As a guest of Claudia Bosch, owner of Casa Palopo and its sister villa in Antigua, I was treated to a glamorous stay at this Guatemala hotel with a large bright room and lots of wine. While not everyone is personally invited to a hotel by its owner, a regular stay at Casa Palopo isn’t much different. There is someone to serve you around every corner due to the property’s small size and copious staff, no one to disturb you due to the abundance of hiding-spot worthy nooks and crannies and always a jaw-dropping view due to its location perched high above Lake Atitlan surrounded by volcanoes.
So, really, I got the average treatment, it just so happens average treatment it pretty spectacular here.
If it isn’t clear yet, Casa Palopo on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is a mystical accommodation that swept me away with the waves of the lake, and here’s why.
As a Bosch guest, I traveled from Guatemala City airport to the lake via helicopter, and while it isn’t the cheapest route, it is worth every penny spent. The views of the valleys separating the city from the lake sprinkled with estates grandiose enough to house Guatemala’s president are nothing compared to what you see when the hilltops part. The heavens above seem to spread the lake out in front of you before placing each volcano and mountain to form a protective barrier around the 100-foot-deep lake. The helicopter lands on the hotel’s own helipad, which sits right below the property’s two-bedroom villa, showing you at first glance how high-end this tiny place is. As you make your way down a shaded staircase to the dark and rustic lobby-area that leads to the restaurant, you might forget what waits on the other side of the structure. That is, until you lock eyes on the lake just below the restaurant’s patio. After a few hours (and a few glasses of wine paired with Guatemalan cheese) you will get used to the vast views of the 50-square-mile lake and the 10,000-foot volcanic peaks that surround it, but it will never cease to amaze you.
Claudia set me up in her “favorite” suite. I know what you’re thinking, she probably says that about all of the suites. Either way, this room stands out, and not just because it’s the only one painted blue (that does help). As you enter, you face a set of stairs, making you feel like you’ve walked into your own house. When you reach the top, you are swept away into the lake via bright blue walls and a terrace that spans the length of the room. I always check out the bathroom first when I check into a hotel (I have a thing for bathrooms), and this one didn’t disappoint; it comes with a massive in-ground tub set up next to a door that led to the terrace. The room is filled with antique-y looking details like a trunk at the end of the bed and an ornately carved wooden bench. The thought-out intricacies aren’t limited to this suite. Each of the seven main rooms is filled with deliberate detail, from the tiny swirls of silver adoring the doors to the way the light-switches are painted.
With a view like that, there’s really no question as to what makes this 9-room villa unique. The crazy thing is that this isn’t Casa Palopo’s only selling point. What caught my eye (after the volcanoes, obviously) was the colorful indigenous décor featured throughout the property. Between the wooden statues that sit atop the restaurant tables and the chandeliers made of candles, there is always something interesting to look at (as if the view weren’t enough).
The hotel is nestled into the hills on Lake Atitlan, which is surrounded by 14 Guatemalan villages. Casa Palopo sits in between Santa Catrina and San Antonio. Each village has its own native language, customs and dress, so as you drive through each tiny town, you will notice distinct differences as detailed as the patterns of their pants. Since the hotel is in between two towns, there isn’t very much around the property, which gives it a serene feeling that mimics being on a small boat in the middle of the massive lake. A five-minute walk down a steep hill brings you lakeside to the hotel’s private dock allowing easy access to the towns by boat (you can also drive to any of the towns if you are OK with windy roads). While Casa Palopo represents the laid-back and unified vibe that the dormant volcano-surrounded area generates, once you get into town, the lake comes to life as the volcanoes erupt (figuratively) with vibrant colors, loud markets, family gatherings and chickens roaming the streets.
Maggie Parker is Paste magazine’s assistant travel editor.