Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

It was supposed to be the main attraction in Guatemala. Lake Atitlan was/is after all the crown of Guatemala and maybe the most visited of its place. However, I struggled to like it. I wanted to like it so bad coz it was going to decide if I would come back to Guatemala ever again. Even worse, I did not like Guatemala too. Maybe coz I saw the country in the lake and only with North Americans. So many of them were there around the lake, that I felt Cancun was more Mexican! So, when someone told me, “you have to try San Lucas de Toliman on the lake” I felt like going all in, and include it in my group tour itinerary. Hoping that If nothing works then maybe the only thing that remains will. Well o Well, and did it work this time!!

View from the Hotel – San Lucas Toliman

I should have written this from Lake Atitlan, I am thinking now. I should’ve written it from San Lucas de Toliman, the small town on the lake that changed my view of all things previously imagined. There were crowds here too, but they were just locals. Families enjoying a quiet Sunday by the lake. There was no sign of English or people who spoke it as their first language and that was refreshing. I do not want to sound anti-English, but when only one kind of tourists come to town, the town becomes them, rather than they become the town.

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Also, a crowd of locals does not feel like a crowd as they seem to somehow merge with the place. I am writing now however from 30000 ft above and on my way to Cuba. I can still see from way up here, the volcanoes that overlook the lake. San Pedro and Atitlan though may have erupted hundreds of years ago but for the many tourists who come back from the lake, the images keep erupting in their mind way after. The volcanoes of Patagonia have an ice cone whereas here its pure soil.

The more local town – San Antonio Palopo

The other towns on the lake like Panahchel, San Pedro and San Marcos are nice but then they have so many tourists and shops selling things catering to them that I struggle to find the lake in the towns. They have the view, they have an international vibe, but in them, Guatemala feels, unlike Guatemala. San Antonio de Palopa feels a little more of Guatemala to me in the series of towns around the lake. Just like Lake Bohinj in Slovenia feels more like Slovenia than lake bled.

The quiet lane at San Marcos

Sometimes in the night when I look at the Atitlan, and well, I can’t really see anything but yet there is the wind and there is the sense of being around the water. The volcanoes that guard the lake are lost in the darkness but even in that, there is the feeling of someone watching over the lake. Someone, not some mountain. With the lake, the extinct volcanoes feel active. The Volcanoes and the Lake complete each other.

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If there is a day of touring around the lake then this is how I would recommend you to do it.

Around the lake in a day!

  • Take the boat and start early, after 4 pm the lake starts to feel like a sea when it’s windy.
  • In San Antonia Palopo to see the locals while not being bothered by tourists.
  • In San Pedro be in presence of party-goers and feel the buzz.
  • In San Marcos walk in the narrow lane lined with yoga casa’s, organic café’s.
  • In San Juan explore the coffee and the chocolate makers.
The town for Coffee and Chocolate – San Juan

I would come back to the lake and always stay at San Lucas Toliman, but for what the lake is, to each one his own. I am sure just as I found my lake in Toliman you would find yours elsewhere on its periphery.