Villages Around Lago de Atitlán

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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. 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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