Day 57 Oct 19 Antigua to Panajachel & Lago Atitlan 110km
My final Spanish class ended at noon today so I planned on making the short trip to Lake Atitlan. The lake is formed from an ancient volcano caldera and is surrounded by three huge dormant volcanoes. It’s one of those places that everybody wants to see in Guatemala so I thought I should make a point to not miss it.
The ride out of Antigua didn’t start until about 12:45 after I said my goodbyes to the hosts of the school and my teacher. Traffic surrounding the city was very heavy and I didn’t get out of the thick of it until 1:30. Eventually I found myself on the main highway headed towards the lake and back in the direction of Mexico.
There are a few different ways to approach the area and multiple towns surrounding the lake. Each town has its own identity and the approach roads each have their nuances. It has been said that the roads south of the lake are dangerous for tourists. I heard and read multiple reports about bandits stopping cars and motorcycles on these roads to rob the passengers of everything in their possession. The stories date back a decade or more and also recently but it is my belief that there is always a seed of truth to every tale. I received differing points of view from locals about the accuracy of the reports but I decided to take a safe approach and ride on the main highway which leads to the town of Panajachel.
First view of the Lake
Along the road to the lake
The ride was 95% on curvy divided 4 lane highway paved with concrete. My observation of Guatemalan highways in general is that they are in very good condition. Compared to Mexico (toll roads excluded) and Belize Guatemala has excellent highways. The approach to the lake is a steep descent down a very tight winding road. There are multiple small towns along the way and at the bottom is Panajachel.
The town is quite large and is the most “touristy” of the communities on the lake. I found El Hotel Miralrio which is close to the main river that empties into the lake. For two nights I paid 180 Quetzales ($12 per night).
After unloading Skelly I walked to the grocery store and bought a few supplies. I picked up Beer for 4.5 Quetzales each (about $0.75), a few bananas, yogurt and taco chips. Along the way back to the hotel I bought a big piece of fried chicken and fries from a street cart for dinner and I was all set.
Later in the evening I went to check on the bike and met a young guy who was also a motorcycle junkie. He owns 7 bikes and has traveled to the USA on motorcycle a few times. His English was excellent and we talked for a long time about bikes and travel. He told me about the motorcycle enduro races that come through here twice a year and all the great riding in the area. He also helped me with information regarding boats to cross the lake which is a must do while here. In addition he re-affirmed that the main road is really the only way tourists should travel.
Tomorrow, a tour of the lake.