I have been fortunate enough to travel to diverse places, but Lake Atitlan, formed by the eruption of one of the three volcanoes which surround the lake, is a magical place.
We stayed at Laguna Lodge, which was featured in National Geographic’ Best 25 Ecolodges. The lodge itself is great, with a rustic but upscale decor and with only 7 suites; you are almost guaranteed tranquility and privacy in all the amazing common areas of the place. Moreover with its own private natural enclave, hiking to the top of the mountain is an amazing treat. Just check some of the views from the trails.
Besides the natural beauty of the place, visiting the different towns along the lake is a treat. The water taxis are cheap and colorful. Witness this picture, with the Laguna Lodge at the background, and check out the name of the boat: Titanic.
Hardly the best name for a sea vessel, but it seemed very safe.
There are 12 towns, each named after one of the 12 apostles. We visited San Marcos, Santa Cruz, San Juan, San Pedro, and Santiago. Each town is different from the rest and inhabited by different Mayan tribes. Three mayan dialects are spoken around the lake and we were surprised to learn that everyone speaks their local dialect besides Spanish and the women continue to dress in their traditional clothes. These are friendly, hard-working people, and proud in keeping their traditions.
San Pedro is where the “hippies” call it home, or “wippies” as one local referred to them: hippies with wi-fi. We were surprised to find a large Israeli community living there and many restaurants served their dishes and the menu’s were written in Hebrew.
San Juan is famous for its textiles and the use of natural coloring in their fabric. They do have beautiful weavings and I ended up buying two scarves. This is a small town, adjacent to San Pedro.
San Marcos is small, quaint, and known for its “spirituality” and new age atmosphere with several foreigners living there and offering all types of massages, yoga, and spiritual healings. Classes are offered here for these arts and one has to believe that the magical setting contributes greatly to the experience.
Santiago is the largest city and is considerably more developed than the rest. We were lucky to have witnessed a religious procession honoring their local saint and the city’s narrow streets were decorated with bright colored wood chips laid on the streets. We also visited a local house which housed the Maximon, which is the Mayan god. Next to the Maximon, in an enclosed glass coffin there was a life-size wooden figure of Jesus Christ, and next to it several standing statues of Jesus Christ. We witnessed local shamans chanting and offering Maximon cigarettes and rum. Also, the Maximon’s clothes get washed every month, and this water with the soap is passed around and drank by the women washing the clothes and the shamans. We were offered, but I am ashamed to say we passed on this experience.
One of the best getaways I ever had – strongly recommended!