Lake Atitlan is recognized to be the deepest lake in Central America, with a maximum depth of about 340 metres (1,120 ft). It is approximately 12 x 5 km, with around 20 cubic km of water. Atitlan is technically endorheic, or lacking direct flow to an ocean, but substantial seepage feeds two nearby rivers. It is shaped by deep surrounding escarpments and by three volcanoes on its southern flank. The lake basin is volcanic in origin, filling an enormous caldera formed in an eruption 84,000 years ago. Lake Atitlan is further characterized by towns and villages of the Maya people. The lake is about 50 kilometres (31 mi) west-northwest of Antigua; it should not be confused with the smaller Lake Amatitlán.
Lake Atitlan is renowned as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world; German explorer Alexander von Humboldt is the earliest prominent foreigner to be quoted as calling it "the most beautiful lake in the world"  and Aldous Huxley famously wrote of it: "Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing."