Atitlán is in itself a great destination for ecotourism in Guatemala. And when it comes to well maintained hiking trails with beautiful views of both the lake and waterfalls, Reserva Natural de Atitlán has the best hiking trails in lake Atitlan. Surrounded by volcanoes and dotted with traditional Mayan villages, Atitlan is considered to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Its appeal lies in its natural beauty.
Located on the shores of Lake Atitlán in Panajachel, the Atitlán Nature Reserve is a mandatory stop for lovers of the outdoors. It is the perfect place to enjoy the exuberant natural beauty surrounded by volcanoes and the Guatemalan rainforest. A few minutes from the city center of Panajachel, the Atitlán Nature Reserve is definitely one of the best things you can do during your stay.
Here you will find the best trails in Lake Atitlan and I would say some of the best hiking trails in Guatemala. The beautiful suspension bridges, crystal clear waterfalls, and the impressive views of the lake will put you in direct contact with nature. But there is much more to discover in the Atitlán Nature Reserve than the hiking trails. It is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich ecosystem of the lake and learn about its abundant biodiversity.
Hiking Trails at Reserva Natural de Atitlán
Together with my family, we have been to the Atitlán Nature Reserve several times and if you really want to make the most of all that it has to offer, I recommend that you stay at the on-site hotel for a whole day or at least plan to spend half a day there. . We were in the reserve in November, it was the first time I had seen my dad since the pandemic began and visiting the Atitlán Nature Reserve was ideal since we spent most of our time outdoors, away from other people and surrounded just by nature.
Below I share some of the reasons why the Atitlán Nature Reserve is one of my favorite destinations in Guatemala, a magical place that I return to on every visit to Lake Atitlán.
Some of the Best Hiking Trails in lake Atitlan
Guatemala boasts many epic hiking trails and experiences from hiking up the active Pacaya volcano to hiking to waterfalls like Los Amates of Finca Paraiso. However very few places offer well maintained and easily accessible hiking trails that are family friendly and as beautiful as the hiking trails at the Reserva Natural de Atitlán.
What makes these trails truly special is that they take you through a variety of landscapes from forests and lush jungle to one of the most beautiful beaches on the shores of lake Atitlan. Many of the trails follow along or cross a creek offering not only beautiful lake views but also breathtaking views of the waterfall. And the hanging bridges offer an exciting experience.
Hanging bridges in Atitlan
My favorite thing about these trails is that there are quite a few waterfalls along the way. Crossing some of the hanging bridges, you can see panoramic views of Lake Atitlan and its surrounding volcanoes that will take your breath away.
There are many trails to choose from, each one with different landscapes and different levels of difficulty so you can choose the most suitable one. Don’t worry, most of the trails are quite accessible for families with children. All are very well preserved and with clear signage.
The Best Beach in Lake Atitlán
One of best hiking trails will take you right to the shore of the lake, where you can enjoy one of the few natural beaches in Panajachel and one of the best beaches on lake Atitl´ån. The best thing is that this beach has one of the most impressive views of the volcanoes and is almost always empty, so you will have it all to yourself.
Beautiful Waterfalls in Lake Atitlán
Many of the hiking trails in the Atitlán Nature Reserve follow a small river where you’ll find beautiful waterfalls, all just a short walk from the nature reserve entrance. You can see them from the trails and suspension bridges, and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can leave the trails and go down to the creek below to explore them more closely.
In addition to enjoying the hiking trails with their beautiful views of the lake, we love that the reserve offers so many opportunities to interact with local wildlife. From butterflies to monkeys and coatimundi there are so many opportunities to get close to the animals that make the reserve their home.
We love to start the day at the reserve with breakfast at the restaurant. Getting there early means you have a better chance that on of the bands of coatis will visit the restaurant and lobby area while you enjoy your breakfast.
Before starting your excursion through the hiking trails, stop by to buy some fruit at the restaurant, preferably bananas. Afterward, head to the monkey viewing platform where you can throw the bananas to the monkeys that live in the protected and fenced area of the nature reserve.
