Our trip north from Guatemala City went smoothly, a short stop off in Antigua (an old colonial town) before heading along the heavily trafficked highway to Lake Atitlan. The highways themselves are crammed full of trucks, chicken buses (local buses that people take anything on – including chickens) and cars, there don’t seem to be any emission laws in Guatemala all vehicles pump out huge amounts of fumes – meaning it’s a pretty polluted placed to drive.


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (10)


Lake Atitlan: Our Arrival

Lake Atitlan is a crater lake from a huge volcanic explosion years ago, on it’s shores sit a a number of settlements with tourist accommodation and food and local villages. In NZ terms kind of think of it like Lake Wakitipu with the Remarkables in the background – but a little warmer around the 20-24 degree mark. We were headed for the lakeside stop-off Santa Cruz. Upon arriving at the port in Panachjul, we used instructions of an American guy, Chris, and jumped onto a public boat that was headed for Santa Cruz. 10q (Quetzals – the Guatemalan currency $1USD = 8q) and 15 minute boat ride later and we were pulling into the jetty at Santa Cruz, with Iguana Hostel sitting on the shores we headed straight in and checked into a small room, no electricity but candlelight and showers with open roofs up into the tree canopy – very chilled out and very relaxing!


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (1)

On-board the boat and headed for Santa Cruz


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (15)

Looking out from the boat over Atitlan


Our first night was spent chilling on the sofa in the main kitchen / dining area looking out over the lake while drinking local beer and Cel was enjoying her first G&T of the trip. Dinner was a big family affair, everyone sharing the same meal and chatting on a big table. We were lucky enough to witness an awesome electrical storm out over the lake, it was probably happening out on the coast (2hr away) but the lightening was filling up the sky every 5 seconds in behind the massive volcano, Atilan. An awesome sight and luckily we weren’t affected by any rain!


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (2)

The view for most of day 1, while reading books


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (3)

Cel at home in La Iguana


Getting out and About


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (8)The next few days we filled in with plenty of relaxing with books, but felt we needed to make the most of the location so took it upon ourselves to go hiking in the hills just down the way from our accommodation and to take a two-person kayak out onto the lake and explore the lakeline. The hike was interesting, we basically made our own path up a dry river bed (Bear Grylls tip there) until it water started to flow down it, we then boulder hopped out way up the valley through the jungle. We don’t think we found the waterfall we were looking for, but found one that qualified by our judgement so took the obligatory photograph. No snakes or big spiders were spotted, but we were definitely keeping our eyes out for them.


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (4)

Taking to the boardwalks over the swollen lake


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (5)

The maiden AS of the trip


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (7)

A little bit of wildlife


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (9)

Cel, at one, in the jungle


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (13)The kayaking on the lake was a good workout for the Fry-Dewe duo, although with the engine in the back we powered through the water no problems at all. Immaculate paddle stroke timing and deep strokes saw us head around 4 points to get a view of San Marco in about an hour. The cliffs around the lake drop down into the water steeply, which reminded us a lot of Taupo. There are a few pretty nice houses around the lake, 3 story mansions etc which look a little out of place given some of the struggle that the locals have to go through day-to-day. All in all, it was good to get some exercise under the Guatemalan sun, paddle past local fisherman trying to hook the big one and take in some awesome views of the volcanoes.


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (12)

Heading out on the kayak


On our last day in Atitlan, we took a boat to San Marcos, really just to explore a new town and enjoy the awesome weather the lake had turned on. It didn’t disappoint, with great views back over the lake and of the two volcanoes.


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (16)

Cel heading for the hills in San Marcos


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (17)

Attempting to look staunch…


Lake Atitlan has already become a trip highlight. It’s such a chilled out place, where you can eat lunch, have a beer or sip coffee, 5 metres from the lake edge with the backdrop of two massive volcanoes. The place is set-up for relaxation and the family style dinners each night at Iguana, overlooking the lake, cap off every single day perfectly. We’ve even managed to bump into a couple of kiwi girls (Julia and Alice), staying at the same place as us, one of which I went to university with her brother…small world.

The one thing we’re still acutely aware of is our lack of Spanish! So we’ll move on from Lake Atitlan in a day, headed for Xela where a week stay and daily lessons will hopefully help us to converse a little more with locals!


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (11)

Memories of Lake Atitlan and La Iguana, Santa Cruz



  1. Royce says: June 17, 2012 • 09:14:18

    Wow!!!! What a wonderful time you are having! Well earned relaxation and chilling out!! resonates with Dad and I and our travels in days before family!!! All you little darlings!
    keep sharing the pics and the commentary! Love it! Love you too always. Mwah xxoo


    • Celina Dewe says: June 18, 2012 • 16:16:00

      Thanks for the post Mum, most impressed you tackled the technology to do it! Starting spanish lessons today, bit apprehensive but should mean will get more out the trip. Love to you all. Cel and Brendon xoxo


  2. Sophie Bates says: June 19, 2012 • 09:28:21

    Hey Uncle Ben! Just letting you know I had to give my High School Enrolment form in this week and on it we had to tick the subjects we wanted to do for next year. And for languages I ticked Te Reo Maori and SPANISH! I ticked it because I knew you would help me! (please!!!)
    xoxo Sophie.


  3. Latin America: Top 5 Destinations « BrendonFry.com says: November 7, 2012 • 08:41:51

    […] One of the first places on the trip we visited was Lake Atitlan. After 2 nights, more or less, holed up in Guatemala City trying to keep ourselves safe we headed north to the lake. Still fresh out of London, we did our best to listen to the advice of another traveller and get ourselves aboard a boat that was ‘public’ and not spend half our trips savings on a private boat. Santa Cruz was our destination on Lake Atitlan, but it was pretty evident that anywhere on the Lake would do. The lake is massive, 130 square kilometers to be precise, and is set at the foot of three volcanoes (Volcan Atitlán, San Pedro & Tolimán), being at Santa Cruz we got great views of the volcanoes – I guess on the other side of the lake you don’t get the views. Our hostel, La Iguana de Perdida, did it’s very best to let us chill out with communal meals, a room with no electricity and a kayak to rent. We spent a good 3-4 hours out on the lake paddling the shores, checking out some of the massive houses that line the shores. There isn’t a great deal of swimming to be done, the lake levels have risen and there are no beaches to be spoken of, but Atitlan takes it all in its stride giving you treks up to waterfalls and boats trips across to other little communities to fill in time. It was a nice warm-up for our Guatemalan travels, it had a feeling of NZ with all the water and volcanoes, but definitely had the elements of culture that made us feel as though we were somewhere quite foreign. A trip to Guatemala would be missing something if Atitlan wasn’t included, just like a trip through Latin America would be missing something if Guatemala wasn’t included. If you can summon up the energy, take a relaxing look at what we got up to in Lake Atitlan – where volcanoes meet the lake […]


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