The geological history of Lake Atitlan is tied to a volcano that erupted some 85,000 years ago. After the eruption of this volcano, the likes of which was larger than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, an enormous caldera was formed. Over time, water filled the caldera, thus providing Guatemala with one of the world’s most beautiful lakes.
Volcanic activity in the Lake Atitlan area began millions of years ago. Around eleven million years, to be more exact. It is responsible for shaping the landscape, and that role continues to this day. Evidence of the continuing action can be found in the three volcanoes that serve to embellish the beauty of the Lake Atitlan area. These volcanoes are known as Volcan San Pedro, Volcan Atitlan, and Volcan Toliman. The last two are still active.
The recent history of Lake Atitlan sees the area being developed into a major Guatemala tourist attraction. This all started in 1955 when much of the surrounding terrain was made into a national park. Tourists started to pour in at a relatively healthy rate. The first tourism boom didn’t last very long, however, thanks to the breakout of the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996). Once the war was over, Lake Atitlan began to see the return of visitors, and today, the main lakeside town of Panajachel has an economy that essentially revolves around tourism. It is certainly the town of choice for travelers who are searching for Lake Atitlan hotels.
As a side note, Lake Atitlan pollution concerns have arisen in recent times. A species of cyanobacteria is largely at the heart of things, and contributing to the dilemma are fertilizers that have been used to promote the growth of such things as coffee, squash, onions, and tomatoes. The indigenous communities that call the area home have been taking measures to reduce the pollution problems, and tourists definitely shouldn’t feel the need to steer clear. This is still very much a destination that deserves inclusion on the Guatemala vacation itinerary.