If you’re going to Panajachel in Guatemala visiting the Reserva Natural de Atitlan is a must-do. The Reserva Natural de Atitlan is just a few minutes from Panajachel’s town center and it’s the perfect place to enjoy the lush natural beauty of the Guatemalan rainforest. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Panajachel. Here you will find the best hiking trails in lake Atitlán and I would argue some of the best hiking trails in Guatemala with hanging bridges, waterfalls, and breathtaking views of the lake around every corner.
But there’s a lot more to Atitlan’s Natural Reserve than just the hiking trails. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich and biodiverse lake ecosystem and learn about it too.
We’ve been to the Reserva Natural de Atitlán a few times and if you really want to take advantage of everything it has to offer my recommendation is that you stay at the on site hotel and that you plan to spend an entire day or at least half a day there.
Visiting the Reserva Natural de Atitlán
Here are some of the reasons why Reserva Natural de Atitlán is one of my favorite destinations in Guatemala and a place I return to time every time I visit lake Atitlán.
Some of the best hiking trails in Guatemala
Reserva Natural de Atitlán boasts some of the best hiking trails in Guatemala. The hiking trails take you through lush forests and there are also lots of hanging bridges. My favorite thing about these trails is that there quite a few waterfalls along the way. You can also catch breathtaking views of lake Atitlán and its surrounding volcanoes as you cross some of the hanging bridges on the trails.
There are many trails to choose from and each one has different views as well as different levels of difficulty so you can choose the right one for you. Most of the trails are easy enough for families with kids. They are all very well maintained and have clear signage.
One of my favorite hiking trails takes you to the lakeshore where you can enjoy time in one of the very few natural beaches in the lake. The best part is that this beach has one of the best views of the volcanos and is almost always empty so you’ll have it all to yourself.
Chase some waterfalls
Many of the hiking trails at Reserva Natural de Atitlán follow a small river and there are a few waterfalls, all of them are a short hike from the entrance of the natural reserve. You can see the waterfalls from the trails and hanging bridges and if you’re adventurous you can explore them more closely by leaving the trails and going down to the creek below.
Feed the monkeys and coatis
In addition to enjoying the hiking trails with beautiful lake views, we love all the opportunities for interacting with animals in Reserva Natural de Atitlan. Here, you’ll get a chance to feed wild coatis and monkeys.
Before you hit the hiking trails buy some fruit at the restaurant, usually bananas. They head to the monkey observation deck. From here you can throw bananas to the monkeys who hang out in a protected and fenced area of the natural preserve.
The coatis or coatimundis roam freely in large bands of about 20 or more and they usually hang out around the monkey area. They don’t always show up so getting to see them and feed them takes a bit of luck. And if you’re really lucky the band will include baby coatis. They are so cute!
Visit the butterfly garden
Reserva Natural de Atitlán houses a fantastic butterfly garden giving visitors a unique experience as well as the opportunity to enjoy and learn more about local butterfly species and their life cycle. Located in geo-dome which provides the over 12 different species of butterflies enough space to fly at different heights as well as everything they need to feed and reproduce.
The butterfly garden houses more than 1,000 butterflies at any given time throughout the year. There is also a laboratory on-site where eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalides are studied and taken care of to ensure their successful reproduction.
A Thrilling Adventure on the Zip Lines
If you’re looking for a more thrilling experience the Atitlan Natural Reserve has two zip line circuits. One crosses the valley and the other one provides you with amazing views of the lake, the volcanoes and the waterfalls. Each zip-line experience is different, one of them is 196ft high! The zip line experiences have an additional fee and you have to make reservations on the Atitlán Reserva website.
Staying at the Reserva Natural de Atitlán Hotel
There is nothing quite like waking up to the symphony of the rainforest as the first rays of light appear. Staying at one of the beautiful and eco-friendly rooms at Reserva Natural de Atitlan hotel gives you the opportunity to really immerse yourself in the natural beauty surrounding lake Atitlan.
The rooms are rustic and comfortable – perfect for a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of life. Surrounded by lush greenery and beautiful views, you might never want to leave this amazing destination.
The rooms include Wifi and large bathrooms. The giving it a very eco-lodge vibe yet it also has all of the modern amenities like Wifi, coffee maker, desk, comfortable beds, and beautiful views. The upper rooms feature a balcony that offers beautiful views of the surrounding forest.
The Reserva Natural de Atitlán Restaurant
Whether you’re staying at the Reserva Natural de Atitlán hotel or are just need to fuel up after an invigorating hike a wonderful restaurant is located at the entrance of the reserve. Just a few steps from the hotel rooms it’s perfect for breakfast, lunch, or a quick afternoon snack.
All of the tables are outdoors with a beautiful view of the lush rainforest. And you may even have a furry guest at your table – the reserve’s coatimundis love to join diners during their meals!
Reserva Natural de Atitlán is much more than a popular tourist destination in lake Atitlan. The entire reserve, from the hotel to the restaurant, is sustainable. And profits from all activities go toward supporting environmental efforts throughout the area. So spending time at the reserve is not only a fun activity while you’re visiting Panajachel and lake Atitlán but it’s also a great way to invest in preserving the natural beauty of the area and give back to the destination you are visiting.
The entry fee to the Atitlán Natural Reserve is Q70 (aprox $10) and includes the entrance to the butterfly geodome, access to the trails, the monkey observation area and to the private beach. If you’re staying at the hotel there is no entrance fee and if you are doing the zip-line adventure your entry fee is included in the price.
Interested in visiting Reserva Natural de Atitlan? Visit their website to learn more and to book your room today!