The evolution of Tzununá has been fascinating to watch. In just over the decade+ that we’ve been visiting Lake Atitlan we’ve watched it go from the least known and least touristy of all the villages on the lake to a trendy spot with a growing number of unique (see: unusual) hotels, restaurants and retreats.
San Marcos la Laguna has historically been the focus for spiritual / holistic / new age / hippie crowd, with some suggesting it is actually located on a spiritual energy vortex. Whether that is actually a thing, or if San Marcos just happens to be the place a lot of likeminded people began to gather, is mostly irrelevant. What isn’t, however, is the fact it didn’t take long for San Marcos to start expanding beyond its fairly meagre boundaries (tucked into a small area between the main Mayan village and the lake).
That overflow has now trickled over to Tzununá, the most up-and-coming of all the Lake Atitlán villages, although it is also differen from San Marcos in the way it’s extra space and natural areas have attracted a more agricultural, “back to the land” crowd.
The name (one of just three on the lake that still retain their Mayan name) means “hummingbird of the water” in the local Mayan dialect (Kaqchikel), and the area is sometimes referred to as Hummingbird Valley. A small river runs through the valley down from the tall ridge behind Tzununá, featuring a hidden waterfall and passing through a wide range of forest, farms and mini-villages.
With a pretty backdrop, the standard excellent views of the lake and volcanoes and more available space than other villages, Tzununá has become the latest expat hotspot and the perfect place to experiment with an astounding variety of alternative hobbies, lifestyles and farming methods.
However, it still very much retains the feel of a traditional Guatemalan village. Despite its growing expat community, Tzununá is still much quieter and offers a much slower pace of life than busier tourist centres like San Marcos or backpacker central San Pedro. And, even though we think the best place to stay is Pasaj-Cap Rentals on the lakefront between Tzununá and San Marcos, if it isn’t available or you want to check out some of the interesting Tzununá options, this great local village is an excellent choice.
Lake Atitlan Quick Links
Here are some of our most popular Lake Atitlan posts to help you plan your trip to Tzununa.
Where to Stay: The Best Tzununá Hotels
El Picnic Atitlan
For a unique stay in Tzununá, check out El Picnic Atitlan. Tranquil, off the beaten path glamping with amazing views of the lake and volcanoes. Each tent has a balcony and private bathroom.
And if glamping isn’t really up your alley you can book the “luxury tent”, which is basically a room partially open to both the views and elements. Be aware that the views come at the cost of climbing quite a few stairs to reach your room.
On the bright side, there is also a restaurant on site, a giant screen to enjoy nightly movies with the lake and volcanoes in the background and an 18-hole mini-golf course that the kids (and possibly adults) will love.
Cabanas de Tzununá
Conveniently located in the middle of the village, the options at Cabanas de Tzununá range from double rooms to bungalows. There are relaxing gardens and lake access, including a private swimming dock. Just be aware that the hotel can be a bit hard to find and the local neighborhood can get a little noisy at times.
Maya Moon Lodge
In addition to its superb restaurant, Maya Moon Lodge has 4 cabanas with views of the lake, ranging from small ones for 1-2 people and larger ones for 1-4 people. One unit even has a kitchenette if you want to cook some of your own meals, although that one is directly above the restaurant and can be noisy. In general, there can be a bit of a party atmosphere at times.
Each cabana has a balcony or veranda and a private bathroom. Maya Moon also has tubes and a kayak for guests to use and a private dock where you can easily catch boats to explore surrounding villages. And if you’re really lucky you might see a dishevelled British man dragging himself from the water at the end of a long swim.
Lomas de Tzununá
Lomas de Tzununá is known for its views, which is why it made our list of Things to Do as the best place to enjoy a scenic drink.
However, Lomas also offers a variety of rooms that take full advantage of those views, as well as a pool to cool off in. They also have a traditional temascal and host many specialized retreats. If you are looking to plan a group trip it is worth checking in with them to see if they can accommodate you.
It’s a climb to get up to Lomas de Tzununá but you can also take a tuk tuk from the Tzununá dock. They also have kayaks for guests to use.
13 Fantastic Things to Do in Tzununá – Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
1. Take a Yoga Class or Join a Yoga Retreat
The Doron Yoga & Zen Center features a vast array of yoga options including a style developed by Doron himself, plus ashtanga, vinyasa, yin, and pranayama. While they have allowed drop-ins in the past (and may again in the future), presently they are focusing on retreats and yoga teacher trainings (RYS-200 or RYS-500).
These retreats and trainings tend to be fairly intense with a focus on you learning as much as possible during your time there. Of course, there is also time for hikes, tours and relaxation as well. Accommodation and meals are included and the buffet-style vegetarian meals are largely sourced from their own farm.
You might also want to check out our full list of the Best Yoga Retreats on Lake Atitlan.
