Paula Gilhooley….Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

I traveled to Guatemala in 2012 and stayed with a friend for a month in an apartment, part of the Pasaj.cap complex, on Lake Atitlan.  Lake Atitlan…”at the water” is located in the central highlands of Guatemala in the Department of Solola.  The highlands of Guatemala contain no fewer than 37 volcanoes ranging from 1,027 meters to over 4,220 meters high.  Lake Atitlan is part of the PacIMG_1539ific watershed of the Siera Madre mountain chain.  Lake Atitlan is 12 miles long and between 4.4 and 7.5 miles wide and is about 5,000 feet above sea level.  The depth of the lake at its lowest point is 1,200 feet.  The apartment we have rented for a month in Pasaj.cap is about one kilometer from the small town of San Marcos Laguna on the northern shore of the lake facing Volcano San Pedro (3,020 meters) which is directly in front of us.  San Pedro is the most photographed Volcano in Guatemala.  To the left in our view is Volcano Tolimon (3,158 meters) and Volocano Atitlan (3,537 meters).  The two volcanos are bridged by a saddle and at the base of the saddle is the village of Santiago.  About two miles from Santiago is a small village of Cerro de Oro “Hill of Gold” which is a table dome at the base of Volcano Tolimon thought to be where the Spanish had buried Gold.

The day after our arrival dawn broke at about 5:30 am with pink and blue striped sky.  It is a beautiful crisp start to the day.  The view out our window (which is the entire length of our apartment, abouIMG_1542t 30 feet) is fantastic.  A wonderful place to sit and watch the changing moods of the lake.  Our view from left to right is :  far left to the East is Volcano Agua at 3,766 meters, to its right is Volcano Fuego at 3,763 meters, to the south east next comes Volcano Atitlan at 3,537 meters, then in front of Volcano Atitilan  and slightly to the east is Volcano Tolimon at 3158 meters, Volcano San Pedro 3,020 meters is directly in front of us to the right of the village of Santiago Atitlan which is at the bottom of Volcano Tolimin on the lake southern shore.  To the right and behind San Pedro Volcano is Volcano Santa Maria at 3,772meters. Both Santa Maria and Fuego are active volcanos that emit small eruptions and puffs of smoke on occasion.

We are able to see the villages of San Pedro La Laguna and San juan Laguna from our window…which are across the lake and to the right of center in out view.  Our view on the right is slightly blocked by trees but the view is almost 180 degrees.  All the towns aroundthe lake are relatively small and almost all the population in the towns are indigenous Mayan, mainly Kaquhiquel and Tz’utujil, with the Tz’utujil mainly on the southern shore of the lake and the Kaquhiquel on the northern shore. Across the bay or inlet from Santiago are the remains of the ancient Tz’utujil Ca722pitol of Chiya at the base of San Pedro.

The property that Pasaj.cap is located is basically on a cliff with a steep incline down to the edge of the lake where there is a small dock where you can catcha boat to travel to the towns around the lake.  Each apartment is the complex is built on the side of this cliff and we are on the second to the bottom level of the complex so when we go out of the apartment we have to climb close to 30 steep steps, then there is about another 300 meters of steep incline path to the small road that leads into town.

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