Lago Atitlán, Guatamala 🇬🇹 — Magical Lake

Surrounded by volcanoes and Mayan villages — the feeling around this lake in Guatamala can only be described as magical.

We began our exploration of Lake Atitlán at Panahachel in the fall of 2017, the largest village and the jumping off point to travel to the smaller villages which dot the lakeside. Transportation to and from the villages was often by boat, although there is a road which connects them. Parts of this road are said to be less than safe however we always travelled by boat so I cannot attest to the accuracy of this claim. Word of mouth claims there have been robberies on parts of this road. Sunset over the lake on our first evening was a glorious sight, with volcanoes to be seen on distant shores.

For our first months living on the lake we chose San Pedo la Laguna, Lake Atitlán, where we enjoyed many new sights and friendships.

Our months at Lago Àtitlan, Guatamala were punctuated by an active social life, learning about the lives of Guatamaltecas, as well as meeting travellers from countries worldwide.

We were not entirely shocked to hear a barrage of fireworks leading up to Christmas, however we might have been a wee bit surprised at their frequency and volume. When asking about it, we were told by locals that fireworks are used to celebrate almost any occasion. If a friend is having a birthday, others compete to be the first to set off fireworks in her/his honour — thus were middle of the night blasts explained. We were lucky to be schooled in Guatamalteca tradition by one of our hosts, who also became our Spanish teacher, coming to our home to deliver lessons twice weekly.

I was delighted to find that it was common for woman of Guatamala to wear traditional dress, from fabric made from hand woven cloth, their designs passed down for many generations. We were honoured to be given clothing to wear for Christmas eve and invited to attend the traditional tamale family dinner of our host and hostess. We were even invited to her mother’s home and worked with her direction and teaching, creating the delicious corn-based stuffed tamales ourselves.

Processing the corn for making tamales, soups, flours, breads — a homemade and manually operated processor used for removing the corn kernels from the cob. On the right, I am dressed for Christmas eve festivities in traditional Guatamalan dress.

At our first stay in San Pedro, we discovered a litter of pups whose mother had apparently met with an untimely death, most likely hit by a car. We were compelled to take them on until they were of an age to find homes.

There were five lovely pups, and of course each got a name. We bought dog food and veggies, cooked and blended daily for little teeth and tummies to process. They thrived and grew. When we were out for a whole evening, a rare occasion on which we were engaging in Christmas celebrations, we returned home to discover, not five but six pups. The newest member was about half the size of the others but within days was accepted by her adopted littermates. I guess the story of our caregiving had spread and a neighbour had placed the little one in their midst hoping for the best outcome. When we left them, all pups had been spoken for or taken to their new homes around San Pedro.

The new pup was brought into the fold by Señor Brun, a feisty member of the clan who showed leadership and compassion. Photo on left shows an older brother from a different litter taking a parental, yet sometimes jealous role in the pups’ lives.

We went on to spend time in Santa Cruz on Lago Atitlán, where we met numerous other travellers spanning a wide range of ages and lifestyles. We found opportunity in Santa Cruz to meet and socialize with numerous travellers and locals. A Mexican opera singer, an expat meditation group, a waterfront property owner who has a 20 year history with the village, the cooking school at the top of the steep hill up to the village itself, a young couple who had left the US to forge out a life in the tropical lands of Atitlán — All these people enriched our lives in Santa Cruz and we continue our connections from afar to this day in October 2022. Our time at Lago Atitlán was most satisfying.

3 thoughts on “Lago Atitlán, Guatamala 🇬🇹 — Magical Lake

  1. Was this a moment of nostalgia, or maybe just that you are fully back into your writing, and tying loose ends? Or the beauty of Panama brought you back to that of Guatemala? So much beauty in the colors, the faces, the plants…..! Ahhhh, it is all so magnificient! xox


  2. Hi Kath,
    Yet another enjoyable piece. Our short visit to Guatemala was to Antigua which I’m sure you’ve been to. The puppy rescues must have added a new slant to your adventures. Glad you found homes for them. As animal lovers we thank you for doing that. No wonder Oliver loved you guys so much.
    An interesting side note, we had a house sitter after your sit that went to Guatemala and started a Yoga / meditation studio in San Pedro on Lake Atitlán. That was in 2019. Very beautiful area for sure.

    Safe travels,
    Peter and Mary-Lynne.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi you two, Our time in Guatamala was really great. We enjoyed Lake Atitlán so much. Interesting to hear of your sitters who started the studio in San Pedro! We found it very gratifying to give the pups a good start — hopefully they continued to thrive. We did spend a month in Antigua, and studied Spanish 3x a week while there — that was fun! It sure is beautiful…Thank you for reading about our travels. For some reason I’m able to post a reply this time 🤷🏻‍♀️ Kath


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