Santiago Atitlan

Type Private Field
Coordinates 14°36’33.3″N 91°14’37.9″W
Elevation (Ft) 5348 ft
Runway Heading 13-31
Runway Length 2620 ft
Frequencies Communications on Unicom “Atitlan Trafico” 123.00
Additional Info Private grass runway managed by Aeroclub Guatemala. Members of the Aeroclub Guatemala and Members of the “Bahia Santiago Atitlan” can fly there without advanced notice. Not sure about guests, please contact the Aeroclub for information. This is the latest addition to the runways of the Aeroclub. Atitlan lake is considered one of the most beautiful lakes of the world, what else is there to know.

Viewed from Mirador Rey Tepepul. Picture courtesy of Kai Kailuweit.

This grass landing strip is challenging. The insurances in Guatemala require you to fly to Atitlan with an instructor to endorse you. This grass runway is high-altitude, not very long, rough surface, strong gradient, surrounded by hills and volcanos and can get very difficult wind conditions.

Here is a graph I created for myself. This goes with the typical disclaimer! Use it for what it is, notes of one pilot out there.

Definitely fly over the runway. Often there are cows on the runway and when they hear a plane fly over, they start moving away from the runway. You can find soccer games and people crossing the runway. I have even heard of tuc-tucs driving on the runway. You might also be able to see the wind sock and get an idea of conditions. Also take notes of the lake water surface, this might give you early hints of wind conditions as well.

I turn over Santiago to come down for the landing and will maintain the raising terrain to my right as close as safe. This gives me the best straight final approach and more room if I had to turn around. When final make sure you on the altitude numbers 5,600 ft in my case when turning final at 0.6 NM from the runway end 13.

Define where you are committed to the runway and once you reach that point, do not try to go around any more. There is the story out there of an accident some time ago, where someone tried to go around. It apparently didn’t work out. 13 has a 3.65° uphill slope and trees at the end and around the runway, which are not easy to out-climb. If you don’t feel comfortable with the approach turn left before your committed point and come back for more accurate approach.

This uphill slope is also the reason that I had good result carrying a little extra energy for the landing. I don’t go down to short field landing speeds, but keep a little extra. This way I have enough energy to flare uphill. The uphill slope will help slow you down quicker, so a little speed isn’t an issue for me. Make sure your make your performance calculations.

The grass strip is in ok conditions, but it not as smooth as it could be. Soon there will be a aircraft parking area with security to your left after landing.

Takeoff is downhill. Make sure to understand the winds, as tailwinds can often develop later in the day. Pilots have reported strong cross-winds, downdrafts and tailwinds for takeoffs. Make note of where the half-point of the runway is. There is a rule-of-thumb that states that you have to be ay 71% of your rotation speed at half of the runway for takeoff.

Make sure you make your performance calculations. Temperature can vary very quickly, so error on the safe side.

This runway is extremely rewarding and one of the greatest places to fly. So don’t let me scare away from flying here. If you prepare well, this is one the most fun places to fly to in Guatemala.

Insurance Local Insurance companies expect a special checkout on this runway. Contact the Aeroclub flight instructors for additional information.

Strong Wind Considerations (Advise from Mathias, almost a local) When flying from Guatemala to Atitlan on a day with strong winds, fly at 10,500ft or above and don’t descend until San Pedro volcano. (At 8,500ft you might encounter strong turbulence between the east shore of the lake and the “Cerro de Oro”. The area in front of San Pedro volcano usually are the least turbulent. You might encounter 35kts cross-wind on final to the runway, which usually descends to 5-7 close to ground.

Aircraft Parking
The Aeroclub is building a parking area to the north of the runway. You might be able to get a hangar with some of the existing owners. They are empty most of the times. I am on of the owners of a hangar there, contact me on info (at)

The runway takeoff is downhill, but you might encounter 17kts tailwind on takeoff. The Aircraft Performance Chapter Figure 11-19 shows the relationship of wind and takeoff distance. Consider 17kts combined with a 60kts takeoff speed (29% ratio) will increase your landing distance up to 70%!

Here are some videos of flights from and to Atitlan: