Lago de Atitlan touches the the limit of picturesque; an astonishingly beautiful highland lake surrounded by immense volcanoes. It is really to much of a good thing at the perfect time in our travels. Just like home really. The effect is so overwhelming, that a handful of Gringo devotees have been permanently rooted to its shores. We had a chance to meet and chat with a few of them on our first stop in Panajachel.
Panajachel is easily accessible from Antigua or Guatemala City, most buses and shuttles end up here and all the boats to Lake Atitlán’s surrounding villages leave from Pana’s docks. As a result, Pana receives loads of tourists of all kinds.
You reach the perimeter villages by small fast (sometimes) boats called launches, often run privately by villagers.
For Atillan, we decided to splurge. Yes, Geoff and Graber...we splurged. Casa del Mundo first which proved to be a little too nice and a little too quiet, so we moved after 1 day. We did spend 1 night there though, and enjoyed it - it was just a little too quiet for us. Plus - everyone was old.
At a family style dinner one night, we did meet one couple in their early 60's (from Norway) who a just few years ago, decided to take their first ever back packing trip. They traveled all over the world for a year and found themselves spellbound by Atitlan and are currently building a house there. The really cool thing is (you construction and design geeks) the houses are constructed (formed) our of mud/clay, windows and doors cut out, everything set to final wishes...then set on fire. It is baked like firing a piece of pottery to set it like concrete. Imagine the endless possibilities along with no building codes! Ahhhhhh...one can dream.
The other bonus to Atitlan is the strength of the Mayan culture evident in its Lakeside settlements, still som e of the most traditional villages in all of Guatemala (despite the ammount of "tourism" here). If you’ve ever wondered what happened to the Mayans, it’s not that they disappeared — come to Lake Atitlan and you will be surrounded by them! And each town has its own signature style of clothing and wear traditional costume. There are 13 vilages on its shores on total - ranging from cosmopolitan-resort style (in a Guatemalan way of course) to tiny isolated farming communities.
It’s places like this…..
Well, when we decided to leave the Retirement Home lodging, we moved to "La Iguana Perdida" (the lost Iguana). Still a splurge, but way better scene and great people to surround ourselves with. The owners (American/Brit couple) are an amazing couple who seem to do a lot for the local village of Santa Cruz. They were priming for their annual christmas party they throw for the village children. The villagers make christmas ornaments that the Iguana sells. The villagers make $2.50 on each one, then the Iguana sells them for a profit which is all put towards the party. Food, Prizes and gifts like pencils and pens. They have sac races and an egg carry race (which the first time was a disaster because the kids had no idea what to do with an egg on a spoon). If anyone wants to send us a pack of pencils or pens (or whatever), we are sending them all of our left over stickers from our travels to use as prizes.... anything helps.
Today we leave the pristine Lake setting for our last 2 days here. Back to Antigua our last night and very special wedding gift from Jen and Ai, Sue and Leo. Thank you - we are so excited! But until the bus to Antigua arrives , we are back in Panajachel killing time waiting for the bus. Brian tried in this sweet which he should have brought home!