Over the mountains and through the woods, to Lake Atitlán we go!

When flying into Guatemala City, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful landscape. The city is nestled between high mountains and old volcanoes that date back 80 million years! Not only that, but the countryside is riddled with forests. The name “Guatemala” originates from the Nahuatl (language of the Aztecs) word “Cuauhtēmallān” which means “Land of many trees”.

 

Even though Guatemala is a developed city with millions of people, you can still see trees everywhere!

Even though Guatemala is a developed city with millions of people, you can still see trees everywhere! Nestled between the mountains at an elevation of 4,900 feet.

Being a bit of a nature bug, you can imagine my excitement upon first coming into this lovely country!

We didn’t stay around the city very long (usually only to fly into Guatemala or do business for the day) and left the highlands to reside at sea level in Puerto Barrios.

Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to see throughout the country (Puerto Barrios is close to beautiful rain forest and the Rio Dulce, just to name a few things) but we hadn’t really experienced much outside of Puerto Barrios for the first few months of being here.

That all changed in July of 2013! My friend Adam and I came to Guatemala City to visit our good friend Katterine. She had helped us with many things in our time here, and her mother had accepted us into her family. Anytime we needed anything, they were there to help us and make us feel right at home!

This particular week, Katterine wanted us to meet one of her best friends. Alejandra! (Ale for short). They both knew we hadn’t really experienced much of the country, even though we had been living here for 3 months at this point. This was about to change!

On the Wednesday we arrived in the city, we ventured to Antigua for the evening. I fell in love with this city that same day. All the beautiful architecture and rich cultural history, I never wanted to leave!

Content with visiting the old city, I didn’t expect things to get any better. Ale and Katterine had other intentions, however. They told us on Thursday that they had another surprise for us. They only asked if they would like to go on an adventure for this surprise, and anyone who knows me already knew my answer.

Now, they wouldn’t tell us where we were going, but we were driving through a lot of mountain roads. Even more funny is the fact that they barely knew where they were going! We stopped and asked directions from random people on the way to our destination about 5 or 6 times! (This became a running joke for the day about being lost and the eagerness of random strangers to send you in the right direction)

I wasn’t familiar with this part of the country, but it seemed like we were going to travel up the mountains forever. Then I saw this:

After going up the mountain, you pass through some small towns and see the huge lake!

After going up the mountain, you pass through some small towns and see the huge lake!

Like we had wandered into a mystical land, there sat beautiful Lake Atitlán, resting between volcanoes and mountains! I felt like I had discovered hidden treasure!

This picture doesn’t do the justice to the majesty of the place, but after arriving to a little town called Panajachel, we hopped on a boat for a tour around the lake!

After driving around the lake for 20-30 minutes, we had time to check out the little town of Santa Catarina Palopó. Upon getting off the boat, there is a long street that takes you to the center of the city. There is a large Mayan population there, and they happened to be celebrating something that day. People were dressed up and dancing in the streets.

We stayed here for about 30 minutes and headed back to Panajachel. Famished from the day’s adventures, we grabbed some food at one of the restaurants on the dock:

I ate this entire thing and was still hungry

I ate this entire thing and was still hungry

Since it was getting late, we decided to call it a night. There is a funny story involving the television and some electrical technician work at the hotel where we stayed, but I will save that for another time. I did manage to get some final pictures of the lake before nightfall! Enjoy!