Visiting the Reserva Natural de Atitlán in Panajachel

If you’re visiting Panajachel in Guatemala, stopping at the Reserva Natural de Atitlan is a must-do. The Reserva Natural de Atitlan is just a few minutes from Panajachel’s town center, a perfect place to enjoy the lush natural beauty of the Guatemalan rainforest. It 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 that the Reserva Natural Atitlán has some of the best hiking trails in Guatemala, with hanging bridges, waterfalls, and breathtaking lake views around every corner. 

waterfalls, hiking trails and hanging bridges in Guatemala

But there’s much 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. We’ve been to the Reserva Natural de Atitlan a few times on quick trips to Guatemala. However, if you want to take advantage of everything the park has to offer, I recommend that you stay at the on-site hotel and plan to spend an entire day or at least half a day there.

Best hiking trails in Guatemala

Visiting the Reserva Natural de Atitlán

Here are some reasons why Reserva Natural de Atitlán is one of my favorite destinations in Guatemala. It is a place I return to time every time I visit lake Atitlán

The Best Hiking Trails in Guatemala Lake Atitlán

Reserva Natural de Atitlán boasts some of the best hiking trails in Guatemala. The courses take you through lush forests with lots of hanging bridges. My favorite thing about these trails is that there are several waterfalls along the way. As you cross some of the hanging bridges on the trails, catch breathtaking views of Lake Atitlán and its surrounding volcanoes.

waterfalls in lake Atitlan in Panajachel


There are many trails to choose from! And each has different views and levels of difficulty so that you can choose the right one. Most of the tracks are easy enough for families with kids. They are all very well maintained and have clear signage. 

Best hiking trails in lake Atitlan


One of my favorite hiking trails takes you to the lakeshore, where you can enjoy time on one of the very few natural beaches on the lake. The best part is that this beach has one of the best views of the volcanos. It is almost always empty, so you’ll have it all to yourself. 

Best beach in lake Atitlan at Reserva Natural de Atitlan



Chasing Waterfalls at Atitlán’s Reserva Natural

Many hiking trails at Reserva Natural de Atitlán follow a small river. There are a few waterfalls just a short hike from the entrance of the natural reserve. You can see the waterfalls from the trails and hanging bridges. But if you are feeling adventurous, you can explore them more closely by leaving the trails and going down to the creek below. 

Waterfalls in lake Atitlan Guatemala



See 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 see wild coatis and monkeys. 

Feeding the coatis at Reserva Natural de Atitlán


Head to the monkey observation deck. From here, you can see the monkeys who hang out in a protected and fenced area of the natural preserve. 

Monkeys in lake Atitlan at Atitlan Natural Reserve


The coatis (or coatimundis) roam freely in large bands of about 20 or more. They usually hang out around the monkey area. They also like to hang out around the restaurant. Unfortunately, they don’t always show up, so getting to see them takes a bit of luck. And if you’re fortunate, 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. Enjoy and learn more about local butterfly species and their life cycle. It is set in a geo-dome, which provides over 12 different species of butterflies. Plus, it has enough space to let these beautiful creatures fly at different heights and provide everything they need to feed and reproduce. 

Butterfly garden at Reserva Natural de Atitlan


The butterfly garden houses over 1,000 butterflies at any given time throughout the year. There is also an on-site lab where eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalides are studied and cared for to ensure their successful reproduction. 

A Thrilling Adventure on 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 provides breathtaking views of Lago Atitlán, the volcanoes, and the waterfalls. Each zip-line experience is different; one of them is 196ft high! The flying-through-rainforest experience has an additional fee, and you must make reservations on the Atitlán Reserva website



How to Get to Reserva Natural de Atitlán

The Reserve Natural de Atitlán is located just before entering the town of Panajachel on the shores of lake Atitlán, very close to Hotel Atitlán and Hotel San Buenaventura, two of my favorite hotels in Panajachel!

How to get yore from Panajachel.

you are staying in a hotel in Panajachel the Reserva Natural de Atitlan is just a few minutes (in car or tuktuk) from Panajachel’s town center. The easiest way to get there is to hire a tuktuk or taxi. 

How to get to Panajachel from Antigua Guatemala or Guatemala City

Panajachel is the main hub in lake Atitlán, so getting there is quite easy and you will find lots of options. Panajachel is located 85 miles (113 km) from Guatemala City and 50 miles (80 km) from Antigua.  Here are the transportation options for getting from Guatemala City or Antigua Guatemala to Panajachel:

  • Private Transfer: Offers door-to-door service, taking about 3-4 hours from Guatemala City and 2+ hours from Antigua. This is a great option for small groups of four or more as you end up paying about the same you would for a shared shuttle. Plan for potential traffic delays and winding mountainous roads.


  • Shuttle: Takes 3-5+ hours from Guatemala City and 2-4+ hours from Antigua, offering convenience with pick-up from hotels in Guatemala City or hotels in Antigua.


