Jorge Sanchez (Spain):
I spent a whole week in Panajachel, known by the backpackers as “Gringotenango” for the so many foreigners, mainly from USA, who visit the place at the shores of the idyllic Lake Atitlan.
I found a nice room with views over the lake. That place would be my base for my daily excursions. Furthermore, food in its restaurant was delicious and cheap.
During that week I did not stop to visit small villages nearby, such as San Pedro, San Juan, San Antonio, etc. In them they sell exotic fruits and fantastic masks and other handicrafts.
Some days we (I was travelling with a girlfriend from Canada) had to rent a boat to reach very small villages in the other side of the lake, to where we could not access overland because there were no connecting roads.
The year when I was in Lake Atitlan was 1983, and it seemed to me too touristic. I can’t imagine how it will look like in present times (year 2013) when tourism has wildly developed, so I am satisfied to have visited that lake 30 years ago.
Date posted: September 2013 Paul Tanner (UK):
Interesting comments earlier. I always understood that it was Aldous Huxley who described Atitlan as "too much". This was in "Beyond the Mexique Bay" (1934):- "Lake Como, it seems to me, touches the limit of the permissibly picturesque, but Atitlan is Como with the additional embellishment of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing." Any evidence that O'Keeffe said it first would be of interest!!
The potential for the ecological destruction of the lake is worrying - I tend to regard many similar claims around the world as having an element of exaggeration by Green activists who seem unable to avoid "overegging the pudding" of their argument even when the basic argument has validity - let us hope that that is the case here too. But my own 2 visits to Atitlan in 1985 and 1995 certainly indicated a massive change brought about by tourism alone - Panajachel had become unrecognisable (and much less "pleasant") in just 10 years - I fear for what the subsequent 15 years have wrought. Has a surfaced road around the lake been constructed yet? That would certainly change the lakeside villages enormously. But what is to be done - the locals deserve a better standard of living and, by going, I too contributed to the destruction of what was there! The maxim "go there ASAP - it won't be as good in n years!" applies everywhere in the World I fear.
Date posted: March 2010 Jennifer Bigman (Canadian living in Guatemala):
I am a Canadian living in a village on the shores of Lake Atitlan these last 20 years. This lake grabbed me with its beauty, with its three volcanoes overlooking it and the continuous changes of light and colour. For the Mayans, it is a holy place to which they come to do ceremonial events. To the local economy, the tourism brings a livelihood from which they have become dependent. Unfortunately the entire life around Lake Atitlan has become endangered as the phosphorus pollution and the lack of government funds is endangering the very life of the lake and consequently its people. Georgia O'keefe said of lake Atitlan that it was 'too much'. She was overwhelmed by its beauty and could not paint here! From here she went to New Mexico. Aldous Huxley described it also as the most beautiful lake in the world.
It is curious that maybe because of its size and maybe because of the overpowering presence of the volcanoes, one is left with the overwhelming feeling that it is a very special place which needs to be firmly placed not on the tentative list of heritage sites, but one which the world should look on as important enough for its attention.
Date posted: March 2010
Have you been to Protected area of Lake Atitl? Share your experiences!