Destinations in Guatemala:

Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is one of Guatemala's top tourist destinations and most visitors agree with Aldous Huxley, who called it the most beautiful lake in the world.

Located in the department of Solola in the Guatemalan highlands, Lake Atitlan is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, which make for a magnificent background and highlight the lake's beauty. The forests around the lake are also one of the last habitats of the Quetzal, Guatemala's national bird.

Lake Atitlan is of volcanic origin. It was formed approximately 85,000 years ago in a tremendous eruption that ejected more than 300 cubic kilometers of lava and ashes into the atmosphere (by comparison, during the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, about 1.2 cubic kilometers of material were ejected).

Ashes from this eruption can be found in places as far away as Florida and Ecuador. The eruption left a large caldera that later filled with water and became what is now Lake Atitlan.

Afterwards, the volcanic activity continued and three volcanoes built up on the southern rim of the caldera:

  • San Pedro is the oldest of the three volcanoes and has been extinct for about 40,000 years. It is 3,020 m (9,900 ft) high.
  • Toliman began erupting soon after San Pedro became extinct. Although it has not erupted in historic times, geologists are still debating whether it is extinct or dormant. Toliman is 3,158 m (10,360 ft) high.
  • Atitlan is the youngest and at 3,535 m (11,600 ft) also the highest of the three volcanoes. It has built up almost entirely in the last 10,000 years. Atitlan last erupted in 1853 and is considered active, although there is very little activity at this time.

The economic center of the Lake Atitlan area is Panajachel, a town of about 14,000 on the northern shore of the lake. Most hotels and tourist facilities are located there. While Panajachel has become quite commercial, Mayan culture and traditions are still prevalent in the other towns around the lake, which are easy to reach by boat from Panajachel.

Tours including a visit to Lake Atitlan:

Tours from Antigua Guatemala to Lake Atitlan & Chichicastenango (2 days & 1 night)
Visit the most beautiful lake in the world and the largest outdoor market in Central America.
Guatemala by Land and River (10 days)
Spend four days sailing the Rio Dulce on our sailboat Las Sirenas, then continue to Tikal, Chichicastenango, Lake Atitlan and Antigua.
Maya Guatemala (14 days)
The grand tour of Guatemala! Visit Antigua, Chichicastenango, Lake Atitlan, Tikal, Copan (Honduras), Livingston, Coban, and climb the Pacaya Volcano.
Maya Guatemala and "The Caribbean Experience" (21 days)
The grand tour of Guatemala plus seven relaxing days on our sailboat Las Sirenas to the Belize Barrier Reef and Islands.
More tour packages ...