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Central America Lake Atitlán (Guatemala)

The beautiful lake Atitlán lays in a dramatic scenery, inside a fold rimmed by 3 volcanoes (volcano San Pedro, 3020 m, Tolimán, 3158 m and Atitlán, 3537 m). Its still surface drowns in a morning fog and in the evening in the glare of a falling sun. Small boats cruise through the mild waves (ok, in the afternoon they are mildly bigger) and its shores are covered by fields of corn. There are different theories about its origin, one says it is a huge volcanic crater now filled with water, the other, that thanks to volcanic activity the countryside formed in such a way that 3 rivers merged and filled the hole (now lake Atitlán). There are no drains from the lake! Other legend says that on its bottom is hidden a small island, a center of Mayan culture.
No one really knows what lays beneath the dark blue waters of Atitlán which is, at some points, 350 meters deep.

Matter of Interest:
In the afternoon hours the lake´s surface is disturbed by Xocomil. A legendary wind that „comes to take away the sins of the people living there“. As the warm winds coming from the south mix with the chilly air over Atitlán, Xocomil raises and makes some rather impressive waves.

What here: Lake Atitlán is a magic place which you can enjoy without any special activity. You definitely should watch the beautiful sunsets or take a tour to other villages on its shores (there are private as public boats at the main docks). Each Sunday and Thursday huge markets with indigenous hand made products are held in Chichicastenango (90 minutes).

Where to stay:
Panacachel is the „base camp“ for Atitlán (bancs, reastaurants, shops, tourist agencies). Small touristy, but calm city on the shores of the lake. You can easily walk from the bus station folowing the main street Santander all the way to the lake (400 meters). Most hotels are located around Santander or on the shores. Let me recommend Mario´s Rooms (about midway). Nice clean rooms with or without own bathrooms are built around a pretty garden. Somewhat shy but attending indigenous women take care of the place, some patience is required.

Yoga lovers and meditation freaks will perhaps prefer a smaller place San Marcos la Laguna where there are few holistic centers and resorts (www.posadaschumann.com). You need to take a boat from Panacachel.

How to get here: You can take a bus from Antigua (2,5 hours) or Guatemala City (3,5 hours) to Panacachel, a city on the shores of Atitlán. Some buses from Guatemala City (3 hours) also head to Santiago Atitlán, the city on the opposite shore clenched between the volcanoes.