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This department is located in the west part of the country. It is notable for its traditions and indigenous folklore. This is the land of the Tzutuhil, Quiche and Cackchiquel peoples, all of which are direct Mayan descendants. Solola is the capital city of the department and is located 135 kilometers (ca. 85 miles) from Guatemala City.

The origin of Solola is described in the annals of the Cackchiquel people, or the Solola Memorials, a chronicle written by the end of the 16th century that describes the history of the Cakchiquel people, before and after the Spanish conquest -.Solola was founded in 1541, the same year its Cathedral was built, when the inhabitants of an ancient place bearing the same name moved to the Lake Atitlan basin. The new town became to be known as Tecpan Atitlan, until the catholic friars christened the place as Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion de Solola.

Since very early on Tuesdays and Fridays, the small boats and canoes loaded with local Indians arrive in Panajachel, with all sorts of products from the neighboring villages of the lake. From here, they start their journey uphill until they reach Sololá in order to sell their products at the plaza market. Products from the highlands and lowlands are traded here.

During its main fair days – from August 7th to the 17th – one can see a rich ensemble of folklore and tradition, during the so-called “Nim-Akij Sololá”, which means “Big Day of Sololá”.

Today, Sololá is still one of the few villages from the highlands where people proudly wear their traditional clothes, which, depending on the fabrics and threads used, as well as the amount of embroidered motives, portray the social and economic status position of the civil and religious hierarchies. Women wear the traditional huipil with red stripes, the dark-blue corte (skirt) with embroidered stripes of many colors, a waist band and the Tzute or shawl. Men wear a white shirt and a wool jacket with a bat embroidered on the back – the symbol of the last Cackchiquel dynasty – with striped trousers with black wool over pants, waistband, apron and tzute, black felt or straw hat, wool shoulder bag (moral) and leather sandals.

Places to visit in Solola:

Lake Atitlán

Please visit our cities information section regarding Atitlan Lake for more details.


Its whole name is really San Francisco Panajachel. It is a pre-Columbine small town of Cackchiquel origin, settled next to the river of the same name and on the lakeside of Lake Atitlán. It witnessed the final battle between Spaniards – and their Cackchiquel allies – and the Tzutuhil people. It also was the settlement point for many Franciscan missionaries who founded a convent.

Currently, this town is located between large coffee plantations, gardens and vegetable orchards. It is the most important center of disco clubs, recreational areas and commercial stores. It is great for doing some handicraft shopping. Several boats depart from the docks of Panajachel bound for Santiago Atitlán, San Pedro la Laguna, and San Lucas Tolimán. Its local fair is celebrated from October 1st to the 7th honoring its patron saint, San Francisco of Assisi.

There is an information and tourist assistance office in Panajachel, part of INGUAT. Those who enjoy long strolls will find ample roads and streets to do so, as well as taking a horseback ride or a bicycle ride. A local guide can be hired to climb the San Pedro volcano.

West of Panajachel, at the San Buenaventura valley – historical site at the lake basin – is a local natural wildlife reserve of 300 acres (120 hectares) and one butterfly reserve. The forest has many trails and an organic coffee plantation.

Santa Catarina Palopó

4 kms east of Panajachel lays the small and colorful village of Santa Catarina, of Cackchiquel origin, and which can be reached by an unpaved road or by water.

Women are expert weavers and wear one of the most colorful typical clothes of the highlands. It is made up of three pieces that are manufactured using the waist loom, whose origin dates back to pre-Hispanic times. The whole dress presents several fascinating and colorful geometric figures. The male clothes, especially the trousers, have compact and colorful brocade that repeats itself throughout the whole design, also represented in the female huipil (blouse).

Unlike the rest of the people who live on the lake basin and who avoid its waters for making a living, males from this village fish black bass and crabs that are later sold on the market. These people also manufacture baskets and other containers with the wicker fiber that grow on the lakeside.

San Antonio Palopó

9 kms from Panajachel (6 mi.) on the base of a mountain, is San Antonio Palopó, which can be reached by an unpaved road or by boat. It is a Cackchiquel village with agriculture as its main activity. They grow onions and anise, as well as manufacture products made from the fibers of the maguey agaves and tul carpets.

Men wear a red-striped shirt and a kind of brown plaid skirt. Women wear a red-and-white-striped huipil and a navy-blue corte (skirt). Women use the traditional waist loom to weave, whereas men use the standing loom, which was introduced by the Spaniards during the colonial period.

San Andres Semtabaj

Located 7 km. From Panajachel, next to the road that leads to Godínez. At the main plaza you are able to see the ruins of a beautiful colonial church.

San Lucas Tolimán

This village is named after the Tolimán volcano, and is located at its, base. It has the most active commerce of all the lakeside villages, and is the center of an important coffee-growing zone. It is also the gateway to the Pacific. Market days are on Thursdays and Sundays.

