Gringotenango at Lake Atitlan

Female Indian in Panajachel Lake Atitlan is a beautiful lake in Guatemala, situated at the foot of two majectic volcanoes. The village on the shore, Panajachel, is also referred to as Gringotenango, foreigner town. It is a laidback town, visited by many adventure travellers. They enjoy the scenery, the colorful Guatemala Indians in the neighboring villages, and an excursion to the famous market of Chichicastenango.

Early in the morning, a coaster brings us from San Christobal de las Casas to the Guatemalan border, where the landscape, people, and houses change dramatically. There is also more chaos in Guatemala, and it is much more colorful than in Mexico.

Driving in the mountains, we see the impact of recent flooding. Pieces of the road are washed away, and at some points we have to make a detour over a dirt road to proceed. On the narrow roads, we are frequently overtaken by the beautifully colored, packed Guatemalan chickenbuses. But we are pleased with our own rented coaster, with the driver Juan who drives more careful and safe.

After a few hours of driving through the highlands of Guatemala, we notice the first volcano. The second one is located along Lake Atitlan, our destination for today. This lake is surrounded by three volcanoes and a number of Indian villages. Guatemalan Chickenbus We are heading for Panajachel, a typical backpacker village. The Guatemalans refer to the village as Gringotenango, foreigner village.

As soon as we have stuffed our gear into our hotel room, it's relaxing time. After a small our of enjoying the great view over lake Atitlan to the volcanoes, however, it's time to explore the village. Lots of colorful people and street stalls selling souvenirs to the tourists. Even without buying anything, it's a nice village to explore.


From Panajachel we make an excursion to the famous Indian market of Chichicastenango. Upon departure, the sun is shining and it’s hot, so we wear shorts. Upon arrival in Chichicastenango, however, it is cold, cloudy, and it’s even raining. When the rain stops, we are ready to visit the market.

Church in Chichicastenango First we visit the covered vegetable market, which we watch from above. Colorful is the key word here, both for the vegetables and the people. Then we mingle in the crowd. Although there are many souvenir booths, the number of tourists is limited. There is no danger of losing sight of each other, we are much taller than the Indians surrounding us.

We arrive at the church at the side of the square. The stairs to the church are filled with Indian performing ceremonies. The stairs are sacred, so we cannot pass. Instead, we return to the market where we decide to buy a mask. We haggle a little, but this is much less of a culture here than it is in Asia or Africa. There is clearly a lowest price, and we have to settle for that.

We head for the middle of the market, where the food stalls are located. It is even more crowded here, although there are virtually no tourists. The food smells and tastes fine, though. After a bite here, we leave the large square to have a look in the other streets. Here are many booths as well, but also a lot of “loose” sellers. These are much more annoying, because they keep following us, especially when we indicate we like something. For over a quarter of an hour, a woman follows us until we arrive at our bus and we get in. She had a nice blanket, but it’s of no use for us.

The bus brings us back to Panajachel, where the sun is shining and we spend the rest of the afternoon along the lake. The following morning we have breakfast there as will, with a nice view to the volcanoes. But then it’s time to say goodbye to this lovely laidback, and colorful village.

Panajachel and the other villages around Lake Atitlan are great for adventure travel. Exploring the surroundings, taking a boat trip, visiting the villages, etcetera. The colorful market of Chichicastenango is also worth visiting. Although much visited by tourists, it is still mainly a market for the local people.

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