All good things, inevitably, come to an end.

My time in Panajachel [pana hachel] and more notably my time with Magda, and her delightful family, has sadly come to an end. The last two weeks have certainly gone quicker than I would have liked, but it has been a rare and enjoyable treat to stay in one place for more than just a few days. Travelling is a transient ‘occupation’ and I rarely get the opportunity to peal back more than a few layers of the proverbial onion when I normally visit a place. It was also very special to be with a family over Christmas, it’s never my most favourite time of the year. With a heavy heart I made my farewells. I shall miss the closeness of this incredibly warm and welcoming family immensely. However, the time has now come to branch out and see a little more of Guatemala.

Santiago Atitlán:

South across the lake from Panajachel (Pana) on the shore of a lagoon, squeezed between the volcanoes of Tolimán and San Pedro, lies Santiago Atitlán, known to everybody as Santiago. A 20-minute boat ride from Pana, it’s the most workaday lake villages of them all. Whilst it might well be the most visited village outside Pana, Santiago manages to cling to the traditional lifestyle and clothing of its indigenous people.

Having stayed in a small simple room for the past two weeks it was time to splash out and stay somewhere with a few luxuries. My room was huge, with a comfy king size bed and crisp white sheets. And for the first time in weeks I had my own bathroom. Hotel Tiosh Abaj is set in spectacular grounds complete with manicured gardens, right on the edge of Lake Atitlán. I spent my time (equally) between relaxing on a sun bed, in the hotel grounds, and exploring the delightful little town, which is easily accessible on foot. Just my kind of town.

The hotel served excellent food, excellent coffee and red wine by the glass! Heaven! I loved Santiago.

San Pedro La Laguna:

Price wars between competing businesses appear to keep San Pedro among the cheapest of the lakeside villages. The beautiful setting seems to attract visitors en mass whose varied interests include: drinking, fire twirling, African drumming, Spanish classes, volcano hiking, wearing as little as possible and hammock swinging.

In hindsight:

To truly appreciate Panajachel you unfortunately have to gloss over the hoards of people, the traffic, the rubbish strewn everywhere, and the constant barrage from street vendors. The other villages somehow manage to maintain a quieter air, whilst still offering a reasonable degree of comfort. That said, Panajachel was a great stepping stone from my western lifestyle to the very different lifestyle of the western highlands of Guatemala. Without it, the resultant culture shock would have been far more acute. In addition, Jabel Tinamit was a great school in which to learn how to speak Spanish correctly!

Next stage: New Year in the beautiful former capital of Guatemala – Antigua.

  

   

  

About Richard Griffith

My first independent travel experience was a trip to Israel, in 1997, it was here that I caught the 'travel' bug! In 2001 I took an 8-month sabbatical and traveled around South East Asia. Since then I have managed to visit most of Eastern Europe along with India, Bangladesh, and a few other destinations in between. I love travel and I love meeting new people.
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