Santiago Atitlán

Located south of Panajachel, on the opposite side of the lake. It is settled on an irregular terrain of cool lava ground, next to the Tolimán (3,158 meters) and Atitlán (3,537 meters) volcanoes, next to Santiago Bay, and in front of the San Pedro (3,020 meters) volcano. A few kilometers away you will find the King Tepepul mirador, which serves as an access point to the quetzal bird reservation. From here you can enjoy a view of the highlands and the plains of the Pacific coast.

The village of Santiago still keeps its personality and traditional culture, in spite of the changes suffered by the community given its contract with the outer world. The local language or tongue spoken is the Tzutuhil, which belongs to the linguistic Mayan family of tongues.

These people dress up in their regional clothes. Men wear a white knee-high short pair of pants with purple stripes which is fastened with a long waistband, and a long-sleeve shirt. Women wear beautiful white wool huipiles (blouses) with vertical red and purple stripes; these have geometrical designs of birds embroidered onto the fabric. The cortes (or skirts) are a long piece of fabric rolled around the body, with colorful motifs, and a multicolored band of fabric called “tocoyal” measuring 20 meters long that is rolled around the head, simulating a radiant sun.

A great number of people who live in Santiago Atitlán practice a form of popular Mayan Catholicism, locally named “La costumbre” (The custom). This religion is a mixture between medieval Catholicism introduced by the Spaniards during the XVI century and the pre-Hispanic Mayan people.

La Costumbre has its public and private moments. Its public expressions can be seen during the religious rituals of the village, such as processions and traditional dances. On the other hand, when it comes to the private side of the religion, the Costumbre is imprinted into the individual since his birth until his death. The sajorines or Mayan priests are the ones in charge of guiding their community ensuring that the public rituals be preserved. Lasting of the ancient Maya-Tzutuhil culture depends on them and on their deep knowledge of cosmology and wisdom.

When you visit this village, we suggest that you also visit some of the cofradías in town, especially the Santa Cruz cofradía, where Maximón is worshipped amidst Christmas lights, copal resin mist, incense smoke and candles, and under the watchful eyes of 5 members of the brotherhood. You will see how pilgrims pray and make flower offerings to the pagan saint, as well as beer, alcohol, fruits, tobacco and money. This character is the confluence of an ancient Mayan god, Judas Iscariote and Saint Simon. The people of Santiago Atitlán call him Don Pedro de Alvarado or simply “old man”. We suggest that you contact a local guide so he explains the meaning of the rituals, as well as how your demeanor should be. Another interesting landmark of the site is the Santiago Apóstol Church, built in 1547. This church is full of saints dressed in the community’s traditional clothes. You will be able to see that the pulpit has pagan depicting Yun Kax, god of corn. The town’s fair in honor of the patron saint Santiago Apóstol is observed on July 25th, when you can watch them perform the Dance of the Conquest and the procession with the effigy of said patron saint. Another important festivity is performed during Eastern Week, with activities such as the cult of Maximón, from Wednesday to Good Friday at the chapel, which lies next to the convent. A reenactment of the Passion of Christ takes place on Good Thursday; The Nazarene Jesus procession takes place in the morning of Good Friday, and the one of the Holy Burial in the afternoon.

San Pedro la Laguna

This village is of Cackchiquel origin and is located at the base of the San Pedro volcano. The corn plantations reach up to the lakefront from the outskirts of the village. This is the starting point for climbing the San Pedro volcano, for which we recommend your hire a local guide. One of its major attractions is the Chuazamahi beachhead, an ideal site for water sports.

San Juan la Laguna

This village is of Cackchiquel origin and its inhabitants are mainly fishermen and farmers, as well as textile manufacturers. From this point, you can take a trail that leads to Santa Clara la Laguna and Santa María Visitación. The unpaved road that runs along the lakefront passes through a beach called “Las Cristalinas”, which is a nice place to take a swim.

Santa Clara la Laguna

Its inhabitants are of Cackchiquel origin, and make a living by manufacturing baskets, typical cotton handicrafts and planting vegetables. You can get a magnificent view of the lake from here.

San Pablo la Laguna

This village is of Cackchiquel origin. The surrounding landscape is predominantly maguey agaves, whose fiber is used for manufacturing ropes, netting material and hammocks. Women weave woolen bags which thy later sell on the market. These people also work in agriculture. A small trail leads from the lakefront uphill, passing through terraces with onion orchards.

San Marcos la Laguna

This village is of Cackchiquel origin. Its people are basically farmers. They harvest corn, tomatoes, hog plums and citric fruits. They also weave tul fiber carpets (petates) and make ropes out of the maguey agaves fibers. The lake is an abundant source of fish.

Santa Cruz la Laguna

Small cackchiquel village. Its amazing colonial church, which dates back to the XVI Century, is surrounded by antique houses and is something worth seeing. Its people live out of farming and fishing, for which they make their own canoes (Cayucos). The red huipil that women wear is one of the most colorful of the area.

Boat Routes from Panajachel to surrounding Villages

View Lake Atitlan in a larger map

Panoramic View of Lake Atitlan

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