Atitlan is the Nahual word for “Place of Water”. The Lake is called Choi Lake by the modern-day Kaqchikel people, which means “Near the Water”.
More that 85 thousand years ago, a volcanic eruption wiped out all forms of life from Mexico to Costa Rica, leaving a huge crater. As time went by, water levels built up inside the furnace, which eventually became completely closed due to the flow of lava from the new volcanoes.
According to ancient history, the Tz’utujil people settled on the southern border of the Lake by the year 1250 AC. The ruins of Chuitinamit, the ancient Kingdom’s capital city, can be seen near Santiago Atitlan.
The Quiché and Kaqchikel peoples were allies until 1470, when a bloody war broke out between them and caused the Kaqchikel people to become allies with the Spaniards in 1523.
The Lake is located 144 kilometers (90 miles) from Guatemala City (2 hours and 30 minutes by car) and is today, without a doubt, the most important landmark in the entire department. When the famous novelist Aldous Huxley was in Guatemala, he referred to it as being “the most beautiful in the world”.
Three spectacular volcanoes, Tolimán, Atitlan, and San Pedro, frame the lake, which is 1562 meters (4265 ft) a.s.l. and is 18 kms. long by 13 kms. wide, with depths of up to 341 meters and an overall area of 130 square kilometers .
The mountains that surround the Lake have become a natural launch pad for those who enjoy air gliding. Another attractive feature of the lake is its wildlife, which includes beautiful specimens of such animals as the common dunking duck and other migratory duck species. Black Bass is one of the species of fish found in Lake Atitlán. The lake is not the only nice place to visit in the area. There are also colorful surrounding towns and villages.