Friday, May 8, 2020

Lake Atitlan calls: observe beauty, enjoy the culture, step back in time

Lake Atitlan offers beauty, culture and an insight into ancient ways of doing things. This woman is washing for her family.
These young sisters at Lake Atitlan were dressed beautifully in traditional
elaborate dresses created by their mother and grandmother.


Editor's Note: After a "Covid Detour," we are resuming our weekly travel columns. Researchers are struggling to find a vaccine and our professional travel sources tell us we'll be traveling safely -- but differently-- by fall or winter. So, here's a wonderful educational suggestion. Time to plan a trip.


"Atitlan: the place where the rainbow gets its colors"-- in the Maya language

This woman in the village of Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, offers beautiful
 hand sewn Guatemalan quilts and other textiles for sale.  
ON OUR SECOND visit to this remote Guatemalan village of Panajachel, we decided to "go with the flow," take a yoga class, watch the sunsets, enjoy the environment. Unlike other trips, we didn't plan every day to the minute.  We went with the flow, like butterflies in a lovely garden.
Panama Canal, anyone?
The place encourages relaxation. The air is fresh and at a mile high, you'll find nature, birds, calm.
There's plenty to do, whether you're looking to unwind, learn about the Mayan culture or  stroll the crooked paths winding around the lake.  Don't be surprised if you see the occasional drug deal going down.  We did -- and found the police look the other way.  Still, we never felt threatened or unsafe, although we also encountered a few harmless intoxicants and and some very persistent craftsmen.
Although the villages around Lake Atitlan are remote,
cell phones and old-fashioned textile work are compatible.
WE NEVER mind hawkers promoting their wares -- it's honest work.  We like to bring home some of the unique offerings each country's craftsmen and women create. It's a happy memory to walk around our home, remembering where and when we purchased each piece of art or handmade work.
Costa Rica calls?
Lately, this sleepy little corner of Guatemala has been promoting many things to do in Lake Atitlan. It's a wonderful place to get away from it all and relax.  A pair of friends planned a week there, and ended up staying around Lake Atitlan for much longer than expected. They'd visited American ex-pats in Antigua, enjoyed their lovely home for a long weekend, then hiked around Lake Atitlan.
Your small boat approaches a village
from the lovely Lake Atitlan.
BESIDES THE country's volcanoes, rain forests and ancient Mayan sites, you'll find palaces and fine hotels -- in the capital, Guatemala City.  Then, into the rural villages around the lake for foot paths, pristine areas, and the massive volcanic crater around Lake Atitlan.
Hotels in the busy resort town of Panajachel offer a place
to rest while awaiting a boat ride into the lake. 
 It's lovely to visit the stately National Palace of Culture, and the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in Guatemala City. Antigua, west of the capital, offers beautifully preserved Spanish colonial buildings and new, opulent homes built by Europeans and Americans. But Lake Atitlán, formed in a massive volcanic crater, is a step back in time.  Surrounded by coffee fields and villages, the lake rests inside the crater. If you want to pack in, you'll prefer the backpacker-driven San Pedro La Laguna in the
The largest town on Lake Atitlan is Santiago, famous for its hand made work,
its market, and the saint Maximon. This views from the lake beckons to
San Pedro Volcano in the distance. You can climb it from here.
country's southwestern highlands. Ringed by steep, verdant hills, it’s known for its Mayan villages and volcanoes' striking pointed cones. THE BUSY town of Panajachel, where vendors sell traditional textiles, is a popular gateway to the lake. On a former coffee plantation, the Atitlán nature reserve offers trails and a butterfly garden. Both Panajachel and the larger Santiago have good tourist services, where you'll find pensions, air bnbs and all manner of lodging -- cheap to luxurious. Plus yoga classes to help you chill.  Check out;;

Bruce Keller left Scripps Green Hospital in a record three days,
three years ago after transplantation. More next week. 
UP NEXT: Time to give thanks! Three years ago, Bruce Keller left the hospital with a new liver.  We reflect on our good fortune in finding a match, having the advantage of a world class facility, with brilliant physicians and nurses to help us. Until COVID19, we resumed our world travels -- and hope to again. We'll explore the complex world of transplantation and share the challenges and triumphs. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a fresh view on travel, the arts, nature, family, health and the effects of the virus on our lives:


  1. Have always wanted to visit Guatemala. The variety of things to see and experience is wonderful.

  2. Rhode Island RoversMay 9, 2020 at 11:14 AM

    Refreshing to be reading about a journey to somewhere without masks and lines. We need yo keep hopeful that we'll travel again. Thanks!

  3. Florida Armchair AdmirersMay 10, 2020 at 11:59 AM

    Loved the Covid reports and the originality you two stamp your life with. Also happy to see travel back in your books -- even though we know it will be a while. Keep on keeping on and never stop dreaming and planning. We need it so.

  4. Maryland Nature LoversMay 14, 2020 at 7:58 AM

    Great run of fun, varied stories. Look forward to the transplant update. So glad to hear.