Mayan Culture

In the highlands of Guatemala, especially around Lake Atitlan, the Mayan culture still rules. In Panajachel, it thrives. The spirit it invokes is the hidden gem of Guatemala, and makes this one of the most exotic destinations in the world.

The Mayans are known for being friendly, funny, welcoming of strangers, and shy. Living among them is an enchanting experience. There are about a dozen other villages scattered around Lake Atitlan. Some are Kaqchikel, some Tz'utujil. They speak different languages. However, the lake people were accustomed to dealing with people they can't talk to long before tourists ever showed up.

Lake Atitlán

Lago de Atitlán (Lake Atitlán) is a large lake in the Guatemalan Highlands. While Atitlan is recognized to be the deepest lake in Central America, its bottom has not been completely sounded. Estimates of its maximum depth range up to 340 meters and it is surrounded by three volcanoes. The word "Atitlán" is a Mayan word that translates as "the place where the rainbow gets its colors". The lake area offers activities like paragliding, zip-lines, hiking, diving lessons, canoeing, horseback riding, Spanish lessons, volunteering, visiting small archeological sites or the archeological museum 'Lacustre' (located one block from Alegre Apartments).

Around the lake

Lake Atitlan is characterized by towns and villages of the Maya people and it is renowned as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Indeed, the writer Aldous Huxley famously wrote of it:
" 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."
Around the lake are a number of communities, including Santiago Atitlan, San Pedro, San Marcos and Santa Cruz del lago all of which offer tremendous variety and are easily reached by boat, or "lancha" for day trips.


The town of Panajachel is located on the shores of the lake and has become a favourite place for visitors to explore the other towns and villages around Atitlan.

In the 16th Century, during the period of the Spanish conquest of Guatemala, the shore of the lake was the scene of a battle in which the Spanish and their Kaqchikel allies defeated the Tz'utujils. The Spanish set up a church and monastery in Panajachel soon afterward, and used the town as a centre to convert the indigenous people of the region to their faith. The original façade of the church still stands, and is considered one of the gems of the colonial style in Guatemala.