Lake Atitlán, Guatemala: Photos and Facts

Lake Atitlan girls up close

Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, called Lake Atitlán “the most beautiful lake in the world,” and I must say it was definitely one of the most gorgeous that I’ve ever seen.

Of course, one should judge for oneself. And meanwhile, why now learn a little bit about the mysterious lake, how it was formed and the actual people who live near it…

What: Lake Atitlán–Large, Deep and Unique

The lake is approximately 12 miles long and perhaps 10 miles across at its widest point. It is the deepest Lake in Central America, with a maximum depth of 1,115 feet., according to most sources.

It is surrounded by three volcanoes on its southern end, and the surface of Lake Atitlan is approximately 5,125 feet above sea level. It is a large “endorheic” lake, meaning that it does not flow to the sea.

Where: Southwestern Guatemala

The lake is located in the southwestern part of the country, 50 kilometers (31 miles) west-northwest of Antigua.

How/When: Volcanic Explosion Thousands of Years Ago

According to some sources, Volcanic activity began in the Lake Atitlán area about 11-12 million years ago. A large caldera, a large crater resulting from a volcanic explosion or by collapse of a volcanic cone, formed in an major eruption 84,000 years ago. The lake fills part of it of the caldera.

Who: The Maya People

The lake is surrounded by a number of small villages, inhabited by predominantly Tz’utujil and Kakchiquel, modern-day Maya, who wear traditional clothing. They’re are known for their handcrafted products, including jewelry and clothing.

I don’t know which group the girls in the photos belong to, but I know there were many indigenous people who wore similar clothing.

Lake Atitlan girls

Lake Atitlan, indigenous girls

Lake Atitlan girls up close

Lake Atitlan, indigenous girls, up close

What Else?

“Atitlan” is a Mayan word, which means “the place where the rainbow gets its colors”.

Sadly, the lake is polluted with cianobacteria, much of it from untreated sewage flowing into the lake from local communities. A sewage treatment plant, destroyed by hurricane Stan, was never rebuilt.

Environmental groups and local residents and authorities have been working on a solution. I don’t know the current status of this, however.

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

What do you think?

Been there?

Have you been to Lake Atitlán? What did you think? Where did you stay? Did you go an a shopping spree there? I did. :)

Want to go?

If you’ve never been there, would you like to go?

Which photo/s do you like most?

Which photo of the lake/volcanoes do you prefer? The color or the black/white version? Or are you more of a people person and enjoy shots of the locals? I must say–I thought the girls were so beautiful.

(Note: All photos (c) L Egle, 2012)

18 Responses to Lake Atitlán, Guatemala: Photos and Facts
  1. Jeruen
    February 10, 2012 | 10:44 am

    Funny you blogged about this. I was just in Guatemala last January. However, I did NOT go to lago de Atitlan. I only had three weeks, and there were just plenty of things to do in the country. And since I prefer the mountains to the water, I opted to go trekking and hiking instead of visiting the lake, spending more time in Nebaj and the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes mountains. Then I realized I had no time left to go visit the lake…
    Jeruen recently posted..Book Review: Death is Not an Option by Suzanne RiveccaMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      February 10, 2012 | 10:52 pm

      Hi, Jeruen. Cool that you were in Guatemala last year. Sounds like you had an awesome itinerary there! Perhaps you can see the lake next time–if you return.

  2. Sky
    February 10, 2012 | 7:32 pm

    I LOVE Lake Atitlan. We went to Panajachel last year which is right on the lake. It’s my second favorite place in Guatemala. I’m going back in March and I’m hoping it’s not cloudy like it was last year so I can see the volcanoes better – though the pictures with the clouds do look cool! This is one of the places that I’m worried about ruining by returning, as I wrote about on my blog.
    Sky recently posted..The Spanish ChallengeMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      February 10, 2012 | 10:56 pm

      Hi, Sky. You’re a fan, too? Cool. I also stayed in Panajachel when I was there–and visited some of the nearby villages. Nice and mellow place–and the shopping was wonderful. I actually bought a bunch of things, then sold them back here in NJ.

