Lake Atitilan is a ridiculously beautiful volcanic lake in the Guatemalan Highlands. Still blue water sits at the foot of lush green mountains and volcanos while dotted around the edges of the lake are colourful towns and villages, each with their own unique vibe. Mayan culture remains strong here with people speaking Mayan languages and dressing in traditional clothing.
I spent a week at Lake Atitilan, mostly in the village of San Pedro. San Pedro is the backpacker party town of the lake and it is a magnet for gap-year kids and wandering hippies. I took some Spanish classes here and my school arranged a home-stay with a local family for me. Unusually for me, I stayed out of the party scene this week. The family I stayed with lived away from the main strip and I didn’t really fancy stumbling home at all hours and waking everyone up. I was content to spend my days exploring and going to classes and nights hanging with my host family. Sometimes after dinner I would read the little girl stories and my pronunciation must be ok because she seemed to understand and enjoy the stories even if I had no idea what I was saying.
During the day I visited a couple of other nearby villages. San Marcos is a very pretty, chill little village where people go to do yoga, meditate and refresh their chakras. It is also home to the gorgeous Cerro Tzankujil nature reserve where I spent a beautiful morning bushwalking.
In San Marcos I also got involved with a bamboo building workshop. The plan is to build a shelter for local ladies who have been trained in Chinese massage where they can see clients and run classes. The shelter is made from bamboo held together with old bike inner tubes. We didn’t it finish but we did make a good start on the frame. It wasn’t that hard and if/when the apocalypse comes I reckon I’ll be able to knock myself up a bamboo hut without a drama – as long as I have some bike inner-tubes.
I rode a tuk-tuk to visit the village of San Juan. San Juan is one of the smaller of the villages and is home to a number of co-operatives that produce and sell traditional arts and textiles. It is also home to some beautiful street art and is a bit less touristy than the other places I visited.
My next stop is Semuc Champey and I will be staying in a hostel this time. I loved my home-stay but now I am looking forward to having a few beers some other travellers.
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