I’ve meant to write this post for a few days, but haven’t had much time with Internet. I’m writing this at the Bagel Barn just off the central square in Antigua. I’m writing this on my iPhone so please ignore any errors.
I spent the weekend al Lago, which is what the locals call Lago Atitlan or Lake Atitlan. The lake is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It’s in a basin in the middle of about 5 different volcanoes and is extremely peaceful.
My journey to the Lake started at about 7:30 Saturday morning, when I left my home-stay and walked to a local bakery that also organizes shuttles to the lake. The shuttles are white vans that can sit up to 14 people even though there are only 12 seats. Fortunately we only had 10 people in the van so everyone had a seat. We quickly realized though that seatbelts were wishful thinking. We managed to get the shuttle for 130 Quetzales each for the return trip, so about $15.50 USD or $7.25 each way.
The ride to the lake was uneventful but quite slow. About 3 hours later we were there.
There are about 25 little towns or pueblos around the lake and the shuttle dropped us off at the largest, Panajachal or “Pana”. From there we had to take a water taxi across the lake to our hostel in the town of Santa Cruz called La Iguana Perdida or The Lost Iguana. We haggled with three different drivers and eventually got the ride for 10 Q. each (about $1.25 USD).
I would highly recommend the hostel. It was one of the most beautiful and cheapest I have ever stayed in. It was organized as a bunch of individual cabins and a main house right next to the lake. There were several options for rooms, but we decided on El Castillo, the castle, also known as the treehouse. The cabin was open-air and about 3 meters off the ground. It had a roof but only two walls and no electricity. While it might not normally be my first choice of accommodation… I figured, why not? The room cost 35 Q. each or about $4.50 USD. (In case you are wondering a room with doors, walls and electricity was only 10 Q. more so about $5.50 USD).
After we got checked in, a group of six of us decided to go kayaking on the lake. I hadn’t been kayaking since I was 10 years old and it was a great experience. Though I was tired by the end of the hour.
After kayaking we had some beers and chips and guacamole before eating a buffet BBQ dinner provided by the hostel. (All you could eat for 65 Q. or about $8 USD). After dinner we played some pool before taking candles to our room and getting ready for bed. The hostel provided about a dozen extra blankets in the room and I was very warm all night. I will admit I was a bit worried about bug bites overnight, but when I woke up the next morning, I was fine.
Sunday, we are breakfast and checked out and then took the water taxi back to Pana. Our plan for the day was to visit the nature reserve that had real wild monkeys and coatis that we could feed. After a quick stop at the market for bananas, we took a five-minutes tuk-tuk ride to the reserve. A tuk-tuk is kind of like a covered motorcycle with a back seat or maybe more like a golf cart with only one wheel in the front. It is meant to fit two or three people, but we had five people on the way back. (A friend in Antigua said he fit 6 people in a tuk-tuk one time).
The nature reserve was lovely and true to its word, we were able to feed monkeys and coatis. We also went for a hike up to a waterfall and across about a dozen suspended bridges. One of my friends was terrified of the bridges and almost had a panic attack each time we had to cross.
Around 4 pm we were picked up by the same driver for the ride back to Antigua. The driver took a different route back and it featured a LOT of sharp turns high up in the mountains on extremely narrow roads. At one point we could see that the road was gone, perhaps destroyed by a landslide, so the driver had to go around. He drove down a short bank, across a shallow river and back up the other side. We were very happy when we were back in Antigua.