A Perfect Marriage Of Luxury And Culture At Lake Atitlan

Monday, August 23, 2010

I will be honest: the sound of the word “lake” causes an instant yawn reflex. Mention “beach” or “miles of sand and sea,” and you’ve caught my attention for the next hour. As a seasoned traveler, it is slightly embarrassing to admit that I almost always search for the perfect seascape to relax and unwind during the last few days of my journey, ignoring the many other beautiful bodies of water to be discovered. It seems that I have foolishly undermined the prospect of a lake being a part of a stunning natural landscape inundated with endless possibilities for adventure and relaxation alike. It was not until I read this captivating article in the Wall Street Journal about Lake Atitlán, that I realized how immensely intriguing this elusive loch in Guatemala truly is.

Once referred to as “the most beautiful lake in the world” by English writer Alex Huxley, Lake Atitlán has become a popular destination for luxury travelers “. . . a quiet oasis in a country known for roughing it with a backpack. It also offers something typical posh destinations don’t; the chance to rub elbows with a native culture of the highlands Maya, as much of a draw as the dramatic setting,” reports the Journal.

Two luxury lodges situated above Lake Atitlán provide comfortable accommodations in a pristine setting. Casa Palopó, a nine room boutique hotel, offers sweeping views, spacious accommodations, and international cuisine. Surrounded by Tzantizotz Nature Reserve, Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort is the perfect spot for travelers looking to explore the delicate ecosystems in the region. The lodge is set on 60 acres of lush foliage and offers rappelling, rock climbing, and cliff jumping along the mountain trails.

Just a few miles away from the two resorts, several distinct Indian villages sit at the lake’s edge, existing just as they have for hundreds of years. The small communities can be reached by private boat — forty dollars for the day — or by public transportation.  A trip through the crowded streets of Santiago de Atitlán reveals a thriving textile industry world-renowned for the “intricate designs and natural dyes” used in creating the vibrant garments. The hand-woven clothing is also worn by villagers; specific patterns and colors indicating the town in which each individual resides.

A stroll to Iglesia Parroquial Santiago Apóstol sheds light on a somber history.  A small museum erected in the parish hall honors an American missionary who was killed by death squads in 1981. A beloved member of the community, Father Stanley Francis Rother’s heart and blood is preserved here in honor of his benevolent service to the Mayan community. Visitors can also go on a guided search for Maximón, “a Mayan trickster god whose statue bounces between houses of local villagers throughout the year.” The search usually ends with an impromptu lesson in religious traditions in the home of the villager who has current possession of the statue.

And at the end of the day you don’t have to return to a stiff bunk and cold showers — if that is not your cup of tea of course — but instead enjoy relatively inexpensive luxury on the shores of a lake that seem to match some the most beautiful beaches the world over.

By Maria Russo


About the Author

Maria Russo is a freelance writer who loves natural wonders, good eats, ethical travel, and boutique hotels. Her work has appeared on the Huffington Post, USA Today.com, People.com and A Luxury Travel Blog, among others.


When Maria is not writing for her all-time favorite site (that would be The Expeditioner), she spends her time blogging about foreign jaunts and delectable food experiences for her site: Memoirs of a Travel & Food Addict. She is also up to no good on Twitter (@traveladdictgrl, @expedmaria).

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