Beautiful, glimmering Lake Atitlan boasts a number of cities and towns on its shores, each with its own unique flair or claim to fame. San Pedro is the main backpacker hub, while San Marcos is reputed for its alternative and hippy vibe. Panajachel is the main tourist and transport hub, while Santiago Atitlan boasts a strong indigenous character.
There’s also an unassuming
town village called Jaibalito on the north shore of Lake Atitlan. It has a population of about 600 – plus me. There are no roads leading into or out of the village, so the only ways to get here are to hike the mountain ridges from the next towns or to take a lancha (small motorized boat) into the pier. I’ve spotted a tuktuk, but there are no cars to be seen!
There’s a loud population of stray dogs, young kids can be seen playing on the streets during the day, older kids can be seen fishing from the piers, evangelical music echoes into the night, and gringos fleeing the northern winter add another element to the town dynamic.
I’m staying at a guesthouse/hostel called Posada Jaibalito. It has the cleanest dorm I’ve slept in the country the past four weeks (and at 35Q a night, also the cheapest I’ve come across), a couple of welcoming hammocks, a restaurant serving flavoursome German food, a decent kitchen, interesting guests, and more than a handful of roaming dogs, chickens, and ducks. It’s homely, and a comfortable refuge to base myself around the lake. If I’m not on the hammock listening to music or reading a book, I’ve been enjoying the hike to neighbouring Santa Cruz or taking a lancha to further towns on the lake.
It’s more or less what I’ve been looking for during my last week or so in the country. Every day, I debate whether to stay another night or leave but I can’t come up with a good enough reason to pack my backpack and so I stay. It’s been a wonderful way to relax before returning home in less than a week!