Without a doubt, my husband and I found this beautiful volcanic lake in the highlands of Guatemala to be simply stunning. Consequently, I thought it appropriate to quote the famous British writer, Aldous Huxley, at the opening of this posting since his eloquence so aptly expressed our sentiments. Lago Atitlan so thoroughly captivated us from our two previous visits, we decided to leave our home in the amazing Spanish colonial city of Antigua and move to Lago Atitlan for a completely different living experience.
Local fishermen still fish in the traditional manner using hook, line, and net.
It was time for a new adventure and a new challenge. Ringed by seven colorful and traditional Mayan villages, Lago Atitlan was a perfect setting not only to enjoy a more casual outdoor lifestyle, but also to learn more about the traditional indigenous Mayan culture of Guatemala. So if you are ready, please join me and let's visit Lago Atitlan!
View of Panajachel and Lake Atitlan as seen from a viewpoint on the way down from the traditional town of Solola.
Some of the local boats of transport as seen from the shoreline in Panajachel.
Lago Atitlan is also embellished with villages of the Maya people which makes this destination unique and extraordinary! Since there is no road that encircles the entire lake communities are reached either by boat or by roads from the mountains that may have short extensions along the shore. With its Mayan culture, dramatic volcanoes, blue waters, and lush vegetation Lago Atitlan is truly an unforgettable sight.
Check out these amazing men's hand-embroidered pants and shirts from Santiago Atitlan.
When we lived on Lago Atitlan we chose to live in the the town of Panajachel. We appreciated Panajachel for its location, conveniences, amenities, and lakeside beauty. We found that living just a couple of blocks from the main tourist area provided us with the ambiance and charm of Guatemala that was so important to us. Our neighbors were local nationals and included many Mayan families. We shopped at the local open-air mercado and ate at the small family owned comedors (eateries). It was ideal for our needs.
Having said that, "Pana" as it is commonly called, is the main town and entry to the lake with the most tourists, hotels, restaurants, shops, etc., etc. In my opinion, it is still the best place to base yourself for visiting the other smaller villages around the lake.
Santiago Atitlán: Visit Maximon, the Guatemala folk hero, shop until you drop for textiles and souvenirs, hike up for views of San Pedro Volcano, visit on their Market Day which is Friday.
San Pedro La Laguna: Climb San Pedro Volcano, study Spanish, hike to nearby village of San Juan, chill with fellow backpackers, eat gringo food, check on the outside world and your emails. This is a very popular place for visitors and expats alike.
The Catholic church of San Pedro La Laguna and its pretty plaza.
Santa Catarina Palopo: a 4 kilometer (2.5 mile) day hike from Pana, hang with locals and experience lake life with traditional Kaqchikel culture. Shop for locally made reed mats, colorfully women's huipils, and men's shirts. There are hot springs close to town and an art gallery.
Lovely Mayan senoritas in their colorful huipils (blouses) and faldas (skirts).
San Antonio Palopó: a 6 kilometer (3.7 mile) hike from Santa Catarina Palopo. Laid back and a simple Mayan Village which is well known for its distinctive ceramics and its traditional clothing including women's huipils and men's head dresses. Nearby are hot springs and a cave used for local ceremonies. Hop a pickup back to Panajachel.
Traditional clothing designs reflect the hometown region of the wearer.
Santa Cruz La Laguna: a small village between Jaibalito and San Marcos which can only be reached by boat with a few lakeside hotels and the main village up the hill. Activities: hang out, chill, relax, eat, sleep, or hike in the surrounding hills. Santa Cruz has the only PADI dive center on the lake. This was our "dropout" place of choice on numerous visits!
San Marcos La Laguna: located on the northern shore of the lake it is a place to meditate, refresh your energy, hike up to the Indian’s Nose mountain summit for amazing views over the lake, sunbathe at "the rocks," or have a picnic at the "sacred place" which also offers excellent vistas. Whew!
Oh, the joy of being alive on glorious Lago Atitlan!
San Juan La Laguna: the road north from San Pedro La Laguna passes around a head land to San Juan La Laguna (2 km), a traditional lakeside town which is an emerging destination famous for its natural colored dyed fabrics. Look for Los Artesanos de San Juan, the women weavers' association that uses natural dyes in their textiles. Weaving classes are also possible.
So to recap what you can do at Lago Atitlan I would say at the least you can: hike, kayak, climb, swim, swing in a hammock, study Spanish, "practice" yoga, visit Mayan towns, eat, eat, eat, and shop until you drop! OR YOU CAN SIMPLY SIT AND STARE AT THE SIMPLY STUNNING LAKE AND ITS VISTAS!
ONE LAST VERY IMPORTANT THING TO DO WHILE VISITING LAGO ATITLAN:
Visit the traditional Mayan town of CHICHICASTENANGO on either their Thursday or Sunday Market Day! Photographs of visiting "Chichi" are also included in my Web Album that you will find at the conclusion of this posting.
I hope you have enjoyed visiting Lago Atitlan in Guatemala as much as I have. Reliving the memories of our time spent there has made me very nostalgic with a very strong urge to get "back on the bus" to revisit this stunning lake and its special villages and people. But in the meantime I will share my photographs with you and that will have to suffice. The following link will magically take you to my photo album. I hope you enjoy!
BLOG: LAGO ATITLAN, GUATEMALA
As always, I look forward to hearing from my visitors. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any comments, suggestions, or questions either by direct email to me or by leaving a comment on the web page. Until next time, saludos and gracias, Laura
Memories are just a click away!