Lago de Atitlán  is a large endorheic lake (one that does not flow to  the sea) in the Guatemalan Highlands. The lake has an area of  126 km, from east to west about 18 km long and lies about 1560  meters above sea level. Atitlan is recognized to be the deepest  lake in Central America  with maximum depth about 340 meters.  The lake is shaped by deep escarpments which surround it and by  three volcanoes on its southern flank. Lake Atitlan is further  characterized by towns and villages of the Maya people. Lago de  Atitlán  is about 50 kilometres  west-northwest of Antigua. German  explorer Alexander von Humboldt is the earliest prominent  foreigner generally quoted as calling it "the most beautiful lake in  the world."  The lake is volcanic in origin, filling an enormous  caldera formed in an eruption 84,000 years ago. The region first  saw volcanic activity about 11 million years ago, and since then  has seen four separate episodes of volcanic growth and caldera  collapse, the most recent of which began about 1.8 million years ago and culminated in the formation of the  present caldera. The lake now fills a large part of the caldera, reaching depths of up to 600 metres. The  caldera-forming eruption is known as Los Chocoyos eruption, and ejected up to 300 km3  of tephra. The  enormous eruption dispersed ash over an area of some 6 million km², it has been detected from Florida to  Ecuador. Since the end of Los Chocoyos, continuing  volcanism has built three volcanoes in the caldera.  Volcan Atitlán (3.535 m) lies on the southern rim of the  caldera, while Volcán San Pedro (3.020 m) and Volcán  Tolimán (3.158 m) lie within the caldera. San Pedro is the oldest of the three and seems to have stopped erupting  about 40,000 years ago. Tolimán began growing after  San Pedro stopped erupting, and probably remains  active, although it has not erupted in historic times.  Atitlán has grown almost entirely in the last 10,000 years,  and remains active, with its most recent eruption having  occurred in 1853.  On February 4, 1976, a massive  earthquake (magnitude 7.5) struck Guatemala killing  more than 26,000 people. The earthquake fractured the  lake bed causing subsurface drainage from the lake,  allowing the water level to drop two meters within one  month.   Lago de Atitlán Location: 14°42’N 91°12’W Elivation: 1560m Photo: Rolf Cosar Photo: Rolf Cosar Photo: Rolf Cosar Photo: Rolf Cosar Photo: Rolf Cosar Photo: Rolf Cosar Photo: Rolf Cosar Photo: Rolf Cosar Photo: Rolf Cosar Photo: Rolf Cosar Photo: Rolf Cosar Photo: Rolf Cosar Photo: Rolf Cosar Photo: Rolf Cosar March 1992 Photo: Rolf Cosar Photo: Rolf Cosar HOME