Finally managing to catch up with blog posts for our times in Guatemala! After a few days exploring beautiful Antigua and hiking volcanoes, we headed to Lake Atitlan for some R&R. The lake is gorgeous – surrounded by several volcanoes and little lakeside towns that are home to indigenous communities.
If you’ve read our other post you’ll know that we were recently robbed in Mexico – most of our valuables were taken including my camera. Unfortunately we’ve lost quite a lot of photos from Guatemala so this post doesn’t include as many photos as we’d like! Although hopefully you can still get an idea of just how beautiful Lake Atitlan actually is!
Glamping in Santa Cruz La Laguna
For our first few nights we decided to do something a little bit different – we went glamping! Free Cerveza campsite has a bunch of bell tents, both dorm and private ones, and is just outside the lakeside town of Santa Cruz La Laguna.
As the name suggested, there is actually free cerveza every night! Between 5pm and 7pm, just before the family-style dinner is served, the free beer flows and the vibe becomes really fun and sociable. There are games or activities usually after the dinner and the party atmosphere continues until around 11pm.
There’s not really a lot to do at Free Cerveza apart from relax on the dock and brave the cold water in the lake, but it’s only a 5 minute walk from Santa Cruz and a 25 minute walk the other way to Jaibalito. Santa Cruz is a nice little town with a couple of cute cafes by the water and nice views if you walk up the hill to where the locals live. There’s a women’s weaving cooperative where you can learn more about the weaving process and support the local community by getting handmade souvenirs.
The walk to Jaibalito is really picturesque, with beautiful houses dotted along the hillside and great views of the lake. It’s quite a sleepy little village but we went mainly to have lunch at a German-owned restaurant that we’d been recommended. Who would’ve thought you could get a nice goulash in Guatemala?!
San Juan La Laguna
As a change from the very gringo vibe at Free Cerveza, we decided to spend a night in San Juan La Laguna, which is known for still being very authentic. As soon as we got off the boat at the dock we noticed it was a really colourful town, with art and handicraft shops lining the main path.
After a wild goose chase trying to find our hostel (then resorting to a tuk tuk), we explored the town and treated ourselves to a few souvenirs. I bought a handmade embroidered top which was a bit too big, so the owner of the shop went to work on the sewing machine to adjust the size. Like in Santa Cruz, traditional weaving techniques are still used by the indigenous community and in one shop, the lady showed us the whole process and how the cotton is still dyed using natural plants and vegetables such as beetroot, carrot and camomile.
We stayed at Hostel Mayachik and our timing couldn’t have been better. Since we were there on a Sunday, we could take advantage of Mayachik’s special sauna offer – use of the sauna plus a slice of pizza and a drink for only 10 Quetzales. And it was great! We sat in the little stone sauna and when we weren’t chatting to the locals, we listened as they spoke a mixed Mayan-Spanish dialect.
Later in the evening, Mayachik’s owner tried to get us to join them on the next day’s volcano hike. Erm, another volcano? Luckily we had our bus ride to Lanquin as an excuse to say no.
We wish we could’ve have stayed a bit longer in San Juan and really recommend this lovely little town if you’re planning a trip to Lake Atitlan. The lake and surroundings are so beautiful, a bit like Guatemala’s answer to Lake Como in Italy, and we’d love to go back one day to explore more. Who knows, maybe we’d even be ready for another volcano hike by then!
Have you visited Lake Atitlan? Where are your favourite lakeside spots? Leave us a comment and let us know! Follow us on Instagram for more travel photos.