Anna Sondergaard, Lago Atitlán: Arrivals.

Lago Atitlan: a photo-essay in sixteen photographs. People, landscapes, the lake. Photographed in the spring of 2014.

An atmosphere moves across the lake at dawn and the melting peace and spirituality of this lake spreads through all the individuals that spend a moment of their time here.

Swimming in San Marcos, Atitlán, free swimming pier

There’s water all over the place at lake Atitlán. Depending on where you are, though, it can be tough to find a clean, comfortable spot to swim. Especially for free. If you’re in San Marcos there’s an easily accessible pier, with shade, just outside of the town proper.

A short walk to swimming

You’ll want to start from San Marcos’ central park. If you’ve just got off the boat at the public dock (embarcadero) just walk straight until the paved footpath dumps you into the street. You should be staring at a basketball court. If you are, you’re in San Marcos central park, more or less.

Jumping into Lake Atitlán, San Marcos

There’s a beautifully kept municipal park in San Marcos, Sololá that offers swimming, kayaking, light hiking, sun bathing and a fun twenty or twenty-five foot jump into the lake. The entrance fee is Q15. Paying patrons can re-enter the park until it closes at 5:00 pm by presenting their entrance fee receipt.

Getting to the park is super easy. It’s directly behind Hostal San Marcos, a few minutes down a footpath that’s a stone’s throw away from the public dock.

Hiking from Nebaj to Acul, Quiché, mao to trail

Nebaj is a small city in the department of Quiché that’s well known for its textile production and textile markets. It offers a wide variety of options in terms of accommodations (lots of hotels, one or two hostels) as well as some restaurants, bars and the like.

Acul is an agricultural aldea (sub-municipality) in the mountains near Nebaj. It’s a very quiet, simple town that’s perfect for a do-nothing getaway in stunningly peaceful, mountainous surroundings. Accommodations are limited but range from basic and super affordable rooms, to cozy, isolated cabins with gorgeous views.

A woman sells flowers

In the indigenous town of Chichicastenango, Guatemala there is a famous market held every Sunday and Thursday. Handicrafts, flowers, food, and more are displayed in hundreds of stalls that open early in the morning and close around 3 PM. From Parque Central in Xela, Guatemala it takes about 2.5 hours each way. Leave early in the morning and you'll be able to make this into an enjoyable day trip.

Bus from Xela to Zunil

Las Fuentes Georginas are natural hot springs located in the mountains near Zunil, Quetzaltenango. A cozy resort has been built around the hot springs which includes several pools of varying heat, changing rooms, overnight cabins, and a restaurant and bar.

Travel time is ~1 hr 5 min, and cost is 80Q - 120Q depending on the size of your group. The more people you bring, the cheaper your travel costs. Also, you probably won't need to spend more than a couple hours at the springs unless you're staying there overnight.

Guatemala City Central Park

This post provides detailed instructions for using public transit to get from Guatemala City, Zone1, Parque San Sebastian to Xela, Zone 1, Parque Central. There's no need for expensive taxis or shuttles if you're willing to face off with the public transit system.

Parque San Sebastian is just three streets north of Guatemala City’s Central Park, or Plaza Constitucional. Here’s a google map. That’s the beginning point for this route. You can walk there from Parque Central, or just hop on the Transmetro at Parque Central instead of Parque San Sebastian as detailed below.

Chichicastenango, vendors sell flowers on the cathedral steps

When it started to rain I ducked under a wilted blue street vendor’s tarp, then paid 5 Q (~ $0.65) for a bag of greasy papas fritas. The woman behind the fryer took my money, squirted catsup, mayonnaise and hot sauce into the plastic bag full of fries, then pointed at her next customer. It was shoulder-to-shoulder, more or less, with people pushing past me from every direction.

Matt Wicks: Guatemala Independence day, traditionally dressed kids

Guatemala now celebrates its independence for about two weeks straight. It’s a big deal.

I was in Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala for the duration, and witnessed celebrations of Guatemala’s independence with a seemingly endless supply of children’s parades, brass bands, traditional dress, street food, beauty pageants, heavy boozing, concerts, dancing and thrill rides.

Chiken buses

From Guatemala City I headed to Atitlán, a lake in an 85,000 year old caldera that’s some 350 meters deep. The lake is surrounded by volcanoes. I took a chicken bus from a station in the city, and paid Q 40 ($5.25) for the four and a half hour ride. I was hoping to head into San Marcos, a very quiet little town on the perimeter of the lake, but took the bus too far and ended up in San Pedro.

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Meet The Writers

Elesha Piper
Aaron Owlex
Anna Sondergaard
Eric Toupin, blogger & web developer
Matt McGuire, blogger & photographer
Matt Wicks, traveler, writer, photographer