(Continued from Antigua report)
We took a shuttle from Antigua to Lake Attitlan and really enjoyed all of the beautiful scenery and view of Guatemalan farms. We took a water taxi from Pana to our hotel, Isla Verde, in the tiny town of San Marcos. Isla Verde is an eco lodge on the lake shore that has a very bohemian feel. My daughter and I stayed in the penthouse cabin, way up the on the hill (many, many stairs to climb). The view of the lake was fantastic. The lodge runs on solar power. We were told there would be plenty of hot water but we never saw a drop. The cool shower wasn't bad as the bathroom is open to the outdoors with a gorgeous view (still, hot water would have been nice). The beds were comfortable and the ambiance was great. I especially liked the open-air dinning room. We had dinner at the hotel one night, which is a prix-fix menu for $100Q. None of us liked our meal that night but other food we saw looked good.
My sons rented kayaks from Lee next door and my daughter and I took a lake cruise with Lee on his pontoon boat. I would highly recommend this trip. Lee was a great host and guided us around part of the lake, stopped at a village where we could buy local crafts, and took us to a natural hot springs that empties into the lake. We had a wonderful soak and visited with a Guatemalan couple who visit the hot springs regularly. The lake is gorgeous and reminds me of Lake Tahoe with volcanoes.
One afternoon the four of us decided to hike to the next town along a trail used by locals. The hotel staff warned us that a couple had been robbed on the trail the previous week so I left my camera behind (sadly). The trail is rugged and climbs up the steep mountains. It is a treat to see how the Mayans farm the steep land. We had no problems on the trail except for some dogs who chased after us growling. We took a water taxi back to the hotel from the next town.
We enjoyed the lake and the relaxed atmosphere of the place. I would recommend a visit here. We left Lake Atitlan and took a shuttle to Guatemala City. We stayed at the Airport Inn which had been arranged by the staff at Isla Verde. It was a terrible hotel and is to be avoided at all cost. We nearly missed our flight to Costa Rica as staff did not wake us up or arrange for a taxi to take us to the airport as we had arranged the night before. We had reserved a room for 4 and got 3 single beds - one of my sons had to sleep on the floor. A bad night. We did manage to make our flight on Taca from Guatemala City to San Jose, Costa Rica. Beware that flights within central america are expensive. We paid $355 for our RT flight into Belize and out of Costa Rica on Continental Airlines (from San Francisco) and our one-way flight from Guatemala City to San Jose cost $275.
All in all, we loved Guatemala and would travel there again any time. I am thinking of returning next summer to attend Spanish school or perhaps to volunteer for a NGO. The people are wonderful and we felt safe everywhere.
See the Costa Rica forum for the rest of my report.