Lake AtitlanMarch 24, 2017 in Guatemala
A two and a half hour bumpy drive from Antigua is Panajachel, one of the main towns that surrounds Lake Atitlan. This lake is actually a giant volanic crater that has since filled with water and is surrounded by other surviving volancos. Around the lake are many towns, many traditional Mayan towns that have been there for hundreds of years. Of course they develop and change, especially to welcome tourists. However they still have a lot of locals who still wear traditional clothing and hold that original lifestyle.
We arrived in Pana around 4pm and after checking into our hotel went for a walk to the lakes edge to check out the view. Rather misty now but still very impressive. We ended up having a delicious early dinner and booking onto a tour for the following day to go around some of the towns on the lake.
The following day we were on the water at 8am and enjoying a beautiful clear and still morning. Our first stop was San Marcos. An adorable small town full of yoga, massages, alternative medicine and vegetarian cafes. We loved the vibe. We had a very tasty and healthy breakfast in a secluded garden and enjoyed a wander around. We felt we could have definitely had more time there.
Our next stop was San Juan, a small steep town full of local artists and handicraft merchants. Safe to say we got a few souvenirs! We loved the vibe here which was friendly and relaxed.
Next stop was San Pedro, or rather the party town where a lot of backpackers go. Although there was some fun bars and cafes with cracking waterside views there wasn't much else to see in the time we were there, and we found it dramatically more manic in vibe. Maybe with more time we would have found more hidden gems.
Our next stop was a town called San Atitlan and the biggest on the lake. This also had a steep walk up to the centre which we clambered up. We'd clearly arrived at prime market time and navigated our way through the vibrant street stalls and madness. We heard the sound of drums and appeared out into the main square where there was some sort of performance and lots of families about. It created a pretty fun atmosphere, if a little chaotic. At this point we spotted the church which was recommended to visit. It was incredibly old and had a very close view of the neighbouring volanco so we enjoyed seeing it. By now we stopped for a late lunch and watched the world go by. It was humbling to see people working so hard including a boy who must have been only six years old carrying a huge bunch of firewood up the steep hill and clearly struggling. The desire to help was there, but we also didn't know how that would be perceived as we're foreigners.
Soon after we left here and jetted across now a rather choppy lake, we were relieved to get back still partly dry!
We thought about staying longer here as we would have loved to have spent more time in the towns but equally had quite a full plan for the last leg of our trip so booked onto a bus ready for a mammoth journey ahead across the country to a town called Lanquin.