We were up and ready early Tuesday, I say early, 7am, waiting outside our hotel for the shuttle to arrive. It would take us to Panajachel so we could wander the streets and visit Lake Atitlan. The shuttle arrived at 8am and proceeded to pick fellow travellers up from several hotels in Antigua. Antigua seems to be a place that rises early, as there were many people going about their business, shops already open and the armed guards and police back on street corners and guarding places such as Taco Bell.
The journey would take about 3 hours so a bit of time to catch up on some of the sleep I was deprived of last night, due to my mozzie bites becoming increasingly itchy. Probably not the best idea, but I have discovered scratching the top of them off until they bleed stops the itching immediately. I don’t recommend this though!
They don’t know what straight roads are over here in Guatemala. I woke as we were in a town outside of Panajachel that had the narrowest of streets and extremely tight switchbacks. Needless to say you have to be a good driver over here, to be able to navigate the tight turns, avoid cyclists and pedestrians who are casually strolling along the streets, avoid Tuk-Tuks that literally come out of nowhere and avoiding head on collisions by a millimetre when overtaking. Even the chicken busses here have character, all painted different colours, have different lights on them, but all the same still jam packed with people, luggage chucked on top and people jumping off before the brakes are fully applied.We dropped some people off at the ferry terminal and continued to our drop off point. First port of call was food. Yes it was only 1130am but we were hungry. There was a cute little bistro called ‘El Bistro,’ situated on the main road which served Italian food. I had a hankering for pasta so ordered spaghetti carbonara and Nathan had pizza. We also indulged in some bruschetta and the whole lot was still within our budget for the day! Stomachs full it was time to explore.
We set off down to the lake. It was beautiful. From where we were stood, you could see three volcanoes across the lake. Volcán Tolimán in front, Volcán de Atitlán behind it and Volcán de San Pedro to the right. As we were driving into Panajachel you could see the smoke billowing from the top of one of the volcanoes really clearly.We had no idea where we were going in Panajachel but we walked around the streets taking in the beautiful colours of the artisan stands and the Spanish chit chat between locals. Walking along lakeside, you could see the lights of the towns across the lake. There were dozens of boats waiting to take people across to any of them and lots of small restaurants popping up. We made a friend too! Maple, as she is now affectionately known, followed us for our three hour stroll! There are dogs everywhere, some look in better condition than others. Maple was perfectly fine albeit she was sat panting for quite a while when we were waiting for the shuttle back to Antigua. Reminded me of myself 😂Trying to locate a post office in these countries is proving difficult. There was one allegedly 240ft from where we ate lunch but could we find it? No! We looked lost as a tour guide asked if we needed information. “Donde esta….” nailed it!! He beckoned for us to follow him and went to where the map was telling us. He was just as baffled as us seeming as it was now a huge pink building with lots of different shops, but no post office. Ah well hopefully we will have more success in El Salvador! There’s not a great deal to see or do in Panajachel but it is a very quaint little town and easy enough to get lost in, even when walking in a straight line along the lake. The views of the volcanoes were mesmerising and they even allow you to swim in the lake in designated areas.Lake Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America measuring 34 deep at its deepest point and covering 50 square miles. It’s beautiful. It doesn’t drain into the sea but does flow into two rivers and the lake is actually a caldera formed from a volcanic eruption 84000 years ago!
After wandering around the town we decided to stop for a cold drink before heading to the pick up point. Some places were really expensive for drinks (note we now class £2 as expensive for soda), but we found a cute little bar/cafe on the corner of one of the streets. With 10Q sodas, 15Q beers and 20Q wine we couldn’t go wrong!The shuttle picked us up at about 4pm and proceeded to take us back to our hotel. Never listen to how long a journey will take in Guatemala. We were told about two hours. Nope it was more like three and a half. Still, it was nice to enjoy the scenery I missed on the way there!This is a brightly coloured cemetery in the distance. It was so pretty, not a word to use in a cemetery I know. We eventually got back to Antigua at about 730pm just as the lightning was brightening up the sky. No thunder, no rain, just lightening. We made the most of our last night in this beautiful place, wandering round the sites we had seen in daylight, to see them lit up in the dark.This truly is my new favourite place ❤️
For those who aren’t sure about visiting Guatemala, due to safety perhaps, you must. It is a country full of stunning scenery everywhere you look. They even have brightly coloured tombs in their cemeteries! Of course, the country isn’t without poverty, as demonstrated by the shacks that people live in and the amount of homeless people, but that adds to the beauty. The school busses have been ‘pimped out’ in all different colours and look badass. The winding roads throughout the country make for interesting journeys. The volcanoes and their plumes of smoke exuding from their craters. Their archaic Mayan ruins and the stories that go with them such as Tikal. Everything about this country, that we have seen, has been quintessentially both memorable and beautiful. It feels safe. On Flores island I walked to the cashpoint alone and whilst walking round the island we didn’t get bothered at all. It definitely caters for tourists on the island so that obviously helps. Guatemala City is probably a different kettle of fish and we only jumped off a bus into a taxi here but still, they were friendly enough. In Antigua, we wandered round for hours, no sign of trouble anywhere we went and the place is crawling with police and armed guards on the corners and outside shops. In Panajachel, the streets adorned with artisan craftspeople again don’t harass you. People are willing to help you such as when we couldn’t locate the post office. We hadn’t seen any sign of trouble anywhere we went and it has definitely become one of my favourite countries, especially Antigua Guatemala.
For now, our time has come to an end and onwards we move to El Salvador…
Until next time…