Hike Length: About 3.5 miles round trip
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
What we packed:
- Lots of water
- Nuts & energy bars
- Bug spray
What to wear:
We hiked this trail in January, and the day was sunny and beautiful. I wore capris and a t-shirt and sneakers and was perfectly comfortable.
Where to Start:
Take the main "road" that runs parallel to the lake through Jaibalito, heading east. You'll cross over a beautiful little bridge and wind through the residences of the local Mayan people who live in the village.
Make your way through the jungle path and eventually you will come to the first set of several staircases you'll ascend during this hike to the village of Santa Cruz.
At the top of the steps, you'll marvel at the first of many gorgeous views this hike has to offer! Take a moment and take it in. It's gorgeous, particularly on a sunny, bright day like the one we were lucky enough to have.
Throughout the hike you'll pass chickens roaming the hillside and local farmers passing by with a friendly "Buenas Dias." Eventually you'll come to a breathtaking lookout point
The path winds up and down and zigs and zags. With every turn, there is a new view of the lake and the volcanoes that surround it. Even the stone walls, bamboo fences and beautifully detailed doors and gates are interesting to see.
After about a 40 minute walk, you'll see Santa Cruz down below you, and you'll begin your descent into the village. As you approach the village you'll see signs of life... homes and businesses lining the cobblestone streets, and farmers and workers going about their daily routines. It's a very inviting village. And the deeper you go, the more interesting it gets!
As you make your way into the village you will enter the main square. If you're lucky enough, you'll see some kids playing in the square. When we arrived, it was just as school was wrapping up for the day (at Noon!). There was a group of children playing "Duck Duck Goose" and their laughter echoed throughout the square. It's a great place to catch your breath from your hike, drink some water, and take it all in.
Just like all the villages you'll visit on Lake Atitlan, the dogs that live there add their own special personality to the village. Approach if you dare... their friendliness depends on the dog. We found that most dogs were really friendly, but not interested in being pet. For the most part, if they are not giving you warning barks to keep your distance, they're lounging in a shady spot and staying cool.
All of the villages surrounding the lake are built on a hill, and Santa Cruz is one of the steepest. You'll find that your calves and quads are feeling pretty fatigued as you make your way up the main street, and the locals will put you to shame as they pass you by as if you're standing still.
Chickens, chickens, chickens! Throughout the jungle and in the villages, chickens strut around as if they own the place.
Most of the dwellings you'll find in Santa Cruz La Laguna are a combination of concrete and "brick," with a tin roof. You can wind through the narrow cobblestone pathways and get an up-close look at how these friendly Mayan people live. Their dwellings are simple, and it really gives you some perspective on our crazy lives in the U.S.A. Though these people do not have much in the way of material posessions, they are some of the happiest and friendliest people I have ever encountered. It's a privilege to walk through these villages and get an up-locse look at their happy, hardworking lives.
While the kids are in school, the women of Santa Cruz are working hard. We say many women with heavy loads of food and other supplies balanced on top of their heads, or strapped across the top of their heads as they trek up the steep hill and make their way home.
As we were resting in the square in Santa Cruz, we heard the school bell, followed by the elated cheers of about 75 children. The gate opened from the school, and kids came pouring out, excited to be out of school for the day. Some played and ran and chased each other up the steep cobblestone streets, some hopped in Tuk Tuks, some walked along and quietly read their books. Some collected firewood to take home with them in big bundles they carried on their heads.At the bottom of the village, nearest the lake is where you'll find an area that caters more to tourists. Shops selling handmade goods and services line the waterfront, and it's also where you can catch a water taxi to make your way to any other village around the lake if you choose not to walk back to Jaibalito.
Wander through the hostel on the water front called La Iguana Perdida. It's a relaxed hostel with an open-air restaurant and bar. There were a few people swinging in hammocks and reading, while others played quiet acoustic guitar and enjoyed the view and the breeze. It's a special place.
When you return to Jaibalito, you'll be hungry and thirsty for sure! We decided to stop at the hostel in the center of the village called Posada de Jaibalito. This place is super chill, and the food is absolutely delicious. We returned there for dinner the next night.
So there you have it! Our hike was gorgeous and unforgettable and I hope yours is, too. Please make sure to bring plenty of water with you. We have heard that sometimes on these trails there is a problem with robberies, but we were hiking in a group of four people and we didn't see a hint of any trouble. We also saw plenty of tourists hiking solo. So our advice would be to ask the locals, hike in a group, or take a guide and you shouldn't have any problems. Just use your common sense. You'll have a hike that will be a very very positive experience!
Want More Details About Traveling to Guatemala?
We stayed in this gorgeous country for two weeks, and traveled to the Isla de Flores, Guatemala City, Lake Atitlan, and Antigua. We've written detailed blog posts about each of these beautiful destinations and the best things to do while we were in Guatemala. Take a look at our "Beyond the PNW" blog posts to see our collection of Guatemala blog posts. You'll learn more about where to go, what to eat, where to hike, and how to enjoy Guatemala to the fullest during your trip.