Sunrise at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala with volcanoes in the background.

Guatemala: Lake Atitlan Becomes a Hot Spot for Destination Weddings

Why Couples Are Flocking to the Most Beautiful Lake in the World

Exotic destination weddings are more in vogue than ever with couples always searching for the next striking backdrop to exchange their wedding vows. One travel destination that’s has been increasing in popularity is in Guatemala.

Lake Atitlán, located in the highlands of Guatemala’s Sierra Madre mountain range, is drawing increased interest from couples seeking an off-the-beaten-path wedding. Why? Because it combines staggering natural beauty with the spirit of mysticism as well as multiple opportunities to explore ancient Mayan culture.

Resting within a 1,120-foot deep caldera formed from a volcanic eruption 84,000 years ago, this is Central America’s largest lake and it’s serenely beautiful, too. Atitlán means “between the waters” in the Nahuatl language and the culture found in the small and colorful towns and villages surrounding the lake are influenced by the ancient traditions of the Maya people.

... it [Lake Atitlán] combines staggering natural beauty with the spirit of mysticism as well as multiple opportunities to explore ancient Mayan culture.

Their art, cuisine, craftwork and traditional dress remain prevalent in the villages, where newlyweds can explore bustling markets, visit historic churches and tour artisan textile shops, where they can speak with local weavers. After a day of immersion activities, couples can enjoy an intimate dinner of traditional Guatemalan fare at a family restaurant or an upscale boutique hotel eatery.

An experienced travel agent can create a customized vacation itinerary that provides the bride and groom with all of the elements of an unforgettable destination wedding, including full concierge services and in some cases a wedding planner to handle all the details involved. Here are 5 reasons why Lake Atitlán has become a hot spot for destination weddings.

1. Incorporate the Natural Beauty in Your Dream Wedding 

There are few places that feature more picturesque and romantic views than the Lake Atitlán region. The enormous lake is ringed by Volcán Atitlán, Volcán San Pedro and Volcán Tolimán. The latter volcano remains active and often emits wistful plumes of smoke.

The towering volcanoes create a panoramic and romantic backdrop to Atitlán, which German explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt called “the most beautiful lake in the world,” and author Aldous Huxley said that it “really too much of a good thing.”

Couples can arrange wedding ceremony that utilize stunning views of Lake Atitlán, the surrounding volcanoes and the lush Guatemalan countryside.

Beautiful shot of a volcano and Lake Atitlan in Guatemala surrounded by a lush forest.
Lake Atitlán: The perfect natural backdrop for a couple planning their destination wedding. 

2. Arrange a Romantic Stay in Upscale Accommodations 

Lake Atitlan features several boutique hotels with unrivalled jaw-dropping views of towering volcanoes that surround the massive lake. At Casa Palopo, for example, couples can catch the sunrise together from their suite facing the lake or relax with a drink on the hotel’s’ balcony while the sun sets in the distance.

With help from a Vacation travel agent, couples can find an upscale hotel with a wedding planner to help tailor the perfect wedding ceremony, including the choice of music and cuisine.

View of Casa Palopo's swimming pool with Lake Atitlan and a volcano in the background
Casa Palopo: A Vacation travel agent can arrange a luxurious stay for the bride and groom at Casa Palopo or any other upscale hotel or resort in the area.

3. Immerse Yourself in Unique Cultural Experiences 

Part of the demand for destination weddings is tied to a couples’ desire for authentic cultural encounters and experiences.

Destination wedding couples visiting Lake Atitlán can delve into the Mayan culture’s colorful creativity via an array of markets, where traditional arts and crafts are sold side-by-side with flowers, home goods and even electronics and everyday household items.

Chichicastenango, an indigenous town located 6,447 feet in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, offers one of the country’s most popular markets. The town’s narrow cobblestone streets are filled with merchants and vendors hawking merchandise, including colorful clothes, shoes, handicrafts, food, pottery and wood carvings. Pana, San Pedro, Sololá and San Lucas are a few other villages near Lake Atitlán that have popular markets.

Vendor selling fabric at a market in Chichicastenango, Guatemala.
Local Markets: Chichicastenango is home several popular markets that sell an array of local products, including hand-woven fabrics, clothes, art, pottery and wood carvings.  

Chichicastenango is also home to  the 400 year-old church of Santo Tomás, a Catholic church built by Spanish colonists atop a Mayan temple platform. The steps leading to the church are considered sacred and are off limits to non-Mayans, but they can enter the church through a side door.

Travelers can also arrange for a mystical tour of the town’s above-ground cemetery, where Mayan residents visit and perform candle-burning ceremonies to remember and honor lost loved ones. Lake Atitlán towns, including San Juan de Atitlan, feature distinctive wall murals and offer a number of artisan and textile shops where a couple can interact with local weavers and craft-makers.

Chichicastenango above-ground cemetery
Colorful Cemetary: It's not uncommon to see colorful above-ground cemeteries in the Lake Atitlán area, like this one in Chichicastenango, where they celebrate and honor their lost loved ones.

4. Arrange a Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience 

Twelve indigenous towns line Lake Atitlán’s shore including San Antonio Palopo, which locally for its historic cathedral. Cultural, religious and even mystical experiences are found everywhere across the Lake Atitlan region.

With help from an experienced travel agent, you can arrange a unique blessing ceremony. A Mayan shaman uses a traditional pyre of colored candles, flowers, incense, nuts and other natural elements in a prayer for peace and well-being. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime destination wedding experience that will create an unforgettable moment for the bride and groom.

Woman performing ritual in front of a church in Chichicastenango, Guatemala.
Special Ceremony: Make your nuptials a unique experience and have a Mayan shaman grant you good luck on your new journey together in a traditional blessing ceremony.  

5. Go for the Active Adventures  

Honeymooning couples with an interest in adventure will be well-served at Lake Atitlán. Several top tour companies offer mountain hikes and camping near the active volcano located in Lake Atitlán’s National Park.

Expert volcanologists and professional guides lead these special tours. Couples can opt to extend their journey beyond Lake Atitlán to Quetzaltenango, the county’s second-largest city, dividing their nightly accommodations between spacious luxe camping tents and high-end hotels.

Inspired by this article and want to speak with an expert travel agent about how you can plan an unforgettable destination wedding near Lake Atitlán in Guatemala? Let one of Vacation’s on-call travel experts match you with an expert travel agent, who can customize an itinerary you’re going to love.

A couple sitting down at Indian's Nose viewpoint watching the sunset in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
Post-Wedding Bliss: After your wedding, stay a few more days to go hiking up to Indian's Nose, where you can watch the sunrise or sunset over Lake Atitlán.
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