Lovely to linger
Towards the end of my week on the lake I went for a stroll around Santa Catarina on a sultry evening. Locals were getting used to me: we swapped “Buenos tardes“; the vendors ignored me. The sunset was even lovelier than on the first evening. The best travel is transformative. I was getting used to the lakeside and the volcanoes; they were still awesome but also strangely benign, especially under a pink sky. I was beginning to feel at home, because I’d lingered awhile in one place Guatemala has become something of a gringo gauntlet.
Travellers hurtle from the highlands to Antigua to Tikal, ticking off stops. But most of them are missing depth. A slow trip to Atitlán lets you get stuck into a relatively small but topographically and sociologically complex area, using boats to travel rather than buses.
So consider spending a week or more on the lake. You can do all the things I did; you can also water-ski, paraglide, sail, dive, horseride, run a marathon or circumnavigate the crater on foot, bike or pogo stick. But take time out to sit still and gaze at the lake and its guardian volcanoes, and daydream about plumed serpents, wind-tossed lovers and cities of undrowned souls.