Travel by a gradually-ascending road to Lake Atitlán. The landscapes in the highlands west of Antigua are dominated by watchful volcanoes and compact, busy farming villages.
Stop off en route at Chichicastenango (2 hours). This chilly mountain town, which has a decidedly mystical air, is where the symbols and practices of overt Catholicism sit side by side or even amalgamate with esoteric Mayan religious ceremonies, centred around the simple, whitewashed façade of the church. Here there is a vast, bustling market, and you can wander the labyrinthine streets lined with textiles, clothes and tapestries of striking colour and extraordinary intricacy, as well as extravagant hand-carved masks and good-quality leather goods. Local farmers also bring an array of fruit and vegetables from the surrounding villages, which they both barter and sell.
Later in the day continue onto Lake Atitlán (1 hour), one of the most captivating in the world, its beauty eulogised by poets and travellers. On a sunny day, the closely forested volcanic cones are reflected in cobalt waters. Traditional villages and indigenous agricultural settlements skirt its fertile shores, each with its own character and identity, its own dialect and often a unique costume still worn by the proud inhabitants.