Guatemala - Lake Atitlán


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Published: February 5th 2022
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After the volcano hike, our next adventure was to Lake Atitlán. It was about a 3 hour shuttle ride to Panajachel (Pana), the main town on the lake for transport. We were both a little grouchy and tired at this point and we still needed to find an ATM and a gift for Secret Santa. It was Christmas Eve, and the banks were generally closed and the ATM's did not work - third time was the charm thankfully. I finally convinced Luke to get a tuk-tuk to search for the gift rather than wander aimlessly around a town we did not know on Christmas Eve carrying all our crap. So, our driver, Manuel, took us to a place that had what I needed and then agreed to drive us the forty minutes to our stop: San Antonio Palopo. It was pretty fun to ride in a tuk tuk along the windy roads with great views of the lake. Manuel also tried to give us a little history of the little villages we were driving through - he was super nice, and stopped at an overlook point for a photo, though he lamented it was too hazy to see the volcanoes in the distance. Anyway, he got us right there and I gave him a good tip.

San Marcos Palopo

We met up with Luke's travel buddies at a nice big house with great views of the lake where 14 of us would be spending the next few days. It was pretty crowded in the main house, so Luke and I claimed the "pool room" which was the lowest level and mainly a room where they stored pool equipment, but it had fresh mattresses, a private bathroom, and the cleaner made it up for us. The first night we hung out upstairs on the main terrace and got to know each other (I was not the only newbie, but definitely the oldest!). The cleaning ladies also dressed us all in traditional clothes - I believe they were probably trying to sell, but they did a great job. They made it look quick and easy and the clothes were surprisingly comfortable, not to mention flattering.

The next day, Luke and I set up my two hammocks: one I brought for him and one my sister had given me for Christmas. Mine was amazing - like basically a tent with a full net, rain tarp, some storage and it was super easy to set up. So, I wound up hanging down there later in the day, reading my book and eventually passing out. I later joined everyone that evening for a party after the Christmas dinner.... So, speaking of.

After breakfast that one of the guys made (yum), we did our Secret Santa. I had one guy that I did not know who was mine until I got to Guatemala - apparently he was craving some British tea (if only I had known before I left!!!), but I got him a book to help him with Spanish - it was popular stories that was written in both English and Spanish. My gift was a very thoughtful Guatemala mug which I continue to use, a little Mayan zipper bag and a postcard describing the meaning behind the design.

I was a little concerned initially about Christmas dinner due to some questionable texts in the group chat. Thankfully, it was all amazing delicious! Very British, meaning we had some Yorkshire pudding (yes, they came out great!), gravy (lots and lots and lots of gravy), chicken, ham, mashed sweet potatoes, and lots of veggies. So, quite successful! Since I did not cook, I basically did all the dishes, Luke and Niall dried and put away. I had my after-dinner nap in the hammock-tent, then came back upstairs to hang out. They had the Santa piñata ready to slam and slam they did. It was quite entertaining. I actually still have no idea what was even in it. Then later we hung out inside, set off some fireworks, and spent the night singing and dancing.

It was always funny because this seemed to be a bit of a party town - lots of loud karaoke from down the street, so at least we were not disturbing anyone!

Each morning I woke up and did about 20 minutes of yoga on the terrace before everyone else work up. The view of the lake was incredible and peaceful. After breakfast, Luke and I took a walk up the steep slopes within town - not much to see town wise, but great views. We stopped at a textile shop where I bought three table runners (one for me and my sisters), then had lunch near the water of pizza, but sitting at a nice little section which was a Chocolate museum and had a coffee shop, where I got my mom some coffee (she loves it and is still drinking it!). That evening we played a really fun game that is super easy - you just need pen and paper - one of the funniest nights ever. The next day was time to check out. So after some more cleaning (I lost count of how many glasses were broke), we made our way to the launch.

Panajachel, Part Deux

From San Marcos Palopo, we went to Pana where we were all going our separate ways. I was initially supposed to go home today, but getting to the airport from here turned out to be a nightmare, so I extended my stay for two more nights. In Pana, Luke and I wandered around the port area, where there are lots of tourists stalls, restaurants, and even hotels and hostels. So, we tried for more money again (damn souvenirs!) then got some lunch at a restaurant on the water. Then we took a shuttle to our next destination: Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

We arrived at the dock, the only ones to get off the boat here. I should say, apparently this time of year is the time to be here, so all the hostels around the lake were fully booked through New Years, but I was able to get an airbnb here for a decent price (though hiked for this peak season). Luke had booked the hostel next door, but the airbnb was a bit more quiet and had a private bath (which came in handy later). After checking into the airbnb, which is basically a boutique hotel, we went back to the hostel for drinks and wound up meeting two other people he had hung out with previous. So we had drinks together and chatted, but they were headed to another town and soon we went back to the hotel to nap. First, I got woken by one of the workers to show the room to someone... still not sure why. Then, a couple in the room next to us were very amorous and she was oh oh oh OH! so loud. I wound up going down the hill to the gazebo where there were hammocks to get away from it (I could still hear her, but only faintly). Luke came down after a bit and brought stuff to make drinks and we watched the absolutely incredible sunset (with two volcanos) on the dock.

And that night was the beginning of the end. I think it was the water, but we were both sick for the next two days and thanked god for the private bathroom. That was probably among the most sick I have ever been. We both were miserable. So, it was a pretty crappy way to end my time in Guatemala, but the location was amazing.

I really wish I had had more time to spend at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala in general, actually. The people were friendly, the prices good, generally pretty clean, and just so naturally beautiful with so much to do here! I could easily go back and spend another two weeks.


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5th February 2022
Lake Atitlan

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