When booking a retreat at Doron Yoga use our discount code RouNomad for $50 off and let us know how it went! You can go through all the Doron Yoga retreats coming up and pick the one that fits you best.
You can choose from rooms with a view, private bathrooms and balconies with hammocks to more basic rooms with shared bathrooms. There are a variety of hammocks, meditation spots and cozy places to hang out in the lush grounds and restaurant during your down time.
They also have meditation sessions and every activity at Doron incorporates nutrition, breathing and mind training. You can check them out on social media @doronyoga.
2. Take a Permaculture Tour or Course
Atitlan Organics teaches people about permaculture farming through both short tours (just the basics, please) and full tours (give me the works). Organized tours (100Q per person is suggested) involve about 2 hours of exploring and explaining around the farm followed by a short waterfall hike.
The courses, as you might expect, are far more involved. In the main Permaculture Design Course you will learn every aspect of building and maintaining a functional permaculture farm, as well as how it can benefit the community as a whole. From theory to getting your hands really dirty to coordinating and collaborating with local Mayan farmers, you can expect a thorough education.
When you take the courses you can choose an option for accomodation and meals included at Bambu Guest House.
A Dutch couple we met at Pasajcap a few years ago took this permaculture course, raved about it and have since gone on to design, construct and run their own successful permaculture farm/hotel/home in the south of France called Petite Vallee (as well as procreate, although I assume they learned that elsewhere).
Other courses include Elements of Natural Building, Sacred Earth Yoga Teacher Training + Permaculture and Permaculture for the Herbalist’s Path. They also sell fruit, vegetables, eggs and chicken produced on the farm.
3. Shop for Traditional Handicrafts
There are a few traditional craft shops in Tzununá where you can find beautiful Mayan creations in the local styles. Unlike some of the large, impersonal shops found in Pana or San Pedro, the stalls in Tzununá are entirely managed and supplied by local artisans.
4. Try Ecstatic Dancing
If you find regular dancing no longer excites you, consider square dancing too political and the tango simply too hard to learn, maybe ecstatic dancing is just the thing! Gaia Dance Temple holds periodic events where enthusiasts can come to shake it out with likeminded individuals. Remember to hydrate.
5. Learn About Mushrooms and Herbal Medicine
While still in the permaculture family, you can get even more specific by focusing on the surprisingly varied role of mushrooms with regard to both nutrition and medicine. The Fungi Academy offers courses where you will learn how to grow and/or collect a wide range of mushrooms from gourmet to medicinal to the sacred.
Meanwhile, Casa Curativa specializes in thorough knowledge of herbal plants and medicine, offering 2-hour classes twice a week ($20 per person).
6. Support a Non-Profit Organization
Tzununa boasts two key organizations that provide support and education to the community.
Chi Tz´Unun Choy was established in 2007 thanks in large part to support from Lomas de Tzununa and Casa Kuk. They offer a variety of classes – including painting, crochet and embroidery – and provide scholarships for further learning in those fields as well as cooking, carpentry and iron work.
Meanwhile, Wellkind also contributes to local scholarships and funds many different projects focusing on education, tree planting and gardening as well as a major artisan project geared toward empowering the women of Tzununa.
7. Have a Massage or Reiki Session
After a long day of digging for mushrooms and getting up close and personal with all sorts of natural fertilizer, you can head to Casa Kuk to relax and treat those sore muscles.
Along with 3 different types of massage and reiki, you can also take in some naturopathy, Bach flower therapy, sound healing or a temascal (see below). They offer courses for most of these, as well, host retreats and sell a variety of essential oils and natural products.
8. Sweat it Out in a Temascal
Temascal are ancient Mayan saunas, similar to Indigenous sweat lodges in North America, that have been used for centuries to cleanse mind, body and spirit. And make you sweat. A lot.
The mud and stone temascal has been built in the traditional style and features a wood-fire barrel filled with volcanic stones to produce the perfect dry heat (and suddenly the Arizona snowbirds’ ears perk up – “Dry heat, exactly, it’s the best, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you”).
And if you are the sort who thinks the body needs a good shock every now and then, just to keep it honest, well, there is a perfectly shocking cold shower just outside. You can make a reservation through Doron Yoga or Casa Kuk.
9. Have a Drink With a View at Lomas de Tzununá
One of the best places on the lake for a drink with an incredible view is the terrace at Lomas de Tzununá. You can brave the tiring hike up to its location high on the hill or you can take a tuk-tuk from the village.
You may also want to check out our list of the 16 Best Lake Atitlan Photo Spots
We often stop off while hiking from Pasajcap to Jaibalito and can say that whether you choose a limonada, beer or coffee you can’t go wrong. Lomas de Tzununá also offers full meals (the breakfasts are particularly good).
