Lake, Steak and 3 Smoking Volcanos

Trip Start Dec 08, 2004
Trip End Dec 07, 2005

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Thursday, February 17, 2005

Lago Atitlan is described as the most beautiful lake in the world. Now, we havenīt been to many lakes around the world, but I canīt really see how this lake could be superceded, it is nature at its most picturesque.

It's surrounded by Mountains and active Volcanos, in fact the lake itself is the Caldera of a huge volcano that imploded, leaving a 350 metre deep lake! There are countless villages on the shores and slopes of the volcanos and mountains, and there is often a thin mist across the lake which gives the whole place a mystical feel.

We stayed in San Pedro which is a small town on the south west corner of the lake. It sits at the foot of the biggest active volcano on the lake (San Pedro). Surrounded by coffee fields coffee production the towns main business, and there are many coffee processing plants around the town (mostly manual). Many of the houses have carpets of coffee beans infront of the house layed out on concrete patios to dry in the sun.

Its not the prettiest town, but the people are really friendly and its so amazingly cheap. We paid 80p per night for a nice hostal (Xetewal) which had its own kitchen.

We took seven days of spanish tuition at the Cooperative school, which really is a great place to learn. The schools garden over looks the lake in one direction and the Volcano in the other. Our tutor, Griselda, was a really good teacher, and as well as teaching us spanish, she also taught us a lot about the Mayan culture and their day to day lives, as she was a Tzutujil Mayan herself.*

We studied for 3 hours every morning and in the afternoons we walked around the town and along the lake, shopped at the markets and went to a few other villages. Griselda was generous with dealing out homework so social life was minimum.

It was a nice stay, but a little too gringofied for our liking, most of the bars and restaurants only have gringos in them, so for this reason we were pleased to move on.

A few more pictures and bits of info on San Pedro can be found here.

For anyone visiting San Pedro in the future, here are a couple of places we would recommend:

Spanish School: The Cooperative of Spanish Teachers
Food: Casa Mexicana for some great steaks and fish and not too many gringos, Munchies for yummy veggie food and free drumming with their drums! Avoid The Creperie unless you want to wait 2 hour for breakfast! (not an exaggeration)
Bars: Bohemia and Dīnoz both have free movies every night, and usually good ones.

* Footnote about the Mayan Culture. There are over 22 different Mayan Languages in Guatemala alone. One would assume the languages are similar, but in reality only a few are. The languages can be very varied, which makes inter village communication difficult, and spanish is often used as a medium. There is very little written down in books about the languages as they are taught by the parents and have been handed down through the generations.
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