About a month ago I was still debating where I wanted to go for Thanksgiving weekend. To make a long story short, it was seeing a picture of Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan that helped me decide. Consistently rated as one of the top 2 things to see in all of Central America, this lake bore high expectations.

To get to the lake, you have to take a regular public bus from Guatemala City to Panajachel or arrange a private driver from wherever you’re staying. The ride takes about 3 hours and not recommended for those prone to motion sickness. But by the time you get there, it’s worth it.


First view of Lake Atitlan

What happens when you stop to go shopping by the road...

The bag is wider than she is tall


Our situation turned out a little bit off the beaten path. I had booked reservations at a nice little backpacker haven the night before and unfortunately it turned out to be a double booking. The owner of the place, Richard Morgan, was nevertheless kind enough to upgrade usnto an upscale hotel located right by the lake without costing us anything extra. He also went above and beyond in arranging a private driver to pick us up directly from the airport at a cost no more than regular public transportation.

Suffice to say, it was a lucky chance encounter. After arriving at the hotel, he showed us around the area which included a former coffee plantation. We were able to sample (and chew on) Guatemalan coffee beans straight from the trees that they were growing on. Not the coffee color that we’re all led to believe.



Coffee bean "fruits" as they're grown

After chewing the pulp off, we get the actual coffee bean as we all have come to know and love.


Finally, we also would find out that Richard Morgan is a famous author and a cross-border cultural exchange program entrepreneur (yes, you can google him).

From our last night chance shmoozing with world famous DJ Steve Aoki on his birthday to getting to know this big-name author in our first few hours in Guatemala, it was already going in the books as another Monsoon Diaries-style serendipity.

After parting ways in Panajachel, we then explored the town…






…and then kicked back and enjoyed sunset views of the lake and its surrounding volcanoes.


Panorama of Lake Atitlan pre-sunset



…and with a dinner at Sunset Cafe:


A dinner with a view

A tilapia caught from the lake: divine.


This is one of the few places I can say that Google Images didn’t ruin for me; it’s still just as, if not prettier, than the photoshop/filter-enhanced photos you’d find online. And that’s saying a lot.

Tomorrow: more of Lake Atitlan and then we make our way to Antigua and Tikal.



- At time of posting in Quezaltenango, it was 14 °C - Humidity: 50% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: n/a


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November 2011