My first week at the construction site is over. I hope to write soon how that is going. Just this: It is definitely hard work, so I feel like I deserved this weekend. This weekend we visited Lago Atitlán, which is a crater lake north east of Antigua Guatemala. It is the deepest lake in Central America, and its surface is at an altitude of 1562 m. above sea level.
We hopped on a shuttle on Friday afternoon, heading for San Pedro la Laguna, at the shore of Lago Atitlán. According to plan, the drive should have taken no longer than 3 hours. Well, we made it there in 5 hours. No way that it is possible to make this trip in just 3 hours. We used the highway for quite some time, before we started heading down to San Pedro. It was a long way down, on a road which is in a very bad condition. Eventually we made it, but the problem was that the last public boat had left an hour ago. The hotel we booked for the two nights there is only reachable by boat or hiking trail. We are in Guatemala, so there is always a solution to these kind of problems. The people there are more than happy to drive you to any location along the seashore. After dealing for a while with the locals, we opted for the pickup service which was offered by the hotel, and after a 25 minute boat ride we were finally at our destination. We stayed at Casa del Mundo, which was recommended by a backpacker we met a week earlier in Honduras. It is located at the north shore of the lake, just next to the small village Jaibalito. Although it was pitch dark, we could see immediately that this was a good recommendation. It is not a classical hotel, but rather an arrangement of smaller buildings. They are all built into the very steep seashore. Each room has its own private terrace which overlooks the lake. Since there are not many options to have dinner, the hotel serves their own delicious dinners. For dining they also have a unique concept. There are just 2 menus, a meat and a vegetarian option. The tables are arranged to form one long table, so the hotel guests naturally start to talk to each other. That’s how we met some Canadian and Swiss travelers and had some nice chats, before we went to sleep.
The next morning we saw the first time where we actually were. The view was breathtaking. In the early morning, there were no clouds, and in front of us we had a magnificent view of the lake, and the two extinct volcanoes Tolimán and San Pedro. And we could also get a better idea of the hotel. It was amazing. A lot of beautiful decorations, flowers, cute pathways, hammocks, they even have a hot tub. Everything was very clean and tidy. I swear, I do not get sponsored from this hotel, I really thought it was amazing.
We had a rich breakfast, and then headed out for a short walk to Jaibalito, the small town which is located a 10 minute walk away. There was not much to see really, so we went down to the pier, where we took a public boat to San Marcos. San Marcos is a rather interesting place. If you want to get on a higher spiritual level, you can go to San Marcos. Different offers for things like massages, meditation, yoga, shakra, tantra, etc. can be found on every corner. There is a very distinct group of people who made this little town to their spiritual base. I am really wondering what the local Mayas think about this development… We didn’t use any of all these offerings and had a drink in a cute bistro instead, soaking in the vibe of this place.
After a while we decided to head over to San Pedro, the town we drove to the day before. It is probably the nightlife center of Lago Atitlán, I think there is always a party going on. You can’t really decide whether the people are still partying since the night before, or are getting ready for the upcoming night already. The place is also packed with travel agencies, offering tourists all kind of attractions around the lake. In a travel blog we read something about a little place where they serve amazing snacks, so we strolled in this particular direction, through narrow pathways where the walls were painted in bright colors. Eventually we found the place (Blue Parrot for those who are interested), and the claim made by the writer of the travel blog turned out to be true. It is probably not the most healthy food, but once in a while that’s OK I think.
I think it is usual that in the afternoon, clouds start to cover the sky at lake Atitlán. A bit worried about that, we went back down to the pier, where we caught a public boat back to our hotel. The only seats left were in the very back, which we took. It turns out that these were not great seats. When we finally got out of the boat at our hotel, we were soaking wet. We were glad that we could change into dry cloths, and then chilled a little at the lake shore. Again, we had dinner at the hotel restaurant with the big family table. And it got particularly interesting when a Guatemalan tourist guide started to tell stories about the problems of the country. We got some ideas about corruption, black mail, politicians who don’t make their job, conflicts between Maya and the western culture and many other things that are going on in this country. They are maybe not the most joyful things of this country, but I guess its is always good to know and think about these aspect of a country in which you are traveling.
The next morning – another fantastic day – we again had a delicious breakfast and then started walking the other way, towards Santa Cruz de Laguna. It was a short, but very scenic hike. In Santa Cruz, we bumped into some other fellow students of the Spanish school back in Antigua. They were enjoying the weekend on a camp site. We exchanged some experiences with them, before we headed to the pier where we took the boat for our last destination of our journey, Panajachel.
Panajachel is the main tourist hub of Lago Atitlán. It has good connections to the highway system and all the major towns around the lake are reachable by boat from there. I was disappointed by the town though. It is not pretty, and somehow doesn’t have a soul. The only interesting thing was the market where any kind of souvenirs can be bought. We strolled through the calle Santander where all the market stalls are, but got bored quickly. In the afternoon we caught the shuttle bus back to Antigua. This time, the timing was correct, 3 hours later we jumped off the van. After a delicious dinner in Antigua, my weekend was finished, and again it was a superb one. Lago Atitlán is definitely a must do when you visit Guatemala.