“It is really too much of a good thing.” –Aldous Huxley on Lake Atitlan, 1934
I had a feeling we were going to love Guatemala, but the last 10 days seriously exceeded my expectations. Between Livingston, Antigua, and our most recent destination, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala has solidified itself among my favorite countries.
Lake Atitlan is a 2 1/2 hour drive from Antigua. Once you arrive to the lake (usually via the town of Panajachel), all transportation is via water taxi, or lancha. The villages and many of the hotels and private residences surrounding the lake have a dock; to get around, you simply stand on the dock and wave down a lancha.
We’ve experienced a variety of transport modes on this trip — chicken buses, tuk-tuks, river ferries — but the lanchas of Lake Atitlan are my personal favorite. If you have to go to the grocery store, why not take a breezy boat ride across one of the most gorgeous lakes ever? (Don’t worry, Great Lakes, you’re still #1 in my book!)
A bit on Lake Atitlan itself: the lake is a giant caldera (i.e. hole) that was formed by volcanic eruption ~85,000 years ago. Like Antigua, the region is surrounded by large volcanoes, some of which are still active. The lake and surrounding villages are a focal point of Mayan culture and tradition, and the region attracts a LOT of western tourism.
We rented the most adorable house on airbnb called Casa en Piedra, located on the north side of the lake near the town of Jaibalito (about a 20-minute boat ride from Panajachel). The house is literally built into the hillside — boulders protrude into the upstairs space as well as the downstairs bedroom. It has an indoor/outdoor kitchen, giant bathtub and stunning panoramic views of the lake. As I was describing the house to my parents, they joked that they wanted to “hear about more suffering.” Suffice it to say that there was no suffering to be had:
For most of our 4-night stay at Casa en Piedra, we did what most people would probably do in such a place: pretty much nothing (with the exception of a volcano hike). We swam in the lake, read our books, played cards, cooked our own meals and drank a lot of wine (beer for Jeff).
After a couple of weeks of eating exclusively at restaurants, I can’t tell you how nice it was to cook! We went on a supermarket trip at the beginning of our stay and stocked up on meat/cheese/produce and even some leafy greens! Since we’ve been in Central America, I have been on a MISSION to find and consume cruciferous vegetables; unfortunately they are not ubiquitous here.