San Pedro La Laguna is a quiet little village on the shore of Lake Atitlan, in Guatemala. It is full of bohemian cafes, yoga studios, Spanish language schools, art galleries and Israeli restaurants (I am still wondering why that is). The path along the lake becomes a party place after the sun sets, with bars luring tourists with their cheap drinks.
Tourists come to San Pedro also for the stunning natural scenery around and all the activities they can do here: hiking, kayaking, horse riding, etc.
How to get to San Pedro La Laguna
Getting to San Pedro La Laguna is quite straight forward if you are staying in a hotel in Antigua – where most of the visitors are coming from. In Antigua every hotel sells tickets for the minibus to Panajachel, the gateway town to Lake Atitlan, for 50Q-70Q (£5-£7). The minibuses are actually private transfers, with air conditioning, that come and pick you up at your hotel in Antigua, and for such a small price, it is worth it, especially that the journey will take a few hours. Do not take the bus directly to San Pedro because the road is very bad, and you can spend hours just going around the lake. At the time I am writing this, that road is closed.
From where the bus leaves you just walk down towards the docks and ask which boat goes to San Pedro. The ticket costs 25Q (which is around £2.5) and the journey takes about 20 minutes. Do hold on though as this is not your ordinary leisure sailing trip, it’s a proper speed ride over the waves of Lake Atitlan. The boats leave every 30 minutes or so.
Be careful where you get off, as there are 3 docks in San Pedro. Depending where your accommodation is, ask the boat driver to drop you off at the central dock. I had no idea and got off at the wrong one, just outside the town. By the time I got my backpack, the two Tuk Tuk taxis waiting got snatched by other people and I had to climb a steeeep hill all the way into town.
Where to stay in San Pedro La Laguna
I booked Hospedaje Lolita because of its central location and great price, £4 a night. The room was big and had three beds in it: one bunk bed and a single one. I was the first one there, so I chose the single one. Later another girl came, whom I ended up spending a lot of time in San Pedro with, chilling by the lake, sipping beers on the ponton from Bar Sublime.
Horse riding in San Pedro La Laguna
One of the many activities you can do in San Pedro La Laguna is horse riding. As I have never properly done it before, not counting my experience whilst climbing Pacaya Volcano, I went at a local tour agency to enquire about it.
There are tour agencies all over San Pedro, just walk around and see which one you like more. I was happy with my choice and I ended up buying my return shuttle bus to Guatemala City from them as well.
Horse riding in San Pedro La Laguna is very cheap, I think I paid $8 for 2 hours. Do not book online as you will pay much more.
As 2 PM came, I presented myself back at the tourist agency to wait for my horse. Instead, a child arrived 15 minutes later, taking me with him on a muddy unpaved road, towards the stables. Was I the only one who booked this experience? A few more corners and I got my answer. No, but I was the only one who didn’t speak Spanish, among two other families of Guatemalan nationals.
I saw the horses eating hay peacefully behind me covered with horse rugs. They looked big. Soon enough my own “Chocolate” was brought to me. In Guatemala, all horses are called either “Chocolate” or “Tequila”. Whilst the 7-8 years old children of the Guatemalan families jumped in the saddles, of course I was the one who needed help from two people to get on.
“I have never been horse riding before”, I whispered to the tour guide, who barely spoke any English.
No problem, as he took the handles of my horse and led it alongside his. The fact that my left leg became trapped between the two horses was nothing compared with the fact that I was just holding on, admiring the view.
We went through the village and then exited on a dirt road, towards one of the volcanos surrounding lake Atitlan. We were in front and I was actually started to ignore the pain in my left leg and enjoy the ride. All of a sudden however, the road finished, the Guatemalan family turned around and the guide gave me the lead of “Chocolate”.
“You paid for two hours, so we go up the volcano. They only paid for one, so they go back”.
Right, was I starting to regret my choice of two hours on a horse?
“Pull left to go left, right to go right and up to stop” he said, whilst he headed on a bushy path in front, with my horse following him.
“Oh my God”, I thought to myself. Where were we going?
The trail became narrower and narrower, climbing up, on the outskirts of the volcano. I couldn’t help thinking the worst about what could happen. At some point the forest opened up and we were now on top of a cliff. The guide got off his horse and pointed towards my camera. I gave it to him and he snapped a few photos of me, on the horse, with the beautiful scenery behind.
“Now we take a break” he said, and I got off the horse, without any incidents this time. He tied both horses, gave me a stick and pointed to follow him through the bushes, on a path that didn’t seem to have been used in ages.
We descended for a while, until we reached the shore of the lake and a beautiful secluded beach. He asked for my camera again and took a few more photos. Then he just sat down on a rock, waiting for me to take my own pictures. That was the moment when I actually started to relax and enjoy the experience. It was so beautiful, even if the weather was letting down.
On the way back into town I had to lead my own horse. Whilst galloping. My commands didn’t seem to work, it was like “Chocolate” knew I was just a gringo with no experience, and she took control of the ride. Needless to say, I was relieved as we arrived back in the village.
It was still a fun experience and next time for sure I will be able to relax more, without fearing that I’ll fall off the horse at the slightness trot.
Disclaimer: This post has been written in collaboration with Harry Hall.
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