World’s most beautiful lake, Guatemala
In the dark, I trudge up hill towards the summit of Indian Nose and the promise of a beautiful sunrise over the volcano crater lake of Atitlan. Behind me is my eight year old niece, Luka, almost running to keep up but not complaining that it is 5 in the morning and we have just survived a terrifying bus ride up a sheer mountain road to the nearby village Santa Clara.
Our guide waits for us patiently ahead. I am slightly nervous having met a group of 20 backpackers who were mugged on this route just a month earlier by machete wielding bandits, a common event if Indian Nose is visited without a guide.
When we reach the summit we are not disappointed. The shaddows of the changing light deliver a stunning view over the lake and the surrounding volcanic mountain peaks.
This chilled out lake and its surrounding villages is a great place to relax and offers great hiking, diving and kayaking. Lake Atitaln is worthy of the description given by early European travellers of the “most beautiful lake in the world”.
Each village provides a different vibe. San Pedro is the most popular and has a relaxed atmosphere, great food and a night life. San Marco across the lake is a pretty little hippy village that is so relaxed it is horizontal and offers beautiful views of the sunrise across the lake and the erupting Volcan Fuego. It also receives more direct sun than San Pedro but doesn’t have much of a nightlife.
Accommodation: San Pedro’s Hostel Fe has great food and a good bar too, but the accommodation may not be for everyone. For a private room with lake views at dormitory prices head to Hotel Lolita (70 Q).
Activities: Hike San Pedro for the most stunning sunrise and view over the lake and erupting volcano. Indian Nose is an bus ride followed by an easy 45 minute uphill hike for stunning views of sunrise over the lake. Near Santa Clara – ziplining is on offer but there are only two longish routes.
Diving: The water level in the lake is rising and it is possible to dive the bottom levels of homes and hotels that are being reclaimed by the lake. It is an amazing dive despite the three metre visibility. We used Ati Divers which is located in La Iguana Perdida Hostel in Santa Cruz.
Dangers: Avoid hiking without a local guide or walking between villages. There are frequent reports of tourists without guides being mugged by machete wielding locals.