Guatemala welcomes adventurous tourists who want to experience a Central American country that celebrates Mayan culture, nature, and post-colonial Spanish influences. This is a country where hand-made, backstop-loom textiles, and Michelin-star chefs coexist. You can hire a driver and explore bumpy, twisty roads filled with chicken buses and dotted with small road-side tiendas or jump on a helicopter to shuttle from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan or Tikal. The people are warm, welcoming, and spiritual.
Highlights of Lake Atitlan include the Casa Palopo Relais and Chateaux hotel, perched on the Eastern shore of Lake Atitlan, the deepest lake in Central America. Formed by volcano, the lake is a holiday destination for people from Guatemala City and the location of many Mayan villages. You can hike, boat, kayak, or take a Tuk-Tuk to see villages and volcanoes, to taste local coffee, or to buy colorful textiles. At Casa Palopo, there are gorgeous views of the three volcanic peaks (Toliman, Atitlán, and San Pedro) and the lake; authentic Mayan art and handmade furnishings; Michelin starred food; and, of course, Guatemalan coffee and rum. The 12-room hotel has two pools, outdoor fireplaces, terraces, and a variety of rooms in the main building and a 3-room private villa. Take a day trip to Chichicastananga for the Sunday or Thursday market and experience the intersection of Catholicism and the Mayan religion at the church of Iglesia de Santo Tomás.
On the outskirts of Antigua, Villa Bokeh is a beautiful, lush, 6-acre property with incredible views of Volán de Agua volcano. A 16-room hacienda filled with art and light, each of Villa Bokeh’s rooms is decorated individually with original pieces, hand-made tiles, and wallpaper made of Mayan textile. The bathrooms are to die for. With terraces facing the volcano, many of the rooms offer fire pits and seating areas for morning coffee or a glass of Guatemala’s finest XO rum. Swim laps in the heated pool hidden in the gardens, walk the cobblestone paths, play chess on a life-size course, or take a boat out in the small pond. It is a quick drive into Antigua to shop, experience an international bar and restaurant scene, and take a historical tour of the cobble-stoned city. From Antigua, you can can hike the lava fields of Pacaya Volcano and eat pizza made on the hot lava rocks with Pizza Pacaya or visit an organic vegetable farm like Caoba Farms,Valhalla, or Macadamia Farm or coffee farms, or hike to Cerro De LaCruz overlooking the city.
CTTW has developed the best contacts and can recommend a wonderful, knowledgeable guide and driver. Even for the most experienced travelers, this is a country where having a good driver and guide is essential.
No wedges or flip flops, no dressy clothes or anything flashy—you will enjoy buying hand-made textiles and supporting the local community. There are co-ops in Antigua and around Lake Atitlan.