Aldous Huxley famously claimed that Lake Atitlán was "the most beautiful lake in the world," and that Italy's Lake Como paled in comparison. As one who has been to both and visited Lake Atitlán many times over a span of more than 20 years, I have to agree. Formed thousands of years ago in the crater of a massive volcano, Lake Atitlán is more than 10 miles across at its widest point. It sits at nearly a mile high in altitude, and is surrounded on all sides by steep, verdant hills, picturesque Maya villages, and massive volcanoes with striking pointed cones. The views from the lakeshore, the hillsides above the lake, and the boats plying its waters are all stunning, and seemingly endlessly varied, as the light and cloud cover shift constantly throughout the day.
The shores of Lake Atitlán are sparsely populated with a series of small villages and a few larger towns connected by rugged roads and frequent boat traffic.
The Lake Atitlán region was severely affected by Hurricane Stan in October 2005, and the damage that Stan caused is still palpable, especially in Panajachel and Santiago Atitlán. Landslides, flooding, and overflowing rivers plagued several communities around the lake, their muddy scars visible on the surrounding mountains and hillsides.