Nineteenth-century traveler/chronicler John L Stephens, writing in Incidents of Travel in Central America, called Lago de Atitlán 'the most magnificent spectacle we ever saw,' and he had been around a bit. Today even seasoned travelers marvel at this incredible environment. Fishers in rustic crafts ply the lake's aquamarine surface. Fertile hills dot the landscape, and over everything looms the volcanoes, permeating the entire area with a mysterious beauty. It never looks the same twice. No wonder many outsiders have fallen in love with the place and made their homes here.
The main lakeside town is Panajachel and most people initially head here to launch their Atitlán explorations. Working around the lake, Santiago Atitlán has a strong indigenous identity, San Pedro La Laguna has a reputation as a backpacker party haven, and San Marcos La Laguna is a refuge for new-agers. Santa Cruz La Laguna and Jaibalito, nearer to Panajachel, are among the lake's most idyllic, picturesque locales.