A Day on Lake Petén Itzá
Lake Petén Itzá. It’s the second largest lake in Guatemala, protected and surrounded by jungle, small towns and Mayan sites. And I fell for it. Hard. Between the gorgeous lodging at La Lancha (read my review here) and my general love of water I never stood a chance.
While I had seen pictures of Lake Petén Itzá prior to arriving I was not prepared to see it in person. The stunning colors that made up the lake, ranging from aqua to turquoise to a vibrant green hued blue, had me doing a double take. Was it natural? Was it polluted? Seeing fresh water that vibrant wasn’t something I was used to. No pollution, just depth and limestone I was told.
Spending the day on the lake was a must so we hired a boat for our first full day in Guatemala. We were picked up in the morning from La Lancha’s dock and headed out. The water was perfectly still and deep turquoise and it complimented the vibrant greens of the surrounding vegetation perfectly. I couldn’t help but to hang my hand over the side of the boat into the water as we took off – it was so warm! I knew then that I would be taking a swim in the lake once we got back to La Lancha.
The first stop was a small town called San Jose. As we approached the brightly colored buildings and stone walls caught my eye. It was getting pretty hot by the time we arrived so the first stop was to grab some water at the corner store before hiking to the top of the hill to view the church and take in the view from the top. It was just a quick stop before we hopped back on the boat and headed towards Flores.
Before arriving at the island town of Flores we stopped at a smaller island that houses a small museum, filled with both Mayan artifacts and the area’s first radio equipment. They still broadcast from the island to this day so we were actually able to look around the studio, too! We grabbed some coconuts at the small stand and admired the view of Flores before we got closer.
Once we docked in Flores we wandered the cobbled streets, slowly weaving our way up the hill to the Church of Our Lady of the Remedies. The church was built on top of a Mayan temple by the Spanish as a very literal attempt at burying their culture. It stands impressively at the top of Flores, looking out over the lake. We then slowly strolled down the steep streets, trying to avoid being run down by a few rogue tuk tuks and trying to hug the shade as it was scorching in the bright sun.
At this point I was feeling pretty hungry and in need of a cold beer so we went to Racies for lunch. The restaurant is perched on the water with open air dining so we were able to enjoy the scenery. The little girl at the table next to us was taking bits of tortilla to throw over the railing to feed the fish below (there were quite a few) and we watched the small ferry transport people and vehicles back and forth while waiting for our food.
After a meal of grilled vegetable kabobs, salad, potatoes and fresh corn tortillas (with plenty of salsa picante) we strolled the streets to do some shopping and take some photos, grabbing some carved wooden masks and birds to bring home.
From there we met back up with our boat captain and bid Flores farewell. The goal was to head back towards La Lancha before any surprise late afternoon weather popped up (not unheard of – the previous day there was a huge storm right after our arrival) but we were able to slow down and enjoy the ride back. The water was like glass – not a ripple other than the boat wake and we were the only boat in site once we put Flores in the rear view.
We made it back to the dock at La Lancha just as some clouds were rolling in and the wind picked up slightly but there was still time to grab a couple beers and jump off the dock. After I was able to drag myself out of the warm water I sat under the palapa, admiring again the whole of Lake Petén Itzá. What a day.
Have you been to Lake Petén Itzá? I’d love to hear about your experience! Comment below or DM me!