One of the best ways to connect with a culture is to connect with it's people, and hiking from village to village in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala provides you just this opportunity.
The majestic lake is overlooked by three equally majestic volcanoes, and is surrounded by 12 remote villages. Each village boosts their own unique customs, culture, cuisine and dialect- and while often times similar to their neighbor, no two are exactly the same. From the colors of their huipil to their religious or shaman rituals, each village is an anthropological study in and of itself.
I recommend choosing a home base hotel on the lake and set out to experience 2 or 3 villages per day, allowing yourself time to shop the markets, visit the churches, eat tamales and enjoy village life on the lake in each location. To best experience villages across the lake, pick a starting village, take a boat across and set out from there, hiking the road to the next village. A local boat 'taxi' can then pick you up at the next village. If possible, try not to have too much of a plan, leaving plenty of time open for spontaneous stumblings- music in the street, tortilla making by the side of the road, shaman ceremonies, surprises.
Despite war, political strife, and poverty, the villagers that call Lake Atitlan home have remained resilient and vibrant and managed to protect their rich culture, making the inspiring natural beauty of the region only surpassed by the inspiring people that call it their home.
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