Pizotes or coatis roam freely in large herds of about 20 or more and generally hang around the monkeys’ area. They don’t always appear, so seeing and feeding them requires a bit of luck. And if you’re really lucky, the band will include some baby coats. They are so cute!
Visit The Butterfly Garden in Lake Atitlán
The Atitlán Nature Reserve is home to a fantastic butterfly garden, providing a truly unique experience. It is the perfect opportunity to enjoy and learn more about the local butterfly species and their life cycle.
The geodome is the first structure of its kind in Guatemala, providing the more than 12 different species of butterflies with enough space to fly at different heights, as well as everything they need to feed and reproduce.
The butterfly house houses more than 1,000 butterflies at any time of the year. There is also a laboratory where eggs, caterpillars and chrysalises are studied and cared for to ensure their successful reproduction.
Experience An Exciting Zip-Lining Adventure
If you are looking for a more exciting experience, the Atitlán Nature Reserve has two X-treme cable circuits or “canopy”. One crosses the San Buenaventura valley and the other offers a spectacular view of the lake, volcanoes and waterfalls.
Each canopy experience is different, one of them is 60 meters high! Tours on X-treme cables have an additional charge. I recommend that you make your reservations on the Reserva Natural de Atitlán website and arrive 30 minutes early to prepare and receive instructions.
Cycling Above the Forest. An Extreme Adventure in Lake Atitlan.
The BiciCable trail is a short route of less than 200 meters through oak forests and coffee plantations… that is, at a height of 30 meters. Although it is an extreme adventure full of excitement, biking on a high wire in Atitlan is very safe. The bikes are hooked to a cable above and you wear a harness that is independently hooked to the cable as well. The design of this high wire bike adventure conforms with international safety standards certified in Europe and the USA.
You will not know whether to enjoy the landscape full of natural beauty and lake views or continue to focus on the route above the cables. In any case, the BiciCable is an unforgettable experience not seen before in Guatemala. They are the only cable bikes in the country. This was an adventure I will never forget.
Stay at the Atitlan Nature Reserve Hotel
Nothing compares to waking up with the first rays of light to the beat of a symphony of sounds coming from the forest. Staying in the beautiful and ecological rooms of the Reserva Natural de Atitlán hotel gives you the opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the natural beauty that surrounds Lake Atitlán.
The rooms are comfortable and rustic in style, perfect for a little relaxing getaway away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Surrounded by lush greenery and unparalleled views, you may never want to leave this incredible destination.
And for true nature lovers who prefer to sleep in sleeping bags instead of bamboo beds, the nature reserve offers a camping area where you can pitch your tent and spend an unforgettable night under the stars.
The Restaurant at Reserva Natural de Atitlán
Whether you’re staying at the Reserva Natural de Atitlán hotel or just need to recharge your batteries after an invigorating hike, a great restaurant is located at the entrance of the reserve. Just steps from the hotel rooms, it’s perfect for breakfast, lunch, or a quick snack.
All tables are outdoors with a beautiful view of the lush rainforest. You may even get a visit from furry friends. The reserve’s coatis love to join diners during their meals!
The Reserva Natural de Atitlan is much more than a popular tourist destination on lake Atitlán. All operations of the reserve, from the hotel and its accommodations to the restaurant, support sustainable tourism. And profits from all activities go to support environmental efforts throughout the area.
Therefore, spending time in the reserve is not only a fun activity while visiting Panajachel and Lake Atitlán, but it is also a great way to invest in preserving the area’s natural beauty and give back to the place you are visiting.
Entrance to the Atitlán Nature Reserve is GTQ 70 (approximately US$10) and includes entrance to the butterfly geodome, access to trails, the monkey viewing area, and the private beach. If you are staying at the hotel, there is no entrance fee and if you are doing the X-Treme cable adventure, the entrance fee is included in the price.
It is important that you go to their website to read about any updates in pricing and COVID related safety measures before visiting them
Are you interested in knowing about the Atitlán Nature Reserve? Visit their website for more information and reserve your room today.