One of the most popular activities at Panajachel and Lake Atitlan is to take a ferry around to different parts of the lake for day trips, hiking and overall exploration. I went out early in the morning to the Panajachel boat docks and checked out the schedule. Many boats left in the morning and a few in the afternoon to different locations; I selected Santiago Atitlan on the southern shore as my destination. My LP tour guidebook listed all sorts of interesting activities there; a small museum, local dancers in traditional costumes and a much slower and more “authentic” town life than one finds in the “party town” of Panajachel.
Along the shores of the lake families sat on blankets and snacked on packed meals. It was a bit chilly and overcast but that didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the people. The water made a mellow lapping sound on the shore and the mood was quite tranquil and quiet. When the boat man called for passengers to board I hopped on board the small boat that made use of plastic lawn chairs for the passengers. Some of the local girls offered their services as hair braiders and a few passengers took the opportunity to have their hair braided with some colorful ribbons.
As we neared the far side of the lake I could see the twin peaks of Volcan Toliman and Atitlan as we cleared the harbor near Santiago. There were quite a few “villa” style houses with huge yards that were decorated in Asian style, gardeners tending and watering plants, huge houses with big decks and viewing porches and small boats tied up at private docks. It seemed as though many of the rich of Guatemala keep their holiday homes here.
As we pulled into the dock I could see the vendors lining up to pitch their wares to the passengers. Some travelers from Santiago were staging to board our boat to return (or travel to) Panajachel. After the boat tied up I made my way on shore.
I was immediately surrounded by several children who all wanted me to buy their sweets, colorful knick-knacks and all sorts of other trinkets. I did buy a powdered sugar pastry that reminded me of a belgian waffle; it was quite nice and I bought two more for my “tag-alongs.” I made my way into town and browsed around through the village enjoying the sights and sounds of the place. Unfortunately my camera battery died and I did not get any photos at the museum or the town square.
Once I climbed up a ways I could see out over the town with a commanding view of the volcanos nearby and the beautiful lake. It was quite chilly and I was glad that I brought a light jacket. Along the sides of the hill I saw all sorts of farming activities and I was amazed that the people could grow food on such steep slopes. Most of the local people didn’t seem to mind me walking along the paths that cut between their houses. I suppose that their indifference is from years of exposure to tourists.
Santiago was a wonderful place to visit, especially as a day trip from Panajachel. If you are ever on Lake Atitlan, I certainly recommend it.
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