Lake Atitlán Guatemala is in the Guatemalan highlands. At 1,200 feet, Lake Atitlán is deepest lake in Central America. It is the second largest lake in Guatemala.
Lake Atitlán fills an ancient caldera that resulted from a major eruption almost two million years ago. Several rivers empty into the lake, which has no outlets aboveground. Water seeps into channels on one side, and these lead to underground rivers. The altitude of Lake Atitlán is one mile.
Lake Atitlán is four hours by bus or shuttle from Guatemala City and La Antigua, three hours from Xela. Helicopters can land near Panajachel and in Santiago.
Towns and Villages of Lake Atitlán
The major towns and villages are Santiago, San Pedro la Laguna, San Marcos la Laguna and Panajachel, though twice that number of smaller communities, such as Santa Cruz, surround this stunningly beautiful body of water.
The population consists mainly of either Tz’utujil or Kaqchikel Maya, with a small ex-pat community in several towns. Spanish and various forms of Maya are the main languages, though some English is spoken. Most Maya women continue to wear traditional clothing, though not the men.
The Lake Atitlán Economy
Tourism and coffee are the chief industries. After coffee, the main crops are corn, tomatoes and onions, though many other vegetables and fruits are grown here.
Three impressive volcanoes are a key tourist attraction. These are Volcan San Pedro, Volcan Atitlán and Volcan Toliman. None are currently active. Budget lodging attracts the backpacker crowd, though the real tourists stay in Panajachel or Santiago. Spanish-language schools are much less expensive than those in Antigua or Xela (also called Quetzaltenango).
Several modest archaeological sites are found here. These include Chuitinamit (which was founded by Itza Maya), five pyramids near Panajachel that have not been excavated, and an underwater ceremonial site called Samabaj. A museum in Panajachel exhibits some of the ceramics found there. There are no scheduled tours to any of these sites.