A Favorite Place: Santiago Atitlan, Sololá, Guatemala


After spending the day traveling from Guatemala City, to Panajachel then to San Pedro and finally Santiago, we were of course exhausted. Arriving right in time to check in a hotel and to drop all our bags and head to the dock and see the sunset. In the back of my mind I was thinking of how the sunset was from Panajachel. The photographer in me, sorry.


Well here is where the story gets interesting or the adventures I talked about in my first Guatemalan post. Since my research was based on us staying the night in San Pedro, I had no hotels lined up in Santiago. I figured how hard can it be, this is the popular town there must be several hotels. Santiago is all uphill or so it seemed! Everything we were trying to reach was up and my poor legs were done for the day. After asking at several hotels, which obviously saw us as tourists quoted us high prices. We settled at one of the first hotels closer to the dock, Hotel Ratzan. Not saying it was the best, but they did negotiate to 300 Quetzales for 5 people. That is 60 Quetzales per person, or less than $8 per person for private rooms. They said free WiFi, hot water (because not all hotels have this). Well you do get what you pay for, we were on the 4th floor, because I wanted a room with a view this meant no WiFi up there. Took a shower and no hot water, although after the hot day I welcomed the cold shower. When I went down stairs the guy behind the counter apologized because he didn’t switch the hot water on. I complained about the WiFi he said it worked fine in the lobby as he walks away. No it did not work, so I looked behind the counter at the Internet box and it was OFF. Yup I turned it on! Again $8 per person, you get what you way for.


Lets forget the hotel, because there is more to Santiago.

There are several expats here in Santiago too. I think it’s all over Guatemala. In Santiago it was more obvious because when we would ask for suggestions on restaurants they would tell us to avoid some because it was gringo food due to the owner being gringos. That was several places.

Well when in doubt I hit TripAdvisor for suggestions. Hubby had yet to have a typical Guatemalan plate, so I kept asking and Trip Advisor kept suggesting higher end restaurants. We were going to give in and choose one and we found out they close before the dinner crowd. Bad business for a restaurant. I was starving so we settled on the number one pick of TripAdvisor, El Pescador, then the hotel attendant suggested a restaurant saying it was Guatemalan food and cheaper than El Pescador we had just picked. What was the harm in trying out the suggestion of a local. We walked in after passing it up a couple of times, it was nothing to show there was a restaurant there, no staff right away and no one eating there. After looking at the menu we realized the prices were the same as El Pescador, and I hate being lied to. So El Pescador got our business that night.


We strolled the streets of Santiago at night, and saw interesting things. I think this is the town I saw the most indigenous people. Through the streets late at night you see all these cute couples, both in their traditional outfits being like any teenagers on a Saturday night.

Maximon, Santiago Guatemala

Next day all I wanted to see before we left was to see the famous Maximon. This is the number one thing you find on the internet about Santiago. When we first got off the boat I was asking about this Maximon. The indigenous people wouldn’t tell us how to find him. He constantly gets moved so you have to be taken. One lady said he was “EL DIABLO” or the devil. Even the guy at the front desk of our hotel said he couldn’t tell us how to get there because it went against his beliefs. My family didn’t like the comments they were hearing and decided they didn’t want to see him either. They said it went against what they believed too, except my cousin she was up for seeing Maximon with hubby & me. My spiritual beliefs are not going to get compromised because of others thoughts on a legendary Mayan belief. I wanted to see, learn and photograph this very ancient tradition.


We strolled all the places to see in Santiago. They have a gorgeous church I couldn’t stop photographing it and trying to imagine how it looked 200-1000 years ago. We went to the market, I don’t know if it was because it was Sunday but it was never-ending. So many foods and everyone making some amazingly smelling food.


We accidentally found a restaurant/art gallery. I asked to stop by to see the art, the artist in me always wants to see art. It was owned by a Mayan family who were to welcoming. When they found out I was an artist they opened the doors to their house to show me some artwork of their dad. He is quite a sculptor. After talking to them about local food we decided to have breakfast here. That was the best food I had all weekend!

Kape Ixim Che

After the great views, the delicious food and the interesting stories we decided to take our trip back to Guatemala City. Yes we took the chicken bus back and got home in one piece. Santiago was our favorite of our trip to Panajachel but I know there are more towns to explore so we can’t wait to explore some more!

A good bye treat, a raspa with fruit pieces!




Leslie M. Guzmán is a Guatemalan artist best known for her creative explorations of world cultures. Her works capture the untold stories of people, objects and the places from which they come.


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