Lake Atitlan Hiking, weekends are made for hiking and there is no place more beautiful than Lake Atitlan Guatemala in the western highlands to hike. So with the close of our crazy and busy work week we went to have an off-the-beaten-path adventure. Exuberant to get outside and with a skip in our step and our camera safely tucked in our backpack out the door we went.
About 3 miles into our hike, after climbing vertical mountains, we came to the quiet fishing village of Santa Catarina Palopó, located in a steep valley on the shores of Lake Atitlán. In this village, Maya culture is prevalent and traditional dress is worn— cultural values, traditions and customs have been retained here. Scattered along the shores were cayucos or wood canoes that are used to fish with. The village is also known for the textiles that the women weave using waist looms.
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San Antonio Palopó was the next village we came to— two things stand out in this village for me: the beautiful distinctive style of traje (native dress) and the awesome ceramics. Both of these villages, Santa Catarina Palopó and San Antonio Palopó are located on the eastern shore of Lake Atitlán, which is an area that sees very few tourists. The villages here are quiet and peaceful with breathtaking views and provide the perfect venue for Lake Atitlan Hiking excursions.
Feeling adventurous, even after having walked 6 miles up and down the mountains, we decided to venture further. Looking back I wonder what I was thinking. It must have slipped my mind that this was not a one-way hike, we did have to hike back.
It’s now 1:00pm, the sun is directly over us, and it is HOT!! Having reached a summit and then having descended into a valley, we were again facing another enormous mountain to climb. The terrain became very rocky and the turkey vultures began to circle over our heads. Yes, having vultures circle over your head is alarming on one hand and the most majestic thing at the same time. With their soaring wings raised in a V, and an incredible wing span, these fascinating creatures rode the thermals in the sky, gliding over us and creating the most captivating whooshing sound.
Onward we hiked…exhausted, hot, muscles burning, and dragging ourselves (ok, maybe it was just me that felt like I was dragging myself) up another mountain that was thoroughly kicking my butt. At this point we were about 10 miles from where we started, had clocked 4,000 feet in ascents and descents and I had had enough of a Lake Atitlan Hiking adventure for one day, or so I thought.
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If you have ever been to Central America you are aware that many isolated areas are difficult to reach by public transportation. Chicken buses, tuk tuks, and pick-ups are often the only means of transportation to reach remote areas in the mountains. And as luck would have it, a very nice Mayan family driving el pickup happened upon us. I’m sure they took pity on us, after all I was the color of a lobster and looked like death warmed over. As we climbed into the back of their pickup with their three young boys, we saw that we would also be traveling with two very large pigs—and I don’t mean cute little piglets, I mean oinking, squealing, and smelly swines.
Interesting fact about pigs is…they don’t have sweat glands, so the only way they can lower their body temperature is by rolling in mud or water. As you can image, in the back of the pickup, this was not an option—so the three young boys kept throwing water on them to keep them cool.
For those of you who did not grow up on a farm, like I did, let me explain to you that rule #1 is never transport a pig loose in the back of a pickup truck, because most certainly they will urinate and defecate. And when transporting two pigs, that are unfamiliar with each other, keep them apart! Why, you ask? Well let me tell you—pigs chomp at each other, head butt and shoulder slam each other and they love to wallow in sh*t. Which as I explained earlier, is the first things they do when put in a truck. Are you getting a clear picture?
These are those moments in life that cause the kind of laughter from the depths of your soul. The moments that make you take pause, and wonder how you possibly could ever explain to someone the pure joy in this—and it truly was joyous bouncing along the rutted path, crowded in the back of a pickup with two oinking, squealing, and smelly pigs, three adorable Mayan boys, and us—two burnt and exhausted hikers.
Our short el pickup adventure came to an end about a mile from where they picked us up when we reached their home. So while we only got a ride for a mile, we were extremely grateful. After exiting el pickup we continued our hike home only this time when we went through Santa Catarina Palopó there was a parade of some sort going on. I’m not sure what was going on, however, I did take a picture. Care to guess what this was all about?
Ahhh, the things you come across when you open yourself up to possibilities and adventure. We did make it home—and in one piece. Tired and sunburned, but most importantly with great big smiles on our faces!
Lake Atitlan Tours Lake Atitlan Hiking
Lake Atitlan Tours offers authentic, customized and affordable tours in the Lake Atitlan, Guatemala area that give you unique opportunities to experience first-hand some of the great traditional aspects of Guatemala highland life and culture.
For more information on Lake Atitlan Hiking, Trekking in Guatemala, and Lake Atitlan Tours visit Lake Atitlan Tours.