We arrived in San Pedro during their Patron Saint Day week long celebration. A carnival atmosphere with many parties, much music and very loud fireworks greeted us!
After a grueling 2 weeks as students in Spanish School, we moved on to Lake Atitlan. We visited 3 towns on the lake; San Pedro, San Marcos and Panajachel.
We caught a minivan from Antigua to Panajachel which took about 2 hours over mountain roads. We had a very special driver. He had a cold and had obviously taken a lot of cold medication, but he counteracted it with lots of caffeine and speed-salsa music if there is such a thing. We held on tight and kept our eyes closed most of the way.
Lake Atitlan is a collapsed volcanic cone that is filled with water over 900 feet deep. It is surrounded by three volcanoes; Volcan Tomilan, Volcan Atitlan and Volcan San Pedro.
The easiest way to get to San Pedro is by lancha from Panajachel. It takes about 45 minutes, but the important thing is to take note of the wind direction before picking a seat or you’ll find yourself soaked on arrival in San Pedro. The picture shows the dock for arriving/departing lanchas.
San Pedro is a small village that appears to be divided into 2 sections. The ‘local’ side; where you’ll find traditional food, tiendas (stores), etc… The picture above shows a typical street on the ‘local’ side. On the other side of town you’ll find many ex-pat and bohemian travelers (hippies) some of whom liked it so much they forgot to leave. Restaurants were eclectic and interesting wall art was abundant. We enjoyed both sides of town equally!
A view of carnival week in full swing with a volcano in the background. The party usually broke up about 4AM. Boy, can those Mayans party!
We decided to sign up for a tour to hike up to Indian Nose (more later). We left San Pedro by chicken bus and climbed up steep, switchback, mountain roads to reach our hike starting point in the village of Santa Clara. We were fortunate enough to arrive on market day. The place was packed with people selling everything imaginable. The colors were amazing!
A view of our destination, Indian Nose, from San Pedro.
The hike was pretty steep at times, especially on the way down.
Looking back at San Pedro from the tip of the Indian’s nose.
OK, so here we go! Our accommodations in San Pedro! By the way, hotels throughout Guatemala were always interesting to say the least. Most of the time they were pretty clean, but always, always, interesting people! We never saw a chain hotel (i.e. Hilton, Holiday Inn, etc..) and prices were somewhat negotiable. Usually we paid in a range from $6.50 to $20.00 US depending on whether or not we had a private bath. In San Pedro we paid $6.50/night with private bath. Not bad huh? Looking up at San Pedro our hotel is in the middle. Look for a yellow building with steps and white facade with semicircular cut-outs. That’s us!
Our room! 2 beds and a floor. Check out the curtain rod, not fancy but functional. Probably left over wire from a shower heater installation.
Ahh… the suicide shower! I don’t think we’ve talked about them yet. Hot water tanks don’t exist here, so instead instant hot water heaters are attached to the shower head. Usually not much thought is given to the electrical wiring near water. See the breaker box to the left inside the shower. Pat was only mildly shocked once throughout the trip which either means he didn’t take many showers or he was damn lucky!
“THE” view from our balcony at the San Francisco. Beautiful lake, town, ferris wheel, etc.. Note the hand rails surrounding the fine patio furniture.
One level up from our room we could lounge about and relax in a hammock with this spectacular view.
We’ve been kidding a bit about our stay at the San Francisco, but all kidding aside the place was great. Friendly people, clean rooms, and the best view on the planet. Hard to beat for $6.50 / night!
There was no shortage of places to eat and drink in San Pedro. Many of the hippies who never left went into the food service industry. Good hippie music everywhere! Rich and Jan from s/v Slip Away and Carrie at Zoo La. Great food and neat lounge area surrounded by hammocks. They had real tables too. We usually ate breakfast here (at a real table).
Shanti Shanti has a relaxed atmosphere and a wonderful view of the lake from all tables. It made us want to meditate and become vegetarians but we resisted the urge.
Dining / Lounging area upstairs at Buddha. Great Asian food including SUSHI! We found ourselves here more often than not for dinner with at least a dozen or so of our newest friends. Great place to chat and meet others. A Buddha in Guatemala? Who would have thunk?!
Whoa! It’s been about 40 days now since we left the boat back in El Salvador (wonder how the boat’s doing?). We’re getting pretty tired and sore, so we decide to head home. But, not before treating ourselves to some real R&R. So off we go to San Marcos, the meditation, vegetarian, and massage capital of the world! Well, we’re not really into the first 2 things, but we could sure use a massage to sooth our weary bones! The lancha ride from San Pedro only took about 20 minutes.
We checked out this pyramid meditation place, but decided it was a little to serious for us, so instead we settled on a quaint little place in the jungle (with private bath). A couple of large spiders had to be killed before we could settle in comfortably. Please don’t tell the people in the meditation camp!
Lunch place in San Marcos. We settled for vegetarian pizza. Actually it was very good, even without meat! We did find a place for dinner that served meat run by a French guy. Great food and a wonderful view of the lake at dusk.
View looking down on Panajachel. One night in San Marcos was sufficient. We got our massage after lunch. Our bodies, our minds, and our souls were feeling really good, so off to Panajachel. It’s the place to catch a minivan to Gautemala City and to eat meat. From Guatemala City we took a bus back to San Salvador.
Oh yeah, we should buy some stuff so we can remember this trip! Panajachel is known as the place to buy local handcrafts, especially textiles. So after hitting many, many little tiendas we found this kind woman and bought all kinds of woven stuff. ‘Precio especial por mi amiga!’. Carrie was trying to look short for the first time in her life. This woman must have been 4 foot-nothing!
We made it back to the boat in one piece. Looking back, Guatemala was incredible! It wasn’t just the sights and the local people, but also the travelers we met along the way from all over the world. If you’re not afraid to get off the beaten path and explore, Guatemala is for you! Don’t miss it. We’ll be back for sure.