Barrio 3, San Marcos La Laguna, Departamento Solola, Guatemala
With a prime lake view and organic nature design, Lush Atitlan boutique hotel in Guatemala is a perfect creative antidote to stress and city noise.
For the first time since being married and having kids, I gave myself a gift. For my 45th birthday I took a luxury solo trip to one of my favorite spots in Guatemala: Lago de Atitlan.
Lake Atitlan is an old volcanic crater that became a lake hundreds of years ago circled by three volcanoes. Today adorable villages are nestled all around the lake. Some are only accessible by boat and have no car access at all, making them even more exclusive. And the only way to get around is on foot paths. This is truly seen and enjoyed when visiting San Marcos. When staying in this village it's best to stay closer to the tiny foot-path center, but still get the views of the lake from your hotel.
This may sound like an easy thing to do, but few hotels offer these views and even fewer offer luxury accommodations. If they do it is because they are located high up in the mountains that are not so close to town, or on one of the cliffs. Only a few are close to everything, of international quality, and with spectacular views. Lush Atitlan is one of the few. There are at least twelve indigenous villages surrounding the lake but what makes this one special is the amount of different activities and water fun you can have. It is nothing like the more famous and least private town of Panajachel. First of all, it isn't a party town but more for new age seekers and those looking for peace and Mayan culture. Plus it is considered to be one of the best towns to experience Mayan Rituals. With the cliffs that you can easily walk to makes is perfect for paragliding, unique spa services, bird watching, going on short nature hikes at Tzankujil Park, and jumping from a seven-meter tall wooden platform into the lake.
© Marina Villatoro
Lush Atitlan Boutique Hotel is sometimes listed as Lush Apartments or as Aaculaax (Niels, the owner's name in the Mayan dialect spoken in the area). The entrance to the hotel is at lake level. However, the property is built into a cliff and designed with the nature all around it.
The rock cliff face is used as walls for most of the rooms, giving them a unique look. The stone is orchestrated into the bathrooms too, with waterfalls as part of the shower structure. Local artists created he stained glass window art especially for this property. The furniture is handmade and sculpted by the owner, the main artist and creator of the hotel and design. Everything is tied together with traditional Guatemalan textiles and pottery. It is eclectic and strange in a beautiful way.
© Marina Villatoro
Ten rooms out of the twelve have views of the lake and three volcanoes. The stairs to your room are meandering on the way to your room. The design is almost like a labyrinth in the middle of tropical plants. The owner told me that the whole design was meant to blend perfectly with the colorful, tropical plants of the property and to invite wildlife while still making it feel luxurious.
Each room is a private suite, with a sitting area, full kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. The hotel may only have twelve rooms, but each room has a totally different look and feel to it. Every detail of them is carefully thought out.
For a bit more space, go for one of the top options: honeymoon suites, family suites, and jungle suites. I stayed in the Sirena room (Mermaid), an impressive one-bedroom duplex apartment. The bottom floor is the main bedroom area with a king bed, with a small sitting spot by the window and a full bathroom with plenty of closet space. I have been told that they get guests who stay with them for one to three months, and having all this closet space makes a lot of sense. Upstairs is a sitting area that is split into two parts. One part is inside with a large couch. And the other part is a balcony with a table and comfy seats. These areas are attached to a full kitchen and dining room, surrounded by huge windows with views you can take in all day. Even though there is a full kitchen, you get a fresh, healthy breakfast every morning in the dining area.
I was concerned about fully communicating with the staff in this indigenous village. When most of the office staff spoke in perfect English, it was a nice surprise. These were people from the village, which offers practically no bilingual education. In Guatemala, this level of proficiency in a hotel which doesn't belong to a large chain is extremely rare. Plus, the staff has been with the owners for almost the two decades it has been in existence. This makes the experience feel even more indulgent when you are surrounded by a happy and friendly staff as opposed to trained robots who seem to wish they were elsewhere. The affection the staffers have for the owners and the facilities shines through.
Imagine you are in a tiny Guatemalan village with footpaths that can have about two people side by side, at most. You are surrounded by tropical plants, small shops, even tinier restaurants, fruit stands, veggie stands, locals wanting to meet you, and some of the most stunning lake views of the region. This is what you get while visiting San Marcos La Laguna, near Lush Atitlan Hotel. I have stayed in hundreds of boutique hotels all over the world and have also been to some of the top hotel chains. None of them have offered this type of a unique look and pampering service from the staff. This hotel is more of a work of art than simply a hotel, yet preserving all the essence of a luxury boutique property.=
Web address: www.lushatitlan.com
Total number of rooms: 12
Published rates: $125 - $250
Review by Marina Villatoro, photos courtesy of the hotel except where indicated.