Guatemala is gorgeous. When you visit you’ll encounter dramatic landscapes, rich and mysterious history and truly hospitable people. There’s so much diversity (climate, geography and culture) that you’ll be hard-pressed to get an accurate picture of the country’s dynamic beauty over the course of several weeks. That may be one of the reasons you encounter so many travelers-turned-temporary-residents throughout Guatemala. There’s just so much to see.
Most people don’t have a lifetime to check it out, that’s why it’s great to have a few shortlists of “don’t miss” places. So here’s one of mine:
1. Maya Moon Lodge in Tzununá at Lake Atitlán
Aldous Huxley, the English writer and philosopher, famously called Atitlán the most beautiful lake in the world. The view here is incredible. Every room at the lodge (including the dorms) features a balcony with a wide-open, won’t believe it ’til you see it view of the lake and surrounding volcanoes (yes, plural). The property that the lodge is built on terminates at the water’s edge, with a large patio that extends out onto a stone embankment jutting up from the lake. A restaurant serves three meals daily and drinks until late into the evening.
Did I mention the view? You can’t beat it. Fuego, an active volcano on the border of the Sacatepéquez department, sits on the horizon across the lake belching out smoke in the mornings and (very rarely) spewing visible red-hot lava during the night.
Getting to Maya Moon is a snap. They have their own dock (swimming, sunbathing and kayaking are the mainstays in terms of activities) so colectivo water-taxis departing from Panajachel or San Pedro can take you directly there – just ask for Maya Moon. The stop is between San Marcos and Tzununá. You can also reach the lodge via tuk-tuk from San Marcos.
2. Earth Lodge in Antigua
Earth Lodge is a beautifully managed eco-lodge in El Hato, a small community a few minutes’ drive from Antigua. They offer affordable dorms, private rooms (including a treehouse!), a traditional style sauna and a sweeping view that could steal your day away.
From the reception area, dining room and bar near the highest point of the property, you’ll be looking out at a range of volcanoes (Yes, volcanoes again! Guatemala has quite a few) with wide tracts of sparkling, deep green avocado orchards below. Fuego’s eruptions are more up close and personal here than they are from Lake Atitlán, although still a distant feature of the horizon.
Earth Lodge’s community dinners are famously delicious, and their bar is certainly sufficient. While you may feel a little isolated at the hostel’s away from the world locale, you certainly won’t want for food, drinks or a beautiful view.
Shuttles leave from “El Hostal” in Antigua to Earth Lodge daily. There are a couple other Antigua pickup locations as well.
For other great places to stay in Antigua, see also: Best Places to Stay in Antigua for Every Budget
3. Hacienda Mil Amores in Acul, El Quiché
Welcome to the Western Highlands of Guatemala. Cool, brisk weather, misty, dramatic mountain ranges and lush cattle pasture are the norm. Hacienda Mil Amores is pretty far off the gringo trail. You won’t find any memorable t-shirts, trendy bars or businesses catering to tourists.
What you will find are classy, standalone cabins with fireplaces, wonderful hot full pressure showers and comfortable beds all housed on a quaint, European-esque dairy farm. Hiking trails crisscross the surrounding mountains where locals tend to small fields, collect firewood and raise livestock. You’ll likely wake to cowbells in the morning, and might forget you’re in Guatemala while walking around the lush green fields divided by fresh, cold streams and brusque rock formations.
If you’re looking for a quiet or romantic getaway and you have the time to get there, Hacienda Mil Amores is the right choice. Cheese plates with wine, delicious typical food, beautiful hiking and a super quiet, relaxing atmosphere will make your stay memorable. Keep in mind you’ll be in the middle of nowhere.
To get there, you can take a camioneta (chicken bus) to Nebaj in the El Quiché department, then a micro-bus to Acul. Hacienda Mil Amores is on the road from Nebaj to Acul, just about three minutes from Acul’s town center.
Prices: Cabins cost Q150 ($20) per person
Phone: (+502) 3072-9878
Email: [email protected]