This video shows the amazing views of Lake Atitlan from Panajachel, Guatemala. It gives you glimpses of the magic surrounding the lake and of the city of Panajachel itself.
Driving from Antigua to Panajachel was quite a hairy ride. You drive along steep cliffs at a far from safe speed, but the views are amazing. Also the higher you get up, the mistier it becomes and suddenly you are surrounded by maize fields and you start imagining yourself as part of the film “Children of the corn” 🙂 scary
Arriving at Panajachel in the late afternoon when it was raining didn’t leave the best first hand impression, but shortly after it cleared up and we went to have the first view of the lake impressive. However, not nearly as impressive as it looked the morning after when we got up at 6 and went down to the lake. The sun was rising over the volcanoes in the distance, the mist lifting up from the water and the green mountain sides melting your soul. It was so beautiful and I immediately understood why this place attracts so many people.
Most weekends the school lays on some kind of event or excursion, and this Saturday morning we got up far too early to climb the Indian’s nose – a mountain overlooking Lake Atitlan. After about an hour and a half of lung busting climbing, we reached the summit and were treated to this spectacular view.
Having spent two very interesting weeks with Jose, Maria & two year-old Felix as part of our homestay with a Guatemalan family, we both decided that our studies would benefit from a bit of ‘space’ for a couple of weeks. Although we’d thoroughly recommend the homestay experience to anyone learning Spanish in Guatemala, you are living with a family & depending on various factors such as the size of the family’s house, number & age of the children, and their TV watching habits etc. you may find that from time to time it can prove a challenge studying.
What you may lose in terms of privacy however, is more than made up for with the extra Spanish conversation practice the family provides, and of course what you learn about Guatemalan life.
Luckily for us, nearing the end of our homestay early last week, Tina was walking past one of the backstreet restaurants near the Cooperative School, and having struck up a conversation with the manager was offered a house rental. We went to see the house, and couldn’t really believe it – a house with a beautiful garden right on the shore of Lake Atitlan (see photo above). We accepted right away and moved into our new house two days later.
Accommodation costs: Guesthouses range from $4 a night, for a basic room with a private hot shower, up to about $20 a night for something much fancier.
Study costs: About $90 a week for 20 hours one-on-one Spanish language tuition (a significant proportion of this is used to help out particularly poor local families that the Cooperative school works with).
Homestay costs: About $60 a week for accommodation, with 3 meals a day provided 6 days a week (on Sundays students eat out).
Restaurant costs: Meals average about 25 Quetzals ($3.30) in most of the ‘tourist restaurants’ but are as little as $1.50 in other restaurants. A soft drink is about $0.60, a litre of local beer is about $3.50.
House costs: A bit less than the homestay with two meals a day in the manager’s restaurant thrown in. We’re not sure how this compares with other houses in the area, but imagine that if you’re staying here longer term you should be able to find something comparable.
In this podcast, we discuss what it’s like to live with a family here, along with how our Spanish studies have been going moving into their second week. We finish the podcast with a trip to the colourful Sunday market at Chichicastenango – two hours from San Pedro.
The following podcast takes the form of an informal discussion between Tina and I, recorded last week, during our first week studying Spanish at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. We discuss the school, prices, and dangerous wildlife.
A day or two after arriving in San Pedro La Laguna by Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, Tina and I began studying Spanish at The Co-operative of Guatemalan Spanish Teachers. For a month or two before our trip began we had extensively researched countries and locations to study Spanish in, and settled on The Cooperative Language School here in San Pedro due to its low prices, its amazing location on the shores of Lake Atitlan, its community orientated philosophy and the fact that Guatemalan Spanish is very easy to understand.
It costs about $82 for 20 hours one-on-one Spanish Language tuition a week (4 hours/day), although I have been told the prices may be increasing 10-15% shortly. You can choose to study more (up to 6 hours) or less should you wish to.
A homestay (living with a Guatemalan family) costs approximately an additional $85/week, and this includes three meals a day, but doesn’t include Sundays – which incidentally is the day in San Pedro that most restaurants seem to be closed.
Should you wish to stay in a guest house, you are looking at between $4/night (very basic indeed), $7/night (simple/mid-range), $10-$15 (private hot shower, & possibly other amenities). Restaurant meals in San Pedro range from about $2 to $7 depending on where and what you eat.
It’s about 15 years and two months since I left Lake Atitlan for the first time. In those years I’ve never forgotten it. Think Lord of the Rings combined with Nordic myth or Loch Ness and you may start to fathom the mystical atmosphere this volcano-fringed lake exudes.
There’s also a darker side, a side to which I think most travelers are oblivious. When I arrived here with three friends in 1993, we were dropped off in a small village to one side of the lake. The occupants seemed to retreat into doorways, staring at us from the shadows. Were we really so frightening a sight that people felt the need to hide from us? A year or so later, I discovered to my amazement that the village we had arrived in had shortly before been subjected to a brutal massacre at the hands of the Guatemalan government during a bout of civil war suppression.
Nowadays Lake Atitlan functions as a traveler Mecca on many levels – hippies, language students, party animals, or people attracted simply by its aesthetics – all congregate here and meditate, study, appreciate the view and frequently lose themselves in the freely available drugs.
We’ll be studying Spanish here (in San Pedro La Laguna) over the next few weeks during which time we’ll also be publishing regular updates about our experiences on Earthoria.com.