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Lonely Planet traveling guide named it “the most magnificent spectacle ever seen”,National Geographic also claims this is “the most beautiful lake in the world”. When you visit Guatemala and Lake Atitlán, you will see why such famous traveling guides have called it that way. Lake Atitlán is a beautiful natural aquatic body surrounded by three volcanoes and Mayan towns so alike but so different at the same time.
Visited everyday by many tourists, this place makes people fall in love with it, not only because of the natural beauty, but because in here you can do, see many things, taste delicious food and meet great people.
Atitlán is a kakchikel word that means moon and male, even though in the original language it is called Atitlá, in the 16th century the Mayan conquerors who got here translated as Atitlán, and since then, that has been the name of this beautiful lake.
It measures 8 km across from north to south, 18 km from east to west and has 300 m deep. It is located in the province of Sololá, South West of Guatemala; and it is in the middle of San Pedro Volcano, Atitlán Volcano and Tolimán Volcano.
What will you find in Atitlán Lake?
The first town you encounter when you get here is Panajachel, probably the most touristic one; here you will find a lot of stores, bars, restaurants and hotels. There is also a butterfly farm you can visit with your family, hike around the mountains and walk across the hanging bridges.
Then you can ride a boat across the lake and get to other towns like San Pedro La Laguna, the second most visited town, mostly by backpackers. Here you can have a great party, buy paintings or swim in the lake. Next to San Pedro is San Juan La Laguna, this is a very quiet place where most women create amazing fabric pieces with organic raw material.
Other towns are Santa Catarina Palopó, San Antonio Palopó, Santiago Tolimán (here you will find a church where figures of saints are dressed with indigenous outfits) , San Lucas Tolimán, San Pablo La Laguna, San Marcos La Laguna, Santa Clara La Laguna and more. All of them with particular aspects like beautiful sights of the landscape, beautiful architectonic styles that mix Spanish and Mayan traditions.
Another very characteristic aspect that you can see here is Maximón or San Simón, a saint worshiped by people who believes in a religion that combines catholic and Mayan traditions. It is a wood figure that is 1.30 meters tall, is dressed in indigenous clothes, always smokes a cigar and likes to drink and receive money. People who believe in his powers, state that he helps lovers fall in love, being successful in business, curing diseases and protecting travelers and merchants.
You will find this mythic figure in almost every town that is near the lake, you can even visit a place of prayer where you will find Maximón sitting in the middle of the room, surrounded by candles, roses and bottles of rum or liquor, and see this very unique saint.
Falling in love with the place
It doesn’t matter if you go kayaking in the lake, hang out at a bar, visit the thermal springs, eat delicious food, see ancient Mayan ruins, go hiking or enjoy a beautiful sunset; we can assure you, falling in love with this place is inevitable.