This is our second winter in a row driving from Canada to Guatemala – each time in search of adventure, picturesque locales, warmth and learning – roughly in that order. On each road trip, we’ve made an effort to change up the route so that we can discover new people and places. But in both cases, we’ve made Lake Atitlan our longest and southernmost stop. People ask “Why Lake Atitlan?” I often stumble on the answer because it’s not just one thing. It’s the perfect combination of a whole bunch of things that for us, makes it an ideal destination. We’ll get into detail about each of these things in future blogs but for now, here’s our short list.
In his 1934 travel book “Beyond the Mexique Bay”, Aldous Huxley wrote: “Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes”. It’s no coincidence then, that when we first arrived at Lake Atitlan we agreed that Lake Como was the only other destination that compares with the stunning beauty of this place.
We love hiking and there are seemingly endless hiking opportunities around Lake Atitlan. You can hike between villages around the lake, climb up to villages above the lake, summit the volcanoes that surround the lake or trek to waterfalls and other hidden gems tucked amongst the villages and volcanoes.
Villages, Culture & Services
The lake is surrounded by Mayan villages and a very healthy tourist economy. This has resulted in a fascinating mix of indigenous peoples, ex-pats and all types of travellers ranging from backpackers to overlanders and hippies to winter vacationers. Each village has it’s own vibe and can be easily reached from anywhere on the lake by boat or tuk-tuk. In the larger villages, there is no shortage of restaurants, cafes, tour operators, markets and handicrafts.
Excellent Campground & Home Base
Pasajcap is an overlander’s paradise. It’s a gorgeous lakefront property with modern apartments for rent and a camping area. The camping area has views to the lake, to several volcanoes and to the towns of San Juan and San Pedro La Laguna. It’s a 20-minute walk to the village of San Marcos or a boat ride away to any of the other villages, using the property’s private dock. It also has food and wine for sale onsite, clean bathrooms, hot showers and good WiFi. The best part: it’s inhabited by a bunch of other super fun, friendly and crazy (in a good way) travellers.
Volunteering & Getting Involved with Local Communities
Guatemala is a fairly poor country and many of its’ people, particularly the indigenous Mayan population, lack adequate nutrition and basic services such as health care and education. Volunteering is a great way to give back to the people of Guatemala and also an opportunity to learn more about the local communities. It just so happens that Sheila and Brian, the Co-Founders and Chairs of the Saludos Ninos (‘hello kids’) project on Lake Atitlan, live in Wakefield QC (CAN), roughly a 10-minute drive from our house. Discovering this was one of those “small world” moments and we’ve decided to spend some of our time here this year helping out with this great project.