Lake Atitlan is a beautiful lake around 3 hours from Antigua, it is surrounded by both hills, volcanoes and little villages. We arrived on the chicken bus from Antigua into the largest (Panachanel (Pana)) but stayed in San Pedro la Laguna which is about half an hour boat ride from Pana. This is the social spot on the lake and has lots of bars and hostels and is right next to the inactive San Pedro volcano (3020m). This was a good hike for which we started at 5.30am and wondered up through avocado and coffee plantations until we got to forest and then made the final ascent to the top. Unfortunately, it. Was cloudy so there wasn't much to see other than the fact we were above and being engulfed by the cloud. Either way it was a good and satisfying hike and really worthwhile.
San Pedro was really chilled and it was one of those places you could wonder around and sit by the lake with a drink, so after our hike we had a well deserved chilled afternoon.
Lanchas (boats) are easily accessible from the Port and will take you to any of the other villages on the lake. We decided to go to Santiago Atitlan on the market day to have a look at the products and also to see “The Smoking God” Maximon.
Santiago is the second most visited village on the lake and has a certain vibe to it. It is a bit bigger than San Pedro and has more of a town feel. The market has a strong association with Maya weaving so they had beautiful fabrics and souvenirs which you could easily buy for a minimal amount with a bit of haggling, there was also a museum which was about the tradition of Maya weaving how males very rarely wear traditional dress now but woman wear them a lot.
After lunch we went to see the Maximon. The Maximon is a mix of Maya Gods and is also known as the evil saint. He is in a few of the villages around the western highlands and each village has their own traditions surrounding them, people from all over the world come and pay homage to the Maximon and to be honest it was one of the weirdest things I have done this trip.
Inside a shed was a wooden man with a cigar in its mouth and covered in silk scarves and flowers all around the room. You are supposed to bring offerings of rum and cigarettes, so we gave a cigarette. The gentleman watching the Maximon took the cigar out of his mouth and replaced it with our cigarette before lighting it and letting the Maximon “smoke” the cigarette. Very odd but he obviously has a massive cultural significance. In the evening I grabbed a puposa which is a pancake stuffed with beans, salad and chicken and had some drinks by the lake before our long journey to Rio Dulce.
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