Casa Palopó, a Soulful Hideaway on Guatemala’s Storied Lake Atitlán
January 6, 2021 by Allison Reiber DiLiegro
We’re delighted to introduce Casa Palopó perched on Guatemala’s stunning Lake Atitlán. While the property is new to Hidden Doorways, Casa Palopó has a rich history on the storied lake. Once a private home, the lakeside hideaway opened its doors as a boutique hotel in 2000. While the property has flourished since then – Casa Palopó became the first Relais & Chateaux property in Guatemala in 2015 – the warm, intimate feeling of a private home remains to this day.
But first, let’s talk about that setting. Lake Atitlán is often listed among the most beautiful lakes in the world. The pristine, 50-square-mile lake is surrounded by three towering volcanoes that collect clouds as they pass. In the 19th century, writer John L. Stephens called it “the most magnificent spectacle we ever saw.” Our founder, JoAnn Kurtz-Ahlers, told us that looking out from the terrace reminded her of Lake Lucerne. And yet, there’s no mistaking where you are: Mayan culture is woven into the fabric of Casa Palopó.
Step into the sala, the cozy sitting room, and you’ll be surrounded by indigenous artisan goods, local antiques, an original Botero painting, and a fireplace that roars each evening.
That cozy sense of place continues to the 12 individually designed accommodations. Each of the rooms and suites is unique, with stucco walls painted in rich colors like Moroccan blue and Terracotta, and decorated with indigenous artwork. Exposed wooden beams add warmth, while Italian linens bring light. Many of the rooms and suites offer sweeping views of the lake, with the volcanoes looming above.
Three suites are located in La Villa, a second building that’s 150 steps up from the main house. These bedrooms can be booked individually, or taken over as a private villa. More contemporary in style, La Villa’s suites offer modern artwork, warm woods, and bathtubs that overlook the lake. Guests taking over La Villa will have private access to a large living room with panoramic lake views, a fireplace, terraces, and a full kitchen where the chef and butler can prepare meals. The villa also has its own infinity pool and hot tub with lake views, a gazebo, and an outdoor fireplace for settling in under the stars at night.
The restaurant, 6.8 Palopó, with its jaunty yet elegant interior – think: colorful candlelit chandeliers, wicker chairs, and white tablecloths – serves Guatemalan-inspired dishes made with ingredients sourced from local farms. Breakfast might be a local dish of fried eggs, black beans, and plantains. Dinner could have a fusion flare, like cannelloni filled with hilachas, the traditional Guatemalan beef stew.
And, of course, there’s the lake at your feet. Day trips can be arranged to the local villages by car or, better yet, by lancha, the small boats that bob on the water. There’s San Juan for excellent arts and crafts shopping, or San Marcos La Laguna for spirituality-seeking. Active types may choose to climb Volcan San Pedro, with the views so spectacular they warrant the strenuous climb. To rest your weary muscles, Casa Palopó has a small spa that offers treatments.
Thankfully, your journey doesn’t need to end when it’s time to check out. Casa Palopó has another property: a private three-bedroom villa in Antigua Guatemala, the former capital of Guatemala and UNESCO World Heritage Site. An easy stop for those traveling to Guatemala City, you can spend a night and the next day exploring the city’s colonial facades and romantic ruins before continuing on your journey. If you’d like, you can make the journey by helicopter, looking down on the lake along the way.
Santa Catarina Palopó, Guatemala