Camping on Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala

We pulled in to San Marcos la Laguna with only about an hour of daylight left. With no reservation, we decided to stop at Hostal del Lago when the road ended and ask about their availability. They had no space for us to park the car but had plenty of beds available in the dorms. For us, parking the car in a safe place was more important than a bed, and we knew we wanted to camp soon anyway.

There was a tiny bit of concern driving down yet another crazy road, possibly in terrible condition, to get to this campsite that we’d read about but weren’t positive existed. And of course night is closing in.

A couple of miles up the rocky path we see a big stone wall leading to a large grey steel door with a hand painted sign at the top left corner saying “ring me” – so we did. Luckily the guy who greeted us was SO pleasant and quickly confirmed we’d found Pasaj Cap. He opened the gate immediately and the landscape and view were picturesque. WOW, that big steel door opens up to THAT? Yes, we can absolutely camp here. We were directed down this lovely cobblestone driveway, past the most colorful foliage, to a grassy landing at the bottom of the hill, right to the edge, with perfect views of the most spectacular lake we’ve ever seen. Naturally it’s surrounded by palm trees and volcanoes…

Wait, shouldn’t we discuss price and accommodation details? And is there a bathroom or?? We knew camping would mean fewer amenities but we still wanted to know exactly what we were getting into.

This nice looking man begins to make his way down this hill to greet us. His name is Pierre and he owns this wonderful property. With a smile and warm introduction, he leads us up to his office, then up the hill to a bathroom (yes!!) WITH a shower (talk about being spoiled). On the way up the hill, we see a great little bungalow with a hammock, BBQ grill and outdoor lighting in addition to the beautiful flowers and fruit trees throughout.

We agreed to stay and started a tab with Pierre, agreeing to pay when we checked out (he sells wine and meat so it’s pretty easy to add to your tab if you're interested in grilling out and having wine with dinner).

Setting up camp for the first time was fun. At this point we REALLY didn't have much daylight left but we got it all taken care of just in time. Tyler opened the tent, and Meg started pulling out all the gear.

Here are just a few of the things we’re really glad we brought with us for a rooftop camping situation (extended packing list to come):

·      LED lights (rechargeable via USB)
·      Sand Free Beach Mat
·    Folding Table
·    Microfiber Towels

Of course the camp stove, pillows, sheets, cookware, power inverter and MOSQUITO REPELLANT were all absolutely necessary. But the items above really surprised us and added to the “comfort” level of our humble abode.

Night one, we basically just snacked and went to bed.

Most immediate reminder about tent camping: you sleep when the sun sleeps. Which is like 6pm. This is why those LED lights were so handy, they let us stay up a little later to play cards and read books.

In the morning (6am) we woke up, and headed straight to Hostel del Lago. We hadn’t brought groceries with us and being that we got in so late, we had no time to buy them so we needed breakfast and the hostel had a restaurant.

We also wanted to venture out and meet people, our campsite seemed pretty quiet at this point.

For the next two days, we spent most of our time eating, working (Tyler), and taking yoga classes (Meg) at the hostel. The food and yoga classes were great, and with good wifi and great views, it was the perfect place to get a lot done. We met a few backpackers who’d been traveling for some time. They were friendly and recommended some sites to see.

Back at camp, we finally ran into a wonderful fellow American named Joe. He and his wife are overlanding as well, and they were SO welcoming and gracious from the start. We’re not sure what we'd have done without them. For the first time since we left Texas, we met other people who were doing life the way we were and it was VERY reassuring. Soon they’d introduced us to another couple they’d met and traveled with at other points on their journey. We drank wine together and discussed all kinds of valuable information about maps without wifi or cellular service (maps.me), how to tolerate each other being in a car for long periods of time, how to stay safe, protect your vehicle, find mechanics, where to purchase groceries, and other general tips for making the most of this lifestyle.

We’ll be forever grateful to our first overland family; for the tips they shared and their encouragement and support. We had such a blast meeting and spending time with everyone at Pasaj Cap (short as it was). They are really incredible and came at a time when we needed some amigos :)

Camping also really helped get us back on budget. We were able to purchase groceries and spend much less per night (of course) than the hotels we’d been staying in. And our first camp meal was a success!

Although Meg got eaten alive by ants and mosquitos, the positives completely outweighed the negative. It rained almost every night and not ONE drop of water in the tent (wahoo!). This cooled it down to almost 59 degrees while we were sleeping and by night 2 we had to pull out the sleeping bags and light sweaters. But it was absolutely BEAUTIFUL. Being that it’s the rainy season here, tourism is way down but we totally recommend a visit anyway. It’s cool and refreshing and really only rained at night. 

All-in-all I’d say it's no wonder people show up here and stay for weeks (or months) at a time. We fell in love and will definitely be making it back to Guatemala.

See you down the road!
Meg + Tyler 

 

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