Lower Mayan Trail – Lake Atitlan’s Prettiest Walk

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Lake Atitlan is a beautiful lake with spectacular scenery. One of the best ways to appreciate it is to hike the Lower Mayan Trail.

This beautiful trail is one of the best hikes in Lake Atitlan and a great thing to do if you want to get outdoors. The trail follows a path used by local Maya for hundreds of years.

It is a great hike if you want to get away from the touristy areas of Lake Atitlan. So let’s dive in and find out all about the Lower Mayan Trail!

📍 Santa Cruz to San Marcos
🥾 9 km (5.5 miles), easy
🕑 2.30 hours
🎟️ No entrance fee
🙋 Book a guide here

Is the Lower Mayan Trail Safe?

Unfortunately, I have to start by saying this trail is not safe all the time. There seem to be periods when a lot of hikers get robbed particularly around Tzununa.

If you read the reviews on All Trails you will see that many people do the hike with no problems. We did the hike and it felt safe.

But in some periods many people in a row reported getting robbed. So try doing the hike in groups and don’t take any valuables.

However, if you want to feel 100% safe then the best option is to get a guide. You can book this tour and get a local guide that can speak English and will guarantee your safety.

Book a Lower Mayan Trail Guide here or here 👇

Lower Mayan Trail Map

The Lower Mayan Trail will take you along the coast of Lake Atitlan from Santa Cruz to San Marcos. You can do the trail in the reverse direction as well.

But starting at Santa Cruz is better because you will finish in San Marcos which is a much nicer town. It has a lot of places to eat and go for a swim after your hike.

Read here: How to get to San Juan’s best Lookout 🥾

A map showing the starting and ending point of the Lower Mayan Trail
Lower Mayan Trail Difficulty: Easy

Lower Mayan Trail Start

To get to the starting point of the Lower Mayan Trail you will need to take a water taxi to Santa Cruz.

  • If you are staying in Panajachel this will be a 10-15 minute ride and should cost about 10 Quetzales (1.5 USD)
  • For those staying in San Juan or San Pedro, the water taxi will take around 30 minutes and should cost about 35 Quetzales (4.5 USD)

The length of your ride depends a lot on your boat captain. Some only stop at towns for short periods while others hang around forever. But you will just have to chill and accept it because that is how things run in Guatemala.

Read here: How to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan cheap 🚐

A group of boats sitting at the docks of Lake Atitilan Guatemala

Lower Mayan Trail Hike

Once you arrive in Santa Cruz you will have to find the starting point of the hike. The best way to do this is to download the Lake Atitlan offline map on Maps.me. There you will find many useful and tiny hiking trails that are not on Google Maps.

On Maps.me there are two options to start the hike:

  1. You can start the trail by following the green line along the coast
  2. Or you can walk up the hill to the start of the red line. You will have a better view from the red line but it is a steep climb to get there

I recommend the second option. The views at the start of the trail are awesome and you will see what Santa Cruz is like (spoiler: very sleepy).

To get to the start of the red line you have to walk up the hill from the water taxi that goes straight to Santa Cruz then take a left. There are no signs where to turn left and it looks like a random trail but it’s correct. Just follow Maps.me.

Read here: What to do in San Juan La Laguna

Lower Mayan Trail Map
Lower Mayan Trail Map

The start of the hike (red line) 👇

A cliffside view of Lake Atitlan and San Pedro Volcano from the Lower Mayan Trail on Lake Atitlan

Santa Cruz to Jaibalito

Starting the trail does not look too promising. The path is narrow and sandwiched between local properties but it improves very quickly.

The trail continues along the side of the hill past Santa Cruz and has spectacular views the whole way. See yourself 👇

Eventually, you will come to a path that takes you between some properties. One of the most famous and fancy ones is La Casa del Mundo.

It’s a popular hotel on Lake Atitlan due to its waterfront location at the bottom of some cliffs. Many tourists stay there or get a day pass to hang out by the water. They have an onsite restaurant as well so if you feel like a cold drink this is a good option.

The path snakes along the coast for a while before eventually descending into Jaibalito.

😴 Sleep here: Hotel La Casa del Mundo


Jaibalito is a sleepy little town with a couple of restaurants where you can stop to refuel.

We ate at Posada Jaibaito which is a quirky guesthouse run by a old German guy. The property is lovely and shaded with coffee plants growing all over it.

It is a nice place to relax. They serve lots of authentic German meals which is funny but it didn’t rock our world tastewise.

Read here: Best Cheap Eats in Antigua🍴

A woman eating at a restaurant in Jaibalito under the shade

Jaibalito to Tzununa

The path leaving Jaibalito to Tzununa is fairly easy to find as long as you use Maps.me. Otherwise, it may be a little tricky because there are no obvious signs. There is a bridge that leaves town and once you find this simply follow the path.

This section of the Lower Mayan Trail is also very beautiful. It snakes along the coast and has a few shaded sections to escape the sun if it is a hot day.

Just before Tzununa is where most of the robberies seem to happen. So keep an eye out when you are in this area.

Book: Flexible cheap travel health insurance with SafetyWing. Read about our experience plus other options here 🚑

Tzununa to San Marcos

Tzununa is a dusty little town that does not attract too many tourists. There is not a whole lot to do here and there is also no view most of the road.

That’s why many people choose to take a water taxi or tuk-tuk from Tzununa to San Marcos or back to where they are staying instead of walking.

We decided to walk because we wanted to complete the whole trail on our own. It wasn’t a bad walk but quite dusty without views, so it definitely can be skipped!

Looking for a FREE place to stay in Guatemala? Sign up to Trusted House Sitters for free + use code HAPPYHEALTHYNOMADS for a 25% discount on your yearly membership! Read about our experiences here.

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A woman walking along a dusty dirt road with pink flowers next to it

San Marcos La Laguna

San Marcos La Laguna is the end of the Lower Mayan Trail and your hike! It is a nice little town that is full of markets, yoga and spiritual activities.

There are also quite a few good restaurants and shops in town. So it is a good place to refuel after the hike and check it out.

Our favorite part of San Marcos is the Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve which has the best swimming areas in the whole of Lake Atitlan! It is also the perfect place to relax in the sun after your hike.

Hungry for more? Book Lake Atitlan’s Epic Indian Nose Hike 🥾

A family relaxing in the water at the Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve near San Marcos La Laguna

Enjoy Hiking the Lower Mayan Trail!

The Lower Mayan Trail is a beautiful hike with amazing views of Lake Atitlan and the surrounding volcanoes. The change of vegetation along the way is also super interesting.

We enjoyed it a lot! Just be careful and check up on recent reviews on AllTrails or ask at your accommodation to see if it is considered safe when you are there. If yes, you can go on your own, but if not I recommend booking a trusted guide here.

Bookmark this page for later, leave a comment below if you have any questions or say thanks with a coffee here if this blog post has helped you out 🤠


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Hi, I am Allan, a travel, health and fitness fanatic from New Zealand. I'm a former lawyer who turned into a full-time nomad in 2020. For the last 4+ years I've been traveling the world. I'm always on a hunt for good food, activities on a budget and workouts on the go. I hope you find my tips helpful and get inspired to travel more!

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