The Adventure Gem of Central America: How to Maximize Your Visit to Lake Atitlán
This past autumn, the Clymb Adventure program featured an eco-trip to Guatemala that turned into the ideal girls’ weekend: the perfect balance between adventure and relaxation. The destination was beautiful Lake Atitlán, nestled in the Sierra Madre mountain range in southwestern Guatemala. Surrounded by three volcanoes and several charming towns — each of which boasts lots of culture set against a breathtaking natural backdrop, and many of which are accessible only by boat — making it the perfect secluded locale. Lake Atitlána handful of places that allow for outdoor thrill seeking and physical challenges, yet still offer plenty of opportunities to relax with a local brew and soak up the sun before a massage.
Hike Volcano San Pedro
While not the tallest or the most active of Guatemala’s volcanoes, San Pedro makes for a challenging day hike. The trip is about three hours up and two hours down and takes you through varying terrain. The trek begins with a hike or tuk-tuk ride up to the trailhead and immediately spills hikers deep into dense coffee groves. The coffee transitions into avocado trees and then into rows of cornstalks. This is surprising trailside fauna, but it’s reflective of how Guatemalans use the land: as the town of San Pedro grows, families own private land higher and higher up the slope, which they use to resource their daily needs. Along the way, hikers pass local men carrying large bundles of firewood on their backs. The trail eventually becomes more wooded and even cloudy as the altitude increases. And near the top of the volcano, hikers are met by stunning views of the lake and surrounding villages below.
Take a Wild Ride
The trip from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlán is a thrilling one. The country is known for its fantastically decorated “Chicken Buses,” which run the unkempt roads confidently. Navigating these windy mountainous roads as the local culture whizzes by is quite an adventure, but for first timers, taking the bus or hiring a driver is probably a safer choice. To continue the adventure on wheels, hail a tuk tuk near Volcano San Pedro for another exciting ride. The streets are steep, but the precarious open-aired vehicles seem to hang in there, making the trip up to San Pedro Volcano’s trailhead much easier.
Sip Coffee + Eat Tortillas
Eating is good in Guatemala! Sip the local beer, Gallo, accompanied with food that feels close to the people. Many meals in Guatemala include hand-made corn tortillas. Their farm-to-table story is very easy to witness along the journey. The corn grows in the rich, steep soil of Volcano San Pedro and is very visible along hikes. While perusing the local market at Chichicastenago, ladies mash and pat fresh tortillas to grill and sell street side. This local staple leads to many meals of quesadillas, eggs with tortillas, and guacamole with corn chips. Guacamole is another treat that feels very fresh here. After hiking through acres upon acres of avocado trees growing volcano-side it’s easy to enjoy this satisfying dish. Other culinary highlights include the fresh roma tomatoes, which are worked into many dishes, along with the tasty picos and ranchero sauces.
Relax at an Eco-Resort
The eco-resorts surrounding Lake Atitlán are local, small, and quaint. The hallmark of a great accommodation is that it becomes more than a place to sleep. The Laguna Eco-Lodge truly enhanced the experience in Lake Atitlan and served as the home base for exploring and activities. The Laguna Eco Lodge offered a hot tub, fresh water pool, massage therapy and a beautiful deck for yoga. Having a lodge that included transportation to and from the main port was essential in being able to coordinate day trips to Chichicastenango and nearby cities. Many offer natural and vegetarian menus with a sufficient selection of refreshments to unwind with after a full day.
Kayak or Dive in Lake Atitlan
If the weather cooperates, this is the perfect destination for hopping in a kayak. With the volcanoes and mountains surrounding the lake, the perspective from the lake is quite breathtaking. Be sure to cruise along the shoreline to check out the impressive homes and hotels built right into the rocky cliffs. Being on the water also allows for opportunities to observe local fisherman trolling for miniature perch and black bass. Scuba diving is another option in this very deep freshwater lake.
Get Colorful in Chichicastenago
Upon arrival, plan to take advantage of using a full day for an excursion to Chichicastenango. This is a local market only open on Thursday and Sunday. Chichicastenango is a highlight of the trip, full of local people purchasing flowers, fruits, textiles and other hand-made crafts. While here indulge in the hand-woven bags and clothing. There is also a beautiful assortment of hand carved masks, figurines, and jewelry. If visiting off-season, this market can feel quite untouched by tourists. While here, stop into Hotel Santo Tomas to enjoy the gorgeous gardens and a Guatemalan lunch.
Get Crafty in San Juan
As a great follow-up to hiking Volcano San Pedro continue your journey by foot to nearby San Juan La Laguna. This is the spot to learn about local crafts and culture. Do not miss the demonstration of how natural dyed organic cotton is made and woven at Casa Flor Ixcaco. Another great place to check out in town is the small urban farm, stop in to hear about Organic and Natural Medicine. Another popular activity in San Juan is tours on local coffee growing and production. This small town is worth a stop on the water taxi even if you do not choose to hike there. From the water taxi, check out the beautiful views of the piers and boats along the waterline.
Guatemala was never top of my list as a vacation destination, however the Clymb’s Adventure package made the opportunity too inviting to pass up. Add this wonderful spot to your list if you’re looking for the best that Central America has to offer, all in one place.
For more information on when this adventure will be available, or for any other questions about Clymb Adventures, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org