Monday, October 31, 2016

Seven Days in Guatemala - Lake Atitlán - you don't have to be rich!

OMG the lake! What can I say and where do I start?

The crown jewel in Guatemala is Lake Atitlan. It’s been described as the most beautiful lake in the world, and it does not disappoint!

Lake Atitlan is a caldera that was created when a super-volcano exploded 84,000 years ago. It was so huge that volcanic ashes were found from Florida to Ecuador making it the deepest lake in Central America.

The light changes every minute on the lake and it it truly remarkable to watch. That is why you will see that it looks different in each photo, and I guarantee you will take a lot of photos!!!

But, I digress, so Let's start back at the beginning.... 
Friday Oct 21 - Day 3
Sat Oct 22 - Day 4

(this is a long post w/lots of pics as I am combining 2 days together)

Panajachel located three hours from Guatemala City and 2.5 hours from Antigua is considered the gateway to Lake Atitlan.  Panajachel sits on the northeast shore of the Lake and is the transport hub for the whole area, you can literally travel anywhere from Panajachel (everyone in Guatemala calls it “Pana“).

I mentioned the chicken buses before. We saw tons of them on the road because that is the primary mode of transportation for many people.  However, unfortunately, bus drivers have been shot at by extortionist demanding their “protection fee” from bus’ owners.  Or a pack of robbers will board the bus and demand everyone give up their valuables.  Rare, but it happens. So I suggest NOT taking the chicken bus. Not worth it to save a few bucks.

We opted for the comfy, air conditioned, shared shuttle above. It picked us up at our hotel in La Antigua and dropped us at the door of our hotel in Lake Atitlan.  Cost $20/per person.

We arrived at our hotel at about noon. Our room was ready. We put our bags down and headed into Pana to explore. 

Above is one of the cottages on the beautiful grounds of our hotel. We met the owner of the hotel and I think this is where she lives. 

The hotel has a Tuk Tuk on the premises (a Tuk Tuk is a mechanized three-wheeled taxi used for transport) so we paid our Q 10 ea and off we went. Guatemala uses the Quetzal Q 10 = $1.33 US 

(See video below for the Tuk Tuk ride - I left the sound on and did not adjust the video so you can experience the thrill of the ride - bumps and all) 

Panajachel, is the most common entry to the wonders of Lake Atitlán, and is a mishmash of tradition and business, its Calle Santander harboring colorful textiles, restaurants. The locals are mostly Mayan and many speak both their native language of Kak’chiqel and Spanish.  Many tourists never venture past this point and it is truly a shame. 

Daily life in Pana

On Saturday we decided to catch a lancha to one of the villages. We had plans for Sat night (a resturant/bar opening - more on that in a later post) and a tour already scheduled for Sunday.

Around Lake Atitlan are a myriad of small villages (about 12 of them): Santa Catarina Palopo, San Antonio Palopo, San Lucas Toliman, Santiago Atitlan, San Pedro La Laguna, San Juan La Laguna, San Pablo La Laguna, San Marcos La Laguna, Santa Cruz La Laguna. Most of them accessible only by boat.

They not only have unique characteristics but also cater to different types of travelers. Today we are headed to the holistic haven of San Marcos La Laguna. San Marcos is a beautiful and very quiet, peaceful village - perhaps due to the many holistic practices. Lots of yoga, meditation and vegetarian cuisine. Lavanson thoroughly enjoyed himself! Many new-agers and hippies live here. 

Lancha noun  lan·cha  \ˈlanchə\

Small Boat Taxi used on Lake Atitlán

The Lake Atitlan Boat Schedule is not an official boat schedule, however, the lanchas typically depart and arrive every 20-30 minutes from the public docks. For most of the islands we went to the fare was Q10 (or about $1.33). Locals pay slightly less, as tourism is what supports the local economy.

You may have to wait for the boat to fill up before it departs. If you are impatient or crave privacy you can take a "no waiting required" private launch.  It can be rented for between Q 150-200 to travel directly from Pana. 

It can be a very bumpy and jarring ride, especially in the afternoon when the wind, which has its own name (Xocomil  of the Kaqchickel language meaning "the wind that carried away sin"). picks up and the waters get mighty choppy. (this is what we experienced on our ride to San Marcos. You can check it out in the video below.

The lancha for the most part, is safe, though cramped and often crowded.
San Marcos La Laguna

Home again as the sun begins to set

and finally....Here's the video
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  1. Sorry I missed you folks when you were up here...I meant to be at Pana to meet you...I think I'll be in Costa Rica soon, so I'll look you up...good post, btw... :-)

    1. Thanks and Yes we were there expecting to meet you and Carlos gave us the news :( Please look us up if you come this way!!