About 2 1/2 hours by car from Antigua you’ll find the Guatemalan jewel known as Lake Atitlan. Panjachel is the town where most people stop for their first experience of a lake many call the most beautiful in the world. Yolkobsens agree and disagree. Atitlan is more than a lake; its another planet unto itself. And, yes, an exquisite one.
Yolkobsens spent five months nestled in an amazing home we rented beside Santa Cruz, which is a Mayan village far up in the highlands that surround the lake. Every morning the lake would look as if it inhabited a different piece of the universe than it did the day before.
First, we had a direct view of three extinct volcanoes, part of the clan that erupted millions of years ago, spewing lava and movement that carved out the deep lake, which is yet to be fully plumbed to determine its ultimate depth. Some days, if clouds cast in a particular way, the vista resembled a rocky Alaska or a Norwegian fjord.
On a dry and very sunny day, it would look like Greece or Sicily with parched patches woven around green. Or you would swear often that you were looking out at a calm Ontario Lake in the Muskokas, that is, if you could squint out the volcanoes.
A word now about the blue-green algae. The dramatic cyanobacetria eruption of 2009 has not repeated itself and the lake maintains its placid surface and untangled deep waters. Some say that such flare-ups are part of a natural cycle. Phosphorous, among other agents, have been cited as a partial culprit, and the government has made efforts to curtail its entry, mainly through agricultural run-off, into the lake.
When we were there the lake had many swimmers, mostly Mayan children and visiting gringos. However, despite our vast admiration and deep respect for the lake’s beauty Yolkobsens never took the plunge. It’s too cold for us, but many others find the temperature to their liking.
In any case, swimming next to the volcanoes who once were kings or just sitting and looking at the majesty of the lake area is humbling and a rest-cure for the soul.