Blanketed with some clouds and haze when we arrived, Lake Atitlan was still stunning.
It is the deepest lake in Central America with a maximum depth of about 1,120 ft. and surrounded by three volcanoes- Atitlan, San Pedro and Toliman. Unfortunately, the haze lasted for most of the two days that we visited the lake, so we can only imagine what it looks like on a clear day. Regardless, it was still impressive.
Our approach to Lake Atitlan was a fun bike ride. From Antigua, we biked (mostly downhill) thru some villages for approximately four hours to the dock in Panajachel where a water taxi was waiting to take us to a little gem of a hotel, Casa del Mundo. While the biking was somewhat easy since it was downhill, there were plenty of potholes on the route to keep it interesting.
Panajachel ,the most common entry to Lake Atitlan, is a blend of tradition and business and its main road harboring colorful textiles, restaurants and a predominately gringo crowd. It is a bit touristy so you may want to be brief if you visit. We stopped for some post biking cervezas and then quickly exited.
From Panajachel, the six of us (our guide, Joshua, two women from the States, Ada and Lee, and a guy from Switzerland) took a choppy, 20-minute water taxi ride to La Casa del Mundo.
Perched on a hillside on Lake Atitlan, La Casa del Mundo with its 17 rooms is special spot. Owned by a gringo and his wife from Guatemala, the family owned hotel was built by hand into the lake’s cliff side over the past 20 years. The rooms are stunning with spectacular lake views from their 100-250 feet high perches and include some Mayan touches. It is here at La Casa del Mundo Chris and I reminisced about our stay on the Amalfi Coast. Some of the architecture of the hotel, the way it is built into the hillside, and the trails high above the hillside very much reminded us of the Amalfi Coast.
Unfortunately, we only spent one night on the lake at Casa del Mundo. The next day, prior to leaving, we kayaked for roughly one hour to the village of Tzununa, which is only accessible by boat. When we docked, one of the guys from the hotel greeted us to take the kayaks back, and from there, we hiked along a well beaten path back to the hotel. It was a fabulous 1.5 hour hike before returning to Antigua to prepare for the hike to Acatenango. (More on the Acatenango hike and summit in another post.)
The lake level is a bit of a curiosity as it must be one of the only lakes in the world that has seen its water level rise over the last few years of global warming. Unfortunately for the locals, the current level has flooded docks, staircases as well as even bars and restaurants. Below is a shot of the previous bar at the hotel where we will staying.
If you plan to visit Guatemala, Lake Atitlan is must, and definitely plan to stay longer than one night. You can take a safe bus or a private car from Antigua, and it will take you a couple hours to Panajachel. From Panajachel, you can take a water taxi for only a couple bucks to spots along the lake. There are a few hotels and the ride to and from does not need to be scheduled. It is worth noting that the lake can get very choppy in the afternoon.