Lago Atitlan

Published: January 16th 2015
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We took a shuttle from San Cristobal back to Guatemala stopping at Panajachel on the shores of Lake Atitlan.

We had organised a bike tour online prior to arriving as we thought this would be a good way to see some of the different communities around the lake. By the time we arrived we had not received a confirmation of the time or meeting place even though we had paid a deposit. They had asked where we were staying we thought they must be picking us up, but in the morning when no one arrived we phoned the office to be told we were supposed to be there half an hour ago. We took a tuk tuk to the shop as quickly as we could and were given bikes before heading off to catch a chicken bus to Sololá. We wanted something quick to eat as we hadn't had breakfast but ended up in a restaurant. After eating we took a public van to San José Chacayá where we finally started the cycling part of our tour. We cycled uphill to Santa Lucia Utatlán and continued uphill to the top which seemed to be never ending and my lungs felt like they were going to explode. I had lost my altitude acclimatisation as well as my fitness. Sadly by the time we reached the top the clouds had rolled in and the views were pretty non existent making me rather grumpy.

Finally it was time for some downhill but it was on a single track which was actually a walking path so in places was not at all suitable for cycling and due to our guide stopping at inappropriate places Gary landed up in the bushes. At the bottom we arrived in Santa Clara La Laguna where it was market day. From here it was rolling hills through San Pablo La Laguna and San Juan La Laguna until we arrived in San Pedro La Laguna. Along the sides of the road were people picking coffee from the coffee trees that grew there. After lunch we took a local boat across the lake back to Panajachel.

I really love visiting markets so I couldn't give up the chance to visit the largest market in Guatemala, Chichicastenango market. It is just over an hour from Panajachel and is popular with tourists as well as locals from the neighbouring villages. The narrow walkways were teeming with people; tourists buying their souvenirs from the small stalls and locals stocking up for the next few days. Many of the locals, especially the ladies and girls were wearing their traditional dress which differed depending on which village they came from and buying their brightly coloured fruits and vegetables.

We stopped for coffee overlooking one of the busy walkways and saw a lady making a killing selling chocolate covered frozen bananas (which we tried later and enjoyed). We had both breakfast and lunch at local market stalls and stopped by the church where Mayan rituals were being performed.

As we hadn't seen any good views of the lake on our cycle I wanted to visit the Atitlan Nature Reserve. We walked from Panajachel and enjoyed the views of the lake on our way. In the reserve we followed the nature trail past a waterfall and over swinging bridges. We stopped to watch the monkeys and coatis and visited the butterfly house. I enjoyed the walk to the lake with an additional three swinging bridges and great views. We caught a Tuk tuk back to Panajachel to catch our shuttle to Antigua.

Additional photos below
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17th January 2015
Lake Atitlan

Holy smoking volcano!
Thanks for the warning--I think I'll avoid the bike trip, but interesting to see how fast you can lose your acclimatization to heights! Your photos and adventures from the market at Chichicastanango and the nature preserve were great! Have fun in yummy Antigua!

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