You can get to Santiago Atitlán by chicken bus from Guatemala City, by pick-up truck from San Lucas Tolimán and nearby locations, and by speedboat or ferry from Panajachel or San Pedro La Laguna. Shuttles are also provided by travel agencies at Antigua, Xela and the capital city.
Recommended destinations are the Catholic church, which structure dates back to as far as 1571, and contains three plaques giving an overview of its history; the market street, running from the docks to the church, offers beautiful woven stuff, volcanic jade carvings and dubiously ancient Tz’utujil pieces allegedly unearthed from the grounds around. The neighborhood house where the syncretized deity Maximón resides for the current year is also a must.
The Spanish schools around the lake also provide volunteer opportunities built into the school. EntreMundos[dead link], an NGO based out of Quetzaltenango, serves the purpose of connecting nonprofit organizations and volunteers throughout Guatemala.
Climb San Pedro, the large volcano west of Santiago. Do not use a guide from Santiago; take a lancha over to San Pedro first and find a guide there (many are bilingual). Climbing from the Santiago side is very long and dangerous, the San Pedro side has a developed trail with stairs and handholds in steep parts (although there is an entrance fee).
Attend the Sunday mass in the church at 10am. You will see all the locals dress up in their best traditional clothes, sing Spanish songs and hear some prayers in Tz'utujil language.
Find Maximón. He sets up his temple in a local house and moves to a new place every year around May. He is some kind of devil that protects the people and grants wishes, taking money and cigarettes in return. When you find him, you are requested to leave him an offer of Q2, more if you want to take a photo with him.
La Posada de Santiago - famed restaurant out the outskirts of town.
Restaurante El Pescador - Best food in the town, also some of the most expensive (Q40-80). Located near the center of town on "calle gringo".
Quila's - Clean, good food. Newer restaurant owned by a Belgian expat named Martin, their licuados are the town's best. Located in a somewhat secluded corner, best way to find it is to take a tuk tuk. Free Wi-Fi (with purchase) and ping pong.
- Quila's (Cafe Quila's) (near main dock), ☏ . 11:00-22:00(ish). Elegant upscale cafe bar and restaurant. Great place to read, watch large screen tv or use internet connection.
- 1 La Posada de Santiago (on lake south of town by about 1 km), ☏ . Little stone cottages (casitas) with lakefront swimming pool, hot tub, temazcal (steam bath or dry sauna--your choice), gardens, palapa, dock, canoe, kayaks, and pedal boat included in rentals. San Pedro Volcano is just across the way.