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Blog 3/26/2020

A Guatemalan transformation

  • Adventure


  • Culture


  • Discovery


Nestled deep in the southwestern reaches of Guatemala's highlands lies an incredible utopia of natural wonders. Perched on the fringes of Lake Atitlán, the Atitlán Nature Reserve is home to some of the country's most impressive scenery and a diverse array of flora and fauna. As a former Mayan village that was then used as a coffee plantation, the Reserve embodies all of the region's cultural and ecological enchantment, making it the perfect place to reconnect with nature.

The lake itself is stunning enough, housed within a massive volcanic crater in the San Buenaventura Valley. Framed by steep, verdant hills, it's renowned for its traditional Mayan hamlets, picturesque private boat rides and the striking visage of the jagged volcanoes in the vicinity. A week's stay on the shores of this lake is guaranteed to leave you feeling rested, recharged and fully at one with the forces of nature that have watched over this idyllic locale throughout its colourful history.

From coffee to conservation

The area surrounding the Atitlán Nature Reserve has undergone a quite remarkable transformation over the last few centuries. As recently as the late 1700s, the site was home to a thriving Mayan population, but the incursion of colonial Spain in the 19th and 20th centuries meant that it became first a sugar plantation, then a coffee one under the ownership of Don Moises Rivera Soto. However, one of the Don’s descendants decided to convert the plantation into a conservation site at the close of the 1990s, opening first a butterfly preserve and accompanying nature trails.

Today, the site is a fully-fledged nirvana for nature enthusiasts, with hanging bridges traversing mighty waterfalls and the gentle calls of crickets and hummingbirds accompanying the lilting rhythms of a life less hectic. Meanwhile, those who crave more activity in their holidays can soar far above the coffee groves, plunging waters and lush vegetation via the Reserve’s many ziplines. Where else would you get such a burst of adrenaline alongside such restful repose?

Disconnect, destress, indulge

The remote location of the Reserve, coupled with the scenic serenity of the lake adjacent, makes this one trip which is guaranteed to put you firmly in touch with the ground beneath your feet. To make the experience that much more meaningful, we recommend staying at Casa Palopó on the lake’s eastern fringes. This stunning boutique hotel offers impeccable hospitality, incredible views and extraordinary fine dining opportunities, all with a firm emphasis on getting away from it all.

For example, the property is proud to operate a no-television policy, allowing guests the opportunity to fully unwind in its elegantly decorated interior. Indigenous artwork and charming Guatemalan antiques adorn the walls, while the four-poster beds are made from rich mahogany and topped with sumptuous Italian linen, offering the utmost in comfortable indulgence. Meanwhile, each room comes with its own private terrace looking onto the lake and the awe-inspiring panoramas beyond, while certain villas even boast their own infinity pool and hot tub.

Exploring further afield

It might be difficult to tear yourself away from all that lavish luxury, but the surrounding area offers plenty of opportunities for exploration. Aside from the Reserve itself, the lake is fringed by a multitude of diminutive towns and villages, each offering its own unique characteristics and charisma. The busy town of Panajachel, for example, is a popular gateway to the lake and its streets are awash with vendors selling traditional textiles and artisanal handicrafts.

Over on the opposite shore lies Santiago Atitlán, a fascinating insight into Mayan heritage. Alongside the colourful clothing of the locals, the town is also home to the Church of St James the Apostle, which is one of the oldest surviving Catholic buildings in the whole of central America. It’s also notable as the final resting place of Father Stanley Rother, the first US-born martyr who was tragically murdered during the Guatemalan Civil War. Neighbouring San Juan La Laguna is another itinerary highlight, perched atop a chocolate-box bay and home to the unique culture and crafts of its Tz’utujil inhabitants.

Reconnecting with nature

At Quintessentially Travel, we firmly believe in the importance of making the most of your time off. We also understand that everyone’s idea of the perfect holiday is different, which is why we pride ourselves on delivering bespoke luxury experiences that are specifically tailored to your unique tastes and predilections. Indeed, we’ve spent a decade building an impeccable reputation in the industry for creating once-in-a-lifetime trips for our guests, going above and beyond to exceed their expectations and deliver an experience they’ll look back on with fondness for years to come.

2020 sees us celebrate our 10th year anniversary, and one of the cornerstones of our commemorative campaign is the idea of reconnecting – both with the natural and the traditional. A trip to the Atitlán Reserve is the ideal way to experience Mayan culture in an unadulterated form, while the sustainably minded management of the Reserve offers up great opportunities to immerse yourself in the wildlife of the region. Add in a stay at Casa Papoló and you can’t fail to return from your sojourn rejuvenated and ready to tackle the rigours of the modern world afresh. For more information on organising your dream trip to this Central American idyll, get in touch with our team of luxury travel experts at Quintessentially Travel, today.

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