Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

Otherwise known as Laguna de Aitlan, Lake Atitlan is a volcanic lake situated in the highlands of Guatemala. So far as tourism infrastructure and access are concerned, the Lake Atitlan area is well developed. There are a number of towns and villages that surround the Lake Atitlan, the most popular being that of Panajachel, which is also recommended as the easiest and most accessible entry point into the region. Lake Atitlan has formed in the crater of a volcano, also known as an endorheic lake.

Panoramic View of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala Taken from Tzam Poc Hotel in Santa Catarina Polopo, Photo: Emilio Piovesan, Wikipedia
Panoramic View of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala Taken from Tzam Poc Hotel in Santa Catarina Polopo, Photo: Emilio Piovesan, Wikipedia

This region is predominantly inhabited by Cachikel Mayans, and offers the visitor a glimpse into the centuries old Mayan traditions and culture. The name of Lake Atitlan is obtained from the Mayan language and means “the place where the rainbow gets its colors”. The villages surrounding the lake offer a hospitable, albeit shy people that will host you in this environment.

Lake Aitilan has never been completely and thoroughly sounded, in terms of measuring the true depth of the entire lake. Some estimates of the depth are at around 340m deep. Activities range from hiking around the lake, which is possible via the lakeside path, whilst the water sport enthusiast can enjoy the kayaking, jet skiing and boating experiences of Lake Atitlan.

Hotel Atitlan Swimming Pool with Lake Atitlan in the Background, Photo: Abe K, Flickr
Hotel Atitlan Swimming Pool with Lake Atitlan in the Background, Photo: Abe K, Flickr

The three supporting volcanoes, offer the climbing and hiking type a great opportunity to hike and climb to a variety of points on these slopes, the volcanoes are named Atitlan, Toliman and San Pedro, with the latter being the oldest of the three. San Pedro is also said to be the best for climbing and hiking, and one can climb or hike these slopes by themselves or with a guide.

In so far as nightlife is concerned, the best locale would be Panajachel, which has several bars that operate into the late hours, however the remainder of the area is more suited for a serene and relaxing experience.

Considered One of the Most Beautiful Lakes in the World - Lake Atitlan in Panajachel, Guatemala, Photo: 5imon, Flickr
Considered One of the Most Beautiful Lakes in the World - Lake Atitlan in Panajachel, Guatemala, Photo: 5imon, Flickr

Accommodation around Lake Atitlan varies, and has a number of backpacker options, as well as a couple of higher end luxury options. Although Panajachel is one of the most popular places to stay, other towns include that of Santa Cruz de Laguna. This locale offers one the opportunity to dive in the lake, with equipment rental available. Although the area is best suited for walking and enjoying the natural scenery and beauty, the lake front spa facilities are a superb way to revitalize the mind and body.

The nearby Lake Atitlan nature reserve will offer the opportunity to spot the well known Quetzel, which is Guatemala’s national bird, as well as the variety of fauna and flora native to the region. A more cultural approach to the region will enable one to view the ancient ruins at Iximche, Panajachel. These ruins were the capital of the Cachikel Maya kingdom, during the 15th and 16th centuries.

Cross in Santa Catarine Palopo Overlooking Lake Atitlan, Photo: auntjojo, Flickr
Cross in Santa Catarine Palopo Overlooking Lake Atitlan, Photo: auntjojo, Flickr

The transport around Lake Atitlan that is accessible includes buses and taxis, with the former running as per their schedules. Whilst transport on the lake itself is normally via informal boat taxis that are available for hire.

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