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Atitlán

Photo of this volcano
  • Guatemala
  • México and Central America
  • Stratovolcano(es)
  • 1853 CE
  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 14.583°N
  • 91.186°W

  • 3535 m
    11598 ft

  • 342060
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit
    Elevation

  • Volcano
    Number

The Global Volcanism Program has no activity reports for Atitlán.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Weekly Reports available for Atitlán.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Bulletin Reports available for Atitlán.

This compilation of synonyms and subsidiary features may not be comprehensive. Features are organized into four major categories: Cones, Craters, Domes, and Thermal Features. Synonyms of features appear indented below the primary name. In some cases additional feature type, elevation, or location details are provided.

Eruptive History

There is data available for 15 Holocene eruptive periods.

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
[ 1856 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
1853 May 3 Unknown Confirmed 3 Historical Observations
[ 1852 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
1843 Jul Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1837 Jun Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1833 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1827 Sep 1 1828 Jan (?) Confirmed 3 Historical Observations
1827 Mar 27 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1826 Nov Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1717 Aug 29 1721 Confirmed   Unknown Volcano Uncertain
1663 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1579 (?) 1581 Dec 31 ± 30 days Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1505 (?) Unknown Confirmed 3 Historical Observations
1469 Unknown Confirmed 3 Historical Observations
1020 BCE ± 150 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
Deformation History

There is no Deformation History data available for Atitlán.

Emission History

There is no Emissions History data available for Atitlán.

Photo Gallery

Volcán Atitlán rises above the Pacific coastal plain of Guatemala. Tolimán is the lower peak to the right of the summit. The volcanic highlands of Guatemala are seen here from the SE with Volcán Santo Tomás on the far left, 35 km to the NW of Atitlán.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1988 (Smithsonian Institution).
The resort town of Panajachel occupies a delta of the river of the same name that flows into Lake Atitlán, within the Atitlan caldera. The northern caldera wall rises about 1 km above the lake surface. The level of the lake has fluctuated more than 10 m over periods of several decades, and titles exist to land now submerged hundreds of meters from the current shoreline. High heat flow is present in the lake.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1988 (Smithsonian Institution).
Atitlán and Tolimán volcanoes rise above Lake Atitlán in this view from the town of Sololá north of the lake. Atitlán is the taller of the two and forms the skyline immediately behind and to the left of Tolimán. The Cerro de flank lava dome immediately above the lakeshore to the lower left of the summit erupted within the past few thousand years. The two volcanoes were constructed over the buried rims of two Miocene-Pleistocene Atitlán calderas.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1988 (Smithsonian Institution).
The twin volcanoes of Tolimán and Atitlán rise above the southern shores of Lake Atitlán in this view from the NNW. The surface of Tolimán (left) is draped by prominent thick lava flows. Many of the flows were erupted from vents on the volcano's flanks and form an irregular shoreline on the south side of Lake Atitlán. A lava flow from the parasitic lava dome of Cerro de Oro on the north flank entered Lake Atitlán and is less than a few thousand years old. No historical eruptions are known from Tolimán.

Copyrighted photo by Katia and Maurice Krafft, 1983.
Atitlán (left) and Tolimán (right) are twin stratovolcanoes on the shores of Lake Atitlán, one of the scenic highlights of Guatemala. The historically active Atitlán is younger than Tolimán, although their activity overlaps. The surface of Tolimán is draped by prominent thick lava flows, in contrast to the extensive pyroclastic cover on Atitlán. Tolimán lava flows, erupted from both summit and flank vents, have produced a pronounced embayment with an irregular shoreline that extends into the lake. This view is from the NE on the rim of Atitlán caldera.

Copyrighted photo by Katia and Maurice Krafft, 1974.
Atitlán (foreground) and Tolimán are twin volcanoes located immediately south of Lake Atitlán (background). Tolimán was constructed on the buried rim of the Atitlán II caldera, whereas Volcán Atitlán was built 4 km south over the rim of the Atitlán III caldera. Atitlán, whose summit area remains unvegetated, has been active in historical time. Tolimán has not had historical eruptions, but has erupted within the past 1000 years.

Copyrighted photo by Katia and Maurice Krafft, 1983.
The twin volcanoes of Tolimán (left) and Atitlán (right) on the center skyline, along with San Pedro volcano in the foreground, rise above the southern shores of Lake Atitlán. This aerial view looking along the chain of stratovolcanoes stretching across Guatemala, also shows Fuego volcano at the upper left. The double-peaked Tolimán is somewhat older than the conical Atitlán volcano to its south.

