Lake Atitlan is surrounded by a dozen or so small villages, each with its own distinctive feel. Although most remain fairly quiet, tourism is becoming more of a significant presence in almost all of them. Four of the most authentic and laid back villages, which attract fewer visitors than the larger villages of San Pedro and Panajachel, are Santiago, San Juan la Laguna, St. Catarina Palopa and San Antonio Palopa.
Fishing, farming and canoe building are the primary livelihoods in many of these villages, and they are well worth seeing for some of the last bastions of traditional Mayan life, where few speak Spanish yet. At the villages off the beaten track, you can see villagers still participating in rituals and sacred traditions as well as artisans who specialise in painting, woodwork and weaving textiles.

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