Plus, some a giant chess board, perfect for people like me whose eyes are starting to go…
10. Check out the Tzununa Market
Only recently established in 2020 through cooperation of Wellkind, Chi Tz´Unun Choy and local leaders, this energetic Sunday market has quickly become a focal point of the village. You can find everything from terrific Guatemalan fruits and vegetables to clothing, furniture and supplies.
11. Head Out on a Hike
The beautiful ridge hike that runs above the north shore is one of our two or three favourite hikes on the lake. Walking between Santa Cruz and Tzununá will take around 1.5 – 2.5 hrs and offers a superb combination of spectacular views, manageable inclines and rural life.
There have been occasional robberies on this trail, though, so we recommend hiking in a group and not carrying any valuables with you.
There is a hike to the Tzununá waterfall continuing past Atitlan Organics farm. Once off the road the trail goes along a river that you have to cross over a couple times before reaching the waterfall. It is best during rainy season as there may only be a trickle at the end of the dry season.
There are also several trails in the hills above the town that can be explored with a local guide or by following the GPS tracks in our Guide to Hiking on Lake Atitlan.
If you aren’t keen on working out your own transportation and following a GPS track, you can sign up for a scenic 4-hr hike ridge hike on the crater rim above Santa Cruz la Laguna. The tour starts and ends in Panajachel but you can meet up with them in Santa Cruz. The hike will take you past a sacred Mayan site before finishing in the traditional town of Sololá with lunch at a local comedor.
12. Venture Out on the Atitlan Bike and Kayak Trip
Outdoorsy types with extra time on the lake will love the Atitlán Bike and Kayak Adventure Tour which gives them a chance to experience the wilder side of Lake Atitlán away from the tourist shops and restaurants. Starting in Jaibalito, this 2-day tour includes meals and hotel (plus transportation from Panajachel or Antigua if needed) and involves mountain biking down from the crater rim, hiking between villages, kayaking on the lake and even cliff jumping.
13. Explore Lake Atitlan’s Villages
Every village on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala has its own character and at least one or two good reasons for a visit. If you are staying on the lake for a few weeks or more you should be able to explore them all one at a time. San Marcos is similar to Tzununá, known for its holistic and spiritual pursuits. San Pedro, on the other hand, is the busy backpacker hangout with the best nightlife and pretty San Juan is the place to go for local art.
However, there are also Jaibalito, Santa Cruz and Panajachel (Pana). Los Elementos in Santa Cruz runs one of the best all-day adventure tours that includes kayaking, swimming, hiking, rock climbing, cliff jumping (optional, obviously), archery, trampolines and, if you behave, even some time to relax with a view. This trip is very popular with families.
If you don’t have a lot of extra time but still want to enjoy the best parts of the lake, the most efficient way is to sign up for a full-day Lake Atitlan boat tour. It starts in Panajachel but they can pick you up in Tzununa if you prefer. Along with enjoying the fabulous scenery all the way around the lake, this 6-hour tour includes stops in traditional Santiago Atitlán, gorgeous San Juan la Laguna and local coffee plantations and textile shops.
When to Visit: Tzununá, Guatemala Weather
Often called “The Land of Eternal Spring”, thanks to its position 1,600 metres above sea level, the weather on Lake Atitlán remains a comfortably moderate temperature all year round, ranging from lows of 10-15C to highs of 20-25C. It almost never rains during the dry season from November to April. Rainy season runs from May to October but even then mornings are usually calm and clear with the rain only showing up in late afternoon and into the evening. And the sunsets are truly spectacular that time of year.
Lake Atitlan Map
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How to Get to Tzununá on Lake Atitlan
Tzununá is located on the northern shore of Lake Atitlán in the Guatemalan Highlands. Just about everyone flies into Guatemala City, with decent connections from lots of places around the world, particularly Mexico, the USA, El Salvador and Bogota. We generally find SkyScanner to be the fastest and most accurate place to find flights. To get to the lake itself, most people will be coming to Lake Atitlan from Guatemala City, Antigua or Xela.
Tzununa is accessible either by rough dirt road from San Marcos or very rough road down from the top of the ridge. Driving from Guatemala City will take 3.5-4.5 hours.
You can also take a tourist shuttle or “chicken bus” to Panajachel, then take a local “lancha” (boat) to Tzununá. Shuttles from Guatemala City to Panajachel usually take 3-4 hours and cost around 200-250 quetzales ($US25-35). Shuttles from Antigua or Xela to Panajachel will be a bit shorter (2-3 hours) and cost just 100-150Q ($15-20) because it is a much more common route.
The best way to get around the lake is by public lancha, the small boats that run roughly every 20 minutes all around the lake. You pay when you get off and the price is based on how far you’ve gone, varying from 5Q ($0.60) between neighbouring villages to 50Q ($7) to go all the way across the lake.