Copyrighted photo by Katia and Maurice Krafft, 1983.
This dramatic photo looking SE down the axis of a chain of volcanoes extending across Guatemala shows six Quaternary volcanoes and one large caldera. Beginning in the right foreground are three volcanoes, San Pedro, the conical Atitlán, and Tolimán, that are constructed on the southern shore of Lake Atitlán, which fills a large Pleistocene caldera. The three volcanoes in the distance are, from left to right, Agua, Acatenango, and Fuego. Tolimán-Atitlán and Acatenango-Fuego are paired volcanoes along N-S lines.

Copyrighted photo by Katia and Maurice Krafft, 1983.
Volcán Atitlán, seen here from the SE with San Pedro volcano behind it and Tolimán volcano to its left, is a conical stratovolcano that rises to 3535 m south of Lake Atitlán (right). The historically active Atitlán is younger than Tolimán, although their activity overlaps. The northern side of the volcano is wooded to near the summit, whereas the upper 1000 m of the southern slopes, seen here, are unvegetated. Predominatley explosive eruptions have been recorded from Volcán Atitlán since the 15th century.

Copyrighted photo by Katia and Maurice Krafft, 1983.
Volcán Fuego, one of Central America's most active volcanoes, is one of three large stratovolcanoes overlooking Guatemala's former capital, Antigua. The scarp of an older edifice, Meseta, forms the shoulder between between Fuego and its twin volcano, Acatenango. This view from the SE also shows Atitlán volcano above the saddle between Fuego and Acantenango. Vigorous historical eruptions have been recorded at Fuego since 1524. They have produced major ashfalls, along with occasional pyroclastic flows and lava flows.

Copyrighted photo by Katia and Maurice Krafft, 1983.
Thick units of the 84,000-year-old Los Chocoyos Ash are exposed south of Guatemala City, more than 100 km from its source at Atitlán caldera. Three units are visible here. The pinkish unit across the center of is the oxidized top of the pyroclastic flow deposit. The bottom two white units are the top and bottom halves of the deposit. The two fall deposits above the Los Chocoyos Ash are unit E from Amatitlán caldera and the younger unit C from Volcán de Agua.

Photo by Bill Rose, 1978 (Michigan Technological University).
A panoramic view to the west across Lake Atitlán shows the flanks of Tolimán volcano extending to the lakeshore on the left, San Pedro volcano at the SW end of the lake, and the two peaks of Santo Tomás (left) and Santa María (right) on the center horizon. Tajumulco volcano appears in the distance at the upper right. Lake Atitlán occupies the northern half of the youngest Atitlán caldera, which formed during the eruption of the Los Chocoyos Ash about 84,000 years ago.

Photo by Bill Rose, 1972 (Michigan Technological University).
Three stratovolcanoes fill the southern half of Atitlán caldera in this view from the NE. Atitlán caldera formed during three major explosive eruptions from the Miocene to late Pleistocene. Atitlán volcano (far left) was constructed above the southern rim of the youngest caldera, Atitlán III, whose low southern rim is visible on the center horizon beyond narrow Santiago bay. Tolimán (right of Atitlán) and San Pedro (far right) overlie the rim of Atitlán II. The buried rim of Atitlán I lies below the shoreline of Tolimán.

Photo by Bill Rose, 1980 (Michigan Technological University).
The 84,000-year-old Los Chocoyos Ash from Atitlán caldera is exposed in a quarry near San Juan Ostuncalco, west of Quetzaltenango. The white layer at the base is layer H, a rhyolite unit that is one of the largest known Plinian fall deposits in Central America. Despite its relative thinness, it is preserved over the entire Guatemalan highlands. The thicker overlying unit is the pyroclastic flow deposit, part of the Los Chocoyos ash. This massive unwelded pyroclastic flow deposit is up to 200 m thick.

Photo by Bill Rose, 1974 (Michigan Technological University).
The summit of Atitlán volcano contains shallow craters in this 1980 photo. San Pedro volcano rises across Santiago bay to the right, and in the distance (left-to-right) are the peaks of Santo Tomás, Santa María, and Tajumulco. Atitlán is the highest of the three post-caldera cones of Atitlán caldera.

