Lago de Atitlan / Xela Questions
Replies: 24 - Last Post: Oct 24, 2013 3:32 PM Last Post By: enroutesiglo
Aug 21, 2013 1:38 PM
Lago de Atitlan / Xela QuestionsMy friend and I had to cancel our plans to go the Copper Canyon this September, so we're going to do something different over the winter. It's going to be a loop that goes like this: Mexico City -> Oaxaca -> Lago de Atitlan -> Xela -> Comitán -> Mexico City
I have a few questions regarding the Guatemala part of the trip:
1) Does anyone know any reliable outfits/guides that do climbs of Volcán Atitlán? I did a search and found one thread asking this question and basically everyone told the OP to go climb Volcán San Pedro instead. I know it's by far the more popular climb, but as long as it's reasonably safe, I would prefer to climb Atitlan.
2) Can you recommend some not too expensive hotels ($40 or less for a double room with private bath) in Panajachel reasonably close to the two docks - especially ones that have Wi-Fi in the rooms? (Or without Wi-Fi, but under $30.)
3) I'm also looking for hotel suggestions in Xela. Again, I would prefer ones that have Wi-Fi in the rooms, but anything that fits our budget would help.
4) In Xela, we're looking to climb Volcán Santa María. Can anyone recommend a guide for this - especially one who can organize and overnight trip, rather than a 1-day climb or a full moon climb which seem to be the two options listed on most websites? How is the safety situation there these days?
5) The way we have our itinerary planned, we'd be taking a bus from Pana to Xela on Dec. 31. My friend, who is Mexican, is worried that we might not be able to do this due to there being less buses and more people taking them - is that going to be the case? I've never been abroad during the Christmas/New Year holidays, so I don't know what to expect when it comes to transportation.
6) Should we reserve hotels in either Panajachel (Dec. 27-30) or Xela (Dec. 31- Jan.5) in advance? I don't normally make reservations - I prefer to see the rooms in person before I commit, but I don't usually travel during high season either. How crowded do these places get around that time?
Aug 21, 2013 3:12 PM
1If you do have your heart set on Pana (as opposed to San Marcos, San Pedro, etc.), then I'd make reservations early. It is a very busy time and a lot of families go down to the lake for Christmas/New Year's.
You should be able to get a bus at that time with no prob.
From what I remember, Volcan Atitlan is not a good option. Significant security problems, basically no organized tours. Maybe things have changed.
Aug 21, 2013 4:40 PM
2Yeah, that's the thread about Volcán Atitlán I was referring to.
Last year, I was nervous about the hike from San Marcos to Santa Cruz and ended up leaving my big camera behind in our hotel room, just in case. Nothing happened, except a tense encounter with a pack of dogs that didn't like us being there. The views of the lake and the volcanoes were amazing and I highly recommend the hike. We went with Otto from Los Jovenes Mayas Kaqchikeles. (http://www.atitlanresource.com/jovenesmayas_eng.htm)
Panajachel is one of the few touristy places I did like. It's the most central for what we're planning to do and we'll be out and about most of the time anyways, so I don't mind staying there. The plan is to do a couple of day hikes and also to visit Santiago Atitlán (where we didn't make it last year) and hopefully Santa Catarina Palopó and San Antonio Palopó.
By the way... Is San Lucas Tolimán worth visiting?
Aug 21, 2013 5:17 PM
Generally I'm one of the biggest naysayers when it comes to safety fears – including on the hike you mentioned, which people have indeed been robbed on occasionally – but there are cases where certain volcanos are what they are: barrels for you to become fish in for thieves, especially during periods when criminal gangs are operating there. These situations change as towns either get them under control or lose control of them, i.e. volcan de Agua and Acatenango in Antigua.
I can see the attraction in climbing it but I'd suggest asking around when you get there and in this case take local advice seriously. When I was around (2 years ago), several local friends told me that that was really the only place they wouldn't go... apart from waling between San Pedro and Santiago... also another infamously dangerous stretch which I rode and nothing (really) happened, but many have been robbed there.
Aug 22, 2013 6:39 AM
Aug 22, 2013 8:02 AM
5In that price range (Q300 for a double) you'll definitely get a private bathroom and I would be surprised if you don't have wifi (although there's definitely a price bump around the time of year that you are talking about, so don't expect to get such good value). In the room is the sticker of course... that all depends on the size of the place and if they've laid out for extra routers, if necessary. Surprising how many hotels only offer wifi in the lobby, even more expensive ones.
If it really matters to you, it's something I would ask about when reserving. Which I would definitely do for Pana in the week between Xmas and new year. Xela not so much - it's not a big tourist destination, for foreigners or locals.
