Not to be confused with its significantly larger and more renowned aquatic neighbor to the northwest (Atitlan), Lake Amatitlán is at once a pleasant surprise to many travelers and a tragic reminder of the havoc wrecked on the natural world by unchecked industrial pollution. We’re not trying to be downers here, but we’ve got to call a spade a spade. So much has refuse from factories and raw sewage from nearby Guatemala City affected the lake that, despite recent conservation efforts, it suffers from significant eutrophication and unsuitable swimming conditions. Which somehow hasn’t prevented throngs of city-dwellers from making regular weekend visits.
So just what is there to do on this beautiful (albeit polluted) body of water? Well, for starters, though you shouldn’t swim you can easily book boat rides at the nearby town of Amatitlán from any of the ubiquitous lakeside vendors. Not necessarily adrenaline-inducing, but a cool change of perspective nonetheless. These shores also happen to be located just 15 km away from Volcan Pacaya, which means hikers will have ample opportunity to fill up a day’s itinerary trekking alongside streams of molten rock. But Amatitlán’s real claim to fame in terms of adventure is its climbing: approximately 20 cracks and open-face routes that range in difficulty from 5.6 to 5.12. If you’re looking for a scenic, cliff-side challenge with unbeatable waterfront views, you’ll be hard pressed to find better. Check out our links for more info and enjoy Guatemala’s “other” southern lake.