Atitlan Butterfly Sanctuary

The Atitlan Butterfly Sanctuary contains in excess of thirty five different species of butterfly, and offers an ideal education center for adults and children alike in learning and understanding the life cycle of the butterfly. Located just outside of the town of Panajachel near Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, this ecological center offers a unique insight into these species of insects.

Butterfly Enclosure at Atitlan Sanctuary in Guatemala, Photo: t-dawg, Flickr
Butterfly Enclosure at Atitlan Sanctuary in Guatemala, Photo: t-dawg, Flickr

Surrounding the area of the Atitlan butterfly sanctuary is a backdrop of natural woodlands, coffee plantations and some of the lakeside beaches (some of the beaches are private, though). The actual Atitlan butterfly sanctuary is located in a nature reserve known as Reserva Natural and is based upon an old coffee plantation and processing plant, complete with an old German stone built mill, built around the mid 1800s.

The quetzal, which is Guatemala’s national bird may also be seen here, which is certainly a treat for nature lovers in viewing this splendid and colorful inhabitant, together with a number of species of monkeys and cotamundis, indigenous to the area. The nearby waterfall makes for an ideal stroll, whilst walking across hanging bridges. For a little more adventure, the local authorities have established a zip line facility, where you will be able to view the forest and vegetation canopies from above. All equipment is well maintained, with local guides, and no less than 8 different zip lines to explore this nature reserve.

Mariposa Libre Specimen at Atitlan Butterfly Sanctuary near Panajachel, Photo: t-dawg, Flickr
Mariposa Libre Specimen at Atitlan Butterfly Sanctuary near Panajachel, Photo: t-dawg, Flickr

Eco tourism within this region has taken off quite substantially and offers the nature lover a variety of choices, beyond that of the Lake Atitlan butterfly sanctuary, such as climbing one of the three volcanoes within close proximity. Although some of these climbs are quite rigorous, the views from the various vantage points of the greater lake region are well worth it. Water lovers can access the many kayaking and scuba diving options available at the lake, as well as the chance to enjoy some jet skiing.

The opportunity to explore remote reaches of the lake, or appreciate some of the wilder areas of the lake’s shores are best done so by boat tour. The boats can be hired for up to eight people, allowing for a nice cruise on the lake to whichever part you wish to go.

Additional attractions in the immediate area include the Mayan Archaeological Museum, the Los Encuentros Cultural Center, the Spanish Colonial Church and the indigenous market all within an approximate five kilometre and less radius of each other. This makes for an ideal cultural walk around the town of Panajachel. Local artists have a number their works on display within the local galleries there too, so if you want to get something unique from the region be sure to look around there.

This Way to Atitlan Butterfly Sanctuary, Photo: t-dawg, Flickr
This Way to Atitlan Butterfly Sanctuary, Photo: t-dawg, Flickr

After visiting the various natural attractions immediately surrounding Panajachel, such as the Atitlan Butterfly Sanctuary and nature reserve, there are a variety of bars and restaurants in the town that stay open quite late. Alternatively the other towns around the lake offer a more peaceful and restful experience where not much nightlife exists.

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