Lago de Atitlán is a large, beautiful, volcanic lake located in the highlands of Guatemala. The lake sits at the base of three volcanos: Atitlán, San Pedro, and Tolimán. There are numerous villages dotted around the edges of the lake that are accessible by boat.
One of the larger villages, that gets a lot of tourist traffic, is Panajachel. Panajachel is accessible via the road from Guatemala City, and from Panajachel you can catch or hire a boat to any of the other villages around the lake. The mail boats run fairly regularly among the lakeside villages, and they take on passengers for a base price of 25Q (a little over 3 USD). The drawbacks to the mail boats are that they will wait until they are completely full of passengers, which can take awhile, before setting off and you are likely to get wet. Also if you are at all claustrophobic you might want to find alternative transportation or make sure you get a seat up front.
On this trip we only stopped by Lake Atitlán for a night on our journey out to Huehuetenango. As a result we ended up staying at Hotel Atitlán in Panajachel, but if given the option there are a number of small quite places to stay outside of the villages and alongside the lake. Panajachel is a party town. It was a party town when I visited back in the 90s, and it has only gotten crazier since then. Unfortunately, a lot of the small, more peaceful villages seem to have followed the same path. We took a boat out to San Pedro La Laguna, and it size has almost quadrupled since the 90s. What happened to the sleep village a short hike up from the lake? and San Marcos? Well that was truly bizarre. You reach the small village, turn onto one of the main streets, and you are in the middle of some strange new-age, gringo, hippy community – pyramids, crystal, and all. Globalization…
Breakfast at El Pedregal on our way from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlán is a family must. El Pedregal has one of best, if not the actual best, breakfasts in all of Guatemala. They will start you out with Mosh, a really runny cinnamon porridge, which tends to be the start of a traditional Guatemalan breakfast. Followed by a course of freshly baked multigrain bread, white farmers cheese (made at El Pedregal out of milk from their own cows), and homemade jam. Amazingly, the recipes have not changed in the 20 or so odd years since I last made my way to El Pedregal. All of those divine memory flavors came rushing back – from the fresh thick bread, to the spread of crumbly cheese, to the sweet, goopy berry jam. Eventually they will bring you your egg course resplendent with black beans, crèma, and freshly made corn tortillas. It’s a lot of food, but worth every bite. Most of their ingredients come from the small farmstead the restaurant is located on. As a kid, I used to love running through the vegetable and flower gardens, and check in on some of farm animals including the ducks, chickens, turkeys, and cows.
We stayed at Hotel Atitlán, for our one night passing through, and while I would not particularly recommend it as a place to stay, its gardens and landscaping were beautiful.
The Calla Lily