From Mayan ruins, green mountains, and towering volcanoes to colonial towns and bustling markets Guatemala begs exploration.
Guatemala packs in a lot of natural beauty into a relatively small landmass. It is as lush and green as any country we have visited during our years on the road. And few places in Guatemala, (probably in Central America as a whole), are as breathtaking as Lake Atitlán. In fact, as far as we’re concerned, Lake Atitlan is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Which obviously makes it one of the top places to visit in Guatemala, and Central America.
Long home to indigenous Mayan tribes, the lake has become a vibrant tourist attraction in the last few decades. Expats and backpackers have for years been lured to Lake Atitlan by its year-round spring like climate and its low cost of life. Which is good news if you are a budget traveler backpacking around Guatemala. Unlike colonial Antigua Lake Atitlan is a heaven for backpackers in Guatemala.
When first traveling to the lake you will most likely be taking a bus to Panajachel, more commonly referred to as “Pana” by the locals. This is the most developed and least interesting town on the lake, and we recommend you leave instantly and hop on the boat to either San Marcos or San Pedro la Laguna. San Pedro is especially budget friendly, so we’ll focus on that town in the price guide below.
Once you’ve arrived in San Pedro la Laguna prepare for some chill vibes, epic beauty, and really affordable prices. For a bit of a break down of what to expect and how to budget yourself scroll down to our Lake Atitlan price guide.
For ideas on activities in San Pedro la Laguna have a look at our list here.
Backpacking Lake Atitlan – San Pedro la Laguna
As we said above Lake Atitlan is a dream come true for backpackers in Guatemala. Vibrant locals, gorgeous views, awesome hikes, tons of fellow backpackers to interact with, delicious food and drink, and all very budget friendly. San Pedro la Laguna offers a wide variety of budget accommodations along with a great selection of activities, restaurants, bars, and views.
It is entirely possible to stay in San Pedro la Laguna for $15.00 USD per person per day if you aim for a dorm room, eat street food, and avoid drinking beer. For our purposes we budgeted $30.00 USD per person per day and easily hit that mark during our ten day stay.
Here is the breakdown of prices we encountered in Lake Atitlán, Guatemala.
The below calculations are based on the exchange rate as of August 2014, which was: $1.00 USD = 7.8 Guatemalan Quetzales (Q). Please use the below tool for the current exchange rate.
- Private Room for Two People Hotel Gran Sueno in San Pedro la Laguna- 150Q ($19.20 USD) per night (We haggled down from 175Q ($22.40 USD by arranging to pay a full week in advance)
Want to book accommodations in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala? We recommend using the following sites:
- Dinner at Buddha Bar – Chicken Milanese with Rice and Salad 36Q ($4.60 USD), Tempeh Wrap
40Q ($5.10 USD) or Singapore Noodles 40Q ($5.10 USD)
- Breakfast at Cafe Home – Pumpkin and Flax Seed Pancakes with Fruit 27Q ($3.50 USD) or Eggs, Brown Rice, Wheat Toast, Beans, and Guacamole 26Q ($3.38 USD)
- Breakfast at Cafe Atitlan – Hippie Breakfast with Eggs, Veggies, Guacamole, and Wheat Toast 30Q ($3.40 USD)
- Brownie at Buddha Bar – 12Q ($1.50 USD)
- Plain Croissant from Idea Connection – 14Q ($1.70 USD)
- Bag of Tortillas – 14Q ($1.70 USD)
- 1lb Bag of Shell Pasta – 3Q ($0.38 USD)
- 1lb Bag of Rice – 26Q ($3.38 USD)
- Pack of 8, 8ct Crackers – 12Q ($1.50 USD)
- 1 Dozen Eggs – 25Q ($3.20 USD)
- Loaf of Freshly Baked Banana-Coconut Bread from Local Guatemalan Woman – 12Q ($1.50 USD)
- 2 Liter Bottle Water – 8Q ($1.02 USD)
- 1 Liter Bottle Beer from Store – 12Q ($1.50 USD)
- Rum and Pina at Buddha Bar – 8Q ($1.03 USD) at Happy Hour or 10Q ($1.30 USD)
- Black Coffee – 10Q ($1.29 USD)
- Kombucha or Probiotic Ginger Beer from Salud Para Vida Health Food Store – 25Q ($3.20 USD)
- 1 Liter Water – 10Q ($1.29 USD)
- 350ml Soda Water – 6Q ($0.76 USD)
- Shuttle from Antigua to Panajachel – 80Q ($10.20 USD)
- Minibus Shuttle from San Pedro to El Tunco, El Salvador – 390Q ($50.00 USD) – Haggle for cheaper prices!!
- Boat from Panajachel to San Pedro – 25Q ($3.20 USD)
- Tuk-tuk to ATM from Dock – 5Q ($0.64)
- Boat from San Pedro to San Marcos – 10Q ($3.20 USD)
- Roundtrip Transportation to Chichi Market – 80Q ($10.20 USD)
- San Pedro Vulcan Hike – 100Q ($12.80 USD)
- Coffee Plantation Tour – 100Q ($12.80 USD)
- Thermal Baths at Los Termales – 40Q ($5.10 USD)
- Texas Hold ’em Buy In at Idea Connection – 80Q ($10.20 USD)
- ATM Fee: 30Q ($5.00!!)
See our Top Ten Money Saving Travel Tips Article for advice on avoiding ATM fees
As you can see, prices on San Pedro la Laguna are VERY budget friendly. It might be the greatest mix of beauty and affordability in Central America.
Expenses for day trips or any other activity you might want to partake in should not be factored into your daily budget. This becomes overly complicated. An easier way of going about things is to calculate your minimum daily cost and then set aside all left over funds you care to spend into an “activities” pool. Thus on a day when we went to the thermal baths or had a few extra drinks in the evening we did not consider ourselves over budget even though we spent more than $30.00 USD, we just subtracted it out of the “activities” pool.
You need to remember to set aside some money for things like buses and border crossings if you plan on being on the move often. That aside the above formula should be a great place to start when budgeting the trip of your dreams.
Disclaimer – We have included a few handy little affiliate links in case any of our readers want to book accommodations. We receive a small commission for any sales made, without any additional cost to you, our dear reader.