"An encounter with an ancient idol" Top 5 Page for this destination Santiago Atitlán by toonsarah

Santiago Atitlán Travel Guide: 37 reviews and 127 photos

Textiles for sale in Santiago Atitlàn

If you only have time to visit one of the towns and villages on the shores of Lake Atitlàn, it should really be Santiago Atitlàn. Add to its beautiful setting nestled between two of the lake’s volcanoes, Toliman and Atitlàn; its selection of some of the best and most varied handicrafts in Guatemala; its fascinating history (both ancient and more recent); its lively market and its pretty church ... add to these the unique experience of a visit to the shrine of the Mayan idol (part saint, part devil) Maximón, and you have all the ingredients for a fascinating day trip.

As soon as you dock in Santiago you’ll be met by local children offering to take you to see Maximón. It’s a good idea to accept their offer as he doesn’t have a permanent home but is hosted by a local family, moving house every few years. Of course they will expect a tip, but if you negotiate it won’t cost you too much and will mean a lot to them – and it also gives you a chance to chat to them as you walk through the town.

Our young guide, David, was trilingual and spoke a few words of his Maya language, Tz'utujil, for us. He was keen to take us on a complete tour of the town’s sights but we prefer to explore on our own so declined his offer and gave him the 15 Q we had agreed on for him and his friend.

After you have spent some time with Maximón, made the expected offering of a cigarette or some money (you’ll be asked to pay extra if you want to take photos – which of course you will), you can head for the main street to explore the craft shops. As you climb up its gentle slope you’ll come to a turning which leads through the market area to the Parque Central and church.

All of these deserve something of your time – the market for its local colour, the Parque Central for connections with the 1990 uprising / massacre, and the church for its fascinating blend of Mayan tradition with Catholicism.

Pros and Cons
  • In a nutshell:Visiting Maximón is a unique experience but there's much more to do here besides
  • Last visit to Santiago Atitlán: Nov 2010
  • Intro Updated Dec 24, 2011
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Reviews (7)

Comments (13)

  • briantravelman's Profile Photo
    May 1, 2015 at 11:06 AM

    Beautiful colors

  • LoriPori's Profile Photo
    Oct 3, 2011 at 3:45 AM

    Interesting page on Santiago Atitlan esp. the traditional costumes and the local markets.

  • Elisabcn's Profile Photo
    Jun 12, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    How funny this Maximón :-)))) No vulcano climbing? Thanks Sarah for sharing :-)

  • calcaf38's Profile Photo
    Mar 21, 2011 at 5:54 AM

    Thank you for the birthday wishes. Always sorry that I missed the lake area and Maximón!

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Feb 4, 2011 at 11:44 AM

    Fascinating tips on Maximón and on the uprising/massacre of 1990.

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Jan 30, 2011 at 7:18 AM

    Excellent page Sarah, your attention to detail is appreciated.

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Jan 12, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    Sarah, another fabulous page about your adventures in Guatemala. Brilliant and colourful people photos. Well done.

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Jan 10, 2011 at 7:01 AM

    Thanks for your story, as always, Sarah! You had a great experience there!

  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo
    Jan 1, 2011 at 8:42 PM

    Some great people shots here, Sarah. Looks like another winner and easier enough to get to as well. Maximón reminds me of Asian shrines, with the cigarettes and candy at his feet.

  • kyoub's Profile Photo
    Dec 31, 2010 at 6:48 AM

    Very interesting page and colorful photos. I would love to visit there someday.


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