Lake Atitlán, one of the most beautiful lakes in the world!
Lake Atitlan is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world! With the most spectacular views of the lake and surrounding volcanoes, today it is inhabited by the Maya Kakchikel, K’iche’ and Tz’utujil.
Volcanic activity began 11 million years ago with the most recent about 1.8 million years ago forming of the present caldera that the lake fills part of today. It is up to 2,000 feet deep! The caldera-forming eruption, known as Los Chocoyos, dispersed ash over 2,300,00 sq. miles – as far as Florida and Ecuador! The lake basin is volcanic in origin formed by an eruption 84,000 years ago. Continuing volcanic activity formed three volcanoes in the caldera: Volcano Atitlan, San Pedro and Toliman. Volcano Atitlan was formed during the last 10,000 years and is active with the most recent eruption in 1853.
The archeological site of Sambaj was discovered 55 feet below the lake level. It has a connection to the Popol Vuj (ancient history of the Maya) and recently featured by National Geographic. Dating from the pre-classic period, it is of interest to be included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. The pre-classic site of Chiutinamit dates back to 250 A.D. and has provided fascinating ceramic on display at the Museo Lacustre in Panajachel.
Lake Atitlan’s beauty includes the Maya culture which dates back 6,000 years. Towns were formed after the Spanish conquest in 1524 and each has a traditional Maya hand woven dress. Santiago Atitlan is well worth a visit to see the Maya spiritual guide worship of Maximon in one of the brotherhood’s houses while artisans and artists dot the lake towns with galleries and shops. San Juan La Laguna is a favorite and check out the fabulous project “Pintando Santa Catarina Palopo”.
With no great roads around the lake, a boat ride is a must for your visit. Antigua Tours offers day trips from Antigua and guided lake boat rides to the main villages to get a flavor of the area! Boat travel is best in the morning before the Xocomil winds pick up in the afternoon making the lake waters choppy. Lake Atitlan is truly a magical place to visit.