Oh, Atitlan! Probably our favorite place so far! Traveling to Lago de Atitlan was a bit hectic because immediately after descending Volcan Acatenango we boarded the bus to the lake with no time to rest. Sleeping on the uncomfortable buses is near impossible. You’d think the drivers are trying to outrun a Volcan Fuego eruption the way they speed and pass cars around blind corners. So as you can imagine, we were pretty fatigued when we reached Panachel, a town on the lake, four hours later. Panachel is small and touristy and is the main hub for the lanchas (boat taxis) that transport locals and visitors to the different towns around the lake. We arrived in Panachel around 7:30PM, but our hotel was located in Santa Cruz, and the lanchas stop running at 7pm. Thankfully it was only a minor hiccup and our bus driver found a private boat to take us to Santa Cruz!
Lake Atitlan is a crater lake surrounded by three volcanos – Volcan Atitlan, Volcan San Pedro, and Volcan Toliman. It’s famous for its beauty and colorful Mayan villages. Many of the towns are difficult or impossible to get to by car, making the lanchas the easiest transportation. Each town has a municipal dock and lanchas arrive and depart every fifteen minutes or so. San Pedro, Santa Cruz, San Marcos, Jaibalito, and Santiago are just of few of the small towns around the lake. We called Santa Cruz home for a week!
La Iguana Perdido is a beautiful and tranquil hostel in Santa Cruz! It opened about thirty years back with just four wooden lake front huts as the original rooms. Over the years the hostel has grown into what it is today - a great place for backpackers and families to relax, meet new people, and enjoy life on the lake. We chose the hostel because we had met the previous manager two weeks prior in Semuc Champey. La Iguana was already mostly booked, so we agreed to switch rooms three times during the week just for the opportunity to stay at the hostel. We’re so glad we did! Every morning we enjoyed breakfast overlooking the lake, I did yoga classes, Ron continued with Spanish lessons, and there were endless outdoor activities like paddle boarding, hiking, kayaking, and catching a lancha to nearby towns. Because Santa Cruz is a small town and restaurant options are limited, every evening at 7PM La Iguana offered a ‘Family Dinner’ to anyone who signed up by 3PM that day. They posted a chalkboard sign with the three-course meal outside daily. We did this every night and it was so much fun! It led to great conversations, beers, and card games with new friends. The hostel also believes you should ‘Unplug and Hug!’ so there was no wifi.
One morning we rented paddle boards for a sunrise paddle. At 6AM we paddled out onto the lake to watch the sun rise over the volcanoes. It was beautiful and so calm! Lanchas hadn't started running yet so we got to enjoy the quiet for a while. We spent a couple hours exploring the lake on the paddle boards and were back to the hostel in time for yoga and Spanish tutoring.
During the hike up Acatenango we met a couple in our group from the Netherlands that were heading to Lake Atitlan at the same time as us! Matt and Charlotte were awesome and we exchanged Facebook information so we could reconnect at the lake. They were staying in San Pedro, a town about a thirty-minute lancha ride away from Santa Cruz. One afternoon we took a boat to San Pedro and had lunch with them. Afterwards we all ventured to San Marcos to find a cliff jump we’d heard about. The cliff was 10 meters high into the aqua blue water! They met us in Santa Cruz a different day for lunch and card games.
We spent the rest of the week exploring Santa Cruz and the nearby towns, hanging out with friends at La Iguana, and relaxing! It was a beautiful place with captivating views! I hope we can visit again. Our next stop was Guatemala City for an evening before catching a 6AM flight to Nicaragua. Thanks for reading and see you in the next post! Hefners out!
The sunset over Lake Atitlan from La Iguana Perdida Hostel in Santa Cruz.
Lake Atitlan and the surrounding towns. Santa Cruz is located at the bottom.
La Iguana Perdida.
It was a beautiful hostel with flowers everywhere!
Everyday around dusk this beautiful hummingbird came around!
They're BIG on recycling and use plastic filled water bottles in the building process.
Local woman making a hammock outside La Iguana one afternoon. She was so sweet!
Our view from breakfast in the mornings.
Yoga on the outside deck.
Everyday a different 'Family Dinner' was served. It was always delicious!!
The view from our first room. Volcan San Pedro on the right and Toliman on the left.
Sunrise paddle on the lake.
Volcan San Pedro in the background. You can also see the town, San Pedro, on the right.
Exploring around the lake. Not the sturdiest of paths!
One afternoon we walked up into Santa Cruz for lunch and to explore.
Views from up in Santa Cruz
View of Santa Cruz from Jaibalito, the closest town.
Matt, Charlotte, and Anais our friends from hiking Acatenango!
Ron cliff jumping in San Marcos.
Lanchas and the sun starting to set over Lake Atitlan.