atitlan, you get to eat like a local, sleep like a local, and talk (if you can speak Spanish) like a local. 

I have done a homestay with a Spanish school in Xela and it was just an eye-widening experience. Their food was so different and meat was seldom served (which is something I am not used to). One night all we had for dinner was vegetables and tortilla with hell-inducing spicy salsa. I had to sneak out that night and buy some street food! 

15. Partake in a Cacao Ceremony

Cacao ceremonies are traditional Mayan and Aztecs rituals that are used for spiritual inner awakening. If done properly, the process releases negative emotions and promotes inner healing.

Cacao translates into “Food of the Gods” and is believed to have magical powers in its rawest form. The chemicals in raw cacao, notable theobromine and phenylethylamine, are responsible for the euphoric feeling during the ritual. 

In Lake Atitlan, there is a shaman named Keith. For anyone wanting to try a Cacao Ritual or want to find out more details about it, click here

16. Learn Spanish in Lake Atitlan

Guatemala is known as one of the best places in the world to learn Spanish. Its neutral accent, slow-talking speed, and minimal slangs make Guatemala Spanish one of the most versatile Spanish to learn.

If you are backpacking Latin America, make an effort to learn some Spanish in Guatemala!

The majority of the locals in Guatemala do not speak English, so you have to fully dive in the deep end. Many of the schools offer fully immersion programs, 1-on-1 classes, and a homestay to expedite your learning process. Finally, you can drop your Spanglish and get some proper Spanish!

Though there are many Spanish schools scattered throughout Lake Atitlan, San Pedro has the highest number of them. 

17. Go Village Hopping in Lake Atitlan!

There are a total of 11 towns and villages in Lake Atitlan. Chances are you might only see the notable ones such as Santa Cruz, San Marcos, San Pedro, and Panajachel. Explore what is off-the-beaten-path in Lake Atitlan with the boats and go village hopping! 

Where To Stay In Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is made up of many small villages and towns. My recommendations on where to stay in Lake Atitlan is based on the area as a whole, not just a specific village or town.  

Best Hostel in Lake Atitlan- Sababa Resort

Located in the popular town of San Pedro, Sababa Resort is quite a unique accommodation. Boosting private rooms as well as dormitory rooms, the hotel (or hostel) has something for travelers on any budget.

For an affordable price, guests can enjoy their gorgeous pool with a view of the stunning lake. The establishment is a proper resort but with affordable dormitory rooms!

Click here for more details!

Best Airbnb In Lake Atitlan – Cabin w/ Terrace and Hot Tub

Where To Stay In Lake Atitlan Airbnb 1
Lake Atitlan Airbnb 1

(Images Courtesy of Airbnb)

There are no shortages of stunning places to stay in Lake Atitlan, but none can compare to this gorgeous cabin.

The cabin’s most iconic feature is the outdoor terrace. Not only is it a beautiful place to relax, it also has incredible views of Lake Atitlan. If that hasn’t convinced you yet, the terrace also features an outdoor hot tub, perfect for soothing your aching limbs after an exhausting day of exploring Lake Atitlan.

Featuring one bedroom, this accommodation is ideal for couples. In fact, we would consider this Lake Atitlan Airbnb a great romantic getaway!

Click here for more details!

Best Hotel in Lake Atitlan- Glass House

Lake Atitlan Hotel
Hotels In Lake Atitlan

(Images Courtesy of Airbnb)

Though more like an Airbnb than a traditional hotel in Lake Atitlan, this Glass House is for travelers that enjoy a little bit of paradise.

Guests staying at the Glass House are blessed with some of the most gorgeous views of Lake Atitlan, right at their bed. Guests also have access to a private dock, where they can catch boats to explore the nearby Lake Atitlan villages. The dock has WiFi coverage, so guests can just relax, read a book, listen to music, or suntan.

If you would like you could also go for a swim in the lake, or use one of the SUP and have some fun on the lake!

Click here for more details!

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This is the end of our guide on Lake Atitlan! Which one is your favorite activity in Lake Atitlan? Let us know in the comments!

Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links. That means if you book or make a purchase through the links, we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! The money will help run this site! Thank you 🙂

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15 UNIQUE Things to Do in Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala

15 UNIQUE Things to Do in Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala

Quetzaltenango, or commonly known as Xela, is the second-largest city in Guatemala after Guatemala City.

As the second-biggest city in Guatemala, Xela rarely gets any tourism. It is not the typical place travelers see when they close their eyes and imagine themselves on vacation. There are no fancy hotels, no posh restaurants, and generally no luxury. There is no sugarcoating to the representation of Guatemala in this poor city.

Here you will experience true Guatemala culture and their ways of life. You will see the struggles and poverty that every family has to deal with every day. And in a way, I fell in love with the authenticity of this city.

Without a lot of visitors, I wasn’t able to find any good information about things to do in Xela (Quetzaltenango) online.

So after spending one month in Xela studying Spanish, I decided to write a complete guide on Xela and answer any questions about what to do in Xela (Quetzaltenango). 

What To Do in Xela: 15 Best Things To Do in Xela (Quetzaltenango)

Go Hiking in Xela!

1. Tajumulco Volcano , The Highest Mountain in Central America

Volcano Tajumulco is the tallest peak and volcano in all of Central America at 4220 meters. You can say it is the Kilimanjaro of Central America. With such an intimidating title, hiking Tajumulco Volcano might seem like a daunting task at first.

Believe it or not, the Volcano Tajumulco hike is not so difficult.

Part of the reason is that you start relatively high at 3,000 meters, so I huge chunk of the work is already done for you.

You will ascend 1,200 meters to reach the top, and that is usually done in 4 hours. Then it takes about another 3 hours to reach back down. The whole journey is only about 7 hours of hiking.

Hiking Tajumulco can be done as a day trip from Xela, but most hikers prefer the two-day trek instead.

That is because on day 2 of the Tajumulco trek, you wake up in the morning to see the sunrise over the highest mountain in Central America. The panoramic view of Guatemala on Tajumulco is not something you will forget for a long time.

The hike itself is not so difficult but altitude sickness becomes a problem at such high elevation!

Duration: About 7 hours of hiking, either in 1 day or split into 2 days.
Difficulty:
Moderate
Maximum Altitude:
4220m

2. Hike Volcano Santa Maria And See Volcano Santiaguito Erupt!

Volcano Santa Maria is an active stratovolcano located about an hour away from Xela. Its last eruption was in 1902 and now it is being monitored carefully.

Measuring at 3,772 meters above sea level, hiking Santa Maria is no easy task. However, when you are at the peak of Santa Maria Volcano, you can see the nearby Volcano Santiaguito erupt. The frequency of its eruption is very inconsistent compared to Volcano Fuego.

If you want to see a volcanic eruption with your own eyes, then I recommend going to Antigua and hiking Volcano Acatenango.

We waited for an hour at the top of Santa Maria and did not see Santiaguito erupt.

The hike to the top of the volcano takes about 3 to 4 hours. On the path, you will pass by making different biospheres and it’s quite an interesting experience. The top of the volcano is also filled with offerings from the local Guatemalans.

To what? I am not entirely sure. But it is common for locals to hike up Santa Maria and lay down offerings on the weekends.

It is easy and safe to hike Santa Maria independently, so you can save that little bit of money you save on the tour guide for yummy Guatemalan food! But if you don’t want to take a chicken bus, you can always opt for a trekking tour with Quetzaltrekkers.

Duration: 6 to 7 hours of hiking + 2 hours of transportation
Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult
Maximum Elevation: 3,772m

3. Hike Volcano Chicabal And See Its Sacred Crater Lake!

Volcano Chicabal is a 2,720-meter inactive volcano located in the Quetzaltenango Department. It is one of the most famous volcanoes in Guatemala not because of its height, but because of its sacredness to the indigenous people.

In the center of Volcano Chicabal is a holy lake called Laguna Chicabal, or Chicabal Lake in English. A sacred lake to the local Mayan people, it is not uncommon to see traditional rituals and practices on the weekends. With the heavy fog that rolls in almost every day in the afternoon, sometimes you will hear shaman’s chantings and not see where they are coming from!

