The Haunting Beauty of Lake Atitlan

Adventure-seekers yearn to experience heart-thumping fun mixed with stunning beauty and a touch of danger. Lake Atitlán in Guatemala deserves a place on an adventurer’s list. Arguably one of the world’s most gorgeous bodies of freshwater, the lake exists because of a long ago natural catastrophe. The hidden danger: The lake fills a massive caldera formed by one of the Earth’s most spectacular volcanic explosions, and the region remains volcanically active. Many adventure-seekers place an active volcano on their list. If you do that, then relish the heightened danger of seeing three active volcanoes from your lake-view hotel in a landscape over a super volcano (like the one in Yellowstone Park).

Guatemala designated the lake region a National Park to preserve the country’s natural beauty and to encourage tourism. Experience their national treasure of volcanoes, a lake, and wildlife, but don’t stop there. Meet the Mayans! Yes, I said Mayans, the native peoples who were part of the Mayan empire and culture that were “conquered” by the Spanish Empire between 1511 and 1697. Conquered means end of empire, not the end of the Mayan culture, which still exists for you to experience in small villages like the ones next to Lake Atitlán. Freshwater divers might arrange a dive on ancient Mayan villages under the lake.

As you consider planning a mix of views, hiking, diving, dining, wildlife, and experiencing the Mayan culture of people, languages, food, traditions don’t overlook the danger. Take precautions to avoid or minimize the effects of robbery, a greater risk than volcanic activity. Leave your expensive jewelry and any other possession that you will dearly miss at home. Any poor society contains a minority dark element that will prey upon, rather than support, the tourist industry. Take care to travel in large groups, especially by land from the airport to the Lake Atitlán region. A government or hotel-provided land transport with security onboard should ensure your safety. Once at the lake region, the local Tuk-Tuks (automobile rickshaws) should be OK to get you about beyond walking distance. Enjoy your adventure!