Glorious in Guatemala – Lake Atitlan

Today we take a short drive from our homestay village to another town on the beautiful Lake Atitlan. This one is called Panajachel and it is a popular home base for exploring the lake and the towns around it. Pana was a popular hippie town in the 60’s and it still caters to tourists. We check into the Hotel Kaqchiquel.

I have mixed feelings about this one…while it is in a great location, it’s not the best quality. The water stinks, the floor of our room is dirty. The room is really spacious, but it’s not very clean.

We book a boat tour to get out on the lake and enjoy this region for what it has to offer. Lake Atitlan is a large body of water, known to be the deepest lake in central America.It is surrounded by 3 volcanos and it is actually a caldera formed by an eruption thousands of years ago.

This place is one of Guatemala’s top attractions and Lake Atitlan is said to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. A couple of the volcanoes here are technically still active, but the last eruption was way back in 1853. The lake villages are populated mostly by indigenous Mayan people…the Kaqchikel and Tz’utujil and most of these villages are accessible only by boat.

Today is not the nicest day…there are dark storm clouds looming and it will most definitely rain. The clouds dust over the tops of the surrounding volcanoes.

But we get on that boat and zoom over to the first village on the itinerary, San Pedro. It is right beside the volcano that shares the same name. It’s ok, that volcano hasn’t erupted in almost 40,000 years so they figure it’s done. And this means that it’s pretty safe if you want to hike it!

San Pedro a really popular spot to come for Spanish language schools, nightlife and of course the beautiful scenery. This town is overrun with so many tuktuks to show you around.

And there are many restaurants and bars to keep one occupied. The rest of the group decides to walk up the steep cobblestone streets to get to the church at the top of the village; I stay lower down to check out the shops. Wow, there is so much cool art here! I find a shop full of gorgeous paintings; the guy that owns the shop is painting as I walk in.

This one currently hangs on my wall!

So of course, I buy a bunch of them… I can’t even decide which ones I want..that’s how good this guy is!

Back on the boat to head over to the next village, San Juan.

Pedro (our tour leader) has set up a demonstration at a textile shop to show us how the fabrics are made. A young Mayan woman shows us how it’s done.

First step is to work the cotton so it’s the right consistency to weave.

Then it needs to be dyed….the dyes are made from plants, spices, flowers, charcoal, woods, fruit…it’s so neat! Guatemalan textiles are so colorful so you need options! Then she puts the dyed cotton on this loom and shows us how it’s woven together…it blows my mind how she does this.

She ties one end to something sturdy, then the other end goes around her waist for stability. Then she works that cotton through this loom thing…haha I wish I knew better how to explain it… I totally don’t get how this works!

A walk up the hill leads us to a small brick church in a large square; there are kids running around and playing with kites.

The large grassy mountains stand tall in the background. The next stop is a chocolate factory…the guy there does a brief demo of how it is made…yeah yeah that’s great but really…when do we get to eat some?!!

The chocolate comes in all sorts of flavors…bitter or sweet, some salty, nutty, minty…or they taste like coffee, rum, tequila, etc.  This is heaven…but how do I decide what to buy!!??

And back on the boat again for the last stop on our journey, the village of San Marcos. There’s not really a lot to see here and there aren’t that many lunch options (not sure why we didn’t stop here first and then eat in San Pedro).

I wander down the narrow alleys and try to find a cool spot to eat. Along the way there are many pretty murals to admire and I find something I think is cool…a wall that honors the local children for converting plastic into 15,00 eco bricks over the last 15 years. Nice job!

Even though the food menu isn’t super appealing, I settle on Posada Schumann for lunch. Mostly because of it’s amazing view of the lake and volcanoes.

I order these saucy cheesy fries and a Gallo beer and I’m a happy girl. I make a new friend too…a cute little kitty who wants to share my lunch.

This cat keeps jumping up on me and on the table and this is making him more annoying than cute. I should have known not to say Hi to him in the first place!

And back on the boat again and now it’s getting really windy and the water is choppy… makes for a fun bumpy ride back to Panajachel.

I’m praying there is no lightning and thunder, because that would completely stress me out while on this boat in the middle of a vast lake. No problem…the rain waits until we get off the boat and then it pours. We stay sheltered until it stops and then back to the hotel to change for dinner.

We choose Sunset café, right along the lake in hopes of some great sunset views but it’s way too cloudy to see anything. So, I order a beer and cheesy quesadillas and forget about that sunset.

And now my friends it’s time to party! Pana is known for its super fun nightlife. First stop is Simoneta Mixology Cantina…they make the most amazing cocktails…some take 5-10 minutes to be crafted into perfection.

These bartenders are true mixologists! Rather than order something ordinary, I ask the bartender to surprise me…he comes up with a mix of booze, basil, blackberry and cinnamon…then he grabs a little blow torch to fire it up. So yummy! This place has a really fun vibe, and they have markers so you can sign the walls.

Pedro knows of a place with cheap tequila, so we head over to Hamburguesa Gigante for some shots. It costs $1 for a shot…even though I don’t love tequila, how can I say no to that? We are now joined by Victor, another Intrepid tour leader in town with his group of one (it does happen!). He drags us to this hostel bar that I think is pretty lame and the air is just coated with cigarette smoke. I have one drink but I really just want to leave. Brigitte has also had enough, so we leave the group and end up outside of this cool bar that has a live traditional band and dancing. But sadly, there isn’t enough room for us to go in; we can only enjoy from the outside. We meet up with our group again and head back to Simoneta; this time Victor buys us these flaming shots.

I really want to check out Pana Rock, the best rock bar in the town. But it’s super busy and I know they’re never gonna let a group of 8 in the bar. No problem, I sneak off to go check it out myself.

I talk to the bouncers, and they agree to let me in as long as I buy a beer…haha yeah that’s not gonna be a problem! The band is local, they are awesome, and it looks like I’m the only foreigner in this bar. Wicked!

And that ends my night in Panajachel and the gorgeous Lake Atitlan. Tomorrow it’s back to Antigua for my last couple of  days in Guatemala…

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