  • Taxi or Rideshare: Takes about 3-4 hours from Guatemala City and 2-3 hours from Antigua depending on traffic, but agree on pricing beforehand for taxis and be cautious of reliability with rideshares.
  • Rental Car: Provides flexibility but requires navigating traffic and mountainous roads, taking about 3-4+ hours from Guatemala City or 2-3+ hours from Antigua. Parking in Panajachel can be challenging, unless there is parking in your hotel.
  • Helicopter: A luxurious option with a travel time of less than 25 minutes, bypassing ground transportation and providing you with amazing aerial views of lake Atitlán. Chartered helicopters are only available from Guatemala City and leaves from the airport landing in hotel Atitlán in Panajachel. 
  • Local Bus: Taking a “chicken bus” or local bus is the cheapest option, however you should expect a long trip, to be uncomfortable, cramped and hot. There also some safety considerations, from pickpockets to chicken bus drivers being famous for driving like mad men. Expect to take  5-6+ hours from Guatemala City and 4-5+ hours from Antigua.

Taking a day tour

You can also take a day tour to Panajachel from Guatemala City or from Antigua Guatemala and visit the reserve. This is a great option if you’re short on time, however most of the group tours only focus on zip lining so if you want to take your time at the reserve it’s best to plan the trip yourself. 

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 in one of the beautiful and eco-friendly rooms at Reserva Natural de Atitlan hotel allows you to immerse yourself in Lake Atitlan’s natural beauty. 

Atitlan Natural Reserve eco-hotel


The rooms are rustic and comfortable – perfect for a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of life. You might never want to leave this amazing destination surrounded by lush greenery and beautiful views. 

eco-hotel in Panajachel at Atitlan Natural Reserve


The rooms include Wifi and large bathrooms. It gives it a very eco-lodge vibe. Still, it has modern amenities like Wifi, a coffee maker, a desk, comfortable beds, and beautiful views. The upper rooms feature a balcony that offers stunning views of the surrounding forest. 

The Reserva Natural de Atitlán Restaurant

Whether you’re staying at the Reserva Natural de Atitlán hotel or need to fuel up after an invigorating hike, there is a fantastic restaurant by the entrance. A few steps from the hotel rooms, it’s perfect for breakfast, lunch, or a quick afternoon snack. 

Reserva Natural de Atitlan restaurant


All 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 Atitlan restaurant


Sustainability at Reserva Natural Atitlán

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 a fun activity while visiting Panajachel and Lake Atitlán and a wonderful way to invest in preserving the area’s natural beauty. In addition, it is a great way to give back to the destination you are visiting.

Hanging bridges in Panajachel


The entry fee to the Atitlán Natural Reserve is Q70 (approx $10) and includes the entrance to the butterfly geodome, access to the trails, the monkey observation area, and 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. 

Are you interested in visiting Reserva Natural de Atitlan? Visit their website to learn more and get the latest information about pricing!

Visiting the Reserva Natural de Atitlan

More Amazing Things to Do In Guatemala:

If you’re planning a trip to Guatemala or want to come back for more, you’ve come to the right place! From the best destinations to kid-friendly activities, I’ll share my love for my home country. Here are amazing things to do in Guatemala to make your trip a memorable one:

Best Things To Do In Lake Atitlan With Kids:

Looking for the best things to do in Lake Atitlán with kids? Here are lots of fun options! It includes all our favorite things to do around the lake, from Panajachel to smaller towns like San Juan la Laguna.

San Antonio Palopó, A Mayan Village With Unique Pottery:

Perched on the mountainside of Lake Atitlán, San Antonio Palopó is a small town that has remained relatively unspoiled. The town’s life centers around its ceramics and textiles. With a picturesque church acting as the focal point, San Antonio Palopo is a beautiful place you must see on your next visit to Lake Atitlan.

Visiting San Antonio Palopo in lake Atitlan

Dramatic Volcanic Black Sand Beaches In Guatemala:

If you haven’t walked along beautiful black sand beaches, you are missing out on a magical experience! Some of the best beaches in Guatemala are on its Pacific coasts, places of deep chill, and stunning wilderness. Guatemala’s beaches are full of palm trees to relax with an icy beverage on hand.

Best Guide To Visiting Tikal: The Most Spectacular Mayan Ruins In Guatemala:

Here is a guide to visiting Tikal that includes everything you need to know before seeing the most spectacular Mayan ruins in the world. It is a great starting point for enjoying the many adventures the Petén region offers.

Guide to visiting Tikal

An Enchanting River Ride: A Quick Guide To Río Dulce:

One of the most beautiful destinations in Guatemala, Río Dulce is often overlooked. This area overflows with beautiful nature, colonial history, unique culture, and fantastic food. This quick guide to Rio Dulce covers the best things to do, where to stay, and what to eat.

Best Things To Do In Antigua Guatemala With Kids:

Declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Antigua Guatemala is a colonial city rich in history and culture. But finding kid-friendly activities can be somewhat of a challenge. So I wanted to share with you all the best things to do in Antigua with kids. All of these activities are family-friendly but are also great for adults.

coffee plantation mule ride at Finca Filadelfia
Coffee plantation mule ride at Finca Filadelfia

Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz

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19 thoughts on “Visiting the Reserva Natural de Atitlán in Panajachel”

  1. absolutely gorgeous! what an amazing place to get to visit! Thank you for letting us join you and experience the beauty through your photos and discover more through your post.


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