San Pedro Guatemala is a very difficult place to get to but it is worth every minute of the trip. We rented an SUV in Guatemala City. The trip including a lunch stop was about 3 1/2 hours. Upon arrival, I felt like I had been teleported to an alternative universe due to the contrast between the surrounding area and the town itself.
The town is an isolated spot nested in the Mountains on Lake Atitilan. The roads into San Pedro are steep, narrow, and dangerous. The last hour of the drive took us through mountainous 45 degree roads dotted with foot deep potholes. We saw quite a few “Chicken Buses” navigating the roads and it appeared they were close to tipping over on some of the very steep roads. Livestock on the roads is common. To avoid driving to and from San Pedro many people travel to Panajachal on the opposite side of the Lake and catch a taxi or bus from there.
Guatemala City is a large, loud, busy, city with people willing to kill each other on the highways to gain an extra 5 seconds of time. From there, we drove into the hilly and then mountainous rural areas where the average family struggles to make ends meet. San Pedro is unlike anywhere we have been in Guatemala. It has a mixture of the following residents and visitors:
- International travelers from every continent in the world, many with backpacks and a high percentage of 20 to 30 year olds
- Ex-Patriots and hippy types who had moved to San Pedro often on a temporary basis but never left
- Retirees from around the world who love the perfect climate and breath-taking scenery and decided to live there
- Local Guatemalan citizens, many who have become more westernized due to growing up with international travelers and working in the tourism industry. Many speak english.
- Guatemalan citizens that are like the citizens in any other rural area of Guatemala
San Pedro is located on a volcanic lake which is 1100 feet deep but the elevation at the surface of the lake is over a mile high in elevation. The temperature tends to dip no lower than 50 degrees at night and no higher than about 80 degrees in the day year round. We wore shorts, t-shirts and sandals most of the time. The scenery, as you will see in our photos is incredible.
What to do in San Pedro
The downtown area near the lake (where the fun crowd hangs out) is a cobweb of alleys, narrow streets and walking paths. Many of the streets are too narrow for an automobile so don’t bring one if you can help it. Most people get around on Tuk Tuks, motorized 3 wheelers that transport locals and tourists for a small fee. Ask upfront for the fee before going for your ride. Fifty cents is a good average for a trip across town.
Everything in San Pedro can be reached by walking or taking a Tuk Tuk ride (pronounced toook toook). There is an overabundance of restaurants and bars. These tend to be very laid back tiki hut type places and just about all are open to the breezes. I don’t think anywhere has climate control. It’s just not needed since the year round climate keeps the temperature between 50 degrees at night and about 80 degrees in the day.
The prices are very cheap. You can drink beers and cocktails for 15Q to 20Q which is equivalent to about $2 to $3 US. for lunch and dinner, you rarely need to spend more than 70Q or about $10 US for a meal and good meals can be purchased for much less if you are on a budget or avoid the tourist places.