Combined with the rainforest that surrounds the rim of the crater, it creates a mysterious atmosphere and an eye-widening experience.

Swimming in the sacred lake is prohibited. Often times, you can see offerings floating on the surface of the water.

To get to Chicabal Volcano and its sacred lake take a chicken bus from the Minerva Market to San Martin Sacatepequez, also known as Chile Verde. Let the driver known you want to visit Volcano Chicabal and he will drop you off accordingly in San Martin.

Then either follow the signs to Chicabal or use an app such as maps.me to guide you. The path is quite straight forward.

Duration: 3 to 4 hours of hiking + 1.5 to 2 hours of transportation.
Difficulty: Moderate
Max Elevation: 2,720 meters

4. 3-Day Trek From Xela To Lake Atitlan

For anyone looking for a tough multi-day trek in Xela (Quetzaltenango), worry not. The intense 3-day hike from Xela to Lake Atitlan is a popular trekking option for experienced hikers. If Lake Atitlan is the next stop on your Guatemala itinerary, you can take this trek and have your luggage transferred to Lake Atitlan.

If Lake Atitlan isn’t your next stop, it should be! There are so many amazing things to do in Lake Atitlan.

This 3-day trek from Quetzaltenango to Lake Atitlan is one of the most enriching experiences you can have in Guatemala.

You will hike through small villages, coffee plantations, crop fields, rainforest, and much more in your 3-day journey. On the last day, you will arrive in Lake Atitlan and watch the sun rise over the beautiful volcanoes that surround this serene lake.

You won’t need to hike Indian Nose in Lake Atitlan if you do this trek!

Duration: 3 days
Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult

For more information, click here!

Visit Some of The Best Guatemala Markets

5. Minerva Terminal Market (Mercado La Terminal Minerva)

Minerva Terminal Market is one of the biggest markets in Xela. Located in front of the bus terminal, chances are you will have to pass through this market to get to the terminal.

Words cannot describe the chaos and insanity I witnessed in Minerva Market. You can try to make sense of it all you want but it won’t work. It is messy, people are everywhere (sometimes cars), the whole market is like a maze and you are trapped inside.

Anything you want in this market, you will find it in the Minerva Market. The market does target local Guatemalans so you will see low prices and mostly produce.

I bought 15 avocados there for 3Q (less than 50 cents). Though a lot of them were rotten, it is just ridiculous how affordable Xela, or Guatemala in general, can be.

When visiting the Minerva Market, be careful with your belongings because pickpockets are common there, especially if you are the only foreigner in the entire market!

Location: Minerva Market
Hours: 5 AM – 6 PM

6. Democracy Market (Mercado La Democracia)

Democracy Market, or Mercado La Democracia in Spanish, is another hectic market in Xela. While the Minerva Market has a close resemblance to a traditional market with its stalls and tarps, the Democracy Market is quite the opposite.

Lined with baskets of fruits and vegetables on the side of a road (with cars), some of you might not even consider this a market. If chaos was for sale, you would find it for free in the Democracy market. It is definitely one of the best places to visit in Xela because it is just so shocking.

The Democracy Market is the best place to shop for fruits and vegetables. The freshness and the prices are some things that even the Minerva Market can’t beat.

Location: Mercado La Democracia
Hours: 8 AM – 5 PM (Guatemalan Time!)

7. Chichicastenango Market, The Biggest Outdoor Market in Central America

Chichicastenango Market is definitely one of the places you cannot miss in Guatemala. As the biggest outdoor market in Central America, you will find an endless amount of artisan crafts, Mayan souvenirs, traditional textiles, and much more.

Locals from all over Guatemala gather on Thursdays and Sundays in this mountain village to buy and sell their goods. Though it contains several vendors with Guatemalan souvenirs targeting tourists, the market is still dominated by local activities.

It is not uncommon to see a mother with her newborn baby wrapped behind her back with handcraft textiles. Not only is this a place to shop, but the Chichicastenango Market is a great place to just people watch.

Situated a few blocks from the market is the Chichicastenango cemetery, a colorful cemetery that is worth making a quick detour for!

There is tourist transport that will easily take you to Chichicastenango from Xela. However, save yourself the extra buck and do it yourself. It is a very straight forward journey even if you struggle with Spanish!

To get to Chichicastenango from Xela, head to Minerva Market Terminal and take a chicken bus (camionetta, not pollo bus) to Los Encuentros. The bus station is located in the rear of the Minerva Market.

Once you get off at Los Encuentros, you will see many different buses headed towards different places. Find the one to Chichicastenango and you are all set!

Remember to watch your stuff on the chicken bus!

8. Visit the Quetzaltenango Cathedral In Parque Central (Central Park)

In every city in Guatemala, there is always a famous church as the most iconic landmark. In Xela, it is the Quetzaltenango Cathedral in Parque Central (Central Park).

Located in touristy-friendly Zone 1 of Xela, this church is very easy to get to if you are staying in one of the few hostels in the area.

Called Catedral del Espiritu Santo de Quetzaltenango, this Catholic church was built by the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.

The church is by far the most impressive building in Quetzaltenango. You can see its well-preserved facade stand proudly in Central Park.

Admission Fee: Free
Hours:
9 AM – 12 PM Saturdays; Sundays Closed; 9 AM – 5 PM Mondays to Thursdays
Location:
Quetzaltenango Cathedral

9. Study in a Spanish School And Do A Guatemala Homestay!

Studying in a Spanish school is probably the most popular thing to do in Xela (Quetzaltenango). The city itself is known for its professional Spanish school that offers intensive programs for the backpackers to medical personnel.

But why should you learn Spanish in Xela? Having studied there for 1 month, I will tell you why I’ve selected Xela as opposed to the popular alternative, Antigua.

The Spanish classes in Guatemala, especially Xela, are some of the most affordable in the entire world. Not only are the classes cheap, but Guatemala Spanish is also known as one of the easiest types of Spanish to learn. There aren’t that many slangs, the tones are neutral, and the talking speak isn’t that fast.

But what made me decide on Xela instead of Guatemala is the “total immersion” programs in Xela. A lot of the locals in Antigua will speak English to you when they see that you are pale-skinned with blond hair.

In Xela, no one can speak English even if they want to. You are forced to speak Spanish every day at the restaurants, at the markets, and everywhere you go. It is a sink or swim scenario.

To top off the learning experience, you should definitely do a homestay in Xela! It is one of the best cultural-enriching experiences I had in Guatemala. Our “Guata-mama” made us some of the most delicious Guatemala cuisine (as well as hell-inducing spicy salsa). 

If you come to Xela, you have to try some of the Spanish Schools They have short-term programs as well as long-term ones!

10. Visit the Hot Springs Fuentes Georginas

Xela, at 2,330 meters above sea level, can be cold most of the time. To combat the coldness, visit the nearby Fuentes Georginas Hotsprings!

Though I did not go myself (no way am I taking my clothes off in the Xela cold), a lot of my friends went and said it was amazing.

The pools are situated in a nearby town called Zunil. It is possible to do-it-yourself but the prices come out to be around the same because you need to take a taxi from Zunil town all the way up to Fuentas Georginas Springs.

Surrounded by lush mountains, visitors can relax in their hot natural volcanic springs and admire the beautiful scenery. A lot of my friends did not find the main pool to be hot enough, but you can pay a little extra to access the hotter lower pools.

When you visit remember to bring warm clothes, your bathing suit, cash, and a combination lock to use their lockers. To use the lockers, you have to pay an extra fee.

Hours: 9 AM – 6 PM
Admission Fee: 60 Q for the main pool, an additional 25 Q for the hotter lower pools (At time of writing)
Location: Fuentes Georginas

11. Visit the Xela Cemetery (For Fun)!

Believe it or not. One of the best attractions in Xela (Quetzaltenango) is its cemetery! Though this might be strange and downright disrespectful in some cultures, the cemeteries are quite popular attractions in Guatemala, Mexico, and more countries.