There are different prices for locals, expats and tourists but if you’re new you will probably pay 15-20Q from Panajachel to Tzununá (20-30 minutes). In the other direction, San Marcos is just 5 minutes (10Q) and San Pedro is about 15 minutes (15Q).
Another option is to take a tuk tuk to San Marcos (10-20Q), which might be faster (depending on how long you have to wait for the next boat) but is most definitely bumpier.
Helpful Details and Tips for Tzununá, Guatemala
Money and ATMs
You should be able to use cards at some of the hotels and restaurants but will still need cash for the tiendas, street vendors, tuk tuks, lanchas and local markets. There are no ATMs in Tzununá but there is one in San Marcos. If you find yourself exploring other parts of the lake, there are several ATMs in both Panajachel and San Pedro and one in San Juan (we recommend this one, it is the only one that hasn’t had any problems that we know of).
The maximum withdrawal is 2,000 quetzales and all Guatemalan ATMs occasionally run out of money so don’t wait until you’re completely out of cash to try for a withdrawal.
Wise is by far the best international multicurrency bank account we’ve found, although so far they do not offer Guatemalan quetzal accounts. We still find it useful for money transfers to Pasajcap, however, and we can now send and receive money in half a dozen different currencies, convert to dozens more with no exchange premium and pay or withdraw local currencies. Highly recommended.
You can sometimes change $US at the banks in Panajachel but don’t count on it. And try to break your large Guatemalan bills whenever you can since a lot of places have limited change.
Grocery Stores and Markets
There are a couple of little tiendas in Tzununá with a variety of basic supplies and a few larger ones in San Marcos, but for a bigger shopping trip you are best off going to Panajachel or San Pedro.
Internet & Mobile Data Plans
You can find wifi in most hotels and restaurants but never really know what the speed or reliability will be like. Plus, there tend to be lots of power outages. If your phone is unlocked we would recommend picking up a local SIM card with data (Tigo or Claro) so that you always have access on your phone and can use it as a hotspot if necessary.
The recent development of eSIMs has also changed the travel SIM card landscape. Anyone with a relatively new smartphone can buy them online, download them by scanning a QR code and buy a data package specific to anywhere in the world. After extensive research I have decided that KeepGo eSIMs have the best coverage and prices for most of our trips.
Language in San Juan la Laguna
Everyone in Guatemala speaks Spanish (except for maybe a few old timers in very rural locations). However, in the Highlands, Spanish tends to be the second language behind one of the indigenous Mayan languages. There is a fair bit of overlap but, in general, the people around Tzununá (and everywhere along the north side) speak Kakchiquel. Between San Juan and San Pedro they speak Tz’Utujil, San Marcos is a bit of a mix and up the hill in Santa Clara and surrounds most people speak Quiche.
Is Tzununá Guatemala safe?
Overall, yes. Violent crimes are very rare and we never feel unsafe during our stays on Lake Atitlán. However, there are enough incidents that you need to be smart and take reasonable precautions. Occasionally tourists are robbed at machete point while hiking, in particular on the popular trail to Santa Cruz. It is recommended to always hike in a group or hire a guide, and don’t carry valuables.
Where to Eat: The Best Tzununá Restaurants
Maya Moon Lodge
With a fantastic waterfront location a 5-minute walk from Tzununa toward San Marcos, Maya Moon serves hearty, delicious meals (including vegetarian options), baked goods and excellent happy hour specials from 3:30 to 5:30. We’re big fans of their breakfast, as well.
It also has the proud distinction of being the finish line for the Pasajcap Water Olympics, which really just involve 2 or 3 middle-aged dudes (slowly) swimming from Pasajcap to Maya Moon. It takes place weekly, or sometimes monthly, occasionally just annually or, if you’re a merely functional but very unmotivated swimmer, for example, you may just do it the one time and complain about how cold you got for the rest of time. So I’ve heard.
Up at the very top of the village, Café Nuna is a hefty walk or easy tuk tuk ride from the lake. They specialize in organic, local products, including vegan and gluten-free, and often hold movie and open mic nights (one or the other, not both at the same time, presumably).
Their hours are a little sporadic so be sure to check their Instagram page (@cafe_nuna) for the latest info.
Unique dishes, phenomenal views and local farm-to-table food make Restaurante Balam a welcome recent addition to the Tzununá culinary scene.
They have sandwiches, burgers, wraps featuring organic meat, no meat, and vegan or gluten-free versions, and is also the place to go in Tzununá for craft beer (along with smoothies and probiotics and the like).
In just a few short years, Tzununá has gone from the place most tourists had never even heard of to on the edge of rivalling San Marcos for holistic and spiritual pursuits. Whether it will find the balance between growth and overdevelopment that other villages around Lake Atitlan have struggled with in the past remains to be seen but, for now, Tzununá boasts a small but enthusiastic expat community with many fascinating options you won’t find anywhere else on the lake.
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