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Trip Report

Punta Uva, Costa...
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Trip Report

I found San Juan by accident on a morning walk that my travel book told me not to take because “it’s not safe to walk between towns in Atitlan.” San Juan is only 10 minutes from San Pedro la Laguna, which I went to after enrolling in Spanish school. Don’t get me wrong, San Pedro is great and I loved my Spanish school (Orbita) and my teacher (Anita), but the rest of the “scene” there would have been fine 20 years ago but not now.

So when I stumbled across tidy, savvy San Juan I wish it were in my Moon guide on Guatemala. Or on the ‘Net, or on Trip Advisor in any real capacity. But it’s not, and I do not know why. This tiny town on Atitlan has educated itself on catering to the type of tourists it wants: those interested in artisans and projectos, those who wish to see micro-business in action, those wanting to support hands-up and not hands-out community enterprises that are literally changing the landscape for Mayans on Atitlan.

San Juan has 13 Mayan murals peppered throughout the efficient town centre. It has one charming Spanish school on the lake (all of the lakeside properties have small agricultural strips between themselves and the reed-thatched lake),

www.ecolanguages.net/ecoschool_sanjuan.htm,

many art galleries with local artists painting gorgeous Mayan canvases right on-site, and many women’s collectives undertaking weaving, fabric, textiles and other projects where you can receive tours in easy-to-understand Spanish and sometimes English.

Do venture off from the main street directly up from the boat dock: there are many micro-projects dotted throughout San Juan that may not get the direct tourist access from the boats but who deserve a visit.

This is a town doing everything right. It deserves recognition and tourist attention. Don’t miss this – it’s a real hidden gem on Atitlan and it will do your tourist-heart good.

(And if you are looking for a place to stay please consider the stunning Hotel Chi-Ya, where I stayed for two weeks and wrote a glowing review of: http://www.hotelchi-ya.com/index.html)

14 replies to this topic
The Dalles, Oregon
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for Guatemala, Belize
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11. Re: Trip Report

San Marcos la Laguna and San Juan La Laguna are neighboring villages on Lake Atitlán. I enjoy visiting the weaving cooperatives in San Juan but for what it's worth, shopping in Panajachel (35 minutes away by boat) is arguably the best in Guatemala.

Crowsnest Pass...
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12. Re: Trip Report

"I enjoy visiting the weaving cooperatives in San Juan but for what it's worth, shopping in Panajachel (35 minutes away by boat) is arguably the best in Guatemala."

I agree that the selection and prices are better in Panajachel than in San Juan. However, in San Juan you know that what you get is quality hand-made items, not the mass produced things that are so common (and cheap) in Pana or Chichi (although you can find the quality things as well). It is also more likely that you can meet the weavers or artists in San Juan. Take the opportunity to visit some of the cooperatives and get a demonstration of the weaving.

The Dalles, Oregon
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for Guatemala, Belize
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13. Re: Trip Report

It's true that it's better if you know what you're looking for, no matter where you shop. I love the demonstrations in San Juan and in San Pedro as well that include the natural dyes they use to color the thread.

Lake Atitlan
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for Lake Atitlan
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14. Re: Trip Report

Each has something different to offer. Chichicastenango has the long history of the market place, the Santa Tomas church, the open blending of Mayan and Catholic religion, the cemetery, and Pascual Abaj (Sacred Hill), plus the market. I highly recommend visiting the "non-tourist" part of the market, which is mostly shielded from view. You have to search it out, but is it easy enough to find and is in the area between the large church and the small one.

San Juan is a laid back and small village. The people have discovered the magic of sharing their culture in a special way that no other village seems to duplicate. All the details are listed above so no need to repeat.

Try to find time for both.

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