A BIT ABOUT GUATEMALA......Get on a luxury bus in San Salvador's "Zona Rosa" Terminal at 6:30AM in the morning and roughly 4 hours later you are in Guatemala City, the largest city between Mexico City and Bogota, Colombia with a population of roughly 4,000,000 in the sprawling Metro Area and Central America's leading business and commercial center with a lot to offer the traveler as well as the business person........
Small with much to offer....
Guatemala is a small country, but it has much to offer the traveler. Guatemala is a natural paradise offering some truly breathtaking scenery of mountains, lakes, volcanoes and flora and fauna. Guatemala boasts a number of very beautiful tropical black volcanic sand beaches on the Pacific Ocean, and some large coral reefs on the Caribbean side. Guatemala ranks very high in biological diversity, and has numerous tropical low rainforests and mountain cloud forests. Guatemala also has some of the largest and most fascinating Mayan ruins found anywhere in Latin America, the most famous of which is Tikal. The Mayan population, composed of several distinct groups, such as the Quiche, Kakchiquel and Mam in the Western Highlands, still proudly cling to their ancient culture and traditions, for many Spanish is a second language to be learned in primary school.
Now to the land of the "Living Maya"
Lake Atitlán, which is of volcanic origin, actually an "upside down" volcano itself, is located 140Km. (90 miles) from Guatemala City, in the mountainous province of Sololá, deep in the Guatemalan highlands. Aldous Huxley once called this lake "the most beautiful in the world", and many would agree with this statement. The lake is located about 5,000 feet above sea level, has a depth of over 1,500 feet and covers an area of about 50 square miles. It is the deepest lake in Central America. The water of the lake, usually crystal clear and a vivid blue, changes in color as the light varies. The lake is set against a dramatic backdrop of three spectacular 10,000-foot volcanoes - Toliman, Atitlan and San Pedro. Lake Atitlán is a is a great venue for a wide variety of water sports, including swimming, diving, water skiing, hang gliding and boating. It is also a great place for fishing, as the lake is home to numerous species of edible fresh water fish. Along the shores of Lake Atitlán are a number of small Indian villages where the traditional Maya lifestyle is followed. Usually the visitor will arrive by Shuttle, Tour or Rebuli Line Bus from Antigua or Guatemala City to the main lakeside village of Panajachel, a vibrant little place boasting an incredible outdoor indingenous crafts market along with some 70 Lodging Places from 'backpacker basic' to luxury 5 star, dozens of restaurants offering fare from typical Guatemalan to International and Vegetarian and Discos and Clubs open to the wee hours of the morning, thus the town with it's mixed European, North American, Indingenous and Mestizo population is known affectionately ad "Gringotenango". From Panajachel leave approx. every 15 minutes during daylight hours public boats or "lanchas" for hire to one of the several villages along the lake such as San Pedro, Santa Cruz and Santiago de Atitlan which have recently seen an upsurge in tourism due to the fact that many unique lodging places have been constructed to serve those desiring to be away the hustle and bustle of Panajachel.
In "Pana" stop by and see long term Ex Pat Penelope Sterling, E mail firstname.lastname@example.org who for the last 15 years has operated a Shipping and Receiving , Mail, Phone and Fax Service for many of the Lake's Foreign residents some beyond a telephone. You simply go to the corner of Calle Pricipal and Avenue Santander in the middle of town and across from the Bank "BAM" enter the small yard and ask for "Penelopat" Office, Penelope, before coming to Guatemala had lived in Colombia and is fluent in Spanish, a rarity among the "Pana Ex Pats", a rather eccentric group that mixes well with the native Mayans and Guatemala City Ladino refugees here. Very casual and laid back atmosphere as opposed to almost "up tight" Antigua.
The Hotel Maya Kanek A really nice budget hotel, less than $12 a double, especiially when driving, huge guarded courtyard, motel style, very friendly, corteous and honest owner and employees(once returned $1000 in cash to an Italian Guest a year later)..I lived there I know...Go up Calle Principal about 3 blocks up on left from the Bank "BAM" ask for owner Arturo Lavarreda, tell them all in Pana that "Pato" sent you...they'll know.