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Santiago Atitlan Overview


Santiago Atitl├ín tends to attract a more hardcore traveler than the drunk backpackers and party-goers that populate Panajachel, and to some extent San Pedro. Fantastic nightlife will not be found here, but a more authentic way of living conducive with this village's past is on the docket. Elderly men with wrinkled faces that sport brilliant cowboy hats and too-big belt buckles mosey past street corners with five or six women congregate together to produce all-important flour tortillas. There are excellent views of San Pedro Volcano across the lake in the shadows of Atitl├ín and Tolim├ín Volcanoes. The village is also one of the best spots in Guatemala to find deals on beautiful Mayan paintings and handicrafts. This small lakeside town still feels the lingering affects of horrific mudslides caused from Hurricane Stan in 2005 that stole nearly 1,000 lives. Several international organizations remain in the area to provide volunteer opportunities in an attempt to help heal the wounds from the tragedy.


There is not the glut of accommodation or restaurant options as in more tourist-friendly villages. Still, gems are to be found such as the fresh fish at El Pescador or the jumbo shrimp at Posada de Santiago, with the latter option also offering the top hotel choice as well. Fine family restaurants offer affordable plates of local cuisine accompanied by plenty of tortillas with re-fried beans and avocado.

When to go

Semana Santa (Easter week) is the busiest time of the year to visit Santiago Atitl├ín as various rituals and celebrations occur at this time. Fiesta Santiago, which is held every July 25, is another popular time to visit. The best days to come to this village during a normal week are Fridays and Sundays when the market is in full swing. The market is also open Tuesdays, though it is not as grande.


Getting to and away


Tourists generally arrive at Lago de Atitlán in the touristy town of Panajachel. From here, there are various ferry crossings that take you to Santiago Atitlán. Locals are quick to lead travelers to lanchas that provide these services. Expect to pay between 25-30 quetzales for the service. It is always best to negotiate directly with the captain. Also be sure to ask whether the boat offers a direct service, otherwise you could be sitting around in the boat as it stops off at several villages first. The final few boats back to Panajachel leave between 4-5 p.m. Buses leave for Guatemala City until 3 p.m. from the central plaza.

Getting Around

Santiago Atitl├ín is a relatively small village so walking is the main form of transportation once arrival. There are a few tuk-tuks (small passenger vehicle that looks like a metal box led by a three-wheeled motorcycle) that motor around the island looking for passengers as well. There are no buses that service minor stops in the town, only ones that take you to and from the village.




Santiago Atitlán itself is pretty safe during daylight hours though travlers are best served to practice common sense and not sport flashy watches or jewelry. And as always, do not carry large quantities of cash in your pockets. At night it is best to walk in groups. Robberies have been reported while hiking throughout the local trails near town.


It is a better bet to fulfill any service needs while at nearby Panajachel, though there are some options for travelers in a pinch in Santiago Atitl├ín. There is a MasterCard ATM found in the square, and there is also a post office and bank to change US dollars or travelers checks.

26 May 2010

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