Lake Atitlán is located in the Guatemalan Highlands in the south-west region of Guatemala, only 45 miles from Guatemala City. The trip, however, can take at least two hours on local highways, which ascend through foothills and mountains to the caldera lake whose three dormant volcanoes rise majestically up to 10,000 feet above sea level. The lake is over 11 miles long, 5 miles wide and 1115 ft deep (one of the deepest in the world). It was considered by Aldous Huxley “the most beautiful in the world.” About a dozen villages around the lake provide a vast diversity of culture, most of them catering to tourist needs while maintaining their heritage of Mayan and Spanish culture. The village of Jaibalito is a short boat ride from the larger town of Panajachel, where most people arrive from Guatemala City. With an estimated population of 600 inhabitants, mostly of Mayan descent, Jaibalito is nestled between two promontories overlooking the lake and is rich with banana trees, coffee plants and avocadoes.
Arrival in Guatemala & travel to Atitlán
The Painting Expedition provides free bus transportation from Guatemala City Airport on February 2nd, leaving from the parking lot outside luggage pickup at 3:30 pm. A driver or guide will hold an identifying sign for arriving participants. Arrivals on other days or after the bus departure must find other options for reaching Lake Atitlán and Jaibalito village. Organizers can make recommendations – contact Terje Maeland (firstname.lastname@example.org) for alternative suggestions.
Painting facilitator Mat Barber Kennedy asks that all Expedition participants bring the following items with them. He is happy to respond to any questions about these materials and possible replacements – email him at: email@example.com.
Pencils - HB & 2B
Watercolours - in tubes or ½ pans (called cakes in the USA)
The vast majority of visitors to Guatemala come home from their travels with stories of how generous and friendly local residents are, especially in the Highlands. On the other hand, Guatemala is an economically and politically challenged country, and like most countries in these conditions, there are risks for visitors. For the US government’s official precautions on travel to Guatemala, visit: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1129.html. We recommend that you review these precautions and any advisories for other countries of destination to be knowledgeable about your travel risks.
Very few tourists in the Guatemalan Highlands who exercise common sense and travel with their groups have negative experiences. For the Painting Expedition, all group travel will be accompanied by knowledgeable and experienced guides. At no time will Expedition participants be required to travel alone or without the assistance of Expedition staff.
The CDC provides recommendations for vaccinations and medications on their website at: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/destinationGuatemala.aspx. The International Society of Travel Medicine has an extensive list of private travel clinics that specialize in providing vaccinations and other medical advice for tourists: https://www.istm.org/.
The Guatemalan Highlands present far fewer health risks to travelers than the more tropical regions of the country. For instance, the CDC indicates that malaria presents itself in “rural areas only at altitudes below 1,500 m (<4,921 ft). No risk in Guatemala City, Antigua or Lake Atitlán.”