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From luxe to laid-back, the lakeside stays in Guatemala’s volcano-speckled highlands hit the mark with travelers seeking scenic hikes and superlative views.
Sapphire-blue, ringed with smoking volcanoes and surrounded by a shoreline dotted with colorful Mayan villages: Guatemala’s Lake Atitlán has been a pilgrimage site for overlanding backpackers since the early days of the Gringo Trail. Today, the Maya homestays and simple guesthouses that once catered to hippies have morphed into an eclectic mix of architecturally eccentric retreats and eco hotels, perched around Atitlán’s shores and positioned for dreamy lake-and-volcano views, looking like a set from a fantasy film.
With its simple whitewashed rooms and tranquil foliage-draped facade, the Uxlabil can’t compete with Atitlán’s flashier boutiques for opulence, but it does have a beautiful outdoor pool – hovering over the lake – plus rolling tropical gardens and a wealth of activities and excursions, all at a fraction of the price of its swanky neighbors. Staff are above-and-beyond hospitable, prepping grab-and-go breakfasts ahead of early-morning adventures and serving up cut-above Guatemalan coffee.
At this lakeside Selina outpost, from the luxe Latin American hostel chain, dorms are “community rooms,” and decor is trimmed with tribal motifs. There’s a yoga deck (with lake views), a pool and a big lounge area – kitted out with work stations for roving digital nomads. Sociable events, from cooking classes to sunset sessions on the beach, along with a garland-strung pool, seal the deal at this stylish flashpacker stopgap.
Sitting right over the water under a low, forest-covered cliff, the Kaalpul is the kind of place where you expect to be greeted at the boat jetty with a green juice on a silver tray. Om symbols, copper wind chimes and indigenous totems dot the garden, and an all-vegetarian menu entices world-weary wellness warriors to stay a while. Rooms are elf-like – doors framed by lush vegetation, interiors a riot of color – and the views, as ever in Atitlán, are fairytale.
There are genuine Tz’utujil and Kaqchikel shamans living in the area around Lake Atitlán, and Eagle’s Nest tries to tap into some of their energy with its ethos of Mayan mysticism and new-age vibe. Yoga retreats and classes are a regular fixture, and the organic garden feeds into the food; and there’s no escaping the beauty of the views from the sundeck, or the charm of the enchanting nest-like rooms, with their stained-glass windows.