November 3, 2009

The “Jewel of Guatemala,” Lago Atitlan, has lost some of its sparkle

This morning, we set out from our home in Villanueva, Guatemala City, headed towards Lake Atitlan, one of the jewels of Guatemala. Lake Atitlan is a huge lake set between volcanoes, renowned for picturesque scenery and colorful traditions. We decided to take a bus from the Trebol, where old schoolbuses make the trek westward. We got a bus that took us to Los Encuentros, where there is a turn-off for Panajachel, one of the larger cities on the lake.

You can get a bus directly to Panajachel, but why do things the easy way. Plus, the bus we found was half empty and we were able to secure a seat near the front. When we got to Los Encuentros, 90 minutes later, it had begun to rain quite heavily. Luckily, there was a bus there that took us to Solola. In Solola, we went to the market where we ate a delicious caldo de gallina – chicken soup. Stomachs full, we got another bus to Panajachel. Just before getting into the city, we got off the bus at the harbor where the boats leave for San Marcos de la Laguna – our chosen lakeside destination.

Just as we were getting to the boat, it began to downpour. We made it inside the small motorboat without getting too wet. Tatiana and Soraya, my eight-year old twins, however, found it great fun to play in the rain at the head of the boat. When the boat took off, they sat down and began to make conversation with the other passengers. Most of the passengers were foreigners, so they spoke to them in English. There were two girls about their age on the boat. They looked on in surprise at how extroverted the twins are. Tatiana and Soraya chatted with the other passengers the whole ride.

About thirty minutes later, we made it to San Marcos. Unfortunately, we couldn’t enjoy the beautiful scenery on the boat ride because of the rain and fog. One of the passengers on the boat showed us where our hotel is – La Posada del Bosque Encantado. When we made it to the hotel, the person who opened the door for us told us the room was going to be Q240. On the phone, she had told me Q160 ($20), so I was a bit disappointed. I had told her on the phone that we had three kids. Seeing them, she decided she had to charge extra for them. She came down to Q200. Still, we decided to look around to see what the other options were. We found one close by for Q100, and another for Q250. In the end, we decided to stay at La Posada.

It is a nice hotel for a family. It has a covered patio and a nice tropical garden. In the room, there are two beds in the main room, and two more in the loft. The rooms have nice earthy decorations, and everything was spotless. With the rain continuing, it was important for us to have a comfortable room. We settled in the room, and found that most of our clothes had gotten wet in the rain and on the boat ride.

I got changed into the dry clothes I could find and Nando went out and got a bottle of wine. Warm and dry, we relaxed and waited for the rain to stop. It didn’t. Soon, we ventured out of the house to get a bite to eat. We found an restaurant that specializes in curry called La Fe. A bit more expensive than we are used to in Guatemala – US$8.00 a plate, we decided to order two plates of curry to begin with. A great decision, because the portions were quite generous. And, the curry was delicious. A bit spicy, but the girls ate it up. After dinner, Nando got out his instruments and played a few songs for the owners and some of the guests. From there, we went to Paco Real, where we met a few other folks and played a bit more music.

By 9 pm, though, we were back at La Posada del Bosque Encantado, ready to sleep. It had been a long, wet day, and I was looking forward to my warm, dry bed. The sun rises early in Guatemala – around 5:30 am, and so do Tatiana and Soraya.

Sure enough, bright and early, the twins were up, and ready to go kayaking on the lake. I told them we could go see the lake, but that we would have to wait until it warmed up to get out on the lake.

When we got to the lake, I was pleased to see that there was nothing but clear, blue skies. The waters of Lake Atitlan, however, were not clear or blue. The jewel of Guatemala has been contaminated by some sort of algae that has turned the lake a brown-green color. It also has somewhat of a foul odor in parts. What a disappointment! Despite the contamination, you still can enjoy gorgeous views of the volcanoes that surround the lake. And, from afar, the waters appear somewhat blue. The girls’ kayaking dreams were dashed. I did not want to get into that water.


  1. There is a very current and factual website at .
    The lake can be saved, but a lot of well coordinated work will be needed.

  2. thanks for the link, Dennis. Interesting how there were no indications at the lake that told you not to touch the water. at the website, that picture of the rash in enough.