Located in the lush Guatemalan highlands, and hemmed in on all sides by volcanoes and tall mountains, Lake Atitlan (Lago de Atitlán) is possibly Guatemala’s number one visitor attraction.The lake is endorheic, meaning it does not flow into the sea, and (with a maximum depth of 1,120 feet) is thought to be the deepest lake in Central America. Lake Atitlan is shaped by deep escarpments and is circled by three volcanoes: Toliman, Atitlan, and San Pedro.
What to Know:
Mayan culture is strong in the 13 villages that line the lake’s shore. Each of the villages is known for something unique. The biggest of the villages, Panajachel, for example, is a cosmopolitan expat hangout; while San Marcos La Laguna is a center for holistic health, and filled with meditation, yoga, and massage centers. In San Antonio Palopo, a village known for its ceramics, the Maya men wear the traditional dress, or traje.
Where to Stay:
Skip the touristy Panajachel and head southeast to Santa Catarina Palopó where you will find the charming Casa Palopó. Perched on a mountain, and occupying what was once a private home, this luxury micro-boutique hotel has only nine guest rooms in both the main building and two-story Villa Palopo annex located 150 cobblestone steps up the mountain. The hotel’s brightly colored stucco walls, lined with hundreds of original Guatemalan artworks and artifacts evoke the country’s rich Mayan heritage. All of the hotel’s private terraces offer panoramic views of the lake and the on-site restaurant 6.8 Palopó serves both international and Guatemalan cuisine.
Rates start at $140 a night for a Superior Room in the low seasons: May through June and September through October.