The Deepest Lake in Central America
Our last day in Guatemala would also be a very busy one. Visiting this beautiful region of Lake Atitlan and Panajachel, west of Guatemala City and Antigua, not only for the landscapes, countless volcanoes and jungle vegetation all around, but for what has been described as the most beautiful lake in the world. It is already an astonishing sight is to see a huge volcano; but having the chance to see three at once at the same time and the crystalline waters of the lake on the foreground and reflection is quite unique.
Surprisingly the whole area around the lake is very popular with hippy and backpacker tourism in search of tranquility and meditation. We did not expect this at all; this is not a cheap place if compared to elsewhere in Guatemala, but yes, after visiting few villages we came to the same conclusion, this is not the sort of place we would consider at all to stay longer than for a day visit.
Prices and quality of everything is nonsense, quite a rip off. Unfortunately the majority of tourists were Americans and they tend not to bargain at all and pay for the prices they get quoted at first, spoiling the right way of doing things hence locals expect from every tourist the same. Well not with us, believe me; fortunately me, speaking Spanish, could solve this by lowering to more acceptable prices, and even better quality. Speaking Spanish is always a great plus anywhere in Latin America.
We came here on a day trip from Guatemala City where our base was for the past days. A much longer shuttle bus drive than that for getting to Antigua the day before; but very worth it in any case. It is one of the major sights the country has to offer and there are many activities you could do, being the best taking the small boats to the various villages around the lake and enjoy the views.
For food we highly recommend a small place right opposite a building which was some sort of the docks police or similar, and next to the main dock. There are in fact little restaurants one after another in here. The middle one is the one you should be aiming for. For just 15 Quetzals they will do for you chicken or beef fillet freshly on the grill served with home made fries and vegetable or rice. A bargain for the quality and amount. No matter if you find this or you end up in another one, all are really nice, family run little businesses.
For more information about the city visit Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Guatemala’s currency is the Quetzal (GTQ). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Lake Atitlan
- Boat rides They all depart from the Embarcadero on Calle Santander to other villages around the lake like Jaibalito, San Marcos, Santiago or San Pedro. You need to be careful here because there are two kind of boats, those merely for tourists to do a tour, or the collective ones (lanchas colectivas). You need to go for colectivas. Fares for those are posted at Panajachel’s two docks and depend on what village you’ll be heading to. Look for the posted prices or negotiate if you don’t see them.
-Trip to Jaibalito is 15Q (2.54$) per person. Around 15 minutes trip duration with lanchas departing at around every 10 minutes.
-The most expensive fare is 25Q (3.18$) to Santiago Atitlan, the town furthest from Panajachel.
- View of the volcanoes Without doubt the best way to enjoy the views of the three volcanoes (Atitlan, San Pedro and Toliman) and the landscapes is by taking the boats through the villages along the shore.
I take here the same note I wrote for the transport for getting to Antigua as it applies the same. Having Guatemala City as your base will not only save you money, but the hassle of having to travel on and on with your luggage, specially if you intend to visit other places nearby. Just simply be based in the capital and having a shuttle coming to your hotel to pick and drop you gives you enough flexibility and comfort.
There are many shuttle service companies, being one of the best Casa Alegre Tours (Atitlan Tour). They have one shuttle departing at 06.30am towards Panajachel and the return one heading to Guatemala City at 16.00pm. No other times are available, this is a 4 to 5 hours journey therefore those times make it perfect for a day trip visit giving you enough hours there to fully visit the place.
We did not spend the night in here, instead our base was Guatemala City so cannot recommend any place where to sleep here. The villages in this area are all small, being the largest Panajachel, but all of them offer guest houses and hostels everywhere. Searching for a deal should not be difficult at all, but if what your are looking is something more up-scale, then there are also good options of small boutique hotels. A good point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engines such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.