Aug 22, 2013 8:16 AM
Aug 22, 2013 11:11 AM
7In my experience it really depends on how important the owner thinks it is to provide wi-fi for guests. For example, in El Remate, we paid Q120 for a room in Hotel Las Gardenias and there were several routers attached to the beams around the place. We've stayed at hotels for 3 times that much where we had to leave our room and go closer to the lobby to get any Wi-fi signal.
We're not lugging around a ton of computer equipment, I have a cheap netbook, where we back up our photos and occasionally watch a movie, which I bought pretty much for this purpose, and my friend has an iPod. It's not absolutely essential to get wi-fi, but if it doesn't cost a lot of extra, we'd like to have it whenever possible. If it's a matter of choosing between a $15 hotel room without wi-fi and paying $40 for a room with wi-fi, we'll go without it, but it's not always like that. That's why I was asking in case anyone knows a reasonably priced hotel or two where the signal was decent everywhere.
We'll definitely reserve the hotel in Panajachel in advance, then - as well as the one in Oaxaca, which I knew going in, since that seems to be a very popular place as well for the holidays. In Xela and Comitán, we'll probably just show up with a list and find something.
Aug 22, 2013 2:41 PM
8In response to question 1:
I remembered that a friend of mine who is a member of the Club Fotografico de Antigua went on a group expedition to Volcan Toliman/Atitlan last year and posted some breathtaking pictures on Facebook. So I thought there might be some kind of report and I did some internet searches. Here's one of the pictures from the expedition on Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mique79/6798206290/
I remember they also posted some kind of review of their trip, which I can't find. But I do recall that they had made extensive planning arrangements, and were accompanied by several (maybe 4?) armed policemen from the neighboring town. I agree with enroutesiglo that you need to listen and trust what the locals tell you, in terms of security. They probably know the guys that are the thieves in the area. I remember vividly when I visited Santiago Atitlan 10 years ago. We started walking up the road towards the volcano and all these kids from the houses along the road started yelling out to us, "hay ladrones!" "hay ladrones arriba!". I said "Estan arriba hoy?" and they looked at me with very solemn serious eyes and said, "si, hoy".
In response to question 4:
Quetzaltrekkers offers a 2-day hike, which is what you're looking for, I think. I've never done a trip with them but they have an excellent reputation.
Aug 22, 2013 7:05 PM
9My favorite in Pana, wifi but not in the rooms I have had, $25ish/night/double including breakfast:
Aug 22, 2013 8:52 PM
we climbed the Volcan Atitlan last week within two days and camped on the saddle. We had before talked to several locals, also talked to a former guide whom we met and done research on the net. It resulted in the hike being safe for the moment and because we had a good feeling about it, we did it by ourselves. We had the GPS tracks and followed those.
Along the way to the saddle, we met a lot of Maya people collecting wood. To the saddle the hike is a moderate 1000m, not very steep. From the saddle to the top is another 1000m of which the last 600m are very steep, and the last 200m have loose volcanic ground and no trees. we left our tent at 1:30am and enjoyed a wonderful sunrise up there. The view was magnificent!
Atitlan is higher compared to San Pedro or Toliman, and there are no trees at all for the 360degree view from its tip.
We also did the hike from san Marcos to Santa Cruz and vice versa twice, both times without a guide. We use common sense paired with recent opinions from locals and so far did well with following their advice.
If you are interested in our GPS data or more info, check back on our website in a few days, or contact us.
Aug 22, 2013 9:02 PM
11At Mario's Rooms in Pana, I also could not get a signal in my room. I just sat outside the room in the courtyard area on a stone step, which worked okay. The courtyard is quiet in the evenings.
Lots and lots of hotels in Comitan. We paid $22 night, seemed to be the going rate at a few places I checked. Taxis are extremely cheap in town (flat rate, under $2), we walked from the ADO bus station, as well as to the combi bus areas, but that was because I wanted the exercise after and before a bus trip. There are hills, but I guess these are no problem to someone who is hiking volcanoes! A bit hard to find places to eat in Comitan.
I found Xela a difficult place to find accommodation that sounded good to me. Ended up not liking where I stayed, it was so cold there as soon as the sun goes down, the room never warmed up during the day either. Can't even remember if we had internet in the room or not, I just remember huddling in the room freezing. (February, Casa Bartolome) Cold owner as well.
It is not far at all between Pana and Xela. Fast roads. Taxis in Xela ask for an enormous sum of money; well compared to Comitan anyhow.
Aug 23, 2013 12:05 PM
Aug 23, 2013 12:09 PM
Aug 24, 2013 8:26 AM
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