Last updated: 05:00 AM ET, Wed May 20 2015

Opinion Home | Tales From the Leap

  • Shannon Wolf | May 20, 2015 5:00 AM ET

    The Beauty of Lake Atitlan, the Natural Fun of San Pedro

    The Beauty of Lake Atitlan, the Natural Fun of San Pedro

    Rooftop views of Lake Atitlan from my homestay house in San Pedro

    Continuing my journey through Guatemala, I woke up early this morning in Antigua to catch the collectivo to San Pedro along with everyone I had met at Tropicana Hostel.

    Running late, we didn’t have time to stop off to buy snacks, so we improvised: As the driver pulled over to pick up other passengers, we convinced a fruit vendor to vigorously cut up fresh pineapple and watermelon and pass it to us through the small van window before taking off. Not only was it the best fruit I had ever tasted but it cost a mere 5Q which equates to 75 cents.

    We sped through winding dirt roads and lush jungle for most of the day, finally nearing San Pedro as the sun was setting. We turned a steep corner of a cliff, and at that moment we all fell silent in amazement, all eyes beholding Lake Atitlan. The sky was a beautiful mix of yellow, orange, turquoise and lilac, and the sun glistened off of the lake. I understood then why it was called the most beautiful lake in the world: It was truly magical. We arrived in San Pedro soon after to the sight of people walking around in traditional Mayan clothing like something out of a movie, while tuk-tuks swerved around each other on the tiny streets. Although it was quiet, the town was bustling.

    This tin-roofed town is a diamond in the rough and easily one of my favorite places in all of Central America. When you arrive, you will feel as though you have time-warped back to the 1970s and you can finally stop saying to everyone “I was born in the wrong era” and say instead that you were just living in the wrong place!

    This place has a special spot in my heart and is my favorite destination in all of Guatemala. Between findings your zen at a yoga farm; having one of the wildest nights of your life at a full-moon party or taking Spanish lessons and trekking through the various volcanoes, you will never want to leave!


    Cooperative School of San Pedro:

    • $180/week includes 3 hours of classes

    • An authentic homestay/your own room

    • 3 massive and delicious meals a day

    * The school is a non-profit organization and a portion of your proceeds go to help the low income families in San Pedro. At the end of your schooling, you get the opportunity to meet a family and bring them food, which is an incredibly humbling experience.

    (If you are able, request to stay with Alejandra & Pedro for the homestay and you will get your own house with 2 rooftop patios overlooking San Pedro!)

    A young girl in traditional mayan clothing in San Pedro Market

    Best Hippie Hostel: Mystical Yoga Farm

    Cheapest Accommodation: Hostel Fe

    Cheapest Food: The Market — fruit is incredibly cheap!

    Cheapest Drinks: Cuba Libra (rum & coke & lime juice) at Sublime during happy hour, or bottles of Gallo (cervesa) from the tienda. (if you really want to pinch pennies you can return the glass bottles after and you will get money back!).

    Best Bar: Sublime

    • Cheap drink specials, delicious food for all dietary restrictions, hippie vibe, bonfires on the beach, pool tables and open mic night for dancing.

    Fastest Wi-Fi: Café Atitlán — they have great organic coffee as well!

    Bank Machines: There is one bank machine in town two blocks from the food market. If you are from the UK you may have issues taking out money here so be sure to bring some backup cash.


    • Hike up Indian Nose Mountain with a guide at 3:00 a.m. to see the sunrise. One of the most incredible views of the lake and worth losing some sleep to experience.

    • Hike Volcán San Pedro. Its about a 4-hour hike and 3,020 meters.

    • Thermal Pools: After a hike, relaxing in a volcano-fed pool can’t be beat for $2.50.

    • Attend a full moon party. Departs from Sublime via tug boat and brings you to a secluded area in the jungle.

    • Rent a kayak or canoe from a reputable company and explore Lake Atitlan towns. From San Pedro to San Marcus it will take roughly 1.5 hours each way.

    • Do day-trips via ferry to the surrounding towns of Panajachel, Santiago, and San Marcus.

    • Visit the world’s largest handicrafts market in Chichicastenango on Thursdays and Sundays via 1.5-hour bus from Panajachel.

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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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