We were staying in Panajachel in Hostel Sotz and we could not organise a tour on Lake Atitlan for the next day. Eric, the owner of Hostel Sotz, suggested we hire a boat and a captain and he would take us around the lake showing us the 4 villages.
Our day out on Lake Atitlan
Julio our Captain, was ready and waiting for us and we jumped in and headed for our first stop San Marcos La Laguna also known as Guatemala’s first new age centre.
San Marcos La Laguna
The village has been affected by floods over the years which stream down the mountain behind the town. A quiet town located on the lake and one of the most beautiful small villages that line the lake. Nowadays it is known for its yoga retreats, massage centres and organic cafes.
People cultivate agave, oranges, jocotes and a variety of vegetables.
Men wear short pants and a distinctive dark brown woollen vest. Women wear a simple huipil embroidered at the neck.
San Juan La Laguna
Our next stop on Lake Atitlan is the village of San Juan La Laguna.
The fertile shore of Lake Atitlan produces coffee, fruit, flowers and wood such as cedar and pine and hormigo.
Village weavers produce fine work especially bedspreads with unique designs.
San Pedro La Laguna
Our next stop on Lake Atitlan was San Pedro la Laguna – 2nd in popularity to Panajachel.
San Pedro is located on the western shore of the lake on volcanic rock from the volcano of San Pedro.
The economy is based on the sale of coffee, avocados and corn. The locals weave mats and build traditional canoes.
San Pedro has an international feel. We had really good coffee and excellent carrot cake in town in a small cafe opposite the leather shop. Prices were higher here than in the other towns. The town flanks the northern slopes of San Pedro Volcano.
There are two docks the first one that we docked at was for boats from Panjachel and the 2nd where buildings were underwater were for boats going to Santiago. They are about 1km apart. If you travel to San Pedro ensure you know which dock to go to.
Last stop on Lake Atitlan for the day was Santiago Atitlan.
Santiago Atitlan is the largest indigenous town in Central America.
How to get around the Lake:
There are Lanchas which are the local ferries. These are the fastest way to get around the lake, only issue is they will leave when the boat is full. There are three prices- one for the local Mayan people who live around the lake, one for extrajero locals and the higher price for tourists both Guatemalan and foreign.
Expect to pay the following:
Tourist – Panajachel to Santa Cruz/Jaibalito Q10 (approx USD1.30)
Panajachel to San Marcos, San Pablo, San Juan, San Pedro Q25 (approx USD3.25)
Panajachel to Santiago Atitlan Q20 (approx USD2.60)
SanPedro to San Marcos Q15 (approx USD1.95)
San Pedro to Santiago Q10 (approx USD1.30)
Things to do:
Hike the San Pedro and Atitlan volcano along with the Indians nose above San Juan and the smaller Cero de Cro. The trail from Santa Cruz to San Marcos offers stunning views and a chance to experience some of the lakes most traditional Mayan villages like Jaibalito and Tzununa.
An ancient Mayan footpath leading up to the mountain from Jaibalito to the town of Laguna Seca offers amazing views of the lake and a chance to experience a truly remote village in the heart of the Mayan highlands.
The lake is situated 4,500 feet above sea level and almost 1,000 feet deep. The Volcanoes stretch up to 10,000 feet above the lake. A brisk wind named Xocomil whips up the waves on the lake in the afternoon and can affect the local water traffic.
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