Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is accepted as the deepest lake in Central America. The lake is endorheic. That is, it doesn’t flow into the open sea.
The lake is located about 31 miles (50 km) west northwest of Antigua. This lake should not be mistaken for Lake Amatitlan, which is 65 km away. Lake Amatitlan is also smaller.
What to See
Part of the attraction here is the view. From Panajachel, you get to see the lake in all its clarity. There is a mountain in the background. From high above you will see the white clouds against the blue sky.
The lake is also surrounded by several villages. The influence of the Maya is still prevalent here. When you go to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, make sure to visit the villages. You will see the people there still wearing traditional Maya clothing.
There is evidence of volcanic activity in the area 11 million years ago. Since that time, four more caldera collapses and volcanic growth have been recorded. The last one occurred almost 2 million years ago. This would form the current caldera. Today, the lake has filled up a good portion of the caldera. The caldera is deep, at some points reaching 600 meters.
The explosion that caused the forming of the caldera is called the Los Chocoyos eruption. Studies show the eruption produced 300 km3 (72 cu mi) of tephra. Furthermore, the eruption scattered ash 6 million square kilometers.
Since then, volcanism has continued and created three more volcanoes: Volcan Toliman, Volcan San Pedro and Volcan Atitlan. The oldest is San Pedro. Atitlan remains active.
Staying in Guatemala can be very cheap for tourists. Budget travelers can make do on as little as 15 USD daily. You can find many affordable restaurants with meals for less than 5 USD. Of course if you spend more (i.e., 60 USD daily) you will get more perks and amenities.
Santiago Atitlan is the biggest community along the lake. It is best known for the devotion to Maximon. This deity is a combination of local gods, Catholic saints and legends told by the conquistadors.
During Semana Santa (Holy Week), the idol is presented in a procession. When you go to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, you will find many villages with their own idols and practices. By mingling with the locals, you will get the chance to experience a bit of the local culture.