      What’s your favorite place in Guatemala, btw?

      Have fun in March!

  3. Eva
    February 17, 2012 | 5:17 pm

    I swear, I have pictures of those same 2 girls from 2 years ago! Great shots. Stayed in Pana and Jaibalito. Next trip down there I’ll probably take a week of Spanish lessons in San Pedro. An old pal from Lonely Planet Thorn Tree lives there now.

    • CB Driver
      February 17, 2012 | 8:26 pm

      Hi, Eva. The same girls? No way. That’s so cool! I loved their clothing and their faces were so beautiful! I think that would be a great place to learn Spanish. If you do it, have a wonderful time!

  4. Nora Coletti
    February 22, 2012 | 7:33 pm

    I love to see pictures of my Guatemala,and those girls are just beautiful!!!!

    • CB Driver
      February 23, 2012 | 12:14 am

      Thanks so much, Nora, for visiting the C Bus! You come from a wonderful country–one of my favorites–and I’m happy that you were happy to see the photos. The girls really were beautiful!

  5. Claire
    February 28, 2012 | 8:20 am

    Thanks for bringing back some good memories this morning! Lake Atitlan was one of my favorite parts of traveling through Guatemala a few years ago!
    Claire recently posted..Money CAN Buy Happiness, After AllMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      February 28, 2012 | 1:45 pm

      You’re welcome–glad to know that I did! Lake Atitlan is so lovely, isn’t it? I wish they could clean up the polluted lake somehow…but I guess it’s a bit complicated.

  6. Andrew & Peny Bullock
    March 8, 2012 | 12:16 pm

    Hey CB.

    We’re on the lake right now, staying in a private residence in Jaibalito. It’s quite beautiful here!!!

    So much to see, so much to eat, so much to buy! Too bad we only ave backpacks, so we can’t go crazy…(or maybe it’s a good thing?)

    Love your photos!

    A&P (@181daysaway)
    Andrew & Peny Bullock recently posted..Volcan VelocityMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      March 8, 2012 | 11:36 pm

      Hi, Andrew/Peny–That’s wonderful that you’re there now. Great! I hear you re: buying things. I had just a backpack when I was there and ended up buying a large mesh/plastic bag of sorts, which I filled with bracelets and scarves, which I later sold here in NJ. I normally wouldn’t do that because I wouldn’t want to carry it, but…the stuff was so pretty, I couldn’t help myself!

  7. James Lancaster
    April 17, 2012 | 9:27 am

    We were there 20 years ago. We took a boat to a village directly across the lake from Panajachel to one of the 12 villages (points of the cross) around the lake. Many of the village homes had black plastic bows over the door signifying a member had been recently killed by the Quatamalan army. Such sadness! The people are so beautiful. We would go back in a heartbeat to this land of beauty, volcanoes and earthquakes.

    • CB Driver
      April 18, 2012 | 9:22 am

      Hi, James. That’s intense–seeing the bows over the door like that. Wow. I agree that he people are beautiful there. Like you, I’d go back in a minute!

  8. Charu
    October 19, 2012 | 11:07 pm

    Beautiful photos and beautiful children! I do prefer the black and white photo more but then again I’m a sucker for B&Ws! Thanks for the great intro to Lake Atitlan
    Charu recently posted..A Delicious Obsession: Lessons from a Chocolate HistorianMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      October 20, 2012 | 10:33 pm

      Thanks, Charu! Those children were gorgeous… I hear you re: the B/W. I’m really into it, too!

  9. Joey
    January 1, 2013 | 12:17 pm

    A friends father resides in Panajachel there on the lake he owns and operates a Posada and a tour guide buisness, I had wanted to visit with him during the December 21st celebration of the end of the Mayan calenda, but circumstances arose that impeded my visit and desire to experience the end of the Mayan calendar in Mayan land,,Easter 2013 might be the time for Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan and I to finally become acquainted.

    • CB Driver
      January 1, 2013 | 12:42 pm

      Hi there. How cool to have a contact there at the lake. That would make a visit even better, I’m sure. I hope you can make it; Easter sounds perfect! :)

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