The Xela cemetery is a wide area filled with various different types of tombstones. You will see traditional tombs with just a cross contrasted with remarkable mausoleums. Many of them are decorated really well (especially if it is around Day of the Dead, an important Guatemalan celebration) and it’s a strange feeling seeing such a photogenic graveyard.

With a beautiful volcano as the backdrop, it’s hard to not upload a photo on this beautiful scenery on Instagram.

Please be respectful when you visit. It is an active cemetery after all!

If possible, I recommend going with a tour guide as the cemetery is full of exciting history and interesting facts!

Location: Cementerio General
Admission Fee:
Free

12. Do Yoga at the Yoga House

Feeling a little tight after doing so much hiking in Guatemala? Or are you a yoga extraordinaire? Come take a yoga class at The Yoga House!

Featuring daily classes of various difficulty, visitors are bound to find something they like. The teachers are very professional and come from various international backgrounds. The owner and head instructor Kevin will also give you a good high-intensity-interval-training workout if you want!

My favorite part of The Yoga House is the close-knit community. Frequently, you will hear chatters and laughter from students and instructors in the hallway. It is a good place to work out, get a nice stretch, or even to make some friends!

For more information, please visit their official website!

13. Get Wet At the Xocomil Water Park

Though we have not personally been to Xocomil Water Park (Because we found out after we left Xela), a couple of my friends did and I will speak from their experiences.

Located an hour and a half away from Xela in the Retalhuleu Department, the Xocomil Water Park is the biggest and most-visited water amusement part in Guatemala. The park covers an area of 77,300 square meters and is themed after historic places in Guatemala, such as the Jaguar Temple in the Tikal National Park

The quality of this water park matches that of the United States, without only a fraction of the entrance fee. You can spend a day relaxing in the numerous pools and get adventurous and jump in the slides. 

If you are traveling Guatemala with kids, there are also kids-friendly pools such as the wave pools and baby pools for them to enjoy. 

To get to Xocomil, head over to the terminal in Minerva Market and look for a chicken bus that goes to San Martin Zapotitlan in the Retalhuleu Department. It is the perfect day trip from Xela and the perfect way to escape the cold weather in Xela

Location: IRTRA, Unnamed Road, Retalhuleu, Guatemala
Hours: 9 AM – 4:30 PM Thursdays To Sundays; 9 AM – 6 PM Mondays; Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays

14. Go Watch a Soccer (Football) Game

Xela is the home to some of the biggest soccer fanatics in the world. Their enthusiasm is just overwhelming and going to one of their games is such a good way to enjoy yourself and meet some locals.

Xela has its own soccer team called the Xelaju M.C. Their mascot is the Super Chiva (Super Female Goat). And if the fans had to pick between winning a match or living 5 years less, it would be a clear choice for them. 

Insider Tip: It is also one of the best ways to learn some profanities in Spanish.

They play at the Mario Camposeco Stadium and you can purchase tickets by going to the ticketing booth a day in advance!

Location: 14 Avenida, Quezaltenango, Guatemala

15. Go Thrift-Shopping at the Mega Paca!

Shopping at a thrift shop? That’s fun. Shopping at a thrift shop in Guatemala? That’s even better.

Xela is filled with huge thrift shops and the most notable one is called Mega Paca. If you have the patience, you can spend an entire day here going up and down the aisle hunting for treasures.

Most of these clothes are leftover clothes from thrift shops in America. If no one buys them in the thrift shops in America for a long time, they get packaged and sent to Guatemala!

You can find lots of good brands here such as Levi’s, J. Crews, and much more. If you are into denim jackets like I am, you will find lots of antique denim jackets!

Location: 7a Calle 29-60, Quezaltenango, Guatemala
Hours: 8 AM – 8 PM

Where to Stay in Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala

Best Hostel in Xela – Casa Seibel

Casa Seibel is a beautiful and cozy hostel located in the touristy part of Xela. They have shared rooms with single beds so no more climbing up ladders in the middle of the night. Their showers are hot, which can be hard to find in Xela sometimes. My favorite part is the sunny courtyards that make the perfect place to relax after a busy day in Xela!

If you want more of a party vibe, the nearby Casa Kiwi is the perfect place to stay in Xela!

Click here for more details!

Best Airbnb In Xela – Beautiful Historic House in Xela

Where To Stay Quetzaltenango Guatemala
Where to Stay In Xela Guatemala

(Images Courtesy of Airbnb)

Whether you are traveling as a group, a couple, or solo, you cannot go wrong with staying at this cozy Xela Airbnb.

Featuring a total of 4-bedroom and 3.5 baths, a total of 9 guests can comfortably enjoy its amenities such as a fully equipped kitchen, a spacious living area, and two interior gardens! Here guests will find the comfort and luxury that is rather rare for Xela.

This Airbnb is located in Democracia next to the Democracia Market, so guests can experience the local culture right on their doorstep!

Click here for more info!

LATAM Hotel Plaza Pradera is one of the most luxurious hotels in Xela. This is the place celebrities and soccer players stay when they come to Xela! Guests can enjoy a panoramic view of Xela on their gorgeous rooftop swimming pool. The hotel also has a fitness center and an on-site restaurant!

Click here for more details!

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I hope this guide answers your question on “What to do in Xela Guatemala”. Xela has a special place in my heart and I hope you enjoy this authentic city as much as I did!

Questions? Leave a comment below!

Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links. That means if you book or make a purchase through the links, we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! The money will help run this site! Thank you 🙂

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The ULTIMATE Guatemala Bucket List: 17 Top Things to Do in Guatemala

The ULTIMATE Guatemala Bucket List: 17 Top Things to Do in Guatemala

Guatemala, one of the least-visited tourist destinations in the world, is filled with wonders from the rainforest to the mountains. As a result, many of the best things to do in Guatemala are still unknown to travelers.

Honestly, if I haven’t spent 2 months backpacking Guatemala. I wouldn’t be able to discover Guatemala’s true wonder and beauty.

But now after my trip, I can say I have seen a good part of Guatemala and I am ready to share with the world some of the best places to visit in Guatemala.

However, you don’t have to spend 3 months as I did. With this list, you will be able to see most of the places in a 2-week Guatemala itinerary.

Our bucket list will tell you what to do in Guatemala and things to see on your Guatemala visit! 

What To Do In Guatemala: Best Guatemala Attractions

Best Things To Do In Guatemala

1. Hike Volcano Acatenango and Watch Volcano Fuego Erupt

Want to see an active volcano erupt and be alive to tell your friends about it? Then you must come to Guatemala. Hiking Volcano Acatenango is one of the top Guatemala tourist attractions because you get to see the nearby Volcano Fuego erupt.

Not only do you get to see it erupt, but you also camp a few kilometers away from it and hear it erupt every 30 minutes throughout the night. It is one of the most surreal experiences I have ever had while traveling.

If seeing a volcano erupt is on your bucket list, then you must visit Volcano Acatenango in Antigua.

But before you go, find all the information you need for the Volcano Acatenango hike! 

2. Admire the Guatemala Landscape at Cerro de La Cruz

Cerro de La Cruz is the most famous viewpoint in Antigua Guatemala. On a good sunny day, you should be able to see Volcano Agua majestically overlooking the entire city (we didn’t get lucky, you can’t see it in the photo).

And on a really good day, you should see Volcano Acatenango and Fuego as well.

Don’t miss Cerro de La Cruz, it is a good way to get to know the city of Antigua when you first arrive!

3. Visit a Cemetery!! (For Fun)

Did you know cemeteries are big attractions in Guatemala? Neither did we. Apparently, Guatemala celebrates death similar to the way Mexico does. This custom can be easily seen during important events such as the Day of the Dead.

They believe that death is a part of the cycle of life and it should be celebrated as well as mourned. As a result, many of these cemeteries, especially the ones in Chichicastenango and Quetzaltenango (Xela), are well decorated.

When I visited my first cemetery in Guatemala, I thought the tombstones were statues or some uniquely designed buildings. Never did I think they were actual graves.

