Journeying through Guatemala, there’s one particular destination that we always recommend to our clients in search of a peaceful bolt-hole with breathtaking views…
Casa Palopo is a charming, small boutique hotel overlooking the majestic volcanoes surrounding Lake Atitlan – Volcan San Pedro, Volcan Atitlan and Volcan Toliman. Owned and run by a charming French couple with impeccable taste and a passion for French cuisine (the hotel boasts the Relais & Chateaux accolade), we’d place a stay at Casa Palopo far above its local competition, or indeed national competition, in terms of experience, comfort, service and scenery. With only a handful of beautifully decorated rooms and a wonderful restaurant spilling out onto a terrace with the most arresting views, Casa Palopo is the sort of place you want to retreat to and never return.
Whilst you can explore the highlights of the lake in a full day, we’d recommend two or three days here if you’re keen to incorporate some relaxation in to your holiday. The setting and scenery are intensely peaceful – give your mind a break and sit and admire the view from the pool with a good book.
Enjoy morning yoga out on the terrace, hill walking to spectacular vantage points and biking around the lake, stopping to discover small communities along the way. The best way to explore is by private boat with one of our local guides. Take the steps that meander from the hotel garden all the way down to the jetty on the lake shore, and board a power-boat to visit fascinating lakeside villages and Mayan communities, some of which aren’t accessible by road.
Santiago de Atitlan is one of the main towns on the lake; very traditional, with a beautiful church and colourful markets selling handicrafts and textiles. Here you can learn about the Mayan god, Maximon, whose shrine is in Santiago and is the pride of the community. San Juan La Laguna is a lovely, colourful town to look around, where you can meet Mayan women who still do traditional back-strap weaving with natural dyes as part of a local cooperative.
Many people in this region still wear traditional dress, all hand-weaved and dyed – the colours and patterns everywhere you look are stunning. Jaibalito town has a very laid-back vibe and we’d recommend stopping for a drink or lunch at the Club there – there are even hot tubs if you feel like a relaxing soak with a fabulous view! For a more buzzing atmosphere, Panajachel is the busiest town on the Lake with a number of restaurants and bars. It feels a little touristy in comparison with the other lakeside communities, as it’s more developed, but it’s fun to spend an evening wandering through the shops on Calle Santander and stopping for a drink in a local bar.
Returning to Casa Palopo in the evening, sit out on the terrace with your feet dangling in the cool pool water, and watch the volcanoes cast beautiful silhouettes and shadows across the lake as the sun slowly sets. There is something extraordinarily magical about Lake Atitlan.