Photo by Bill Rose, 1980 (Michigan Technological University).
Volcán Tolimán (center) towers above the south shore of scenic Lake Atitlán. Tolimán and the adjacent Atitlán (upper left) were constructed within the Pleistocene Atitlán III caldera, near its inferred southern margin. In contrast to the tephra-covered surface of Volcán Atitlán, the surface of Tolimán is dominated by thick lava flows. The recent eruptions of Tolimán were primarily effusive eruptions from flank vents. The resulting lava flows extend into the lake and produce the irregular shoreline.

Photo by Bill Rose, 1972 (Michigan Technological University).
Volcán Atitlán directly overlies the inferred margin of the Pleistocene Atitlán III caldera, whose northern rim lies across Lake Atitlán. The Atitlán stratovolcano is adjacent to Tolimán to its north (seen just to the right of Atitlán's summit). The historically active Atitlán is younger than Tolimán, although their earlier activity overlapped. Atitlán’s surface is composed of tephra, reflecting its predominantly explosive eruptions that have been recorded since the 15th century.

Photo by Bill Rose, 1980 (Michigan Technological University).
Lake Atitlán fills the northern half of the Atitlán III caldera, which formed about 84,000 years ago following eruption of the Los Chocoyos Ash. The 18-km-long caldera lake is seen here from the south, with the flanks of the post-caldera Tolimán volcano in the foreground. The relatively flat lake floor is 300 m below the water surface, and caldera walls rise to about 1 km above the lake.

Photo by Bill Rose, 1980 (Michigan Technological University).
A geologist examines an outcrop of the 84,000-year-old Los Chocoyos Ash near Patzún, about 10 km E of Lake Atitlán. Note the charred log above his head. This pyroclastic flow unit of the Los Chocoyos deposit is up to 200 m thick and is exposed over an area of about 2,000 km2. Individual flow units of the voluminous ignimbrite are sometimes more than 100 m thick. The upper part of the deposit is characteristically salmon-pink in color as a result of oxidation of the cooling flow.

Photo by Bill Rose, 1980 (Michigan Technological University).
Lobate lava flows from Tolimán volcano form the irregular shore jutting into Lake Atitlán. The Cerro de Oro cone is on the near shore to the upper right, and the NE wall of Atitlán caldera rises about 1 km above the far side of the lake. The town of Santiago Atitlán (foreground) lies near the mouth of Santiago Bay. The buried margin of Atitlán I caldera, the first of three Miocene-Pleistocene calderas at Atitlán, lies approximately below Cerro de Oro; the boundary of Atitlán II caldera lies just below the bottom of the photo.

Photo by Bill Rose, 1980 (Michigan Technological University).
Lake Atitlán fills the northern part of the Atitlán caldera complex. The caldera formed in three stages: Atitlán I caldera about 11 million years ago (Ma), Atitlán II caldera about 8 Ma, and Atitlán III caldera about 84,000 years ago. The southern margin of the first caldera lies near the southern shore of the 18-km-wide lake, San Pedro and Tolimán volcanoes were constructed over the southern margin of the second caldera, and Atitlán over the third.

NASA Landsat image, 2000 (courtesy of Loren Siebert, University of Akron).
GVP Map Holdings

The maps shown below have been scanned from the GVP map archives and include the volcano on this page. Clicking on the small images will load the full 300 dpi map. Very small-scale maps (such as world maps) are not included. The maps database originated over 30 years ago, but was only recently updated and connected to our main database. We welcome users to tell us if they see incorrect information or other problems with the maps; please use the Contact GVP link at the bottom of the page to send us email.


Title: Carta Geolica de la Republica Mexicana
Publisher: Recursos Minerales and Institute de Gelogia
Country: Mexico
Year: 1992
Map Type: Geology
Scale: 1:2,000,000
Map of Carta Geolica de la Republica Mexicana

Title: Bath of Gulf of Mexico & Caribbean Sea
Publisher: AAPG, Williams & Heintz Map Corp.
Country: US/ C.Am/ S.Am
Year: 1984
Map Type: Bathymetric
Scale: 1:3,289
Map of Bath of Gulf of Mexico & Caribbean Sea

Title: Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico
Publisher: DMA Aerospace Center
Country: NW C Am (GU ES HO)
Year: 1982
Series: TPC
Map Type: Topographic
Scale: 1:500,000
Map of Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico
Smithsonian Sample Collections Database

There are no samples for Atitlán in the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences Rock and Ore collection.

External Sites