Three waterfront resorts that combine local flavor with natural beauty and upscale comforts
Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan has been called one of the most beautiful bodies of water in the world. Ringed by volcanic peaks, and more than 1,000 feet deep, this high altitude lake is one of the country’s most popular resort destinations. It’s a particular favorite with the backpacking crowd, and lakeside villages are filled with hostels and modest pension-style accommodations. But there are also several boutique lodges and hotels that blend upscale comforts with regional authenticity. Here are three of our favorites.
A stay at the Laguna Lodge begins with a boat ride, because this nine-room eco-luxe lodge can only be reached by water. Tucked into a private 100-acre nature preserve, the lodge rises from the shore in terraced levels of thatch- roofed rooms, each positioned to provide unobstructed views of the lake. In keeping with its sustainable ethos, the lodge was created by the owners using a combination of recycled materials and renewable resources. The structure integrates materials such as volcanic stone, palm wood and adobe bricks made on site. Each room has sliding glass doors that open to waterfront balconies. Inside, king-sized beds are covered in Guatemalan textiles and rooms feature locally made furnishings and handicrafts.
The rambling multi-level terraces of the lodge offer a number of private sun decks and thatch-roof relaxation pavilions furnished with day beds, hammocks and couches. A stone terrace by the water offers a hot tub, and an on-site spa. Other amenities include an outdoor pool, a fitness center, and a bar and lounge. Guests can use the lodge’s kayaks to explore the lake, follow hillside paths into the nature preserve, or take a bit longer walk into the nearby village of Santa Cruz La Laguna. The dining room at the lodge’s award-winning Zotz restaurant delivers panoramic views by day, and is bathed in the warm light of a stone fireplace and antique candelabras at night. The gourmet vegetarian menu is based on items grown at the on-site organic garden, or locally sourced from small farms.
Perched on a hillside above Santa Catarina Palopo village, this former private estate has been transformed into one of the most luxurious and eclectic boutique hotels in Guatemala. The ambiance blends rustic and chic in equal measure, with rough-hewn beam ceilings, native stonework and brilliantly hued adobe walls that provide a backdrop for colonial-era antiques and original artwork. Guests mingle around the open fireplace of the drawing room, or straddle vintage barber chairs in the Martini Bar. The open-air Palopo 6.8 restaurant sits on a terrace high above the lake. It is a favorite dining destination for visitors from around the lake, and a gathering point for sunset socials. Another favorite gathering spot is the infinity edge pool, which perches dramatically on a bluff above the lake.
Guest rooms are tucked away on lakeside terraces and within sequestered courtyards, each uniquely finished in rich woods, tiles and bright adobe, and furnished with unique Colonial-era antiques. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors usher in light and views, and there are no televisions or other distractions to intrude on the mood. In addition to seven rooms, the Casa Palopo offers a two-suite villa atop the hill, with a private pool, and full-service kitchen. Guests can schedule day trips to a number of unique lakeside villages. San Marcos is a center for meditation, yoga, and massage, while Santiago and San Juan are filled with art galleries and crafts markets. A more ambitious trip awaits those who arrange for a climb on the volcano behind the village of San Pedro. And for the ultimate in upscale adventure, guests can soar over the landscape as they arrive at Casa Palopo aboard the hotel’s six- passenger helicopter.
The largest and most elegant hotel on Lake Atitlán sits on a prime piece of waterfront that was once the estate of a family owned coffee plantation. Hotel Atitlán is set within a botanical garden filled with roses, orchids, bougainvillea and azaleas. Each of the hotel’s 60 rooms and suites provides lakes views from a private balcony, and some include fireplaces. Interiors showcase a design and décor that reflect the elegant Spanish colonial style of an 18th century Guatemalan plantation. Each room is individually decorated with artisan-crafted furniture, hand woven fabrics and authentic original artwork drawn from local Guatemalan villages. Floors are made from traditional tile and covered with beautifully hand-woven area rugs. Modern conveniences include complimentary Wi-Fi Internet, cable television and spa-style baths with plush towels and deluxe bath products.
The hotel sits in a quiet oasis of greenery, but is just minutes away from the town of Panajachel. The restaurant is a favorite dining destination within the Lake Atitlán region, both for the food and the view. The cuisine is a fusion of regional and international specialties, based on fresh fruits, vegetables and produce sourced from nearby farms. Guests may dine in one of the two indoor dining rooms or out on the poolside terrace — with all three settings offering uninterrupted lake and volcano views. The main dining room is finished with elegant terracotta appointments, and features large bay windows. The intimate mahogany trimmed bar area is a favorite gathering spot at happy hour, and the sunsets over the water are not to be missed. Another favorite gathering area is the hotel’s infinity pool and hot tub deck, which feature an equally memorable view of the lake, along with poolside food and beverage service.