San Juan La Laguna is one of the smaller villages around Lake Atitlán, Guatemala and is a great day-trip destination from Panajachel or San Pedro. It is one of the less-visited towns around the lake, offering a more authentic, Guatemalan experience. When you visit the town, you may only go for the women’s weaving cooperatives, but there are plenty of other hidden gems worth visiting. This travel guide to San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala, includes information on guesthouses, hotels, attractions and advice on travel, restaurants, nightlife and more.
What about San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala?
San Juan La Laguna is one of the smaller villages around Lake Atitlan, Guatemala and is a great day-trip destination from Panajachel or San Pedro La Laguna. It is one of the less-visited towns around the lake, offering a more authentic, Guatemalan experience than that of nearby San Pedro or Panajachel. There are still cheap hotels, Spanish schools and some weaving shops near the market that have nice designs which seems more original than those at Chichicastenango. San Juan La Laguna is also one of the cleanest towns around lake Atitlan and famous for its artists and murals that can be admired all over town.
How to get to San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala?
Most people visit San Juan La Laguna from San Pedro La Laguna. From San Pedro, you can walk the 2-3 km in 30 minutes or take a tuk-tuk for Q5-10 / $0.70-1.35 to San Juan La Laguna. Another option is to catch the ‘chicken’ buses that pass through at Q5 / $0.70.
The more common way to get to San Juan La Laguna from other Lake Atitlan towns is to catch a small ferryboat (launcha) for about Q25 / $3.30. As the boat thudded across the choppy water, you can enjoy the beautiful landscape of lake Atitlan which is ringed by three extinct volcanoes and a ridge known as Indian’s Nose.
How to get around in San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala?
The most efficient way to get around San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala is by tuk tuk or by foot.
What to do in San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala?
There are plenty of amazing things you must do in San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala. This article includes 20 authentic things you absolutely must do in San Juan La Laguna. Examples are seeing the various murals, a hike to El Cerro del la Cruz, a sunrise hike to Indian Nose, learning Spanish, a visit to an organic coffee farm, bird-watching, wandering one textile shop after another, a backstrap weaving class, joining fisherman on lake Atitlán, or learning about chocolate in a chocolate factory.
Where to eat in San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala?
Most restaurants in San Juan La Laguna serve authentic Guatemalan food as opposed to the “gringo food” you find in Panajachel or Santa Pedro. Stop into a traditional restaurant (comedor), for a patin, a local dish of tomato salsa served in a banana leaf with chicken or fish or try one of the other many local dishes from corn! Below you can read about my favorite restaurants in San Juan La Laguna:
Cafe el Artesano – best cheese and meat platters you will ever taste in Central America!
Eating our weight in meat and cheese at Cafe el Artesano. The cafe is well known for their cheese and meat platters (reservations are required). The cheese plate comes with around 27, yes 27, different types of cheese, all sourced in Guatemala. These ran the gamut from blue to goat to parmiggiano to gouda. This platter was liberally sprinkled with pistachios, grapes, green olives, and almonds and came complete with a bowl of honey and another of guava chutney. The meat tray was equally impressive with 17 different varieties of meats; sausage, proscuitto, salami, ham, mortadello…
This is one of a small chain of restaurants in towns along Atitlán Lake. I visited the one in San Juan La Laguna a few times and found it to be quite relaxing. The restaurant has good food and music and friendly staff. I can really recommend the wood oven pizzas!
Across Cafe el Artesano you can find Il Cantuccio, an Italian outdoor lunchroom where you can eat all kinds of bruschetta and focaccia. The place is owned by a friendly Italian guy who really let you taste the Italian kitchen. The café has a laidback atmosphere and great lunch food!
Near the top of the hill on the way up from the dock, this open-air cafe is the place to go for quality espresso and fresh-squeezed juices. The cafe focuses on foreign travelers, so you can find things like banana pancakes, French toast and granola.
Restaurante Xe kuku’Aab’aj
This is a nice restaurant with an amazing view over lake Atitlán. They have traditional dishes as well as pizza or pasta. I can really recommend the strawberries smoothie and the special nachos.
Aries La Parrilla Restaurante Mexicano
This Mexican restaurant in San Juan La Laguna is worth a visit. The restaurant has delicious food and good music.
Looking for traditional food? Then you should visit El Comedor Elenita. This local place serves good local dishes. You should try the brimming bowl of caldo de res (beef and vegetable soup) served with rice, avocado and tortillas.
Where to party in San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala?
San Juan La Laguna is not a party town. There is only one little bar in town, Osadía Bar, where you can have some late-night drinks. If you feel like partying, you can take a tuk tuk to San Pedro. In this lake town, you will find plenty of bars and restaurants where you can party during the night. I can really recommend Bar Sublime! Other bars will be described soon in another blogpost about San Pedro La Laguna.
Where to stay in San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala?
In San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala you can find around five to ten accommodations for every budget, ranging from $70 or more per night down to $10 per night, per room.
One of the cheaper options include an overnight at Posada Mana, a family owned hotel with six rooms. I have spent two nights at this place and the quality was worth the money. The rooms are simple, but comfortable. Some have a private bathroom and others a shared bathroom. There is a huge living room and equipped kitchen available, which you can use free of charge. There is also a spacious garden with hammocks and kind staff.
Eco hotel Uxlabil Atitlán
A great hotel in San Juan La Laguna for travelers with an average to high budget, is Eco hotel Uxlabil Atitlán. This hotel is a quiet retreat with an amazing view on lake Atitlán. The hotel has four floors where you can spend time in hammocks overlooking the lake while enjoying the breeze that comes off the water. The hotel has great facilities and some of the friendliest staff I have ever met. The bird-watching tour, temascal, and unlimited kayaking are really worth a try and the food in the cozy restaurant tastes good! I am sure you will love everything at this place!
Eco hotel MayAchik
If you like a more ecologically stay, you might like to overnight in Eco-hotel Mayachik. MayAchik is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the cities and popular tourist destinations around lake Atitlán. It is ecologically constructed and surrounded by a lovely garden where you can relax in hammocks. As part of the aim of self-sustainability, the hotel is not only using solar panels to supply energy and hot water, but is also reducing the water consumption by using dry compost toilets. MayAchik’s restaurant offers a wide range of delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts. It is a place where you can appreciate for a good price full contact with nature!
I hope this information can help you prepare and enjoy a visit to San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala. I am sure you will enjoy San Juan as much as I did. If you have been to San Juan La Laguna and know any other good things to do, food to eat, hang out places or general advises to other travelers, please let me know in a comment! I would love to hear about it.
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Read more about Guatemala!
- Photos that convince you to visit Guatemala immediately!
- The Faces of Guatemala – proud to be Maya
- Tips for celebrating Día de los Muertos in Guatemala (Day of the Dead)
- A day trip to the Los Pinos Cooperative in Patanatic, Guatemala
- A Backstrap Weaving Demonstration at the Waqxaqi’ Kan Cooperative of Chuacruz, Guatemala