Where is home for you?
When people ask where we're from, we say Canada, because it's easier than trying to explain where Saskatchewan is (it's a province in Canada, if you didn't know). But recently we've left our home there and everything we knew to travel the world. So we decided to write this post about our home away from home (for the past six weeks, anyways), San Pedro La Laguna, Lago Atitlan, Guatemala.
What is this place known for?
San Pedro La Laguna is known for its Spanish Schools, international restaurants and cheap accommodations. It is situated on Lago Atitlan, with its stunning lake views and mountain/volcanic panaromas.
Which popular tourist destinations should I visit?
San Pedro and its neighbouring communities have many great activities to offer. If you like hiking, like we do, we highly recommend climbing the Volcan San Pedro (3020 m, approx. 5 hours) and the Indian Nose (1800 m, approx. 2 1/2 hours). If you're visiting in the rainy season, it will be worth your while to get up with the sun and finish your hikes by noon. Kayak rentals are cheap (10-15 Q per hour) and are the best way to get to the nearby beaches or swimming rocks.
Other activities include: a ziplining canopy tour, paragliding, scuba diving (in the lake), museums, coffee plantations, Mayan weaving tours and classes, and thermal pools.
What should I do for the best non-traditional tourist experience?
Get out of Gringoland!!! Leave the North American style restaurants and bars behind, and stay outside of the tourist zone. Buy fresh fruit and veggies (don't miss out on the pina, aka pineapple) at the local market, which runs from 8:00-12:00. During the short walk, you will see Mayan women wearing traditional dresses, chickens and turkeys wandering from roof to roof, men carrying bundles of firewood on their head, and you will hear the sounds of tortilla making everywhere. Follow the distinctive clap, clap, clap of the tortilla making, and you may find a woman that will sell you some from her house (these ones always taste the best). Stop for a tostada or tamale on the street if you're hungry... you won't regret it!
Is there one event that I shouldn’t miss?
While San Pedro has a big local festival in June (complete with roscas, a delicious cookie you can only buy during festivals), we can't speak to it because we didn't experience it. We've heard that the mango season is in full swing in June as well, with mangoes so sweet that the pits fall out and you can practically drink the flesh. We did experience the lead-up to the Guatemalan election, however, and this was definitely another event you don't want to miss (or maybe you do, depending on your noise level tolerance). For six weeks, we were blasted with the noise of nightly political rallies, frequent explosions and fireworks, parades, and marching bands. Election day itself got started at 5:00 a.m. with yet another marching band and went into the wee hours of the morning, with explosions and fireworks at 3 a.m. when the official results were known. Note: If you plan to experience a Guatemalan election, be careful... drinking, fights, and other violence are common.
What kitschy souvenirs should I walk away with?
If you're like us, none. But, if you have room in your backpack and you just can't leave without buying something, we recommend some of the local honey, coffee, or beautiful hand-woven Mayan cloth.
Thank you Mike and Ashley for such a great interview! If you want to hear more about their travels, check out their Twitter account or their Facebook page.