Three Days in San Pedro La Laguna

It’s believed by many that Guatemala’s Lago De Atitlan is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. With impossibly sky blue water and surrounded by three looming volcanos, acting as watchmen over the lake as if guarding a prized jewel, this truly is one of the most stunning backdrops a traveller could ask for.

San Pedro La Laguna

San Pedro La Laguna

Sitting proudly on the shores of Lago De Atitlan is the lakes’ darling town of San Pedro La Laguna. Fitting somewhere in between the chaos and noise of Panajachel and the hippy meditation village of San Marcos, San Pedro is a lively little option for those seeking some fun and adventure with a sprinkle of cultural delight.

San Pedro has been rewarded with the reputation of one of Central America’s most popular backpacking destinations, and rightfully so. The town is far less touristy than Panajachel (the original Lago De Atitlan party town) and it is this fact that has brought crowds of international backpackers swarming. Souvenir stands are replaced with fresh fruit stores, thumping electro music is replaced with the soft strumming of acoustic guitars, and Spanish schools seem to be the order of the day.

However, despite the town’s maintenance of traditional ways it would be foolish to expect a unique cultural experience. Due to the sudden influx of tourism to this small town the tourism industry is well and truly flourishing. Every bus load of tourists seems to bring a new hostel catering for both the rich and the ragged. The town is in full swing, though is thankfully all the more wonderful for it.
But how should you spend your three days here?

Here we go.

Day 1:

Morning-On day one you may just want to take a morning stroll down the pleasant lakeside esplanade. You don’t want to make this too strenuous as you will be stretching those legs out this afternoon. However, with a relaxing walk through town you will be able to interact with the friendly locals, stop off at any of the numerous deliciously fresh fruit stalls and organise your trek for this afternoon (as well as the following day’s activities). On the way back ensure that you stop off and try the mouth-watering street food on 7th avenue, near the Pana Dock. For a mere 8Q you will be able to fill yourself with a generous helping of chicken and sausage with beans, complimented with fresh guacamole and a tortilla.

Volcano Climbing

Volcano Climbing

Afternoon-After a relaxing morning it is now time to get those legs moving with one of San Pedro’s famous hikes. If you missed out on the fantastic volcano climb in Antigua you may like to try scaling the equally impressive Volcano San Pedo. This is a fantastic hike which will have your blood pumping and your adrenaline rushing.However, as a reward for your hard work you will be rewarded with one of the best views in Guatemala. Before starting this climb ensure that you have organised a guide with a local tour outfit or you may run into some problems on the way (whether it be from daring locals or accidently falling head first off a volcano).

Evening-After a big day it is time to unwind. Before finding a restaurant to feed your now grumbling stomach (I recommend Humus-ya for the best Humus and Falafel in Central America) you could visit the unique thermal spas situated on the edge of the lake. For approximately AUS$2-3 you can take some time for yourself to relax in a selection of volcano-fed pools. Flickering candles will silhouette your view of the magnificent lake which is but a stones throw away, and you will realise that there is no other place quite like San Pedro La Laguna.

Caitlin relaxing in the lake side thermal spa

Caitlin relaxing in the lake side thermal spa

 

Day 2:

Morning-On day two it’s time to hit the water in a rented kayak or canoe from one of the numerous tour operators near the dock. Mornings in San Pedro bring with them pleasant temperatures and little wind, resulting in a calm expanse of blue turquoise ready to be enjoyed. However, ensure that if hiring a kayak or canoe you rise early because once lunch time hits the wind picks up and the lake can become quite unmanageable.

Kayaks in Lake Atitlan

Kayaks in Lake Atitlan

Afternoon-After a bit of fun in the sun it is time to return to San Pedro before the wind starts to make paddling tricky (note: if you get caught too far from San Pedro I suggest paddling to the closest town, and from there you can hop on a ferry back to San Pedro).

After you have filled your stomach at a selection of San Pedro’s lakeside restaurants it’s time to loosen those muscles and experience the soothing power of the lake with a dose of yoga. Situated just under The Buddha Bar in the hip ‘Otro Lado’ (a mere 5 minute walk from the dock), you will receive one and a half hours of lakeside yoga for under AUS$5. If this doesn’t limber you up nothing will.

Day 3:

Morning-Before grudgingly finding your way to your onward transportation you can choose between the early risers climb up Indian Nose or Zip-lining through the hills. Both are worthy inclusions to your time in Lago De Atitlan, and will depend largely on your departure time.

atitlan 9

The glorious hike up Indian Nose is best done early in the morning (4:30am), which will allow you time to reach the top for a spectacular sunrise. This hike is strenuous, though no more than any of the previously mentioned Guatemalan hikes. The most painful part of this trip is waking up, though after reaching the top and seeing the sun rise over the expansive lake you will soon forget about those tired eyes.

Atitlan zip-lining

Atitlan zip-lining

Alternatively, if your transportation is later in the day you may have time to try the 400m zip-line which will shoot you between two mountains and offers yet another great view over Lake Atitlan. If you are lucky with your timing you may even have the chance to witness the local Catholic/Mayans performing a service at the Mayan alter. For a mere Q150 this is certainly an experience worth careful consideration.

Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve…

If you have the time these activities also come highly recommend. Unfortunately time was not on my side and sacrifices were to be made. However, I hope to return to Lago De Atitlan soon and satisfy my burning desire to finish what I started.

•Paragliding over Lake Atitlan (this was not a time issue. Make sure you are in the area when there is enough wind to make it possible, otherwise you will be out of luck.)
•Horseback Riding
•Scuba Diving
•Exploring the surrounding towns and villages.

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