Sailing Lake Atitlan

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
Trip End Nov 04, 2008

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Where I stayed
El Chaparral - $27 double, ensuite, tv. Just ok

Flag of Guatemala  ,
Saturday, August 9, 2008

No matter how "fantastic" or "impossibly cute" Lonely Planet says Atitlan is, the time you can spend here is very limited.

The town of Panajachel is just one long handicraft market street. So basically there is buying or sitting at the lake side to eat and drink. The lake itself is quite picturesque but far from the "most beautiful lake in the World" which all the tourist guides state. They quote Aldous Huxley who of course came here when there was no massive tourism. He wasnt swamped with street seller who speak 5 different languages and all sell the same crapo.

Actually the best view of Atitlan is when one arrives on the shuttle from La Antigua Guatemala (15 mins from the town) and at the top of the mountain. There it is possible to see the three volcanos and the size of the lake, but once one arrives at any of the towns (Panajchel, Santiago, etc) the beauty is destroyed by the Benidormian streets and the thousands of gringo tourists.
Anyway, given that it took so long to get here (two hours of terrible roads) we have decided to make the best of it.
Last night we enjoyed a cafe terrace called "Sunset Cafe" which is just next to the lake, and suprising its not as expensive as they could make it. Food is local and prices just slightly higher than your average local joint. Its a very relaxing spot as you dont see any of the other buildings and the noise is absorbed greatly allowing us to enjoy what this place probably was like 30 years ago.

Another busted myth about Panajachel is that its "party town". Its full of bars and restaurants but there is hardly any party atmosphere. By 9pm most of the places were closed and everyone had gone to bed. And that was a Friday!

Today we decided to cross the lake on one of the many public boats (25 Quetzal per person = 2.5 euro one way) to Santiago de Atitlan which was supposed to be "stunning" according to travel guides. In reality the only stunning thing is the amount of stalls selling the same shito as in Panajachel, and the amount of times one has to say "no gracias" to all the sellers which attack in all sizes and ages.

We did find a nice fish restaurant (El Pescador) where we made a stop, but nothing else to make the word "stunning" appear in our thoughts. 

The main attraction for Santiago (unless you want to decorate your house hippy style) is "Maximon" a local puppet which the indians adore and offer drinks and cigars in exchange for favours. More information in this link:
 It was a nice relaxing trip, but nothing to register as "unique". Lake Atitlan is trying to become one of the new 7 wonders of the World (as in many other places we have passed). Our vote will not stay here.
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