To this day, this huge difference in culture between Guatemala and the western world surprises me.

4. Hike Indian Nose at Sunrise

If you are into watching epic sunrises on top of gorgeous mountains, hiking Indian Nose is a must-do in Guatemala. Located in Lake Atitlan, Indian Nose is one of the best hikes in Guatemala.

At the beginning of your sunrise hike, you are in complete darkness. Illuminated by nothing but the moon and your phone’s flashlight, you cautiously make it up to the top of the Indian Nose.

One by one, the volcanoes of Guatemala are lit up: San Pedro, Agua, Acatenango, Pacaya, and so on. It was such a surreal experience and I suggest you don’t miss it!

In fact, we liked it so much that we think it is the best hike to do in Lake Atitlan.

5. Relax at Jorge’s Rope Swing

We didn’t know of Jorge’s Rope Swing when we first arrived at the island of Flores. We were exploring the town of Flores and since it isn’t so big, we were quickly running out of things to do in Flores.

Luckily for us, we met a local that told us about Jorge’s Rope Swing. Being skeptical at first because we were in Guatemala and usually recommendations from locals go 50/50. 50 percent good and 50 percent a scam.

We are so glad we listened to him because Jorge’s Rope Swing became one of our favorite places to visit in Guatemala.

It is a place with rope swings, a platform to jump into the lake from, hammocks, places where you can relax, eat and drink, or just swim. Jorge’s Rope Swing has an activity for everyone!

Don’t miss Jorge’s Rope Swing when you are in Flores!

6. Hike Volcano Santa Maria (3800m) and See Volcano Santiaguito Erupt

Santa Maria is one of the 37 volcanoes in Guatemala, with some of them being active (such as Volcano Fuego). Luckily, Santa Maria is not one of the volcanoes that is active. However, if you climb volcano Santa Maria, you will be able to see the nearby Volcano Santiaguito, an active volcano that spews out smoke and lava daily.

The timing for Santiaguito to erupt is quite sporadic. We waited 2 hours at the top just to see it erupt but it didn’t. If you really want to see a volcano erupt, then you should definitely hike Volcano Acatenango (No.1 on the list).

Though there’s a possibility you won’t see Volcano Santiaguito n action, the hike to the top of Santa Maria is rewarding enough to warrant its place on this list. Best thing? You can do it all by hike Volcano Santa Maria by yourself for less than 1 USD.

7. Roast Marshmallows With Lava at Volcano Pacaya

Want to make smores to reminisce the good old summer days? Well, you can do that in Guatemala on Volcano Pacaya!

On a tour to hike volcano Pacaya, you will be able to roast your marshmallow using the volcanoes lava! How crazy is that?! Don’t worry it is nothing dangerous and your kids or clumsy friends won’t fall into lava or anything. The lava is underground and there are tiny holes on the ground where you can stick your marshmallow through to roast it!

Roast marshmallows with lava from a volcano? Bucket list check!

Secure your spot with one of our recommended tours down below:

8. Take Spanish Classes at One of the Best Places in the World

If you are into cultural exchange and learning a new language, make sure you stop by Guatemala’s second-biggest city, Quetzaltenango (or Xela). Xela is one of the best places in the world to learn Spanish. Want to know why?

1. The schools offer 1-on-1 classes at a very low price.

2. The learning method in Xela is “total immersion“, meaning not only will you take classes every day, but you will also have to use what you learn every day at the supermarket, at the restaurants, and more. None of the locals speak English.

3. Homestay options are offered at an extremely affordable price. Often times, the homestay option includes 3 meals a day and your own private room for a fraction of the cost of the hotels and hotels.

Under those circumstances, it is not surprising that you learn Spanish much quicker than anywhere else. It is also a good way to travel slow and get to know Guatemala culture.

Find out which Spanish schools are the best in Quetzaltenango (Xela).

9. Explore the Ruins in the City of Antigua

The city of Antigua has been labeled as a UNESCO Heritage Site due to the amount of cathedral, monasteries, and other important monuments. However, many of those are in ruins now because of the many devastating earthquakes that have happened here, especially the 1773 Guatemala earthquake.

In fact, Antigua used to be the capital of Guatemala. But after all those earthquakes, the capital was moved to present-day Guatemala City.

Antigua was actually abandoned after the 1773 Guatemala earthquake because the damage was too overwhelming. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that development began again.

As a result, many of the buildings you see in Antigua are photographs and memories of the past, especially the many ruins you will be able to see in Antigua. 

Top Places to Visit in Guatemala

1. Yaxha Ruins

Yaxha Ruins are located in the Peten region of Guatemala near the city of Flores. Yaxha is the third largest ruin in Guatemala, just after Tikal Ruins and El Mirador.

What is so special about the Yaxha ruins beside the massive temples is the location. Yaxha is located off the beaten path, meaning it barely gets any tourism. It is usually outshined by its neighbor Tikal ruins.

As a result of the lesser foot traffic, wildlife is abundant in this area. Tarantulas, different types of monkeys, birds, they are everywhere.

Yaxha is definitely a hidden attraction in Guatemala and something you cannot miss when you come to visit.

Secure a spot at Yaxha ruins with one of our recommended tours down below:

2. Hobbitenango, a “The-Hobbit”-Themed Eco-Lodge

Hobbitenango, or “Land of the Hobbis”, is actually what it sounds like, a “Hobbit”-themed eco-lodge up in the mountains of Guatemala.  If you have ever been to Hobbiton in New Zealand, this is something similar, but without the heavy price tag. 

Easily accessible from the popular city of Antigua, you can go to Hobbitenango as a day-trip or stay overnight in one of their “hobbit holes”

Their motto is “disconnect to connect”, so come spend some time here away from the crazy city life. Take a walk on one of the nature trails with your loved ones, take some cute photos at one of the hobbit holes, or play some games with your family and kids!

Read our experience at Hobbitenango before going!

3. Chichicastenango, Guatemala’s Biggest Market

Looking for some of the best hand-crafted items or souvenirs in Guatemala? Come to Chichicastenango!

Chichicastenango is the biggest outdoor market in Guatemala and it is filled with everything you need and everything you didn’t know you need. Figurines, handicrafts, authentic Mayan food, juices, smoothies, Mayan calendars, anything you could imagine.

The market is the biggest on Sundays but it is definitely big enough on the other days.

Chichicastenango is a good day trip from the cities of Quetzaltenango, Lake Atitlan, or Antigua.

Don’t forget to check out the cemetery while you are in Chichicastenango. It is one of the most culturally-shocking things to do in Guatemala!

4. Tikal Ruins, Once the Mightiest City of Maya Civilization

Tikal Mayan ruins, one of the most magnificent ruins in all of Mesoamerica, is located in the heart of the rainforest in the Peten region.

If you have no idea why Tikal was so important, let me tell you. Tikal used to be the capital of the Mayan civilization and the most powerful kingdoms of the Maya. As a result, the area of Tikal is enormous and it would take you days just to visit its many temples.

If you thought Chichen Itza in Mexico was amazing, Tikal will surpass all your expectations.

As one of the best tourist attractions in Guatemala, any trip to Guatemala would not be complete without a visit to the Tikal ruins.

And if you are adventurous and want to camp in Tikal National Park and watch the sunrise the next morning, make sure you read this guide.

5. Flores Island 

Flores is a beautiful island located in the Peten region of Guatemala. It is completely surrounded by water on all 4 sides, with only one tiny bridge that connects it to the mainland.

Cross that bridge and you will immediately notice the charm of Flores. Colorfully painted houses, rooftop bars and restaurants with views of the lake, and the vibes are much more cheerful.

It is definitely a perfect relaxing spot for your Guatemala vacation. Make sure you check out some of these top things to do in Flores Guatemala while you are there.

6. Semuc Champey’s Natural Pools and Cave

Semuc Champey is one of the most beautiful natural wonders in Guatemala. Located near Lanquin, many travelers take the 8-hour ride from Flores or Antigua to see this beauty with their own eyes.

