Thursday, 21 February 2013

Lago Atitlan

We left Chichicastenango a few days ago.. took the bus out of town and down to Los Encuentros which is the junction at the Pan-American highway.. transferred there to another bus to Solola, then another bus for the last leg to Panajachel.. a town on Lago Atitlan. Phew.. we are getting pretty comfortable with busing around. All of those bus rides, transfers only took about 2 hours and we were safe in our pension in Panajachel by noon. Now that we are down from the highlands the palm trees again and tropical flowers have replaced the pine trees. The heat feels great!

Hospedaje El Viajero
talking parrot at our pension.. the parrot actually moews!

Panajachel is a fairly "touristy" town as it goes.. lots of vendors selling there "tipicos" to the tourists, a whole street lined with tourist offices, restaurants, cafes, souvenir stores etc.  Lago Atitlan has a rep for new age, health focused type living but instead of Panajachel being the hub (which was "the" place during the 60's & 70's) .. it has moved to the smaller villages around Lago Atitlan. What is left in Panajachel, from what we have gathered, is the more main stream tourists and travellers. We see a lot of "older" travellers around.. and many of them backpacking (which is pretty cool). The younger travellers seem to flock to San Pedro or San Marcos (smaller villages across the lake) where there are spanish schools, yoga studios, massage, reiki, health food stores, drink menus that include a long list of herbal teas etc .. you name it.

main drag in Panajachel

All the infrastructure for us tourists or ex-pats interrupts the cultural immersion experience but it's still part of what Guatemala is.. the country has a long history of travellers coming because of the it's beauty and the Mayan culture (and inexpensive travel!). So, really Panajachel is an old town on the travellers circuit and the smaller towns like San Pedro are becoming well worn routes too. Eric and I stayed in San Pedro 18 years ago.. then a tiny Mayan village "off the beaten track" and when we visited it the other day.. we were amazed at just how many tourists/travellers there were and all the restaurants and hotel options..  not so "off the beaten track" anymore!

wandering through San Pedro

Tuk-Tuk jam in San Pedro

busy but still quaint San Pedro 

a rare glimpse into traditional lake life..
man on a flat bottom boat

So, unfortunately, our impressions of Panajachel and Lago Atitlan are  restricted to the mainstream travellers path.. the main drag of restaurants and stores. But with a town catering to tourists.. it's actually a fairly fun, "vacationy" type place to be!

And really our main focus for coming to Panajachel was for the lake.. which is truly beautiful.

Today we go back to Antigua (3 hour bus ride), just for one night, then we take a bus to Guatemala City and onwards to Rio Dulce (that is a full day adventure!). Rio Dulce is on Lago Izabal.. another pretty spot, but also the gateway to the  Caribbean Coast.

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