Lake Atitlan has been called by many “the most beautiful lake in the world” because of its purity and natural beauty. It is indeed an amazing setting with the crystal blue waters of the lake surrounded by the three lofty peaks of Toliman, San Pedro and Atitlan volcanoes. Lake Atitlán is located at an approximate distance of 90 miles from Guatemala City. The surface of the Lake has a size of about 130 square kms. Some unique and exotic animals can be found in and around its waters, among them the famous Duck Plunger and other migratory ducks. A great part of the Lake’s attractiveness stems from the picturesque towns that surround the lake, each with its own traditions and culture. Santiago is the most famous of them. This little village is found on the opposite side of the Lake, next to the Toliman and Atitlán Volcanoes. The town has preserved its traditional Zutuil culture.
A very important part of this culture is "The Custom", a mixture of religious rites brought by the Spanish (Catholicism) and Mayan ceremonial spirituality. The Fraternity or Brotherhood of Santiago (the 'Cofradia') is the center around which "The Custom" revolves. The Cofradia is a religious congregation formed by Spanish friars to be introduced into the Mayan communities. The Priests or Shamans are called Sajorines. They are those in charge to guide their people according to their ancestral religious beliefs. Santa Cruz's Cofradia is one of the most visited because of its tradition and religious folklore, and because of the presence of the indigenous Patron saint San Simon (Maximon). This saint is admired by foreigners and nationals for his miracles. The devotees offer him fruits, cigarettes, alcohol, flowers and money during their visits. The celebration in honor of the Patron saint Santiago is held on the 25th of July.
Activities in and from Lake Atitlan include:
Kayaking in the lake
Visits to the town of Santiago Atitlan
Day excursions to the traditional markets of Solola and Chichicastenango
Pleasant year round with average highs in the mid 70s and lows in the mid 50s. Rainfall is moderate with the dry season running from November through April. Because of the high altitude, evenings and nights are cool.