Semuc Champey is a series of turquoise natural pools that you can swim in.

There is no better way to escape the Guatemala heat than jumping into one of those refreshing pools.

After you are done with the pools, make sure you check out the cave at the entrance! The only way you can go in is with a guide and the only way you can explore this cave is with a candle!

It was definitely a little terrifying at times but you cannot miss this must-visit place in Guatemala! 

7. Lake Atitlan and The Surrounding Towns and Villages

Lake Atitlan is another place you have to see in Guatemala. Located close to the airport in Guatemala City, Lake Atitlan is very accessible and offers many places to stay.

Lake Atitlan is made up of 11 small towns and villages around the lake. The most notable ones are San Pedro, San Macros, San Juan, Santa Cruz, and Panajachel.

Each town offers a little bit of something different. For example, San Macros is a hippie town, San Pedro is known for its parties, and San Juan has a big indigenous population.

Come here, explore the little towns nearby, or just relax on the lake. Either way, you will fall in love with Lake Atitlan.

8. The Iconic Santa Catalina Arch In Antigua Guatemala

Santa Catalina Arch is the most distinguishable landmark in all of Antigua. It is the place where foreigners and locals alike come to hang out, take pictures and have a good time.

The history of the arch is long so I don’t want to bore you. If you want to read it, you can find it here.

Santa Catalina Arch is one of the remaining notable structures of Antigua after the several earthquakes that have occurred.

Visiting the Santa Catalina Arch is one of the top things to do in Antigua.

Packing List For Guatemala Visit

In Guatemala, you will encounter anything from humid rainforests to dry and cold mountains. Hence, it is important that you have a specific packing list for your Guatemala adventure.

Check out our comprehensive Guatemala packing list!

After 2 months in Guatemala, here are some things I would not go to Guatemala without:

1.  Sunscreen. Do you want to look like a big red tomato? I didn’t think so! Pack some for your Guatemala trip!

2. Insect Repellent with Picaridin. Insects and mosquitos are rampant in the rainforest area of Guatemala. Pack some or get bitten. Your choice.

3. Filtration Water Bottle. One of my favorite traveler items. It saves money, is good for the environment, and you don’t have to carry water everywhere you go. Definitely a must-have item.

4. Gloves and hat. Guatemala is very warm in general, but if you plan on doing the volcano Acatenango hike or going to Quetzaltenango, you should pack some gloves and hats.

5. Rain poncho or raincoat. This should be self-explanatory. Raincoast or rain ponchos are literally lifesavers especially when you are out on a hike.

6. Warm Clothing! This is very important because you will be at high altitudes at times. Especially for your hike on volcano Acatenango, you will need a lot of warm clothing for that.  

Safety in Guatemala

When I first started traveling in Guatemala, I was deathly scared about the safety of Guatemala. All the rumors about pickpockets and armed robbery did nothing but made me anxious.

But after spending 2 months in Guatemala, I can say Guatemala is definitely safer than most people think.

The days of armed robberies are mostly gone in tourist areas, but can still happen in cities like Quetzaltenango and Guatemala City.

However, there are a few things you still need to be aware of:

1. Hikes in Lake Atitlan (San Pedro volcano and Indian Nose), as well as the roads that connect the villages, are filled with bandits. Bandits are locals that will exhort you for money by saying there is an entrance fee to the hike (which there isn’t) or telling you something bad might happen if you don’t give them money. Go with a tour guide.

2. Public transportation, also known as “chicken buses” are commonplace for theft. Many travelers have reported having their things stolen while riding the chicken buses. Watch your things carefully while riding it.

3.  Avoid going out late at night and walking in the streets by yourself, especially if you are under the influence.

A common question I get is “is Antigua Guatemala safe or dangerous?” The short answer. Yes, it is safe. Here you can read more about the safety of Antigua Guatemala.

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These 17 top things to do in Guatemala will definitely sweep you off your feet. What do you think about this Guatemala bucket list? Let us know in the comments!

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Where To Stay In Lake Atitlan, Guatemala: Best Hotels and Villages

Where To Stay In Lake Atitlan, Guatemala: Best Hotels and Villages

Not sure where to stay in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala?

To be honest, I am not surprised.

With more than 10 stunning villages in Lake Atitlan, choosing the perfect place to stay at Lake Atitlan is no easy task. After spending more than 2 months backpacking Guatemala, I can tell you that picking the wrong place to stay in Lake Atitlan will affect your Guatemala trip!

That is why I am here to help.

Below you will find our recommended hostels and hotels in Lake Atitlan and their location. Then we will also discuss the different Lake Atitlan villages and the pros and cons of staying in them!

Enjoy!

Want A Quick Tip on Where To Stay In Lake Atitlan?

There are many different villages in Lake Atitlan with their own pros and cons. The three most popular villages/towns are San Pedro, San Marcos, and Panajachel.

If this is your first time visiting Lake Atitlan, you cannot go wrong with choosing any of the three places to stay. These villages are great bases for exploring some of the best things to do in Lake Atitlan.

Here are some quick recommendations on the best places to stay in Lake Atitlan.

Best Hostel in Lake Atitlan – Selina Atitlan

Check prices here!

Best Airbnb in Lake Atitlan – Cabin w/ Terrace

Check prices here!

Where To Stay In Lake Atitlan Airbnb 1

Best Cheap Hotel in Lake Atitlan – El Delfin Hotel

Check prices here!

Best Luxury Hotel in Lake Atitlan – Hotel Atitlan

Check prices here!

Best Airbnbs In Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Where To Stay In Lake Atitlan Airbnb 1
Lake Atitlan Airbnb 1

(Images Courtesy of Airbnb)

If you are looking for a romantic getaway in Lake Atitlan, consider this cabin. Featuring a beautiful terrace with a hot tub, guests can admire the breathtaking views as they soak their aching limbs after a day of exploring Lake Atitlan.

This Lake Atitlan Airbnb is located 10 minutes away from Panajachel, the biggest village in Lake Atitlan. Guests have their own personal paradise while still being close to some of the best restaurants in the area.

Besides the outstanding outdoor features, the interior is by no means lackluster. Guests that want to wind down the day can enjoy the 43″ Smart TV or go for a relaxing rain shower!

Click here for more details!

Lake Atitlan Hotel
Hotels In Lake Atitlan

(Images Courtesy of Airbnb)

If the ideal place to stay in Lake Atitlan involves some of the most breathtaking views, then the Glass Hous is perfect for you. Like the name suggests, this accommodation’s facades are mostly made out of glass, offering guests excellent views right from their bed.

Guests also have access to a private dock, where they can catch boats to explore the nearby Lake Atitlan villages. The dock has WiFi coverage, so guests can just relax, read a book, listen to music, or suntan.

Guests can also go directly in the lake for a swim from the dock, or use the SUP and have some fun in the lake!

Click here for more details!

Lake Atitlan Hotels Guatemala
Best Airbnb in Lake Atitlan Guatemala

(Images Courtesy of Airbnb)

One of the most liked Airbnb on Instagram in 2020, Lakeview Lodge is simply a paradise. Its most outstanding feature is the gorgeous front terrace that offers a 180-degree view of Lake Atitlan. The terrace has a comfy lounge chair and a hammock, perfect for total relaxation. It is also an excellent place to sun tan.

Inside the Airbnb are more incredible amenities such as a fully-equipped modern kitchen, triple-filtered water purification system, and a king size orthopedic mattress for a dreamy rest. There is also a garden that offers fresh avocados, bananas, dragon fruits, mangos or coffee depending on the season.

Perched over a hill, this Lake Atitlan offers unparalleled privacy, making it a perfect romantic getaway!

Click here for more information!

Best Hostels In Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Free Cerveza, or “Free Beer” in English, is one of the most famous hostels in Lake Atitlan. Why? Because this fun glamping hostel offers free beer for an hour every evening. Well, that is only one of the many reasons why I consider Free Cerveza the best hostel in Lake Atitlan.

