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World Class Lake; Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala

Do you know Alodous Huxley?

The guy who wrote Brave New World?

Anyways… Huxley worked with words, but he also traveled extensively (and published several fine travel books, including Along The Road: Notes and Essays of a Tourist) and… he said that Lago de Atitlán was… without a doubt… the “most beautiful lake in the world.”

A bold statement, indeed. But once you set eyes on this, it’s hard to deny Lago de Atitlán’s appeal… 

Sure is pretty, isn’t it?

Not only is Lago de Atitlán itself gorgeous by any measure, its beauty is magnified by several volcanoes and sharp hills which surround it.

Plus, the Maya culture remains prominent in Lago de Atitlán’s local villages. The largest among them, Panajachel. Formerly a small Maya village, Panajachel has become the type of town easily recognized around the world: a place where people visit, not to enjoy for its own sake, but as a launchpad for exploring further.

That’s not to say Panajachel lacks charm.

In fact, the lakeside views are outstanding. Which explains why Panajachel became popular in the 1960’s and 70’s, when hippies came here to enjoy spectacular views, clean water and a certain “vibe.”

Unfortunately, putting the “feel” of a place into words is a challenge for even the greatest travel writers. Some places – such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, or Eiffel Tower in Paris – are pretty self-explanatory. What you see is what you get.

But there are other places, such as Lago de Atitlán, which must be felt to be believed. Some believe it’s one of the great energy vortexes (Machu Picchu, the Great Pyramids and Ayers Rock are other examples).

Villages Around Lago de Atitlán

lagos de guatemala
Credit: pena2

Start your trip in Panajachel. From there, venture out to Chicastenangeo, Nahuala, Solola and Iximche. All four are ideal for day-trips; alternatively, you could head across the lake to Santiago AtitlanSan Pedro (plenty of cheap accommodations) or San Antonio Palop.

Need some peace and quiet? Then head out to either Santa Cruz la Laguna or San Marcos, both of which offer solitude and excellent hiking trails.

It’s possible to hike around Lago de Atitlán, stopping at several villages for the night. Most hikers take between five and six days to hike the circuit; if this sounds a bit demanding, the best hiking is between San Pedro and Santa Cruz on the western side.

…most beautiful lake in the world. – Alodous Huxley on Lago de Atitlán

When To Go

The best time to visit Lago de Atitlán, is during the season from November to March when you can enjoy outdoor activities, including swimming in the lake.

Climate

From November to March, the average high temperatures range from 71 to 81°F (22 to 27°C) and low temperatures range from 53 to 58°F (12 to 14°C).  There is a slight chance of rain with each month receiving 3 to 7 days of rain.

Getting There & Around

Lago de Atitlán is located 74 miles (119km) west of Guatemala City near the center of Guatemala.

The best way to get to Lago de Atitlán is to fly into Guatemala City International Airport and catch a bus to Panajachel on the norther short of Lago de Atitlán.

The best way to get around Panajachel is by tuk-tuk.

Average Costs

  • Mid-range accommodations: $50-100
  • Meals: $5-10
  • Bottle of beer: $2

Do’s

  • Plan to hike the three volcanoes surrounding Lago de Atitlán: Volcán San Pedro, Volcán Tolimán, and Volcán Atitlán.
  • Wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.
  • Heal yourself with a spiritual or spa retreat.  The lake is thought to have a vortex energy field with healing powers.

Don’ts

  • Hike around the lake alone.  A few reported robbery’s and rapes have occurred in past years.
  • Forget insect repellent.  The bugs can get overwhelming during dawn and dusk.
  • Miss a kayaking trip in the lake.  Be sure to depart in the morning when the winds and lake are calmer.

Fun Facts

  • Thirteen villages live along the shores of Lago de Atitlán.
  • Lago de Atitlán is the deepest lake in Central America with waters 1,115 feet (340m) deep.
  • Lago de Atitlán is an endorheic lake meaning it’s water does not flow out of the lake.

Feature Image Credit: AlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker

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