Guatemala Lakes

Lake Atitlan

The famous Lake Atitlan that Aldous Huxley once called “the most beautiful in the world” is located in the mountainous Department of Solola, in the Guatemalan highlands about 150km from the capital. Lake Atitlan is a natural wonder of blue, wind-tossed waters set against a backdrop of three 10,000-foot volcanoes – Toliman, Atitlan and San Pedro – towering on the southern sky. Their cones are covered with pine and wide leaf forest, are a refuge for endangered plants and animals.

Lake Atitlan is 26km long and 18km wide and its origin is volcanic. It is occupying an extinguished crater and extends to 125km2 with a maximum depth of 320m. Lining the shores of Lake Atitlan you will find a dozen picturesque Indian villages where life and customs have changed little over the centuries. To explore Lake Atitlan and its traditional Indian villages we offer excursions from Panajachel.

Lake Peten Itza is set within the Maya forest which constitutes the largest continuous expanse of tropical forest remaining in Central America. Lake Peten Itza is about 48km long and covers and area of 98km2. The lake is ~50m below sea level and likely to have held water during arid glacial periods. Built on an island, the town of Flores is is a sleepy town with a Caribbean sensibility, pastel-colored buildings, friendly people and a slow pace of life. Flores was once a Maya ceremonial center, by the 17th century it was a Spanish outpost, and today, it’s the capital of Peten province.

Lake Izabal is the largest of Guatemala’s lakes. Lake Izabal is a gentle expanse of water hemmed in by the Sierra de las Minas to the south and the Santa Cruz mountain range to the north. The waters of the lake are rich in fish. Unique to the lake is the fresh-water sea cow (manatee), a mammal that can weigh up to a ton. This species is in danger of extinction and the manatees are the largest mammals in the country.

Lake Amatitlan is located 17 miles south of Guatemala City. Along the northwestern shore is Amatitlan from where a road with a panoramic view stretches out to the southeast along the lake and close to the sides of Volcano Pacaya. Lake Amatitlan is 11km long and 3.5km wide. The human history of the lake is one of the most ancient in the world. Archaeological remains that date back to 2000 B.C. have been found around the lake, and jade, bone, and clay artifacts have been retrieved from its depth. High population density, over-exploitation of natural resources, and the shortage of water have caused the degradation of Lake Amatitlan and its watershed. The Save Lake Amatitlan Foundation is working to build a sustainable society through the conservation and protection of Lake Amatitlan and its surrounding ecosystems.