Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

I’ve arrived in Panajachel, staying at the luxury stop of this trip, Hotel Atitlan, which is simply gorgeous. Rooms are stuffed with hand-carved furniture, local art, wrought iron beds and handcrafted patchwork eiderdowns. It is a colonial, rambling building nestled under the mountains and set amongst the most beautiful garden. They charge non-guests to come in and view it even.

Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

The whole point of this destination is for the lake, Lago Atitlan.  It’s such a beautiful, peaceful place that I understand why a number of travellers from the sixties have never left.  The weather is lovely, cooler in the evenings, and very hot in the day. The best description came from a conversation I overhead of a young British girl on the phone to her granny: ¨really hot, but not so hot that you sweat like crazy¨. Very accurate!

Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

Words do not do the lake itself justice. It´s large – 18km from west to east and 8km from north to south. Ít´s bordered by three volcanos – San Pedro to the right (from our vista) and then Toliman and Atitlan on our left. The lake itself is a crater and very deep, averaging 280m. At any time of day it is simply stunning — as the brilliant sunshine dapples the water during the day, or at dusk with the volcanos fringed in soft pink light. The volcanos themselves are beautiful. They look exactly as a child might draw a simple mountain, straight steep sides like a triangle.

Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

The lake has a number of little villages dotted around it, however Panajachel is the largest of all the settlements. It´s a dusty little town, quite touristy, and not that dissimilar to other tourist towns in Thailand, with locals selling souvenirs and local specialties from stalls lining the streets. Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

An easy way to see the lake properly and some of the little villages around it, is to take one of the ¨lanchas¨, a little fibreglass boat, over the lake to San Marcos. It gives you excellent views of a number of other little villages at the lake edge, all small sleepy villages, some with surprisingly large and lovely houses built into the hillsides. I suspect mostly owned by holidaying Americans. We befriended one such lady on the boat, who told her that on various spots on the lake there are some huge mansions. One of which is apparently owned by the man who owns all the department stores in Guatemala City. He choppers down to the lake, but interestingly is also required to chopper to work in Guat. City, as he has so much money that if he were to drive on the road he would be kidnapped for ransom.

Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

One of the villages where I spent some time is San Marcos.  It is a tiny little village, split in two by a not very busy road. Up in the mountains are the houses where the local indiginous live. Below, by the lake, is the network of paths that form the main village where hotels, restaurants, plus a plethora of new age, holistic and spiritually enlightening options., and although not a prosperous town the mainly indigenous people are very friendly. It is also filled with gringos, as it is a very popular place to come for retreats, meditation, yoga etc.

Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

It’s the kind of place where it is easy to just chill out and not do very much.

Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

 

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