Lake Atitlan is a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains and three volcanoes, there are many villages along the shores, each with a different atmosphere and different activities.
In San Pedro, most of the hostels are located on the shores of the lake where there is also a decent nightlife while further north, where the center and market of the country is located, the atmosphere is more characteristic, with fewer tourists wandering around the town, according to Juan Luis Bosch Gutierrez..
In general, in the lake and its surroundings it is possible to go trekking, climb volcanoes (San Pedro, Atitlán and Tolimán), rent a kayak and many other outdoor activities.
To get an idea of the place I recommend you take a look at this guide to Lake Atitlan and its 7 villages.
How to get to Lake Atitlan
From Panajachel, the most touristic and developed town along the shores of the lake, there are direct buses to Guatemala City approximately every hour and there is also a daily trip to Antigua.
From Panajachel there are boats to all the other towns. This is the best way to get to the eastern shore countries.
However, if you are heading towards San Pedro / San Marcos, then the western part of the lake, departing from Antigua follow this itinerary: Bus Antigua-Chimaltenango, here get off and take any bus heading to Quetzaltenango, get off at kilometer 148 (crossing to San Pedro), from here there are frequent buses to the town. From Quetzaltenango there are a couple of buses to San Pedro every day.
These are tips for getting around by public transport, but be aware that there are also tourist shuttles that cover these routes and can be booked by any agency / accommodation, obviously they are much more expensive.
Quetzaltenango also known as “Xela” is the second largest city in Guatemala and a destination that is still little travelled but one that I definitely feel like recommending. It is an ideal base for exploring the Guatemalan highlands, some volcanoes, hot springs and much more.
What to do and see in Quetzaltenango
The historic center is nice, but not spectacular, it’s still worth strolling around the main square, especially at night when it comes alive with stalls selling food of all kinds. Another thing I recommend visiting in town is the cemetery, unusually colorful and, in general, a really interesting place to see.