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Lago Atitlan is a volcanic lake located in the Guatemalan highlands at an altitude of about 1,560 metres. The lake is beautifully set, surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. There are many small villages around the lake, most of them only accessible be boat. Lago Atitlan is one of the most established stops on the backpacker route from Mexico through Guatemala, and also a popular weekend get-away for travellers living in Antigua studying Spanish.
Day trips to the villages that surround the lake are exciting as each one has it's own unique charm. Santiago Atitlan, on the far side of the lake from Panajachel, is the largest Mayan settlement in the country. Maximon, an old Mayan deity also resides here, ask around if you wish to visit though you may find not all locals appreciate him.
Despite swimming being an obvious activity, ask around where the best place to do so is as unfortunately the years of waste mis-management has seen Lago Atitlan turn into one of the most polluted lakes in Central America.
The Good Friday procession in Santiago Atitlan is truly spectacular.
Buses from Antigua and other destinations arrive at Panajachel, from where you can catch a boat to the different villages.
There are two boat docks in Panajachel, one taking you to Santa Cruz, Jaibalito, Tzununa, and San Marcos. The second will take you to Santiago Atitlan. Tourists will be charged more than locals.
The easiest way to get around within the larger villages and towns are by the bright red tuk tuks. Ask some locals what the price should be to get from A to B and then negotiate with your driver.
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