Things to Do in Santiago
Known for hosting the biggest Semana Santa festivities at Lake Aiitlan (see Semana Santa in Santiago), Santiago offers numerous reasons to visit the town and nearby places such as San Lucas.
Strolling around town and seeing the locals in tipico clothing and the bustling market in el centro is like visiting another world. (The big market day is Friday.) The cathedra’ls intricately carved altar and statue of St. James and other religious effigies, is a must-see.
For those who want to learn more about local culture and history, take a walking tour of the town with Dolores Ratzan, who speaks English and Spanish (5730-4579). Horseback tours take you to remote sites perfect for a picnic. One winds up high on a ridge from which the Pacific can be seen.
In addition to the well-known Cerro del Oro and Chuitinamit, there are many sacred sites in the area. Rey Tepepul, named for a Tzu’tujil Maya ruler, was added to the list of 40 such sites around the world in March.
Now open to the public, Rey Tepepul is about a four-mile hike and has an astounding view of the lake and three volcanoes. A guide is recommended. Guides for this site and other local tours can be found at Posada Santiago, the town’s leading hotel.
Artisans, Artists, Weaving
The work of Maya artisans is found everywhere in Guatemala, but each town has a specialty. Here it’s hand-carved wooden animals, marine life and other subjects, so Santiago is the place to shop for these items.
Paintings of local artists is displayed in several galleries near the dock. You can also take backstrap weaving and Spanish lessons.
Cafe Quila's, near the docks, is the town's top nightspot, with movies, Tex Mex food and occasional poker games. It's an upscale cocktail bar with unusual drinks and bar food with a twist.
To arrange tours, see Posada Santiago.