Villages Around Lago de Atitlán


Around the pic­turesque Lago de Ati­tlán, each vil­lage has its own “vibe” and population.

We are stay­ing in San Pedro, which is prob­a­bly the most laid-back vil­lage. Grin­gos con­gre­gate around the Pana­jachel dock, locals around the San­ti­ago dock. It’s a strange mix of British pub and come­dores but peo­ple co-exist peacefully.

On Mon­day and Tues­day, the lake was very stormy and we had sev­eral power out­ages. We had orig­i­nally planned to take the boat to San­ti­ago but when we saw the waves tak­ing over the flimsy dock, we gave up and decided to boat to San Mar­cos instead.

By the Pana­jachel dock, the water looked calm, but as soon as we reached the cen­tre of the lake, the lan­cha was jerked around. I was seat­ing at the front, try­ing to hold a blue plas­tic cover to pro­tect me from the water. Nice try, but I was soaked by the time we arrived. No mat­ter what you take, a bus, a car, a tuk­tuk or a boat, trans­porta­tion is always an adven­ture here.

San Mar­cos is the new-age vil­lage. A lot of (gringo) folks come here to fine tune their med­i­ta­tion skills and the nar­row alleys were full of holis­tic cen­tres, mas­sage and hyp­no­sis courses, etc. Not exactly our cup of tea—we came for the view and left with­out much med­i­tat­ing about it. My chakras are doing just fine, thanks. I do not need car­rot and beet juice (seri­ously, who does?).

We finally got to explore San­ti­ago when the storm was over.

I’ve been spend­ing a lot of time on roofs lately. I climbed the one at the hotel to get a bet­ter view, and when the cap­tain of the boat saw me with my cam­era, he ges­tured towards the roof of the boat: “arriba, arriba!” So I did the trip to San­ti­ago perched up there. Not bad.

San­ti­ago is the most tra­di­tional vil­lage of all. Here, Span­ish is a dis­tant sec­ond lan­guage and both men and women of all ages wear tra­di­tional clothes. San­ti­ago is also home to Max­imón, a deity revered through the Guatemalan high­lands. The God is a wooden fig­ure, draped in col­or­ful scarves, smok­ing a big cigar and pro­tected by both Jesus and other Chris­t­ian saints. He changes home every year but he always lives with a mem­ber of the cofradía (Mayan reli­gious brotherhood).

So we vis­ited Max­imón, who cur­rently live out­side the main plaza, in a house nested in a nar­row alley.

After that, we walked around the vil­lage, observ­ing the locals as much as they were observ­ing us.

Packed Col­lec­tivo

Three Maya Women

In the Par­que Central

San­ti­ago Dock

The Dock in San Marcos

Corn and Volcanoes

Lago de Atitlan

Bilin­gual Maya and Span­ish School in San Marcos

On the Boat to Santiago

Lago de Atitlan

God Max­i­mon and his Caretakers

San­ti­ago Plaza

On the Plaza

Vol­cano from Santiago

Vol­cano from Santiago

Street in Santiago

Dig­ging in Santiago

Chicken Bus in Santiago

Flooded Dock in Santiago

The Vol­cano from Santiago


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


    • Climb­ing alone is not rec­om­mended at all, lots of ban­di­tos around. It´s bet­ter to hire a guide, a bit too expen­sive for us though. In 2001, we attempted to climb Vol­can Agua in Antigua but got robbed by guys with machetes.

  1. what a beau­ti­ful place! so relax­ing and the views of the vol­ca­noes and the lake are just stun­ning. reminds me very much of indonesia.

  2. I LOVE Lago de Ati­tlán. I have a paint­ing of it and the vol­ca­noes int he back­ground hang­ing above my desk. Such a mag­i­cal place and I like how each vil­lage has it’s own vibe.

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