Travel Experta’s Interesting Facts – Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala

On the southwest shore of Lake Atitlán, nestled between the volcanic cones of San Pedro, Atitlán and Tolimán, is the lakeside village Santiago Atitlán. Constructed by the Maya in the image of the world as they believed it to exist, it is the largest and most significant of the lakeside communities and a visit here on either a Friday or Sunday– when the market is in full swing– will provide you with a vivid insight into rural life in these parts. There is little else to do in this Guatemalan town but soak up the tranquility. Some recommend taking a dip in the lake but others report that it is polluted and good for kayaking only. Also, beware of pesky gangs of kids.

Learn more about the fun places you can check out when you visit Guatemala.

The town holds steadfastly to old traditions though the western world and tourism are increasingly making their presence felt. Residents continue to wear the customary clothing of the Tz’utuhil Maya– for men this includes embroidered, striped purple and white long shorts while women wear a band of red cloth known as xk’ap around their heads, although displays of these are becoming increasingly infrequent. Make it here for Easter to encounter weeklong celebrations full of vibrancy.

Santiago boasts 35 churches, the most notable of which is the old, finely decorated, Catholic Church, home to the pre-Columbian Mayan god, Maximón. The church holds a stone memorial commemorating the death of American priest Father Stanley Rother who was assassinated by the paramilitary in 1981, after President García branded him a Communist. His body was returned to his native Oklahoma but his heart was removed and buried in the church.

In October 2005, the town suffered badly from mudslides, erupting from volcano Tolimán, which washed away the homes and livelihoods of many residents. Visitors have reported that the town definitely looks the worse for wear and that there is a noticeably edgy atmosphere. The walk from here to San Pedro however, is demanding but visually stunning.

Descubre mas lugares que visitar en tu próximo viaje a Guatemala.

What to See:

  • La Iglesia Parroquial Santiago Apóstol
  • Handcrafts markets
  • Moximon

What to Do:

  • Hiking around the town
  • Climb the Atitlán and Tolimán Volcanoes
  • Boat tour in the lake

Where is It:

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About Marina Kuperman Villatoro

Marina Kuperman Villatoro CEO of, a travel resource site to inspire families to travel with kids of all ages. Marina has been an expat 10+ years in Central America raising 2 boys in a multicultural, trilingual household. She travels all over the world with her family to give first hand experiences of where to eat, stay and play with kids. Needless to say, it’s never boring! Join Marina on Facebook and Twitter for more unique and boutique family travel!

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