Across the lake in San Lucas Toliman, where coffee fields cover the volcanic hillside and some of the poorest Mayan families live in one-room adobe houses with open fires, the Rev. Jorge Santizo and his family run the Pentecostal Spring of Hope Mission.
Santizo recruits volunteers from North America to help at the medical clinic and build school facilities. He knows his country has an image problem, but everything isn't always as it seems.
"Guatemala has everything: jungles, rain forests, deserts and beaches, but no matter how good we do, we look bad," said Santizo.
Keeping tourists safe is critical to the success of his religious mission: 85 percent of all financial support comes from the United States.
Each summer Santizo drives busloads of Americans -- including youth groups -- to help at his mission. The pastor likes to have fun with the jittery teens and plays up the mystical nature of the country.
Even Santizo can't explain the phenomenon, but on one desolate road called El Paso Misterioso he stops the van going down an incline and puts the shift in neutral. The van mysteriously rolls backward up the hill.
Like Guatemala, the demonstration may be an optical illusion, as the late-day sun descends on a lush field of fruit trees, says Santizo, "but they love it."