Atitlán’s beauty remains overwhelming, although recent pressures are decidedly threatening. Sediment analysis has shown that the lakewater has risen and fallen in cycles for hundreds of years, but after the tropical storm Stan in 2010 Atitlán rose 5m in eighteen months, an unprecedented event that caused businesses to flood, beaches to disappear and threatened livelihoods. The once-idyllic lakeside pathway in Santa Cruz (a village particularly badly affected) is no more and docks in San Pedro and San Juan have had to be rebuilt. Theories rage as to why the lake has risen so quickly – some reckon landslides caused by Stan have blocked underwater drainage channels – but for Maya with centuries of local knowledge it was less of a surprise; their villages sit high above the shore, and many sold lakefront land to foreigners. For visitors, the impact so far has been pretty minimal, with only a handful of lakefront hotels losing land and Atitlán looks as beautiful as ever. But of course if the lake continues to rise more businesses will be affected.

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