Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala - a photographer's dream location!

Flowers frame the view of the Atitlan and Toliman volcanoes (stacked) from the village of Santa Cruz.
I'm staring out at the crystalline water of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, rimmed by verdantly forested volcanoes, thinking that I may have found paradise. It's a bit more than halfway through my trip and I'm already dreading the thought of leaving here[-15C back home in Ontario - oh shit!]. I stumbled across Guatemala while researching central American destinations for a photo trip/winter getaway. My criteria was that it was a country I hadn't visited before, an affordable rental I could use as a base for day tripping and plenty of great subjects to point my camera at. After seeing a few photos of the stunningly scenic Lake Atitlan, the decision was easy!

Dusk falls over Lake Atitlan and the town dock in Santa Cruz la Laguna. 
Lake Atitlan is in a volcanic caldera (basin) and is approximately 130kmand 300m deep. There are three inactive volcanoes (Atitlan, Toliman and San Pedro) on the southern shore of the lake which create an incredibly scenic backdrop for the deep blue water!

Small to medium sized communities surround the lake, each with their own distinct character. Mayan culture dominates the area, but there are plenty of quirky expat 'gringos' living here and some of the towns are full of international travelers. The quaint village of San Marcos is particularly entertaining - it's full of spiritual seeking, crystal wearing new agers selling beads and smoking pot. Some locals refer to them as 'Trustifarians' (disenfranchised trust fund kids) - that made me chuckle!

Sunset on the shore of Lake Atitlan at Santa Cruz la Laguna with the San Pedro volcano in the back. 
Getting around the lake is easy on the public boats that inexpensively ferry people and cargo between the communities. It's a great way to explore the villages, many of which sell hand-woven textiles and other goods. Market days are especially colorful and vibrant!

Mayan girls in the Solola market, Guatemala.
Local grown veggies for sale at the small Saturday market in Santa Cruz la Laguna. 
The small, flat-bottomed dugout canoes (called cayucos) used by local fisherman are synonymous with Lake Atitlan.

A fisherman paddles his cayuco (dugout canoe) at sunrise on Lake Atitlan.
The plume of steam and ash is from an eruption of the distant Fuego Volcano. 
A fisherman's dugout canoe (cayuco) on the shore of Lake Atitlan.