Santiago Atitlán Tour
Santiago Atitlán is the largest of the lake communities, famous for its arts and crafts scene as well as its strong indigenous identity, seen in the traditional dress worn there and the Mayan dialect spoken. Your tour begins when you meet your guide from Mayan Life Travel (see below) at the Santiago Atitlán dock. After a welcome, you will tour the central part of the city which includes a picturesque parque central and the formidable catholic church, built in the 16th century by Franciscans. Santiago was also a focal point of indigenous resistance to right-wing government forces during Guatemala’s civil war in the 1980’s – and the church was home to Roman Catholic Priest Stanley Rother who was assassinated (along with 14 other villagers) because of his work supporting indigenous communities.
Next, you’ll visit one of Guatemala’s most bizarre and fascinating cultural attractions, Maximón, a deity revered through the country’s highlands. Thought to be a combination of Mayan gods and the biblical Judas, Maximón is an effigy that worshippers make offerings and ask for blessings. Every year, Maximón is paraded through town and ends up a new house, where visitors are welcomed to pay their respects. It’s a peculiar scene with offerings of cigarettes, liquor and burning candles…but one you don’t want to miss.
The next stop is Santiago’s bustling market where a cornucopia of fresh fruits, vegetables and fish are sold. As your Mayan Life Travel guide walks you through the market you’ll sniff, feel and buy the ingredients needed for your next stop, an opportunity to visit a local home for lunch and learn traditional tortilla making! During lunch, a textile weaving demonstration will take place.
The last stop along your tour will be a visit to a local “petate” craftsman. Petate is a water plant that grows along the shore of Lake Atitlán, and locals cut and collect the reed to weave everything from floor mats to decorations. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the craftsman works (using both hands AND feet!). Finally, as you walk back to the dock you’ll have the opportunity to do some souvenir shopping as you pass by stands of local arts and crafts, including some of the most beautiful paintings found in Guatemala.