Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala


Greetings everyone!

We just returned from an unexpected side trip to Guatemala.  Our friend John that we met on the coast in Oaxaca offered us the opportunity to join him for a few days in Guatemala on Lake Atitlan and we calculated that we had enough time to go with him.  We called up our friend Amanda who is living in San Marcos on Lake Atitlan to let her know we were coming for visit.  We hopped in John’s VW van on Wednesday and off we went!

It was a windy ride from San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico to Panajachel, Guatemala. Bryan ended up getting carsick while I (Debi) took Dramamine.  If we take public transport again it’s a new requirement for us to take Dramamine.  The terrain is so wild here.  It took most of the day to drive to Guatemala.  We crossed the border at La Mesilla and it was super relaxed, easier than expected.  It felt like the border employees just wanted us out of their hair, no problems at all.  We arrived in Panajachel, on Lake Atitlan in the early evening.  The lake was breathtaking, surrounded by volcanoes.  We checked into a hotel near the water and enjoyed the view.

Crossing the border into Guatemala

winding through the mountains in Guatemala on the way to Lake Atitlan

Bryan and John taking a break in the VW

There are towns all around the lake and boats that will take you wherever one needs to go.  It’s a little confusing, there are public and private boats.  It’s difficult to tell at times which one to get on.  It seems that all the boat captains are in on ripping off gringos so a few blocks before getting to the boat launch there are men that follow us trying to lead us to their boat.  It’s tough to get them away from us and we usually just give in to whoever gets to us first.  We found Guatemala to be pretty intense with people trying to make money off us.  As soon as we landed in Pana there were people trying to guide us to hotels, restaurants, and selling us their goods.  It truly feels like we have dollars signs for heads.  Honestly, it was overwhelming and frustrating.  People are living hand to mouth here and they just try to get any money out of us they can.  Many times I just have to look away and keep saying “No gracias”, but usually they persist.

view of volcano from dock in Panajachel

on the lake

dock on the lake with a view of "Indian Head" on the mountain

We took a boat to San Marcos on Friday to connect with our friend Amanda.  She is living in San Marcos right now.  She teaches yoga and is managing a project for the School Yoga Institute based out of California.  She is overseeing the construction of a Yoga Farm on a secluded piece of property on another part of the lake.  We ventured out to the property with her and another friend Kristy on Saturday.  It was an all day affair with 2 boat rides from San Marcos through San Pedro to Santiago Atitlan and then we hired a truck to bring us the rest of the way.  We were dropped off at the end of a dirt road and walked a trail into the property.  There were workers building the well and a couple other structures.  Amanda hopes to have the property ready for a yoga training in October so people will be able to live and learn yoga there.  It’s an incredibly tranquil spot and it will be an amazing retreat when it’s complete.  We hiked around and enjoyed the wildness of the area for the afternoon.

Amanda on the boat on the way to the Yoga Farm. Note the puppy in her bag! She had adopted "Gaia" the other day in hopes that the puppy will eventually be the Yoga Farm dog.

passing through the town of Santiago Atitlan on the way to the Yoga Farm, there was a market going on

small fisherman's boats line the shore

the puppy with an avocado

Castor oil plants and coffee trees dominate the landscape on the way to the Yoga Farm

Bryan, Debi, Kristy, and Amanda at the Yoga Farm property

view from the top on the Yoga Farm

newly constructed dock at the Yoga Farm

We found communities around the lake to be rather chill with the exception of Pana.  Pana seems to be the landing spot for all the tourists who then fan out to all the towns around the lake.  We were harassed by vendors in Pana constantly while the other towns were much less intrusive.  We would definitely return to Lake Atitlan someday and stay in San Marcos where Amanda lives.  There are hardly any roads in San Marcos and most of the town is situated on footpaths that lead to small restaurants, coffee shops, and hostels.  It was so laid back and quiet.  It would be a great place to lose track of time for a while.

On Sunday morning we decided that it would be fun to take another boat ride back over to San Pedro. John had not seen the town yet so we went over for breakfast and some exploring. We had a wonderful breakfast full of fruit and coffee under a small palapa with an amazing view of the lake.

wow, just beautiful

The dock in San Pedro

breakfast is so relaxing, Bryan and John

yummy Guatemalan breakfast

view at breakfast

flowers in bloom on the lake

We left Guatemala on Monday morning.  We were off to an early start when suddenly we came upon a protest blocking the road.  Luckily we weren’t far from an alternate route so were able to go a different way.  We ended up getting disoriented in the town of Huehuetenango on market day.  We found ourselves in the thick of the market with hardly enough room to drive down the street.  With a little direction from some friendly attendants at a gas station we made it out of town.

headed back to Mexico

incredible color from the Tamarind tree on the way back to San Cristobal

Today we’re back in San Cristobal de las Casas and we’re headed out tomorrow to FINALLY get back on the bicycles.  I know, you’re probably all thinking we’re a bunch of slackers…..are they ever going to ride again?  Well indeed we are.  Tomorrow we start pedaling towards Palenque with waterfalls and Zapatistas along the way.  Stay tuned for our last 3 weeks in Mexico.  It should be a great ride.

Cheers everyone!

Debi and Bryan


One Response to “Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala”

  1. 1 amanda

    yay! beautiful photos you guys. It was amazingly awesome to have you down here to visit. see you again sometime soon.

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