Guatemala – Lake Atitlan

Guatemala has a good mix of travel options to satisfy adventurers like myself. Lake Atitlan is described by many travellers as the most beautiful lake in the world and I certainly understand why. The lake sits at 1500 meters above sea level and is surrounded by mountains and three volcanoes.

San Marcos, Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan

On the 26th of November 2018 we left Xela on a chicken bus. Ok, I won’t lie and say a chicken bus ride is anything close to pleasant, but it is uniquely Guatemalan. This 3 hour ride from Xela to San Pedro, Lake Atitlan was my worst chicken bus experience, so far. Along the way, more and more passengers came on the bus and it got really full. I kept asking Frederik – How can they possibly think another body is going to fit on this bus? I had to sit on one butt cheek for most of the journey. It was not fun at all. If you thought this travel life was glamorous, think again. These are the kind of experiences that aren’t exciting but rather adventurous. All that kept me going was looking at photos of our destination! Surely the beautiful views in Lake Atitlan would have to make this all worth it!

San Pedro

At 5pm we arrived in San Pedro which is one of the 11 villages on the shores of Lake Atitlan. We called this village home until the 3rd of December 2018 and paid 80 GTQ (R 140 / 10 USD) pppn for accommodation. Due to its low prices, natural beauty and San Pedro volcano, this village is one of the top destinations in Central America for backpackers.

San Pedro, Lake Atitlan
San Pedro, Lake Atitlan
San Pedro, Lake Atitlan
The view from our accommodation
The streets of San Pedro, Lake Atitlan

What To do in San Pedro and Lake Atitlan

1. Visit other villages

There are numerous other Mayan villages around Lake Atitlan. Panajachel , San Marcos, Santiago, Santa Catarina, San Pablo and San Juan, to name a few.

2. Coffee tour

Guatemala is a well known producer of coffee. The coffee is complex and aromatic and it’s the drink of choice for locals. Our host, Javier, was so friendly, he even took us on a free hike to see his plantation. For those that truly love coffee, there are also many private tours offered in San Pedro.

Javier showing us coffee beans from his plantation

3. Swim in the lake

After we visited Javier’s coffee plantation, he then took us for a swim. Although many people would not advise swimming in the lake because its not perfectly clean, I found it safe. Well, I only went in deep enough to get my knees wet because the water was too cold for me.

Swimming in Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan

4. Hike up San Pedro Volcano

For our second volcano hike in Guatemala, we left at sunrise (around 6 am). Apparently this is the recommend time to start the hike since clouds tend to form around the peak after 10 am. We took a tuk tuk from town to the entrance and paid an entrance fee of 100 GTQ (R 180 / 13 USD) pp which included a guide. The trail is easy to follow so you don’t necessarily need a guide but since their services are already included, it’s great to have them around for motivation and to practice your Spanish.

Hiking San Pedro volcano

To prepare for our hike, we read plenty of blogs which assured us that “you’ll be rewarded with sensational views of the lake.” Guess what? Just like our Santa Maria hike, it was too cloudy. Talk about bad luck… The journey up to the 3020 meters volcano was about 4 hours. Keep in mind that the time really depends on your level of fitness and how many breaks you take.

There is a swing with amazing views of the lake on the hike
I had to take a photo of the sign because we were not lucky enough to see the view

5. Paragliding

Frederik is an adventure seeker, well, more like a suicidal maniac, Lol! It was only fitting to celebrate his birthday by doing an exciting activity that neither one of us had tried. We jumped off a mountain and soared around the volcanoes and also over the lake.

Ready to jump!

I always thought that paragliding was one of those things that adrenaline junkies attempted. I mean, I am not a fan of theme parks either – I always take care of everyone’s bags and jackets hahaha! So, you can imagine how nervous I was, I needed 2 days to mentally prepare myself. Fortunately for me, the 40 minute flight was not adrenaline-filled and nerve-wracking, as I had expected. There were definitely times when my stomach was in knots. But for the most part, paragliding Lake Atitlan was more calming than thrilling. We paid 600 GTQ (R 1060 / 78 USD) pp for this life changing experience.

Watch this video of my paragliding experience:

Lake Atitlan

After Lake Atitlan, we went to Antigua, the former capital of Guatemala. I’ll be writing about our time there next. Please remember to follow along by adding your email on the follow button below.

Thank you for reading,

Dineo Zonke.

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