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Easter Reminder Above Lake Atitlan in Guatemala
By Tom Adkinson

SAN JUAN LA LAGUNA, Guatemala – A pre-dawn hike up El Cerro de La Cruz, the Hill of the Cross, is a reminder every day of Easter. A white cross, perhaps 12 feet tall, is atop a low ridge beside Lake Atitlan and the Mayan village of San Juan La Laguna.

guatemalan cross
This simple cross above picturesque Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is a daily reminder of Easter. Image by Tom Adkinson.

san juan la laguna
The Mayan village of San Juan La Laguna is at the foot of the Hill of the Cross. Image by Tom Adkinson.
  lake atitlan sunrise
A shaft of morning sun glistens across Lake Atitlan, a 50-square-mile lake in the mountains of Guatemala. Image by Tom Adkinson.

guatemala mountains
Several ridges rise behind the Hill of the Cross, leading to the top of the caldera. Image by Tom Adkinson.

Behind the Hill of the Cross are much higher ridges that mark the top of the caldera that holds Lake Atitlan about 90 miles southwest of Guatemala City. Volcanic action 84,000 years ago created the caldera, now accented by the 50-square-mile lake that in places is more than 1,100 feet deep.

The hike up the Hill of the Cross takes about 30 minutes, and one view from the cross looks down into San Juan La Laguna. Three inactive volcanoes – Atitlan, Toliman and San Pedro – are off in the distance. Eight more villages dot the lakeshore. The town of Panajachel, often shorthanded to Pana, is the hub of activity for the lake, offering a considerable inventory of hotel rooms and restaurants, plus a dock for a boat shuttle system around the lake.

Author Aldous Huxley in his 1934 travel book “Mexique Bay” compared Lake Atitlan to Italy’s Lake Como this way: “Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atitlan is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes.”

And one simple cross.

Published March 30, 2018

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