Guatemala's South

SANTIAGO ATITLAN

See rating for Lago Atitlan area at Panajachel



Description :
The biggest and most traditional Tz'utujil village by the lake 

Comments : Relatively few tourists bother visiting and even less spending the night there. That is good for those who do, although a few are disappointed.

What to do ? Say 'waow' when approaching the village and discovering its hilly location on one side of a sheltered inlet / Walk the 'souvenirs' streets / Have a look at the 16th century church and its syncretic atmosphere (a Quetzal and the Maya god of corn can be spotted) / Pay a visit to Maximon, the evil saint that enjoys liquor & cigars and is more conciliating with the human frailties / Get up the terrace of Tzutuhil Hotel for a great panorama / Get lost in the narrow streets, going up and down / Shop for some of the best wood carving of small figures or jewelry boxes, if possible straight with the local artists /  Talk to kids (plenty !) / Play basketball by the lake or bus station / Discover the traditional costumes of the Tzutujil-speaking Maya (incl. the famous headcloth xk'ap, a 10m long band of red cloth wrapped around the head that can be spotted on 25 centavo coins) / Follow little paths by the lake / Canoe the lake / Climb a Volcano for another great view / Walk to a view point and, by clear day, see as far as the Pacific Ocean / Watch eagles / Listen to an evangelical sect mass in the evening / If rich, do an horseback ride (from $45) 

What you may not like ? The 'tourist' oriented businesses until the last boat return to Panajachel at 16:30 / Some 'quetzales' kids / The waves and wind that make canoeing back sometimes a tricky affair / The disgusting streets / Not having much to do in town / Some safety issues / Not being able to assist to the sect mass ("es privado") / The sometimes noisy dogs / Having to pay for the visit to Maximon or to take his photo 

How long ? At least one day

Where to stay ? Not too many places as most people visit on a day trip from Panajachel. Fortunately, what is on offer is good enough :

  • Hotel Chi-Nim Ya (7217131), go up the main left street and turn left at the first crossing road / Sgl 20, Dbl 40, w. shower 50 & 80 / A nice backpacker's place where most people therefore stay. The cheapest rates in town. Unfortunately, the rooms are badly isolated from other guest's noises
  • Hotel Tzutuhil (7217174), turn right by the bus station / Sgl 30, Dbl 60, w. shower, TV & some view 40(1) 80(2) / Extraordinary view from the empty terrace / Go there for the best deal in town as the room w. shower are real nice. 
  • The Bird House (7167440, thebirdhousetk@hotmail.com), from the pier, follow the little path on the left for 10mn / Q40 per person incl. basic breakfast / Big garden, good isolation and great view to the village / Kyla (from the US) and his husband Thijs know a lot about the area and will keep you busy (they organize treks & various expeditions). You may wish to book ahead : only 4 (rather empty & small) rooms for 12 people maximum. 
  • Continuing a bit, you will reach Hotel Bambu, worth a look for its superb garden.


Backpacker's Tips :  Phil Mines, UK  (Dec 02)
Maybe avoid Hotel Tzutuli. After haggling down from Q80 to Q50 for a room for 2 and paying the girl we went for a wander. On returning we were met by a small group who advised us that the rate was now to be Q80 (they dropped
again to Q70). After a little debate I got my money back and moved onto San Pedro (only just catching the last boat) a nicer town anyway. On reflection I think a day visit to Santiago Atitlan was enough.
 

Where to eat ? A few restaurants and comedores but also a little evening market by the bus station where you can get excellent tacos (Q2.5), French fries (Q2) and fried chicken (Q5). The evening atmosphere is free. 

Bank ? No ATM but banks to change cash or TC

Internet ? One place was reported at Q28 per hour !

Trekking ? Quite a few possibilities (incl Xetuc Bridge, Quetzal Reserve, the old city or three volcanoes) but the two followings are the simplest :

  • To the view point ('Mirador') : Turn left after the bus station and then right. Walk a bit along the lake to reach the Memorial of the 13 people killed on the 2nd of December 1990. Turn left at the roundabout (the right road leads to San Pedro). After that, I do not know. I was stopped by a woman who asked me where I was going. She then advised me against the idea as 4 gringos had been robbed a few days before. Check therefore the latest safety issue. It takes about 20mn to reach the Memorial and then possibly an add. 40mn to the view point. 
  • Tiny 'Volcano' Cerro de Oro : It is located 10km on the way to San Lucas. Frequent pick-up leave from the market. The great ride cost Q2. You will be left just after a colorful cemetery, before the small volcano. Take the road leading to the village (2km away) for 5mn (and 5mn only !). There will be a little stoned wall with three stoned steps on your left. That is the way up to the top. You can not get lost but should have good shoes. The climb takes 20-30mn and the view is very rewarding. 

 << Discover two aspects of Santiago Atitlan


Leaving ? 
- By road, a few buses from 2:30am to 2pm to Guatemala City. Q15. 3.5 hrs. / Regular pick-up to San Lucan and probably also a few to San Pedro (but boat recommended)
- By Boat : To Panajachel at 6, 7, 11:45, etc until 16:30. Q10. 1 hour / To San Pedro at 7, 9, 10:30, etc until 17. Q10. 40mn.

The trip to San Pedro La Laguna : SSSS / L&R / Q10 / 45mn
Another great trip on the roof of a boat. 

See also the trip from Panajachel