Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is simply put, one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Praised by all who are fortunate enough to visit it, Lake Atitlan is perhaps best explained in the words of the English novelist, Aldous Huxley, who described it as, “...really too much of a good thing”. Lake Atitlan takes its name from the Mayan word, “atitlan”, which translates to, “the place where the rainbow gets its colors”. Although the bottom of Lake Atitlan has yet to be completely sounded for depth, it is commonly recognized as the deepest lake in all of Central America, with a known maximum depth of 1,115 feet. Volcanic in origin, the surface of Lake Atitlan Guatemala is approximately 5,125 feet above sea level, and the lake measures around 12 miles long and anywhere from 4.4 to 7.5 miles wide. It is framed by the Atitlan, Toliman and San Pedro volcanoes. Lake Atitlan in Guatemala has become one of the country’s most visited tourist destinations, boasting small Mayan villages throughout the area. Visiting these villages gives insight into Mayan culture, and the Mayan people are known for both their friendliness and their high-quality, hand-crafted products. Lake Atitlan can be found just 80 miles west of Guatemala City, and is easily reached from the beautiful city of Antigua.

The basin of Lake Atitlan Guatemala and the lake itself provide farmable lands and rich food sources for the largely indigenous population that calls the area home. Among the prized agricultural products that flourish in these rich soils are beans, onions, tomatoes, squash, garlic, strawberries, avocados, chili verde, cucumbers, the venerable coffee bean and the unique pitaya fruit. The pitaya fruit comes from several different species of cactus, and it is native to not only Central America, but Mexico and South America as well. Low in calories, this mildly sweet fruit can be used to make juice and wine. Its flowers, which only bloom at night, can be eaten as are, or steeped as tea. Together with the sustainable fruits and vegetables, the rich animal life found in and around Lake Atitlan makes up a large part of the indigenous diet.

Perhaps the strangest of all Lake Atitlan facts is that which concerns how the lake came about “acquiring” its largemouth bass population. In 1955, Lake Atitlan and much of the surrounding area were converted into a national park, however, much of the world simply did not know about it. Desperate to attract tourism and boost the economy of the region, Guatemalan officials took the advice of former airline giant, Pan American World Airways, and introduced the black bass to the lake in the year 1958. The hope was that fishermen worldwide would take notice and that word would soon spread. Predatory in nature, however, the bass soon began to cause the elimination of some two-thirds of the otherwise native fish species. This in turn caused the extinction of the rare Giant Grebe bird, which was only found at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. While it took some time for word to spread, Lake Atitlan has achieved recognition as a stunningly beautiful travel destination, and to this day bass fishing remains as a popular Lake Atitlan recreational activity. Other activities like hang gliding, rapelling, canoeing and hiking can be arranged in the tourist haven town of Panajachel, which is a product of the different foreigners who have made their mark. Panajachel offers wonderful small eateries, internet cafes, Spanish language schools, tour agencies and some nice bars and discotheques. Among the quality Panajachel hotels, you are sure to find agreeable accommodations.

Along parts of the shores of Lake Atitlan Guatemala sits the Nature Reserve of San Buenaventura. This reserve occupies approximately half of the valley that shares its name and is comprised of more than 250 acres of native forest. The Nature Reserve of San Buenaventura’s aim is to conserve the natural surroundings of the area. Privately funded, hopes are that economical alternatives for uses of the land will not only preserve the integrity of the environment, but benefit the native people as well. The project not only plants trees, but also encourages the use of efficient wood burning stoves, using solar energy and establishing recycling efforts, among other goals. Among its contributions, the nature preserve has added nature trails, a butterfly preserve, a bird refuge, an orchid garden and a visitors center.

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