Our next stop in Guatemala was Lake Atitlan, a huge volcanic lake surrounded by small towns and volcanos.
The most popular town for backpackers is San Pedro but we decided on the much smaller Santa Cruz La Laguna, purely because we wanted to stay at La Laguana Perdida, a hostel which I had found online months earlier.
After a stop up in the mountains where we caught our first glimpse of the beautiful lake, we arrived at Panajachel, the main town on the lake, after a 3 hour bus from Antigua. From here we just needed to take a public boat to Santa Cruz for 10Q per person.
It wasn’t hard to find La Iguana Perdida, as it was located right in front of the dock at Santa Cruz. We knew straight away we’d made a good choice staying here, there were great views everywhere, hammocks to relax in and docks to sit on and watch the world go by. And amazing sunsets every night.
We stayed in a closed dorm room, I say closed because there is also an open air dorm, which I was happy to try out but Greg and Sally weren’t so keen on this option, mainly because it lacks electricity and protection from bugs!
The food here was great and made all the difference, we had the dinner every night which is a set three course meal (Q50) all home made and served up family style. It was always delicious and a great way to get to know people, since you had no choice but to talk to others on your table.
The only downside is that they don’t allow WiFi, to try and get people to socialise more. It’s a shame they couldn’t just enforce this in the evenings but we did at least have 3G to keep in touch with people.
We only had 3 nights at the lake so were disappointed to waste a whole day going to Chichicastenango market. It’s billed as a must see in the area so we thought we should take a look. Not wanting to pay for overpriced transport, we took a total of 3 chicken buses each way which were very uncomfortable and took over 2 hours.
When we finally did arrive we wondered if we were in the right place. It was a market alright, and it was quite big, but better than any others and worth the uncomfortable trip? Not for us.
On our other full day we met up with some friends who were staying in San Pedro, and hired some kayaks. Me and Sally shared a kayak while the others had single kayaks. We spent an hour messing around trying to explore at least part of the lake.
The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring San Pedro, which is chock full of restaurants, bars and shops.
And unfortunately that was our time on Lake Atitlan. All I can say is that 3 nights was nowhere near enough, we could have spent days longer checking out all the other towns and doing some hikes. In hindsight we also wouldn’t have bothered with Chichicastenango. But we did have a great few days relaxing and would love to go back.
Our dorm beds at La Iguana Perdida were unbelievably cheap – 45Q (£3.91) each! It was a fairly basic dorm, but we couldn’t complain for the money. It also has private rooms of various quality right up to very plush rooms with lake views.
Boat taxis run every 10 minutes or so but if you’re on a more remote part of the lake they may only stop if you flag them down. The cost is between 10Q and 20Q per ride. It was 20Q to San Pedro as it was the other side of the huge lake.
To get to Panajachel from Antigua we paid 75Q per person in a minivan. This price could be lower or higher depending who you book with. It was certainly one of the easiest rides of our Guatemala trip.
If you want to visit Chichi for yourself on public transport, you first get a bus from the road at the top of the dock road in Panajachel (you can walk it despite what tuk tuk drivers say) to Sololá, around 10km away. Then from there you need a bus to Los Encuentros, another 8km or so away. Then you can finally get a bus to Chichi. It’s not an enormous distance but it is all uphill into the mountains, and chicken buses are pitifully slow at the best of times.
And the most important piece of advice of all? Stay longer than we did.