The best way to get to know any place is to investigate the fabric of its existence, that which weaves it all together.

I did just that when I visited San Juan La Laguna on the shores of Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan. You’ve likely not heard of this quaint little village as it’s far off the tourist’s beaten track. But it’s well worth the hour boat ride from Panajachel to get there.

My destination on this day in San Juan La Laguna was a grassroots weaver’s cooperative called LEMA. This association consists of approximately 25 village women who dye their cottons naturally using plant materials and employ only the most traditional weaving methods. Magicians of sorts, these women also transform old sweaters into incredibly beautiful scarves, shawls and rugs. It’s hardly all serious work though. These women have a lot of fun on the job. In fact, just looking at all of their smiles, you can tell they are in love with their work. And as beautiful as the women’s designs are, it’s the women’s sheer energy that got me all wound up. Literally.

I found San Juan La Laguna to be a rare kind of village. Art, joy and beauty really are the fabrics of everything in this town. Beautiful murals adorn the walls of the town’s proudly clean streets and art galleries are as common as cafes. Happiness radiates here from from every last smile.

I stocked up early for the holiday season for under $100.

It’s not exactly the easiest place to get to but if you have the time, it’s certainly well worth the effort.