Our Eerie Trip on Lake Atitlan to San Marcos & San Juan

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala By

The lake was not happy to have us on its silky waters. The water was grey, the clouds a dusty brown from the farmers burning fields. We could not see volcanoes or the other side of the lake, but it was our last few hours in Panjachel and we were determined to actually visit the lake we came so far to see.


Our last morning in Panajachel we woke up much later then previous mornings. The waterpark and 6-hour drive really knocked it out of us. We had a leisurely breakfast at our hotel before the kids spent some time on the waterslide and in the pool while Josh and I caught up on some work with the wifi love by the pool.

Soon the kids were cold and hungry again so we went back to our room to polish off all our leftovers.

Caius was resting so Mia and I decided to hit the market for some last minute shopping. She picked up a gorgeous dress, which coincidentally is also an adult woman’s top; it looked good on me too. She is a great bargainer now and got it down from 125Q to 60Q (AUD$7.30).

We picked up some snacks for our bus ride and booked a shuttle for 4pm to take us back to Antigua. Pickup at the hotel for $12 each, my 2-year-old free.

When we got back we packed up our belongings, checked out of the hotel and took a walk to the boat port on the lake.

The Haggle

We met a “captain” who let us know about public verses private charters. The most competing factor being our time since we had to be back before 3:30pm at the latest. We decided that private would be a faster way for us to visit the two other villages we wanted to see and haggled a price from US$130 down to US$80. He was to take us to two villages and wait for us at each one.


The lake

Our boat was fast, but inadequate to deal with the choppy waves and I could tell my coccyx was going to be bruised. We bounced our way across the lake barely able to see the shoreline until we arrived in San Marcos.

San Marcos

A quaint little town set out on cobbled streets and hilly paths that was a throwback to Ubud in its carefree nature, barefoot walkers, hippy backpackers and yoga/spiritual healing sign boards.  It’s the kind of place where when you walk the streets and the longhaired, skinny artist on the side of the road is talking to his dreaded hair friend and you hear part of the conversation, “if we all just learn to live in love…”.

We enjoyed a quick walk through the small streets until my kids spotted a playground. Of course that meant ice-cream time in the sun with a mountainous backdrop and giggles of laughter.

Keeping to our tight schedule we made our way back to the boat, passing by 63 cent pineapples, helping a boy with an unusually heave load and continued on to San Juan.

San Juan

Not far from San Marcos, San Juan was very similar to Flores. Little side streets filled with pastel coloured houses and tiny stalls. We were immediately approached by tuktuk drivers and having being prepared, we cut the 1 hour tuktuk tour from Q100 to Q50 (AUD$6) and were on our way.

We visited the typical sales pitch tourist destinations like a textile home (where we watched the lady spin thread from cotton flowers, which was pretty cool), coffee plantation (which we skipped having previously done this in Bali and not being coffee drinkers), and an art gallery. We also saw a Church (currently being built) and a park (wall art, not much else). The stops themselves were not worth the $6, but the driving through the little streets and seeing San Juan was.

Heavy Swell Ahoy

We jumped back on our boat at 2:30pm to head back to Panajachel. The lake air had grown more smoky and the waves even choppier. My kids seem to love the wild rocking of a boat and both fell asleep as we crashed and rolled our way through the waves.

The air grew chilly and the water spray chilled, but still I enjoyed the ride. There is something so enticing about watching the waves that one can get lost in its hypnotic swell and time passes by quicker.


Still when we finally arrived at Panajachel 45 minutes later I was more then happy to have my feet back on solid ground.

Goodbye Panajachel

We hurried to the restaurant we had eaten at the previous night and ordered 3 sandwiches to go. Then took a Q20 (AUD$2.50) tuk tuk ride back to our hotel to await our 4pm bus.

Our bus was different to the one we arrived on, much bigger and looked like we were the last collection as well. But there was lots of room with everyone having 2 seats to themselves.

During our ride I got plenty of writing done, as I always do when having no access to the distraction of wifi and Facebook.

Half way through our journey the bus stopped at a restaurant in Tecpan. It was a ranch-style restaurant, the bathroom offered a little kids toilet and basin and outside a wonderful playground with trampoline, slides, swings, fort and even a tractor.

After a play and toilet break we were back on the bus heading home, or rather back to Antigua for 5 more nights. We loved Panajachel and its beautiful (if not eerie) lake and definitely would love to come back to stay longer next time.

Reader Comments...

"I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" -

Love reading about and seeing photos from Lake Atitlan. It's at the top of my list of places I have visited in the world. We took a bus to Panajachel from Antigua, and stayed on the lake in La Casa del Mundo for a couple of nights--such an amazing experience. We hiked along the lake & explored some tiny little towns...we were there in August & boy was it hot and humid!

Kate @ Wild Tales of... May 9th, 2013

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