Wanting to get a more well-rounded impression of life on Lake Atitlan, and not quite ready to move on, we moved 2 villages over to Santa Cruz La Laguna. After a rough but beautiful 10 min boat commute from San Marcos we arrived at the Santa Cruz dock and pretty much stepped right into our next night's accommodation at La Iguana Perdida.
Santa Cruz is a much smaller village and the traveller scene is pretty much contained to a couple wonderful hangouts. Most notably, there's the super fancy and expensive, although very attractive Hotel Isla Verde, and the fun, relaxed, rustic La Iguana Perdida.
The story of La Iguana Perdida is quite captivating starring a young British woman travelling around Lake Atitlan in the 90s, falling in love with the area, buying land and then falling in love with a fellow traveller. (That's the Coles notes version, of course). And twenty years later, La Iguana Perdida, although bigger and with electricity still maintains the same focus as it did in its infancy- travellers meeting other travellers and enjoying the spectacular lake side setting while forging friendships and sharing experiences. The shared family style dinner (Q60) plays into this theme well. The three courses are exceedingly delicious and the happy hour directly preceding dinner really lubricates the social aspect of the meal. So intent on this social outcome, La Iguana Perdida doesn't have WiFi. And while this was super inconvenient for us at the time, as we didn't realize it before arriving and were trying to organize a new apartment back in Canada which required a lot of paperwork and back and forth, we do truly appreciate the idea of being disconnected from our phones and connected to real people. This isn't to say that La Iguana Perdida is completely disconnected though, if that's a deal breaker for you. They do have computers with internet access that you can use for a small fee.
Just up the hill (ok ALL the way up THE hill) and perhaps benefiting enormously from La Iguana Perdida's lack of WiFi is CECAP restaurant and training centre. With a gorgeous view, an excellent cause and free WiFi, the restaurant/cafe at CECAP is run by students who are learning to take traditional Guatemalan dishes to international tourism standards. The food and drinks are delicious and supporting people from a small community to learn useful skills is always a good way to spend money. There is a small shop out front with women sewing high quality purses, scarves and other such handicrafts.
Our first night at Iguna Perdida we stayed in Arriba Payaso 6 which was the top floor of an adorable A- frame cabin at the back of the beautifully landscaped property. It was airy and comfortable with a bright Mayan woven blanket and well thought out with places for bags and plugs right at the bedside. (Q130, approx $17USD). As this room was booked for the other 2 nights we stayed we moved to Room A (Q100, $13USD) in a 4 room cabin at the front of the property. The room was large and had big windows with nice views over the lake. Sheets of something that looked like maybe woven bamboo covered the walls and ceiling, along with a colourful wall hanging. It felt very rustic. Again, the space was designed with travellers in mind, having a place to put bags and hang towels. The bad thing about this room was that the walls were VERY thin. Sometimes (well, probably most of the time) you just don't want to hear what's happening in the next room- believe me. We also happened to have a very interesting visitor in our room one night- a scorpion! It was the first time I had ever seen a scorpion, so I can check that off the list of critters I never want to see in my bedroom again. The staff were quick to assure us that these scorpions aren't poisonous and that getting stung is akin to a bee sting- so I felt a little better, but still made J check every inch of the bed before getting in and curling up arbitrarily in the corner that I thought the scorpion would like to visit least. In reality, I do realize that critters are a part of everyday life and there isn't much you could do to avoid them sneaking inside. And I know that they're more scared of you then you are of them, blah blah blah. And, in his defence Scott the Scorpion of Room A did scurry out of sight as soon as we flicked the light on never to be seen again- but still. Scott- can't you just live outside? Or in the noisy neighbour's room at least? Please.
Anyways, after your good night's sleep (neighbour and scorpion nightmares dependent) there are some great walks from Santa Cruz. We walked both directions along the shore and found great views and interesting slice of life tidbits. Left, with your back to the lake is a crazy boardwalk that leads to Hotel Isla Verde in about 10 mins. This used to be a lakeside path before Stan the Storm ruined it. You can stop in here for a drink and WiFi on their awesome patio. From there you can follow signs to the next village of Jaibilito (about 30 mins). The hike isn't very long, or particularly difficult but offers wide, unobstructed views. From Jaibilito you can keep going all the way to San Marcos (we hear this is about another 2.5 hrs). We got distracted in Jaibilito with fresh lemonade at the charming (and shockingly cheap) Posado Jaibilito and ended up just taking a boat back to Santa Cruz (Q5).
Right along the shoreline (with your back to the lake) a narrow path winds through well kept estates and coffee plants and local farmers back down to the water. Keep going and you'll come to a forested area with trees that have exposed roots wrapping around rocks, Siem Reap style. It seems out of place, but is super beautiful and the walk is an easy way to stretch your legs after an afternoon of hammock lounging at La Iguana Perdida. Just make sure you make it back for Happy Hour at 6pm!
La Iguana Perdida is also the only place on the lake that offers scuba diving. High Altitude diving, as Santa Cruz is at 1833m! I suppose a positive from the lake's rising levels is that there are now bars and houses at the bottom of the lake that you can dive to and through. Although we didn't partake in the diving, it did sound like an awesome way to spend even more time on the lake. And, with the water being 22degrees Celcius, you wouldn't even need a hood or gloves like the diving we're used to!
We just happened to be at La Iguana Perdida for Open Mike Night. A fun filled night of songs and bad jokes fueled by free shots of tequila for entertainers. Needless to say, J was in his element and all his campfire sing-a-long practicing was put to good use. If you can make it, Open Mike Night is definitely an extra good night to be staying at The Iguana. I feel like we hit the jackpot with our Lake Atitlan accommodation.. which is probably why we ended up staying on the lake a week when we had originally only scheduled a couple days.... and don't regret it at all.