Lago Atitlan

We were all getting a little tired of the city, so when Isabel (our friend at the language school) suggested we take a weekend field trip, we were all over it!  For only 13 Quetzales (about $1.50) you can take a "chicken bus" to Panajachel, a tiny tourist town on Lake Atitlan, which is rumored to be one of the most beautiful places on the earth.

The lake is surrounded by three volcanoes, some of which are active.  The lake itself is an old volcano that collapsed and is now filled by a bunch of water.   Sure, my description really stinks, but take a look at the pics to see how beautiful this place is.

Lake Atitlan is a study in contrasts.  Many of the residents of the tiny towns surrounding the lake live in poverty.  It's a stark contrast to the beauty of the surroundings.  However, there also exists a pretty strong hippie population that is comfortably residing here on money from the states, and helping to boost the local marijuana economy.  Our room for the night cost 30 Quetzales (a little less than $4 U.S.)  While this sounds pretty cheap, the trip was a decent splurge, given that 80% of Guatemalans pull in about 300-1000 Quetzales per month ($40- $120).  We're at the top end of that range.  So... for $4, the view was beautiful and the bed was comfortable.  In reality, that's about all we needed.

The town where we stayed for the night is called San Pedro.  It's a relatively sleepy town with stone streets and tons of buildings adorned with Christian sayings.  Interesting stuff!  While this was not a missionary trip by any means, it gave us an opportunity to see the touristy side of Guatemala, and experience first-hand the "gringo discrimination" that exists here.  For instance, even after haggling 30-40 minutes, we still couldn't obtain the same price the locals pay for a simple boat ride to another town across the lake.

The views and a really wonderful Sunday morning swim made the entire trip a worthwhile experience.  This is a must-see for anyone coming to Central America.

 

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