Located on the waterfront of the small Lake Atitlan village called Santa Cruz, guests can enjoy what Lake Atitlan is known for: Gorgeous scenic views, swimming in the lake, and just relaxing properly.

The hostel offers shared glamps, dormitory beds in the treehouse, and a private lakehouse that juts into the lake. If you are on your honeymoon or want somewhere romantic, the lakehouse is the perfect setting.

The hostel also has plenty of activities if you don’t want to just chill out on their private deck. Yoga, outdoor gym, stand-up paddleboarding, kayak, and even a sauna room are all available at Free Cerveza hostel!

Location: Santa Cruz

Click here for more info!

Selina Atitlan is an affordable hostel with the comfort and amenities of a luxury hotel. A huge pool area with sun loungers for guests to relax? Check. An amazing on-site restaurant featuring healthy and/or local cuisine? Check. Comfortable beds in spacious dormitory rooms? Check! The list of pros for Selina Atitlan goes on and on.

What I liked the most about the Selina hostel in Lake Atitlan were its very relaxing vibes. It is the proper place to sit by the pool and do nothing all day. However, if you do prefer to be more active, the hostel offers activities and tours for guests! 

Located in Panajachel, it is also very easy to get to and has many amazing shops and restaurants in its close vicinity.

Location: Panajachel

Click here for more details!

Sababa Resort is a newly open resort with dormitory-styled rooms in San Pedro. Featuring resort-like facilities such as a beautiful swimming pool and dainty decor, it is surprising how affordable this hostel in San Pedro is.

The private rooms are gorgeous and many of them face the beautiful lake. The dormitory rooms are even better in my opinion. Spacious, clean, and amazingly detailed with wood, the rooms speak luxury.

There is no better way to get your day started with their buffet-style breakfast!

Location: San Pedro

Check the price here!

Best Budget Hotels In Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Lush Atitlan is the place to stay in Lake Atitlan if you want to relax in some of the most calming environments. Located in the hippie town of San Marcos, the accommodation is filled with greenery such as gardens and jungles.

If your perfect day consists of waking up to a gorgeous sunrise and views of the charming Lake Atitlan, then spending the rest of your days exploring San Marcos and relaxing at your hotel, Lush Atitlan is the place for you.

Location: San Marcos

Click here for more details!

El Delfin Hotel y Restaurante is one of the best affordable hotels in San Pedro, Lake Atitlan. Though I did not stay there personally, I have heard good things from the travelers that have stayed there. The hotel features an on-site restaurant and a bar, as well as a well-equipped fitness center.

San Pedro is a backpacker town known for its crazy nightlife and noise. However, the location of this hotel is just far enough from the hecticness so you can get a good night’s rest!

Location: San Pedro

Check the price here!

Located in Panajachel, Hotel Utz Jay is one of the highly-rated cheap hotels in Panajachel, Lake Atitlan. Only one block away from the main street, the hotel is situated close to all the action in town.

If you want to take it slow and relax, the hotel grounds are filled with amazing native species of plants, cute decor, and lots of chilling-out spots.

Don’t miss this economical hotel when you are in Panajachel!

Location: Panajachel

Click here for more info!

Best Luxury Hotels In Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

If you are looking for a dreamy location to kick it and relax, consider Hotel y Cafe La Casa Del Mundo. Located on the side of the cliff, the views of this hotel is beyond your imagination. The hotel grounds feature many hammocks, chairs, and other cozy spots where you can just relax and read a book.

Guests can also go swimming at the lake or rent kayaks or paddleboards.

Located in a small town called Jaibalito, there really isn’t much in town. However, the hotel provides breakfast in the morning (at a cost) and a family-style dinner! It is the perfect way to meet other guests in the hotel and socialize!

Location: Jaibalito

Check here for more details!

If you want a place in Lake Atitlan to treat you like kings and queens, stay at Hotel Atitlan. Featuring a swimming pool and a jacuzzi, your legs will thank you after a day of hiking and exploring in Lake Atitlan.

As you sit in the pool to relax, you will be mesmerized by the stunning landscapes Guatemala is known for. Volcanoes after volcanoes, villages after villages, there is no better way to forget about all the worries in the world!

If you are not convinced of the quality of this hotel, check out their meticulous gardening work. It looks like a Japanese garden on the cover of a magazine.

The hotel is also a bird sanctuary of many exotic species!

Location: Panajachel

Check the recent price here!

If you haven’t been convinced by any of the hotels above, there is one more hotel that will blow your mind.

Porta Hotel Del Lago is a luxury hotel located in Panajachel. Featuring a gigantic swimming pool, a jacuzzi, and plenty of places to sunbathe, guests can properly relax in this high-end hotel.

The spacious rooms are clean and offer unparalleled views of Lake Atitlan. Nothing is like waking up to the sun rising over the beautiful volcanoes that surround Lake Atitlan.

Make sure you consider this hotel when you visit Lake Atitlan!

Click here for more info!

Best Villages/Places To Stay In Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

1. Panajachel

Panajachel is one of the most, if not, the busiest town in Lake Atitlan. With city-like facilities such as diverse accommodations, great food options, and a good mix between locals and tourists, it is not difficult to see why it is so popular.

If you are coming to Lake Atitlan from Antigua, chances are you will be dropped off in Panajachel or San Pedro because these two towns are the most connected ones in Lake Atitlan.

In general, Panajachel is great for more comfort-seeking travelers that are willing to pay a little more.

PROS: A variety of accommodations and restaurants. Lots of handicrafts and souvenir shops. Easily accessible.

CONS: Far from some of the best attractions in Lake Atitlan such as the Indian Nose Hike and San Pedro Volcano. Water is not the cleanest for swimming due to all the activities. 

2. San Pedro

Filled with affordable hostels, good street foods, and popping nightlife, San Pedro is a backpacker’s paradise. If you are solo backpacking Guatemala, you will meet many other travelers and have nights you won’t forget (unless you drink too much).

You are also located close to some of the best activities to do in Lake Atitlan. You will find plenty of tour companies that offer you tours and transportation around the lake. The water is cleaner (though not the cleanest) compared to Panajachel.

PROS: Very lively with great nightlife and trendy cafes. Affordable hotels and hostels. Good accessibility.

CONS: Can be noisy at night. Not a lot of locals unless you venture deeper inland. 

3. Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is one of the most relaxing places to stay in Lake Atitlan. Most of the hostels and hotels in Santa Cruz are located right next to the water so guests can swim and sunbathe under the Guatemala sun. 

The water in Santa Cruz is considerably cleaner than both San Pedro and Panajachel, making it a great option for any travelers looking to enjoy the refreshing waters of Lake Atitlan.

Many accommodations will have stand-up paddleboards and kayaks for anyone looking to do a little more than just swimming in the lake.

PROS: Affordable accommodations situated on the waterfront. Lots of water-related activities. Very quiet (except for Free Cerveza Hostel). 

CONS: Small town with not much going on. The town is quite steep to walk around. Could use a few more stores in town. Only accessible by water boat on the lake.

4. San Marcos

San Marcos has the nickname of hippie’s haven and it is easy to see why. Along the narrow streets of San Marcos, you will see various handicrafts stores, people rocking dreadlocks, and health-oriented restaurants.

This Lake Atitlan village itself is quite small so all of it can be seen in one day. But what ultimately draws a lot of travelers to stay in San Marcos is the magical and relaxing vibes of the town.

San Marcos is also the home of Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve, which is arguable the best place to go swimming in Lake Atitlan. Adrenaline junkies will also fancy this place as there is a 10+ meter high platform where you can safely jump into the water.

PROS: Best place for swimming. Relaxing hippie vibes. Great healthy food options. Lots of yoga studios and retreats around.

CONS: Might be too “hippie” for some travelers. The town is quite small. Hard to reach by land so generally only accessible by boat.

5. Other Notable Villages to Stay In Lake Atitlan

With a total of 11 villages in Lake Atitlan, there are many worthy places to stay. The ones we have mentioned above are the most tourist-friendly and will most likely be able to cater to your needs.

