When talking to others about traveling in Guatemala you will often hear that ” you have to go to the lake”. They are of course referencing the beautiful lake Atitlan. Lake Atitlan where the water is gorgeously colored and is surrounded by massive volcanoes. Along with the various spreads of small towns, and magnificently tiered terraces it is most definitely a tourist destination. The sunsets and sunrises are not to be missed. I came to the lake to get my altitude diving certification and I was not disappointed.
I arrived from Mexico into Guatemala city by the OCC bus terminal. We weren’t sure how to get to the lake in Guatemala from there, and so starving I just sat down to eat. A man approached me and said he ran the shuttle to Panajachel, five minutes later we were on our way. While this might seem a little dicey to some, this is Guatemala and how we do. On the shuttle I met an elaborate and overly dramatic gypsy women. She really was enigmatic. The lake’s main transportation system is water taxi boats. A water taxi can be very expensive after 7 pm but is about 25 quitzales during the day. We were coming in a little late so I reached out to a friend and ended up at the Dreamboat hostel in Panajachel for the night. The strange gypsy lady attached herself to us and we had a very different slightly intense evening. Gypsy’s and conspiracy go hand in hand.
The next day we went down to the pier and hopped on a water taxi. The gypsy woman ditched us after accusing all of Guetemala of ripping her off. This of course was proclaimed very loudly and quite often. Panajachel is not my favorite town in Guatemala, however if you’re looking to haggle over gifts and souvenirs it is the place. I was on my way to Ati dive shop in San Lucas hoping to find a place to stay in the town. Upon arriving I was able to secure a room at La Iguana Perdida hostel, where the dive center is located. Unfortunately the dive master was sick, but lounging around in paradise is right up my alley. For the first time I was traveling all alone. Yet here I made some good friends and had a hilariously fun time. I am considering making a shirt that says Reinhart lives. After a jazzercing german bloke who is also quite a character.
Three days later we took the dive course and hit the water. Altitude diving differs from sea level diving by adding another chart into the mixup of nitrogen configuration. So you cannot dive as deep, long or as many times in a day as you would the ocean. You also cannot descend from the higher altitudes after diving. Another thing to note is the difference between fresh and sea-water diving. Buoyancy was definitely more of an issue here in the fresh water. We did two dives, one was around an underwater terrace and the other was where hot water bubbled up from the ground.
I really enjoyed my time at the lake and also got to explore a little. Diving was super cool, and the water was about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. One of the underestimated perks of traveling is the people who you get to meet. Lake Atitlan should definitely be on the bucket list, regardless of what you do here “you have to go to the lake.”