"Traditional Tz'utujil Mayan Town" Top 5 Page for this destination Santiago Atitlán by Hopkid

Santiago Atitlán Travel Guide: 37 reviews and 127 photos

Santiago Atitlan is located on the south side of Lake Atitlan across from Panajachel. It's situated on the east shore of an inlet that formed between Volcan de San Pedro and the sister volcanoes of Atitlan and Toliman. While Santiago enjoys many tourist visits due to direct ferry service from Pana and the attraction of its weird deity, Maximon, its inhabitants still follow the traditional Mayan lifestyle as evidenced by its daily market, traditional dress, and use of the local Mayan dialect in addition to Spanish. There is also a quiet spot by the shore which has been used by the Maya for centuries as a bathing and laundry area. You can still spot Mayan women there on a daily basis under the backdrop of Volcan de San Pedro. It is best to view it from up above at El Mirador so as not to disturb the women at work.

Indigenous Life and the Market

Market days are Sunday and Friday but a small market establishes itself on the east end of the Parque Central each day. There you can find men but mostly women, dressed in their traditional huipils and cortes buying food items for that day's meals. The town is also the center for the local avocado harvest and one can see bundles of the fruit in the Parque Central being readied for shipment to other parts of the country and beyond.

The town is on a slope that extends upwards from the ferry dock at the lake up to the Parque Central. A good idea would be to take a local three-wheeled taxi, or tuk-tuk up to the Parque Central. Walk up to the cathedral just above the Parque Central and then walk down at your leisure checking out the market, shops and restaurants that dot the path back down to the lake. You might also utilize the %tuk-tuks to take you on a tour of the sights including a visit to see Maximon, who can be difficult to find as he is moved every 1 to 2 years.

Good Shopping and an Easy Day Trip

Because of the number of tourists that they receive, there are plenty of shops with indigenous crafts. The best ones are the clothes stores which really focus on daily wear for the locals. Here you can purchase authentic huipils and cortes along with other handwoven clothing and other textiles. Be sure to bargain hard for items you covet.

Santiago Atitlan is an easy 45-minute ferry ride from Pana. It's sights can be seen in half a day or longer depending on how long you want to hang out. It's definitely worth a visit.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Traditional Mayan lifestyle, easy to get to from Pana
  • Cons:Hilly!
  • In a nutshell:A definite day-trip from Panajachel
  • Last visit to Santiago Atitlán: Jun 2007
  • Intro Written Jul 4, 2007
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