Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Legend of Xocomil


The late British author Aldous Huxley once said Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan was the most beautiful lake in the world. Today, many visitors think the same. Lake Atitlan is located in the western highlands of Guatemala surrounded by three majestic volcanoes: Atitlán 3537masl, San Pedro 3020masl and Tolimán3158masl. The sentinels stand guard over the lake that is situated at 1,562masl. The lake is in what used to be a volcanic crater and its deepest point is 320m. The lake is 207 square kilometers in size and its name is from the Nahautl word meaning “place of water.” The Nahautl are an indigenous group that has lived in the region for hundreds of years.

Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

flickr image by xoque

Panajachel is the largest town around the lake and is the heart of tourism in the Lake Atitlan region. The town’s main street, Calle Santander, is lined on both sides with stores selling handmade crafts, rugs, blankets, shoes, sandals, jewelry and much more. Mixed in with all the stores are a number of restaurants that offer everything from fried chicken to French cuisine totypical fare.

From the town, you can take a slow ferry road across the lake to visit other towns of interest or a speedboat ride that will cut your trip in half. Santiago Atitlan is one of the towns across the lake and is known for its woodcrafters that hand carve everything from jewelry boxes to statues of people.

The waters of the lake can be clear and calm in the mornings.However, every afternoon white caps start to roll over the entire lake.From that, the legend of Xocomil was born. The legend originated when these lands were inhabited by the extraordinary civilization of the Maya. Historians say two kingdoms lived in the region of what is today Sololá, a city located overlooking the lake. The two kingdoms were ruled by king, queens, princesses and princes and were at constant war.

Lake Atitlan

flickr image by Matt Stabile

One day a prince and princess from the two different kingdoms met and fell in love. When their respective kings uncovered the romance, they condemned the relationship and prohibited from seeing one another. Nevertheless, the young love struck adolescents did not accept the imposed separation and met where they had always met previously, on the lake. The kings found them and sent warriors to bring them back. However, tragedy struck and the two lovers drowned.

Legend says their two souls have lived since that time in the water. Each afternoon their souls come out to dance and make love causing the winds and heavy white caps to stir up the calm waters of the lake. The lake at this time each day is hard to navigate and most ferry trips and pleasure trips are scheduled for before noon or after 4pm

At one establishment that overlooks the lake, patrons come each day to celebrate the arrival and departure of Xocomil.That is followed with a daily toast to the sunset as it sets behind one of the three majestic volcanoes standing guard over the lake.

Around the lake, there are 23 different dialects of indigenous language spoken in different communities. The weather here is idyllic as there are comfortably warm afternoons and spring like evenings. Nevertheless, beware of the winds of Xocomil that arrive each afternoon.

Date posted: 26th December, 2015

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