Ayarza Lagoon

When we arranged the visit to the Ayarza Lagoon, I was not impressed until I saw some photos online. But going there I was tortured by the disgusting local unpaved roads that you should always go through to see something beautiful. That’s how it is in Guatemala: it is worth taking some sacrifices for beauty. And buying two or three sets of tires can be handy.

Laguna Ayarza | Guatexplorer

Some 70 miles southeast of the Guatemalan metropolis Laguna de Ayarza lies still. It was initially a double volcano with a larger and smaller crater, and before some 20,000 years that double barrel decided to explode, cover all the area with a volcanic dust and became a lake in the end. Of course, the life of this natural beauty has continued and today it is quite pleasant to travel to these parts of Guatemala. But not many tourists decide to do it.

The highway leads us first to Barberena, we then turn left and through Santa Rosa we have to find the road to Jalapa. To be precise, the route is Santa Rosa de Lima - Nueva Santa Rosa - Casillas. The landscape is very pleasant in the areas where coffee, corn and all kinds of vegetables are grown, most often the tomato that is obviously flooding the market from here. In the end, we come to the town of San Rafael las Flores, place that completely deserves the second part of the name (St. Raphael I did not meet personally, must be a nice guy). Flowers are everywhere. From playful bougainvillea and a variety of flowering trees to wild rather yellow margaritas that are literally everywhere along the road.

We barely found a turn for the lagoon, which, of course, does not have any sign at all. That is a common problem in Guatemala. My opinion is that all of those nice places are a military secret at the same time, so it is not wise to disclose that kind of information to a foreigner. Or, another Guatemalan trick: you find a sign, but then you are lost because there is no next sign. The GPS navigator for Guatemala does exist, but I mostly use the ATP system. Ask the peasant.

Now comes that rough unpaved part I was complaining about. Some 5 miles of rough road takes you up, then through some canyon, and finally to the shores of Ayarza. There was also some traffic, mostly local vans that connect numerous villages with San Rafael. Not far from the Lagoon is a silver mine run by the Canadians.

The lake is in a crater whose rocks rise from 15 to 700 feet above the water surface, and the whole thing is some 4200 feet above the sea level. Beautiful is the turquoise color of that lake, although every local will tell you not to drink this water. Even swimming is a bit of a hazard, they say. Part of the lake's color is because of the flowering of algae, which is again an ecological problem for itself. The depth of the water goes to 700 ft. in the deepest place, and presence of the fish makes this swimming doubts obsolete. There are fishermen who are, in their traditional boats that resemble those on Atitlan lake, throwing fine and thin nets to increase nutrition the f their families.

There are plenty of chalets, houses for leisure on the shores of the lake, usually each one in its seclusion in one of the numerous bays and only accessible by boat. So Lake Ayarza is a kind of a tourist juniper with its beautiful 14 square miles of the surface. But it is obvious that there are no development plans, ideas, suggestions, promotion. Lake is kept a secret.

If you talk to a local, he will tell you that they are very proud that their coffee, grown on the slopes around this lake, was chosen by Starbucks to be served to coffee freaks around the world. So, here in the middle of nowhere on this innocent Lagoon, we are talking about a global business? Crazy.

The town of San Rafael de Flores is nothing special. The central square of this deeply provincial place consists of a bunch of shops, a small market, and a huge church. In fact, if the church is to be judged by its construction, it is the most successful business in the area, and the local pastor is probably the lucky bastard who has hit his ax in the honey. Peace and money. The population consists of farmers, miners, housewives and a lot of children, which will certainly not see an increase in the standard of their living during their lifetime.

So, if you are into peaceful holidays, silence and tranquility, this is a place for you. It is also a nice place to bring friends, spend here a day or two and really enjoy the landscape, the seclusion, the lack of brawl. As clouds float quickly in the sky the image of this lake changes rapidly, even during a very short period of time. Look, one side of the lake has a rain while the other part is bathing in the sun. Ayarza Lagoon, like our human life.

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Ayarza Lagoon

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