Each town has its own “vibe” and unique population around the picturesque Lago de Atitlán.

We are staying in San Pedro, probably the most laid-back town. Gringos congregate around the Panajachel dock, locals around the Santiago dock. It’s a strange mix of British pubs and comedores, but both 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. This God is a wooden figure, draped in colourful 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 lives 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

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  1. Lily January 6, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Can you climb these volcanoes? Do you plan to go hiking over there?

    The photos are really beautiful, as usual. 🙂

    1. Zhu January 9, 2012 at 6:23 pm

      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.

  2. ristinw January 7, 2012 at 5:53 am

    I am just wondering what is that thing placed on the top of the round rock in the picture of “volcano from Sao Tiago”

    1. Zhu January 9, 2012 at 6:24 pm

      I joked it looked like a nipple (sorry!) but it´s the top of the roof of a church.

  3. shionge January 7, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Very nice shots as usual 😀

    1. Zhu January 9, 2012 at 6:25 pm

      Thank you!

  4. kyh January 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm

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

    1. Zhu January 13, 2012 at 2:36 pm

      Really? I don’t associate Indonesia with volcanoes but I don’t know the country at all.

  5. Laurel January 12, 2012 at 10:32 am

    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.

    1. Zhu January 13, 2012 at 2:38 pm

      Exactly! Most people who’ve been there have great memories of it.


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