Guatemala. Atitlán, a lake between volcanoes


He Lake Atitlan It is listed as one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Hidden between volcanoes and lush vegetation, it encloses on its shore a series of small villages with a very special charm. Get lost for a few days visiting them and as a climax to climb one of its majestic volcanoes, they will convert your trip to Guatemala In an unforgettable experience. Travel free He was there and had the sad opportunity to live an anecdote that we will tell you throughout the post and that would mark our trip to Central America.

Lake Atitlan

Origin of the Lake

Lake Atitlan has an unclear origin. There are those who affirm that it is the cone of a great crater and others that during the formation of the volcanoes, the rivers coming from the north were blocked by the lava, closing the exit of these and in this way forming the great Lake. The truth is that the volcanic environment reigns everywhere. Simply look up and you will see volcanoes of more than 3000m of altitude or ride a boat and you will hear the constant pounding of the pumice stones Floating all over the lake.

Our trip

On the shores of the Lake there are a number of villages connected to each other by means of trails. Many of them do not have their own road and the only way to visit them is on foot or by boat. If you are going to do them on foot, I recommend you to inform the tourist office of Panajachel, since there are many robberies, some with aggression, on the trails that communicate the populations.

Most tourists stay in Panajachel or San Pedro La Laguna, the latter in decline after the closure of several establishments for allowing the use of narcotic drugs. Apparently this town had become the partying destination of the area, but the rise of the evangelistic church In the town, he made the town reveal itself and expel this type of establishment.

When we have our own vehicle, we opt for Panajachel and from here make the visits by boat. This town is connected by a narrow road, which eventually became a dead end during the trip.


Panajachel It is a small population of around 10,000 inhabitants located on the north face of the Lake. You probably have the best offer of accommodation and restaurants in the area, with the advantage of having stunning views of the San Pedro Volcano. It also has a series of beaches, although the truth is not very clean and many people are not encouraged to bathe since the lake is quite deep.

From here we can hire our boat trips at economic prices, after the corresponding bargaining. We decided to visit 2 locations, Santiago of Atitlan and San Pedro La Laguna, in addition to trekking to San Pedro Volcano of 3,020m of altitude.

Lake Atitlan

In Santiago of Atitlan We were able to enjoy Authentic Guatemala. Many of its inhabitants live in the traditional Mayan style, although deep down many of them are Christians. Like many villages in the area, it has a large square in the center of town with a beautiful church and a market that caters to the inhabitants of the town.

What we liked the most was getting lost in its narrow streets looking for the highland deity, Maximon, a local cult figure that changes its location every year.

Santiago Atitlan

The next day they informed us that the road that connects Panajachel with the rest of the world :-D, was cut by landslides and it would take less than 24 hours to restore communication. We got in the car to visit the cut zone, but access was prohibited. Even so, we take advantage of the morning to be able to take a series of photos from the heights.

Lake Atitlan

The next day we took a boat to climb the San Pedro Volcano and incidentally visit San Pedro La Laguna. It had not stopped raining for 24 hours and the news that came from Panajachel was not very promising.

San Pedro Volcano

Upon arriving in San Pedro we saw that all its streets had become rivers. The rains did not give truce and at night we had heard noises of new landslides. We speak with the staff of National Park and they told us that the Volcano area was safe, so we decided to go forward.

San Pedro La Laguna

Trekking to San Pedro Volcano it's simplealthough its 1200m of unevenness throw back many people. It has so many zig zags and such a beautiful landscape, that we will leave fatigue along the way. The funny thing is that it didn't stop raining for a single minute and I think it was my first three thousand to do it with a umbrella :-D. It may seem like a Sunday, but I was the only one who reached the dry top…. Once up, the umbrella did not give more than I have used my raincoat. This did not prevent me from penetrating to the bones during the descent. Luckily, the water was warm.

San Pedro Volcano

Once down, we visited San Pedro La Laguna and had a few beers at the jetty before returning to Panajachel. They told us that the town was known as San Pedro The Madness, due to the high consumption of drugs by tourists. This was eradicated after the election of a mayor with evangelical tendencies. This made close establishments and hang posters against this type of tourism and the truth that worked quite well. Today, instead of having marching sites, the town is plagued by Evangelical Churches.

San Pedro Volcano

Panajachel - Blocked City

Once in Panajachel, they confirm the worst. The detachments have been worse than expected and several people have died. Moreover, the number is higher in the nearby town of Only the, where the number rises to 38 deaths, when a wall of earth falls on a bus (See local news).

With a hired rental car we were trapped and the only way out was on foot or by boat, but always leaving the car abandoned. With patience we decided to wait 48 hours more and the problem was not resolved, so we decided to leave the car, after calling the rental agency, and leaving the town on foot.

We arrive at the landslide area and discover a Dantesque landscape. Trees, rocks and large masses of land had come off the mountain leaving the road buried. The police had cordoned off the area and only allowed people to pass every 30 minutes and in small groups. All due to the danger posed by walking several hundred meters through the quagmire.

Finally they gave us permission and we started to cross. The walk was slow, very very slow, we were sinking beyond the knees and there were people who lost their buried shoes. We finish all barefoot and with the shoes hanging from the backpack. The worst thing was to walk barefoot among the large masses of mud and stepping on occasional pieces of trees that lay beneath our feet.

Once we reached the end, there was a rancher that offered for free to take people to the next town, Only the. End of the adventure? No, the journey from Sololá to Ancient It had several sections cut, which made the journey take more hours than normal.


Do not be discouraged, Guatemala is an incredible country and this only happens to the gossips ...

Zone Map

Map Lake Atitlan

Practical data

When to go?

You can visit Guatemala any time of the year, but we run the risk in the rainy season (from May to October) of ruining part of the trip.

How to get?

To get to Panajachel we can do it in several different ways. We had a rental car and it was enough to take the road that joins Ancient with Chimaltenango and from here to Only the.

Another option is to use the numerous shuttles ó vans that connect Antigua with Panajachel, at competitive prices. As a more adventurous option, you can use the Chicken Bus (Yellow Buses), only you will have to make several combinations until you reach Panajachel, it may take up to 12 hours.

What to wear

Sun creams, mosquito repellent, good boots, flashlight for blackouts and frequent dark alleys and a raincoat.

Where to sleep?

We have a wide variety of establishments, including a campsite. Hotels with SPA, Hostels, Pensions, Hostels, ..., etc.

And how to save on this trip?

Nowadays to travel you have a multitude of possibilities to be able to save on your trips and adapt them for the simplest budgets. Coupon systems, Couponation style, allow you to find offers both to choose a destination and to enjoy a stay in places that you think you cannot afford.