Lake Atitlan and the Highlands
The stunning Lake Atitlan lies glistening in a crater created by a vast volcanic eruption 85,000 years ago. Surrounded by verdant mountains covered in wildflowers and a number of climb-able volcanoes, the seven lakeside towns are home to indigenous villages and traditional communities and make for endless exploring.
A two-hour drive from Antigua leads to the central highlands and the beautiful Lake Atitlan, with its traditional villages and spectacular backdrop of three cone shaped volcanoes. There are several towns and villages located around the lake, and visitors can get around by small motorized boats called ‘lanchas’.
Whilst some towns such as Panajachel are well developed for tourism with hotels, shops and restaurants, some of the smaller villages offer a glimpse into a very traditional way of Guatemalan life. It is still common to see many Guatemalans, both men and women, wearing vibrant traditional clothing and practicing age-old Mayan customs. Visit the small town of San Juan La Laguna for a traditional weaving lesson from a group of Mayan women or take a lesson in medicinal herbs. If you like to be a little more active, you can wander around the towns by foot or bike, or even take a hike up Volcan San Pedro, a dormant Volcano which now sits in a protected wilderness area.
Lake Atitlan also acts as a base from which to explore the highland area, known for its traditional villages, market towns and small farming communities where people live much as they have for centuries and where they still hold onto beliefs, rituals and traditions handed down through generations. Visiting a famous market such as Chichicastenango, which attracts hundreds of locals and visitors alike, is a fantastic way to witness traditional Guatemalan life and barter for a bargain. All of these activities are a great way to explore, but make sure there’s plenty of time to relax lakeside, take in the incredible views and soak up the ever-blazing sunshine.