Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m a man and planning isn’t really my strong point. When it comes to traveling, I’ll do some cursory research and Aoife will come up with a detailed itinerary that I just go along with.
However, when I did my cursory research of Guatemala, the one place that excited me more than most was Lake Atitlan. The lake is a mammoth body of water located in a volcanic crater, flanked on all sides by towering mountains. It looks, amazing!
After a few days rest in Antigua we hopped on a shuttle to Panajachel, which cost us £15 each. The bus ride was, you guessed it, long! It took 5 hours to get there on windy, pot holed roads. Once you get to Panajachel you have to hop on a crowded bus to your prefferred destination.
There are 3 towns on the edge of the Lake to choose from;
San Pedro: This is the more lively of the three. There’s more hostels to choose from and a good selection of bars and restaurants.
San Marcos: If you like yoga, easy living and don’t mind parting with those dollar bills then this is the place for you.
Santa Cruz: Here is a bit of a mix of the two above, although there are nice hostels and hotels, there’s also the option of eco-lodge style accommodation.
Because we’re cheap, and still trying to recapture our youth we opted for San Pedro. Aoife did her whizz kid research and found us a brilliant looking Airbnb for the week. We were planning for nothing but sheer relaxation and the odd bit of fun in the Lake.
Can you remember the running theme from the last few posts though? Aoife’s been sick, pretty damn sick. After repeatedly jumping in huge bodies of water from great heights she finally succumbed to an ear infection. When we arrived in San Pedro, it really hit it’s peak.
Stepping off the boat in San Pedro I was reminded of Alan Partridge’s description of London ‘S-H-I-T-H-O-L-E – SHITHOLE!’. The place was grimy, dirty, stinking and altogether rotten. “Sod it” I thought, let’s just get to the Airbnb and relax.
We hopped in a tuc-tuc and zoomed off to meet our host – who shall rename nameless for legal reasons. Our lodge was located on the outskirts of the village, high up in the slopes with a spectacular view of the Lake. That was good…
Although the alarm bells should have been ringing when we had to step over several stray dogs just to get in the door. The door that was a million steps up from the street. Inside, it was no more than than the size of a small living room.
There was a small double bed squashed into the window, a rather gnarly toilet and a teeny-tiny little kitchen, epic. Once we’d been shown around, we began to explore the place, which didn’t take long.
Judging by the pictures on the wall, we began to suspect our host was a sex-tourist. Just as we were digesting this information, it happened. Attack of the massive spiders! If you’re squeamish, look away now!
This massive bastard jumped out from behind one of the pictures of semi-clothed indigenous children. Panic stations reached! I mustered the courage to tackle the fucker, and just when I’d dealt with it, out popped another, and another.
The place was crawling with massive spiders. After the 6th or 7th I lost count. Whilst Aoife was panicking, I saw off the most of them with a few lucky souls retreating behind the bed, readying for round 2.
As the last monster plunged out of sight behind one of the pillows, we decided this place wasn’t for us, not one bit. A quick google led us to Cabana Del Arco, a small hotel 15 minutes away. Without a moments notice we gathered our belongings and left his ram shackled hut of spiders for someone else.
Luckily the owner was reasonable and returned us most of the money we’d put down on the reservation. If he takes to charging the spiders for the accommodation, then he’ll have no need to work ever again.
Cabana Del Arco was much, much nicer and the exact same price as the wretched Airbnb. Unfortunately this fiasco had really worn Aoife down, and she spent the entirety of the next two days in bed, trying not to cry from incessant ear pain.
I took my chance to explore San Pedro when sent out to get medical supplies and food, and boy, what a place. What an utterly shitty, shitty place. Never have I been so disappointed in a town.
It’s a huge favela. That’s the honest truth. The only buildings that don’t resemble favelas are the hostels and hotels, which aren’t exactly grand feats of engineering either. You have two options for traveling around, walking or getting a tuc-tuc.
Walking isn’t safe. As a Gringo you stand out a mile-off, and locals will eye you up and down as you walk by. In a tuc-tuc you’re guaranteed a headache as your head bounces off the roof whilst the driver tries to navigate the so-called roads.
At least there’s the lake though, right? It’s beautiful, really beautiful. Until you get a little bit closer and see locals dumping rubbish in it and people literally shitting in it. That kind of puts you off hopping in for a swim.
We spoke to a few people who managed to miss the human faeces floating in the lake. These people got very, very ill. Just from a short swim. So in short, the place is a fucking dive.
I’m telling you this as brutally as I can, so that you don’t make the same mistake as us. DO NOT LISTEN TO VACUOUS TRAVEL BLOGGERS! We read tonnes of blogs before we headed out here. Blogs that had us full of hope and optimism, blogs that we subsequently know to be full of shit. Blogs like THIS.
I don’t know why people do it. Maybe they think it’s cool to say a place like this is nice, a a sort of badge of honour. But it’s not, it’s just a dick move. So heed my advice and don’t go, save yourself time, money and hassle.
If you’re worried you’ll be missing out on a great opportunity to visit a Central American lake, then fear not. In Nicaragua you can visit Laguna De Apoyo, which is everything Lake Atitlan is supposed to be and more. If you’re still not sufficiently put off, then here’s a breakdown of costs.
Cabana Del Arco: £21 a night – Private Room. The room was pretty nice. A bit 1980’s chic but it had a comfortable bed, cable TV, stunning views and lovely, helpful staff.
I can’t really recommend any sights. Because Aoife was ill we didn’t go and do anything, although the Indian Nose Hike would have been top of our list.
Matiox Shuttle Bus: £15 P/P
Panajachel – San Pedro Boat: £1.65 P/P
This is your best bet for travel. You can get a direct bus to any of the towns around the village, but it’s not very safe. The roads nearby are notoriously unsafe with gunman operating in the area and frequent mudslides.
Restaurants are reasonably priced and you can get a meal for around £4 P/P
Daily Budget-Excluding Accommodation
£10, as I mentioned, we didn’t do much in San Pedro so at least we saved the pennies.