Santa Catarina Palopó is a small town located on the shores of Lake Atitlán, southeast of Panajachel by about three miles. The village is also close to neighboring San Antonio Palopó. These three villages are all connected by one road.
Less than 1,500 people live in Santa Catarina Palopó. The majority of its residents are indigenous people whose ancestry can be traced back to the Cakchiquel Maya. The main language of the residents is Cakchiquel, but most of them also speak Spanish. The families in this village depend on subsistence agriculture (mainly the growing of corn) and tourism for survival. Many of the women also weave textiles that are then sold throughout Lake Atitlán to tourists. Particularly reputed are Santa Catarina Palopó’s huipiles, corte skirts, faja belts, and doll clothes.
The portrait of Santa Catarina Palopó is very picturesque; you’ll see make-shift homes that are resided by the villagers while across from these ramshackles are luxury villas owned by the wealthy vacationers. And a stroll down the cobbled streets will ensure a glimpse of the local women walking around in their traditional blue and green huipiles. These dresses have been worn since the Spanish colonial days, but the women used to wear red huipiles exclusively. Interestingly, when an influx of tourists came during the 1960s requesting for blue and green huipiles, the new colors were adored and embraced virally by the local women such that few wear red anymore. In fact, many of the huipiles worn today even have embroidered images of different animals and plants.
In terms of attractions, Santa Catarina Palopó offers incredible views of the three volcanoes, Volcán San Pedro, Volcán Tolimán, and Volcán Atitlán, which dominate Lake Atitlán’s horizon. You’ll also find a series of natural hot springs in various parts of the lake around Santa Catarina that are soothing and health-endearing. The streets are also lined with market stands and stalls, selling different souvenirs and handicraft goods.