Most visitors to Guatemala head straight to the historic capital Antigua and leave it at that, but you’re missing out if you don’t head into the highlands. Lake Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America; think Lake Tahoe only surrounded by rural villages and the Sierra Madres instead of the Rockies. It’s a three-hour drive from Guatemala City by car, or 30 minutes by helicopter (which is how the wealthy Guatemalans do it; many of them have second homes here).
One of these homes has been turned into the sweetest boutique hotel, ideal for honeymoons or buyout weddings. Casa Palopo is a former villa-turned-9-room hotel, brimming with amazing artwork and ambiance. The hallway alone was enough to make me swoon.
It feels like a private home, with cushy sofs, colorful tapestries and an amazing collection of artwork. The former owner was an art collector; when it changed hands, the art stayed and the new owner added a few pieces. The vibe is eclectic, engaging and personal; there’s always something new to discover as you look around.
Off of the living room is a cozy bar, with a surprisingly robust wine list and again, more art. I wanted to buy everything off the walls! (Luckily, there’s a tiny but well curated gift shop, with selection chosen by the owner, so I didn’t leave empty handed.)
There are only 9 bedrooms, each uniquely decorated in a different color palette. I loved the blue room, with its beamed ceiling and French doors leading out to a terrace.
The restaurant is small and seriously delicious; the hotel is a member of Relais & Chateaux and the owner’s daughter creates the menus and cooks when she’s onsite. It’s a blend of continental cuisine with a touch of Latin America; think tuna tartare with yucca chips.
During the day, you can hike the hills, explore remote highland villages, go boating or paddleboarding on the lake, or just sit by the pool and drink in the views.
That thing over there? It’s a volcano. Lake Atitlan has three, all active, and the hotel is placed for maximum views.
The owners have a second villa in Antigua, so you can pair a stay in the highlands with time in one of Central America’s prettiest cities, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The historic villa is built in traditional style, centered around a main courtyard.
This is the perfect place to retreat after a day of exploring the cobblestone streets and cute shops in Antigua. Again, shopping. Word to the wise: Bring an empty suitcase to fill up when you’re there, you’ll need it!