Other notable villages to stay in Lake Atitlan are San Juan, Jaibalito, Santiago, and San Lucas Toliman. If you enjoy the utmost peace and quiet, you might want to consider these towns. Otherwise, a day-trip to these towns should be enough to see their wonders.

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Falling in love with Lake Atitlan is inevitable, especially if you find the right town in Atitlan for you.

Hopefully, this guide has given you some insights on where to stay in Lake Atitlan.

Any questions? Leave a comment!

Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links. That means if you book through the links, we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! The money will help run this site! Thank you 🙂

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3 BEST Spanish Schools to Study in Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala

3 BEST Spanish Schools to Study in Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala

Quetzaltenango, or Xela for short, is the second-largest city in Guatemala. However, you might have never heard about it.

It doesn’t get the popularity that Antigua, Flores, or even Lake Atitlan gets.

But this is for good reason, there is barely anything worth to do there. Yes, there are some hikes such as Tajumulco and Santa Maria, as well as hot springs called Fuente Georginas, but those are not what I consider must-see destinations in Guatemala.

And it is exactly for that reason why studying Spanish in Xela is so good.

Why Study Spanish in Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala?

The main reason why people come to Xela (Quetzaltenango) is for Spanish schools. In fact, we would say the best thing to do in Xela is to learn Spanish.

The Spanish schools in Xela are cheap and the Spanish being taught here is a very neutral Spanish. That means the words are more common and the Spanish accent is easier to understand. On top of that, the environment of Xela promotes Spanish-learning unlike no other city.

Xela, even though the second biggest city in all of Guatemala, is populated with mostly only-Spanish speakers. That means when you have to go to the market and buy some oranges, you have to say it in Spanish or else the vendors won’t understand you.

The environment in Xela forces you to speak in Spanish. You sink or you swim. That is the best way to learn.

You are pushed out of your comfort zone every day and that is when you learn best.

Additionally, the schools create an amazing community for the students. The Spanish schools have daily activities that you can participate in (some free, some not) and meet other students very easily.

Activities include games that facilitate learning or field trips to nearby towns and attractions to learn more about the culture of Guatemala. Did I mention all classes are 1-on-1?

3 Best Spanish Schools in Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala

Sol Latino Spanish School

If you are looking for a cheaper school that still has quality teachers and a decent community with scheduled activities, then Sol Latino is your best bet.

Sol Latino is the cheapest of the three schools listed that I would recommend.

The price for 25 hours of 1-on-1 Spanish classes a week was at 980Q at the time of my visit (November 2018).

They also offer various after school activities such as dinner nights, field trips, and much more as well.

The one thing I didn’t like about Sol Latino was that the learning environment was very rustic. It was pretty much just two plastic chairs and a plastic table for learning. In addition to that, all of them were outdoors. And in case you were unaware, Xela can be really cold due to the altitude (2330 m).

If you can withstand that, then I would recommend Sol Latino to you. Sol Latino also offers homestay options for students that are interested in staying with a Guatemalan family for a decent price.

Proyecto Linguistico Quetzalteco (PLQ)

Proyecto Linguistico Quetzalteco or PLQ for short is probably one of the most expensive Spanish schools in Xela.

At a price of 1400Q for 25 hours of classes a week, it is almost 50% more the price of Sol Latino.

However, this price is well justified. PLQ is probably one of the best schools in all of Xela. Their professors are extremely qualified and experienced in teaching. Every Spanish teacher in PLQ has the training and a certification in teaching Spanish as the second language. 

PLQ also offers very specific courses. For example, if you are interested in Legal Spanish, Spanish for social work, or other categories, chances are, they have a course specifically for you.

Activities are also part of the learning process at PLQ. Similar to other schools, PLQ has extra activities that enhance your learning such as field trips, games, and other group activities. PLQ activities tend to be more on the cultural and social side of things.

PLQ offers a homestay option for an additional 500Q per week. To learn more about what a homestay in Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala is like, scroll down to the section about my experience doing a homestay in Xela. 

Utatlan Spanish School

Utatlan Spanish School is somewhere between Sol Latino and PLQ. It is centrally located next to the main park and in a nice antique building full of architectural style.

The price for 25 hours of 1-on-1 classes per week? 1080Q as of November 2018. 

It is not as cheap as Sol Latino but it is definitely much cheaper than PLQ. Compared to Sol Latino, Utatlan’s location was much closer to the hostels. The environment for learning was comfortable (not outdoors) and we were allowed to have classes on the balcony of the building if we desired. (The view is amazing up there)

The activities were very nice and organized similar to the other schools. But what I like the most about this school was the environment, everyone was friendly and warm. It felt like a family. It is the reason why I ultimately chose Utatlan Spanish school over the others.

Homestay options with a Guatemalan family are also available for an additional 400Q per week. You can read about my homestay experience at Xela, Guatemala below!

My Experience At Utatlan Spanish School

Registration at Utatlan Spanish School

I visited Utatlan Spanish school on my first day in Xela. I was immediately met with a very friendly administration who spoke perfect English. I told them I wanted a more travel-based Spanish program and only had three weeks in Xela.

Within the next 15 minutes, I was taking a Spanish placement test, getting my hours for my Spanish classes ready for the NEXT day, and being assigned a teacher.

The whole process was very easy and they answered all the questions I had.

The Classes and Teachers at Utatlan Spanish School

My first week of Spanish at Utatlan was absolutely exhausting but rewarding. Within the first week, I felt much more confident going into the markets and stores of Xela, where not a single person spoke English.

My teacher Vinny spoke English but insisted that we converse only in Spanish unless it is necessary to use English.

If you ever studied 5 hours of a language straight, you will know how tiring it is.

Vinny saw that I was struggling with learning just from the book for hours. So to combat the repetitiveness of learning from the book over and over and day after day, we played Spanish Scrabble to enhance my Spanish vocabulary.

I lost of course.

Sometimes, we would have classes outside in cafes where I would order my own food and he would correct my mistakes. It felt much more practical than learning just from a book. 

We would go to the market in Xela and he would have me buy things and just teach me about the culture of Guatemala. It was a complete immersion program.

I started feeling more and more confident in these real-life situations. Buying food from the hectic markets in Xela and telling them how many I want and bargaining for the price all felt so natural.

After my first week of 25 hours of classes, 5 hours a day, I was completed exhausted. Studying for 5 hours straight was not efficient for me, I would lose focus and only retain a fraction of the information.

I asked the administration at Utatlan if I could switch my schedule to 4 hours a day for 5 days and a 5-hour day for the week. In turn, that would add up to the 25-hour week of classes I would be taking. I highly doubted that they would accommodate such a difficult request but they did and were so flexible. This is one of the things I really liked about Utatlan.

In a short period of time, my teacher became one of my best friends. He would invite me to play and watch soccer matches live (great place to learn bad words) and take me out to all these famous food places in Xela.

He was my best friend, my teacher, and also my guide for the city.

It was a total immersion type of learning. It wasn’t the type where you memorize grammar, after grammar, vocabulary, after vocabulary. It was the type where you learn and then you apply what you have learnt in an environment that promotes growth.

By the end of the second week, I wanted to take my learning up to the next level by staying with a Guatemalan host family. This was easily arranged by Utatlan. I advised them of this a few days before the start of the new school cycle and they were able to accommodate me.

Doing a Homestay at Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala

I strongly believe that living with a Guatemalan host family along with weekly classes is the best way to learn. And in Utatlan Spanish school, you can do it for a cheap price of around ~400Q.

With a homestay, they provide you with 3 authentic homemade Guatemalan meals a day, your own private room, and hot showers (some of the showers in Xela can be cold or lukewarm). It is a much cheaper option than staying in a hostel around the area!

I thoroughly enjoyed my week of homestay in Xela. It was a quiet and peaceful environment where you could concentrate on your studies. The food was extremely authentic but at times basic. There were many times I felt hungry after a meal.

The best part was definitely having more opportunities to use my newly-learned Spanish in a different environment. You can use your Spanish in a market, at a restaurant, but you won’t get to use your Spanish in a home environment unless you do a homestay.

