Riding Around Lake Atitlán to Santiago Atitlán

I set off to ride around Lake Atitlán to Santiago Atitlán. Lake Atitlán was something I was really looking forward to seeing.

Wikipedia on Lake Atitlán

Wikipedia has this to say about Lake Atitlán:

Lake Atitlán is the deepest lake in Central America with a maximum depth of about 340 metres (1,120 ft) with an average depth of 220 metres (720 ft). Its surface area is 130.1 km2 (50.2 sq mi). It is approximately 12 by 5 km with around 20 km3 of water. Atitlán is technically an endorheic lake, feeding into two nearby rivers rather than draining into the ocean. It is shaped by deep surrounding escarpments and three volcanoes on its southern flank. The lake basin is volcanic in origin, filling an enormous caldera formed by an eruption 84,000 years ago. The culture of the towns and villages surrounding Lake Atitlán is influenced by the Maya people. The lake is about 50 kilometres (31 mi) west-northwest of Antigua. It should not be confused with the smaller Lake Amatitlán.

Lake Atitlán is renowned as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, and is Guatemala’s most important national and international tourist attraction. German explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt called it “the most beautiful lake in the world,” and Aldous Huxley famously wrote of it in his 1934 travel book Beyond the Mexique Bay: “Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing.”

The first volcanic activity in the region occurred about 11 million years ago, and since then the region has seen four separate episodes of volcanic growth and caldera collapse, the most recent of which began about 1.8 million years ago and culminated in the formation of the present caldera. The lake now fills a large part of the caldera, reaching depths of up to 600 metres.

The caldera-forming eruption is known as Los Chocoyos eruption and ejected up to 300 km3 (72 cu mi) of tephra. The enormous eruption dispersed ash over an area of some 6 million km²: it has been detected from Florida to Ecuador, and can be used as a stratigraphic marker in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans (known as Y-8 ash in marine deposits).A chocoyo is a type of bird which is often found nesting in the relatively soft ash layer.

Since the end of Los Chocoyos, continuing volcanic activity has built three volcanoes in the caldera. Volcán Atitlán lies on the southern rim of the caldera, while Volcán San Pedro and Volcán Tolimán lie within the caldera. San Pedro is the oldest of the three and seems to have stopped erupting about 40,000 years ago. Tolimán began growing after San Pedro stopped erupting, and probably remains active, although it has not erupted in historic times. Atitlán has developed almost entirely in the last 10,000 years and remains active, with its most recent eruption having occurred in 1853.

During the Guatemalan Civil War, the lake was the scene of many terrible human rights abuses, as the government pursued a scorched earth policy. Indigenous people were assumed to be universally supportive of the guerrillas who were fighting against the government, and were targeted for brutal reprisals. At least 300 Maya from Santiago Atitlán are believed to have disappeared during the conflict.

Two events of this era made international news. One was the assassination of Stanley Rother, a missionary from Oklahoma, in the church at Santiago Atitlán in 1981. In 1990, a spontaneous protest march to the army base on the edge of town was met by gunfire, resulting in the death of 11 unarmed civilians. International pressure forced the Guatemalan government to close the base and declare Santiago Atitlán a “military-free zone.” The memorial commemorating the massacre was damaged in the 2005 mudslide.

Santiago Atitlán is the largest of the lakeside communities, and it is noted for its worship of Maximón, an idol formed by the fusion of traditional Mayan deities, Catholic saints, and conquistador legends. The institutionalized effigy of Maximón is under the control of a local religious brotherhood and resides in various houses of its membership during the course of a year, being most ceremonially moved in a grand procession during Semana Santa. Several towns in Guatemala have similar cults, most notably the cult of San Simón in Zunil.

The Ride to Santiago Atitlán

I started the day by putting in the coordinates for my hotel in Santiago Atitlán. I assumed my GPS would take me around the near side of the lake to Santiago Atitlán at the bottom and then I would ride the other side of the Lake the next day to Antigua.

It wasn’t until it was too late that I noticed my GPS was taking to the far side of the Lake. Huuuummmm

The ride around the Lake was simply amazing. One of those places you can’t help but look at in awe.







Santiago Atitlán

As usual I arrived at my hotel, Hotel Tiosh Abaj, in Santiago Atitlán in the early afternoon. The hotel I could see was either a once really nice hotel or one that was overbuilt. By that I mean it had fountains and pools everywhere. But they were not being maintained and didn’t have water in them. I am sure it is much too expensive to keep them going. Regardless, it was pretty nice. Lots of greenery.



atitlan-hotel motorcycle-4

There was a security guard and gate at the entrance so my motorcycle was safe 🙂

After booking in I went for a walk around town.




I looked for a place to eat and didn’t find anything to my liking. But there were lots of coffee shops. So I stopped for a coffee.



It was a great day of riding and exploring the town. Looking forward to riding the other half of the lake tomorrow.

My Route for May 22, 2017



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