Guatemala is blowing my mind day on day. There are a few places that every traveller HAS TO visit and the last one on my list was Lake Atitlan. Lake Atitlan is about a 2 hour drive from Antigua so it’s possible to day it on day trip from there, which is what I did with Guatemalan Adventures, if you’re pushed for time. Although if I was to go back, I think I’d spend a night or two by the lake, it’s so beautiful.
Being pushed for time, I was picked up at 7am and drove straight to the lake. The drive is pretty laidback and the scenery in Guatemala is always lush. But the last 40 minutes or so, as Lake Atitlan comes into view, is just perfection.
The lake is huge, 1000km or so around, with 12 towns dotted around it’s perimeter. The main town there is Panajachel which is where we stopped. None of the towns are big, but Panajachel (if you’re gonna sleep in Atitlan) has more hustle and bustle to it, so I’d choose to stay there. There are some options for budget travelers, nice bars etc and the view is spectacular.
We stopped by the dock in the town, found a restaurant with a balcony view of the lake, ordered lunch for when we came back and then jumped on a little boat to traverse the lake and explore one of the other towns, Santiago Atitlan.
The boat journey across the lake is a must-do, 3 imposing volcanoes stare you down as you meander across the water, think of the opening to Jurassic Park and you’re pretty much there. I sat in the back of the boat whilst the Mexicans on my day trip chatted away and just zoned out with the scenery for 40 minutes or so, perfection.
We then docked at Santiago and went for a wander around that cute little town. Local markets, churches built on former Mayan ruins and then, just around a little corner, we walked into a Mayan ceremony where the local people were worshipping an ancient Mayan God.
The room was dark, run-down, dingy. About 6 people were kneeling in front of a wooden statue, incense was burning and I received quite a few strange stares as I entered and sat down to watch the ceremony unfold. They were feeding the wooden statue cigarettes and booze, he was covered in traditional clothing and people were chanting and praying with vigour. All pretty surreal, I asked could I take a quick pic and one of the guys agreed so here it is:
Anyways, after that pretty crazy experience we meandered back through Santiago town, back to the boat and another 40 minutes of daydreaming ensued. Back in the main town we jumped straight to the balcony of our chosen restaurant where I ate local seafood overlooking the lake, doing some work emails on my laptop with the wifi, and think everything works out alright if you just follow your passion. A great end to a great day trip.
As soon as lunch was over, we had a 3 hour journey to Guatemala City – I’m a pro at sleeping in these situations after 7 years on the road so I closed my eyes, work up and here I was at my last night in Guatemala. What an awesome country. Happy travels!