Where to Stay While Studying Spanish in Xela

If you are not interested or feel like you need more of a Spanish background before you do a homestay, there are many options that I would recommend.

These are my personal recommendations of places that I have stayed at where many of the guests are also learning Spanish.

Kasa Kiwi Travel Agency & Hostel is a beautiful place with friendly staff. It has both shared dormitories and private rooms, and a kitchen for guests to use. It has an amazing roof terrace where you can absorb the Xela sun in the daytime (and study Spanish) and have a drink at the bar there at night.

It is an amazing place if you want to meet some local Guatemalans from the area. However, the music could disturb your sleep, especially on the weekends.

Find out more about Kasa Kiwi Travel Agency & Hostel!

Casa Seibel is located half a block away from Kasa Kiwi, just enough so the music doesn’t disturb you at night. In exchange for a bar in Kasa Kiwi, Casa Seibel has a beautiful backyard where you can study or meet other travelers.

They offer shared dormitories, private rooms, and a kitchen for all the guests, similar to Kasa Kiwi. The kitchen at Casa Seibel is a lot better than the one in Kasa Kiwi though.

If you are looking for a more chilled and relaxed environment, this is the hostel for you.

Learn more about Casa Seibel!!

Where To Stay Quetzaltenango Guatemala
Where to Stay In Xela Guatemala

(Images Courtesy of Airbnb)

Though we highly suggest you to stay in a hostel or a homestay to practice your Spanish, staying in an Airbnb is great if you prefer extra quietness and privacy. This can help if you have to finish some of the assignments.

Whether you are traveling as a group, a couple, or solo, you cannot go wrong with staying at this Xela Airbnb.

Featuring a total of 4-bedroom and 3 .5 baths, a total of 9 guests can comfortably enjoy its amenities such as a fully equipped kitchen, a spacious living area, and two interior gardens!

It is also located in Democracia next to the Democracia Market, meaning guests can practice their new Spanish skills with the locals!

Click here for more info!

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There you have it, the best 3 Spanish schools to study in Xela (Quetzaltenango). Have you studied Spanish in Xela or in another place? Let us know in the comments below!!!

Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links. That means if you book through the links, we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! The money will help run this site! Thank you 🙂

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Guide to Pacaya Volcano Hike: Roast Marshmallows with Volcanic Lava!

Guide to Pacaya Volcano Hike: Roast Marshmallows with Volcanic Lava!

Guatemala is a country surrounded by amazing Mayan Ruins, beautiful colonial towns, and spectacular volcanoes. Though some of them could be dangerous, such as Volcano Fuego and its deadly eruption in 2018, many of them are rewarding hikes. 

Hiking Volcano Pacaya is a family-friendly activity that you can do in Antigua with your kids. It is a great way to keep them active while showing them the beautiful nature of Guatemala.

Without further ado, below is our guide on the Volcano Pacaya hike and what you need to know before you climb it!

Guide to Hiking Volcano Pacaya in Antigua, Guatemala

Why Hike Volcano Pacaya?

Volcano Pacaya is one of the easiest volcanoes you can hike in Guatemala and should be on any Guatemala itinerary. It could definitely be used for training for other hikes in Antigua such as the Volcano Acatenango hike.

But just because it is easy doesn’t mean it is unrewarding. If you hike Volcano Pacaya, you have a chance to see lava coming out of the volcano, roast your own marshmallows with the volcano’s lava, and get amazing views of the Guatemala landscape.

If you take the afternoon tour, you will be rewarded with an incredible sunset as you descend Pacaya Volcano.

Difficulty of the Volcano Pacaya Hike

Just because it is a volcano doesn’t mean it is a difficult hike. I would rate the volcano Pacaya hike a Medium-Easy difficulty. It is about a 2-hour hike to reach the top where you roast some marshmallows and then head down.

The total time is around 4 hours for the entire trip. There are horses you could rent at the bottom of the hike that will take you up, as well as kids selling walking sticks.

The top of volcano Pacaya is at an elevation of ~2500m, so you might feel a little more tired than usual.

Where Can You Find Tours for Pacaya Volcano

Tours can be easily found in the city of Antigua in Guatemala. There are plenty of travel agencies on the streets and you shouldn’t have any difficulty finding them.

Hostels and hotels also offer tours as well, but they tend to be a little more expensive than the travel agencies on the street (reasonably so).

All travel agencies seem to have the same package so just try to find the cheapest.

If you can afford to, we recommend doing the sunset hike instead of the day hike. The views are much better on the sunset hike.

What to Bring on Your Volcano Pacaya Hike

1. Sunscreen.  Don’t be one of those tourists walking around Guatemala with a terrible sunburn!

2. Rain poncho or raincoat. Weather can change quickly when you are up in the mountains. Pack one for safety.

3. Money!! 50Q for entrance and in case you want to rent horses or buy walking sticks! There is also a lava shop at the top that sells souvenirs and refreshments but it is not always open.

4. Food/Snack/Water. Pack accordingly, you shouldn’t need too much. 1-2L of water should be enough.

Our Experience on the Volcano Pacaya Hike

Hiking Volcano Pacaya was definitely a lot easier than I expect.

Our tour company picked us up in our hostel in Antigua and drove 1.5 hours to the start of the hike.

As soon as we got off the van, we were bombarded with kids trying to sell us walking sticks.

They didn’t know anything in English but they knew the word “stick”. Many visitors bought the stick but we opted out.

We paid the 50Q entrance fee and promptly started the hike up. It was about 10-20 of us with a tour guide in the front, telling us about Guatemala and the different species of floras and animals in the region.

We arrived at the top after approximately 2 hours of hiking, where we roasted marshmallows from the underground lava (Guatemala bucket list checked!). We did see a little bit of lava rolling down the side of Volcano Pacaya, I guess luck wasn’t on our side that day.

There is also a lava store that sells souvenirs, jewelry, and replenishments. However, it was closed during our visit. Maybe it is only opened on the weekends.

After that, we descended on the other side of Volcano Pacaya and watched the magical sunset dramatically illuminate our way. By the time we reached the bottom, it was already completely dark.

We hopped on our transportation van and headed back to Antigua. We arrived in Antigua at 8:30 PM

Where to Stay in Antigua Guatemala

Best Hostel in Antigua – Adra Hostel

Adra Hotel is one of my favorite hostels in Antigua, Guatemala. Its dormitory rooms are huge and each bed has a comfortable mattress. Each bed is also equipped with a socket and a plug, so you can read a book or go on your laptop in your bed!

If you want to get some sun inside, their outdoor courtyard, as well as the rooftop terrace, are some of the best places to chill in Antigua! Locals from Antigua like to come to Adra Hostel and order a drink from the cafe and just relax!

Click here for more details!

Best Airbnb in Antigua – Colonial Style Residence w/ Courtyard

Visit Hobbitenango Guatemala
Visit Hobbitenango Antigua

(Images Courtesy of Airbnb)

If you are looking for a homey accommodation featuring a fully-equipped kitchen, then consider this colonial-styled Airbnb in Antigua. Featuring amenities such as a private courtyard and gorgeous living spaces, guests can have the most relaxing vacation ever.

After your arduous hike, come back and soothe your aching limbs in their bathtub or jacuzzi, both of which will make you feel like you are on cloud nine. This Airbnb’s 3 bedrooms can comfortably accommodate up to 6 guests!

Click here for more information!

Best Luxury Hotel in Antigua – Hotel Palacio de Dona Beatriz

Hotel Palacio de Dona Beatriz feels like its own city within a city. The moment you step in you are mesmerized by the Spanish-influenced colonial architecture in this luxury hotel. Their swimming pool, walls, and all the facilities are carefully designed. This is the perfect place to relax after a day at Volcano Pacaya!

Click here for more details!

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That’s the end to our guide for hiking Volcano Pacaya. I hope you have everything you need to know for your hike now! Have you hiked Volcano Pacaya? Let us know in the comments!

Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links. That means if you book or make a purchase through the links, we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! The money will help run this site! Thank you 🙂

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