Man in small boat and a distant volcano
Guatemala,  Landscape,  Lens-Artists,  Travel galleries

Gallery: the serenity of dawn on Lake Atitlàn

Early morning by Lake Atitlàn.

A lone fisherman drifts past, checking his lines. Volcanoes dot the horizon.

Man in small boat by reeds in a lake
Checking his lines

Man in small boat by reeds in a lake
Checking his lines

In the distance a small motorboat passes; it’s empty now but likely to be full of passengers soon.

The jetties too are quiet, waiting for the lakeside villages to wake up. During the day they will be busy, the base for the small boats that ferry locals and tourists to those villages.

Distant volcano with boat passing
Early morning on the lake

Wooden jetties on a lake with a distant volcano
In Panajachel

Lake Atitlàn

This lake was said by Aldous Huxley to be the most beautiful lake in the world. I doubt that he had seen all of them, any more than I have, but it certainly has to be in anyone’s top ten. Lying a mile above sea level and ringed by mountains and three perfect volcanoes (Atitlàn , San Pedro and Toliman), its silvery blue waters are a photographer’s dream, especially in the early morning when they are at their most reflective.

The lake was formed in an immense volcanic explosion 85,000 years ago. As with Pompeii and Mount St. Helen, volcanic pressure built up and was released with devastating results. However the explosion here was much more destructive. The explosion at Mt. St. Helen released 2 cubic kilometres of rock and ash, Pompeii blew out 6 cubic kilometres. Atitlàn discharged over 180 cubic kilometres of hot ash and rock. An immense hole was left in the earth’s crust, and everything died for thousands of kilometres around. One of the more interesting effects of the explosion is that large fissures were formed in the depths of the crater, out of which the water flows. Atitlàn is unusual in that it is a fresh water lake with no river outlet.

Out of such devastation came beauty: the word ‘Atitlàn’ is a Mayan word that translates as ‘the place where the rainbow gets its colours.


Today the lake shore villages are home to a largely Mayan population (over 90%): some Cachikel such as San Antonio Palopó, some Tz’utujil like Santiago Atitlàn.

We visited both of those villages but stayed in the larger and more touristy Panajachel, where these photos were taken. I’m sharing them for Patti’s Lens Artists challenge this week as for me these scenes epitomise her chosen theme of Serene.

I visited Panajachel in 2010


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