13
Feb-2013

Lake Atitlan

Guatemala   /  
  • Le lac Atitlan

  • Le village de Santa Cruz La Laguna

  • Volcan autour du lac Atitlan à la nuit tombée

  • Coucher de soleil sur le lac Atitlan

  • L'église du village San Pedro

  • Les boutiques artisanales de Panajachel

  • Un cocktail au Garden Lounge pour profiter de la vue

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Lake Atitlan, surrounded by volcanoes and small villages, offers a breathtaking panorama. The surrounding villages have each their specificities and are only accessible by the lake, taking a public lancha for 10Q for direct trips and 25Q when more than one station. They will tell you a higher price so you have to negotiate, do not be fooled. The lanchas come regularly but stop at about 6-7pm. There is really no need to take private lanchas which are much more expensive and not at all comfortable.

How long to stay around Lake Atitlan?

We were a little bit disappointed with our stay on the lake, but perhaps because of the gray sky we had. In our opinion, it takes only one to two days to visit some villages and enjoy the authentic atmosphere of this place, but it is not necessary to stay there much longer if you have little time to travel . With one more day, you can also swim in the lake, snorkel, do paragliding or walk from one village to another (we were advised to walk from Santa Cruz to San Marcos, 2 hours).

Which villages TO visit around Lake Atitlan?

Panajachel is the main city, the most touristy, but there is not much to see except a tour of its many craft shops, all together on the same long main street. It is easily accessible from Antigua and Chichicastenango, and is the starting point of any trip to the villages around the lake.

We ate in a Uruguyan restaurant which we do not remember the name, excellent grilled meats between 80 and 90Q and huge great burgers for 20-30Q.

San Pedro La Laguna is the second largest village and the basement of backpackers, it is also famous for its Jonkies. To see: the church of San Pedro. Apart from that, walking in the dirty and very steep streets, but it is not particularly pretty and there is not much to do. Attention, there are two ATM in the city and when we went there, none worked! It seems there are lots of places for evening entertainment on weekends, but we have not tested.

San Marco is interesting for its relaxed atmosphere and its population of hippies that will offer all kinds of natural therapies, from classic to crazy, yoga, meditation, massages…

Santa Cruz La Laguna is the quietest of all these villages, with its rather isolated village on a hill. There really is nothing else to do that a little walk in the village, where there is a beautiful view of the lake. Hotels are installed on the shore, away from the village. Have a drink and nachos with guacamole sauce in the bar Garden Lounge to watch the sunset over the lake from their all white sofas. You can also relax in a four-poster bed on a small jetty and take a picture that will amaze all your friends on Facebook ;-) A little bit expensive drink, but it’s worth it.

This is where we took our hostel, La Iguana Perdida. The big plus of this hostel is its convivial evening meal with appetizer, entree and dessert for 60Q (6 €). You must register in the day and in the evening, everyone sit down around large tables to share a meal. It’s very nice. On Friday night, there is a Trivia Night, with a set of general knowledge questions and Saturday night, they organize a fancy BBQ which we could not participate because we went during the day, but looked very nice. Unfortunately it is impossible to go out at night because there is absolutely nothing in the village and lanchas no longer work in the dark. In addition, some rooms have no electricity so you have to make it clear that you want a room with electricity (and yes, this is not a joke). We’ve been awakened early in the morning because of rocks falling on the roof, and because the door locks from the inside, you have to remain it open for other backpackers, which is very annoying. Also the lockers are almost all broken and showers are really basic. One of our friends has fallen into a scorpion. 40Q for a dorm with electricity and 30Q for a dorm without electricity. The hostel offers diving activities, weaving, morning yoga and trekking on volcanoes.

We have not tested Santiago, which is a little more distant and less visited by tourists probably.

Where to go From Lake Atitlan?

From Panajachel, you can only go to Chichicastenango and Antigua via shuttles or public bus. Pay attention, there is no way to go directly to Semuc-Champay for example. To go to Guatemala City, there are four shuttles per day (6am, 9:30, 12 and 4pm) for 175Q. There really is no way to negotiate.

A question ? Other tips to add ?

Share your experience with other backpackers to enrich this article! Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below, we will answer with pleasure!

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