Uno de mis pasatiempos es el senderismo (One of my hobbies is hiking). I’ve planned many travels around hiking, including some epic trips in Latin America such as trekking in Patagonia and doing the jungle trek to Machu Picchu. Recently, I went on the 3-day trek from Xela to Lago de Atitlan in Guatemala with the amazing Quetzal Trekkers organization. In this post I’ll introduce them and what they do and share some information about the trek, which was an incredible experience.
Get to Know Quetzal Trekkers
Quetzal Trekkers is a non-profit organization that runs trips in Guatemala and Nicaragua. When you trek with them, 100% of the proceeds go to Escuela de la Calle (School of the Street), an organization that provides education, housing, and social support to disadvantaged children in the city of Xela.
The organization was founded after the civil conflict in Guatemala that came to an end in the mid 1990s. As a result of the devastating years of conflict, thousands of children were living on the streets in the city of Xela. This led a group of two Guatemalans and one Brit to found the school in order to provide these children with an education.
They tried several different methods to raise money for the school, including selling cakes and opening a bar, but they eventually settled on leading treks in the area. Since 1995, they have managed to raise nearly $1.5 million for the school. I should mention that the organization is almost entirely volunteer-run.
Trekking from Xela to Lake Atitlan
Quetzal Trekkers runs several different trips, but their most popular one is the 3-day trek from Xela to Lago de Atitlan. This difficult yet rewarding trek covers 45 km, starting in the outskirts of the city and ending at San Pedro de la Laguna.
Here’s a description of the hike from their website, first in Spanish and then in English:
Camina por tres días a través de bosques nubosos, siembras de maíz, fincas de café y pueblos pequeños para luego ver la increíble salida del sol en el famoso Lago de Atitlán.
Durante la travesía pasaremos dos noches en pequeños pueblos de Guatemala. En uno de ellos tendremos la oportunidad de disfrutar del Temazcal – una sauna Maya natural – y relajarse al lado de una fogata en un ambiente hogareño al lado de nuevos amigos.
En el tercer día nos levantaremos temprano y después de un corto caminar presenciaremos la salida del sol en el Lago desde el Mirador mientras disfrutamos del desayuno. Después de la salida del sol descenderemos por la montaña hasta llegar a una finca de café en San Juan la Laguna donde disfrutaremos de una taza de café en la Cooperativa de Café La Voz.
Desde ahí nos transportaremos en pick up hasta San Pedro la Laguna donde nadaremos, almorzaremos y esperaremos por nuestras mochilas en el restaurante El Fondeadero a la orilla del lago, antes de despedirnos con lágrimas.
Walk for three days through cloud forests, corn crops, coffee farms and small towns and then see the incredible sunrise on the famous Lake Atitlan.
During the crossing we will spend two nights in small towns in Guatemala. In one of them we will have the opportunity to enjoy Temazcal – a natural Mayan sauna – and relax next to a bonfire in a homely atmosphere next to new friends.
On the third day we will wake up early and after a short walk we will witness the sunrise on the Lake from the Mirador while enjoying breakfast. After sunrise we will descend through the mountain until we reach a coffee farm in San Juan la Laguna where we will enjoy a cup of coffee at the La Voz Coffee Cooperative.
From there we will take a pick up to San Pedro la Laguna where we will swim, have lunch and wait for our backpacks at the El Fondeadero restaurant on the shore of the lake, before saying goodbye with tears.
Trekking to Lake Atitlan from Xela was an unforgettable experience. We had some amazing guides leading our group, which by the way was a pretty great one. Several different countries were represented in our group and we all clicked from the get-go.
It was no walk in the park, though, that’s for sure. Our bags were quite heavy and we walked 20 km on each of the first two days. It poured rain on us for a bit on the first day and we slept on floors with nothing but thin mats. Roughing it was definitely worth it for the unbelievable views we got along the way.
Beyond the natural beauty of the area, we got to experience the warmth of the Guatemalan people. This trek goes through remote areas that are inhabited mostly by indigenous people. From the Super Helados guy who sold us some refreshing ice cream, to the curious local kids who gathered around to watch me flew my drone, we met lots of friendly people on our way to the lake.
While I could ramble on and on about how epic the 3-day trek was, I’d rather just show you a video! Here’s a highlight reel from all three days of the trek:
If you’re interested in signing up for a trek, volunteering as a guide, or just making a donation to help out, head over to Quetzal Trekkers. I highly recommend joining a trip with them if you’re planning to travel to Central America.