World Tour

World Tour
World Tour

Few of us can claim to have investigated Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, the place Lonely Planet travel guides describe as “The closest thing to Eden on Earth.” However, in the absence of a spin around the lake, this article can give you an idea of the wonders of one of the most beautiful parts of the planet. Use it to assist you when choosing your next vacation, or at least to fake some good travel stories when chatting with your friends!

Getting there

Easy to access, the lake is about a two and a half hour drive from Guatemala City or Antigua. Most arrive at the lake in the main town, Panajachel and stay in a hotel there or take a boat to other hotels on the lake. Getting to Panajachel is easy, and can be organised through a tour operator offering a door-to-door services between Panajachel and Antigua or Guatemala City.

Showered in rainbows

Held in place 1560 meters (5100 ft.) above sea level by a natural dam of volcanoes makes for an ideal climate. It’s never uncomfortably cold or hot. The rainy season lasts from May to October, but the sun does shine some almost every day. The word “atitlan” is a Mayan word that translates as “the place where the rainbow gets its colors” and in the wet season you are sure to see a few colourful arches rising gracefully above the lake.

Visit lakeside towns by boat

There is no road that encircles the lake, so visitors will have to settle for the next best option; taking a boat across the smooth waters to any one of the towns that sit on its banks. There are 11 communities around Lake Atitlan (including Panajachel) and visitors will have a variety of locations and experiences to choose from. Munching on hummus in Moonfish cafe in the hippy retreat of San Marcos or partying until the early hours in San Pedro, Lake Atitlan will have something to keep you entertained. If you want to get to grips with the language, numerous Spanish schools are based in San Pedro for you to choose from.

Visiting the volcanoes

Lake Atitlan is the result of land collapse following volcanic activity 84,000 years ago, and since then volcanic activity in the region has build three impressive volcanoes that dominate the skyline around the lake. All can be visited from the towns surrounding the lake.

The tallest of the three volcanoes, Atitlan, dominates the stunning lake with which it shares its name. Atitlan’s summit takes about 8 hours to reach; the reward is a breathtaking view of the world’s most beautiful lake and Guatemala’s Pacific coast. Perhaps the most frequently photographed of all Guatemala’s volcanoes, San Pedro’s beautiful cone seems to rise from the waters of Lake Atitlan. The hike to the top takes about 4 hours, and while visitors will not get great views due to heavy vegetation on the summit, the crater serves as a refuge for rarely encountered species of plants and animals. Along with Atitlan and San Pedro that form the natural dam holding in Lake Atitlan, Toliman, the third volcano, has its own delights to offer. A small group of rare Horned Guans survives in the forest near the summit and hikers should plan on camping out for a good chance of sighting the birds.

Getting to know the locals

The lake basin supports a wide range of agricultural products, including coffee, that provide well for the largely indigenous population living around the area. Mayan cultural tradition is still strong, and many locals will be seen in traditional dress. Numerous humanitarian organisations, based out of the main centres of Panajachel and San Pedro, allow visitors who want to commit a couple of weeks to visiting communities and assisting in various projects.

However you want to get to know Lake Atitlan, you will be surrounded by the awe inspiring vistas that have left an undeniable impression on travellers over the centuries. With the ease of transport access from the big centres of Guatemala City and Antigua to help you get to one of the most beautiful places in the world, what are you waiting for?

Gary Sargent is the Managing Director of the tour companies Escaped to Peru and Escaped to Latin America and has lived in South America for over 10 years. Gary is passionate about life here, the people, customs and places. Visit his website to find out more information about Latin America or book one of Gary’s tours to Guatemala.

world tour?

I have plans to go for a world trip this summer .donno where to start and finish.i reside in DC. planned for 15 months trip

Deffinatly come and cheak out Ottawa and Montreal in Canada! they are good touristy spots!

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