Featured in the New York Times “Escapes” column, in 2007 as the retreat of a well-known American writer, Casa Paloma is the ideal getaway or honeymoon spot for a couple, a family with children looking for adventure, Spanish school and an introduction to Mayan culture, or two families or a group of friends vacationing together, in a place of virtually unparalleled natural beauty, rich in indigenous culture. The weather is never uncomfortably hot or humid, and the stars over the lake (or if you time your visit right, the moon) as clear as you have ever seen.
Located on the shore of one of the world’s most beautiful lakes, with great swimming , and spectacular views of three volcanoes and its own private dock, Casa Paloma offers a rare combination of first -world comfort with the charm and beauty of an unspoiled spot where your first experience every morning—as you sip your organically-grown Guatemalan coffee on the patio and slice a fresh mango or pineapple-- will be the sound of tropical birds on the balcony and the sight of fishermen in wooden canoes. The gardener brings fresh tortillas (made from blue corn, if you’re lucky) .
Our English-speaking property manager, Helmut, will arrange for your private transportation to the lake, stock the house with the basics, meet you on arrival, give you a cell phone to use while at the lake, and of course orient you to interesting things to do, restaurants, hikes and activities.
Situated on its own bay, a five minute walk to the charming Mayan village of San Marcos La Laguna --famed as a center for natural healing, yoga and massage—this home combines the pleasures of a peaceful getaway with easy access to the diverse culture of the lake and its markets, towns, indigenous weavers and painters, and hiking through spots of extraordinary natural beauty. You can choose to prepare meals at home or dine in any of a half dozen charming and unpretentious local restaurants, where a meal is likely to cost under $10.
The house—newly renovated and expanded by a prominent Guatemalan architect—is decorated with traditional textiles , a great library and local art and features spectacular lake views from every room: For a full description of rooms, email the owner. Home features a cathedral ceiling living room with fireplace, cathedral ceiling master bedroom with fireplace, opening onto balcony and a terrace with outdoor fireplace and outdoor shower, and master bath with huge tub. Sleeping/meditation loft; large kitchen equipped with modern appliances, guest room with private guest bath and separate patio. The kitchen opens onto a large dining room for cooler evenings, though you are likely to eat most meals on the large terrace with table that can seat ten—lined with roses , flowering vines and herb garden—overlooking the lake.
The house sits on an acre of landscaped gardens, featuring two waterfalls, fruit trees, an organic vegetable garden and dozens of rare exotic flowering plants and orchids, with a wood-fired pizza oven and outdoor fire pit.
Also on the property: a separate one-room thatch-roof ranchero, with double bed and meditation/sleeping loft, for watching the sunset, reading, or housing additional friends or family. Property comes with two gardeners, on duty daily, who will assist guests with bringing the kayak down to the water, fire up the sauna or pizza oven, or replace the bottled water from town. For those planning a longer stay, a once-a-week visit from a housekeeper is included in the rental . There is a third treehouse/guest house also available for a very large group for an additional fee.
Also available on occasion: Private catering of meals , who can also assist in locating a babysitter, private driver for excursions (if you can bear to tear yourself away) and answer questions about arranging for yoga or spanish classes, massage, guides, visits to local markets or Chichicastenango, volcano hike.
Home features satellite wireless internet, a washer and dryer, a safe to lock up valuables, and of course sheets, towels, and all the basics. Visits are one-week minimum, though guests have been known to stay as long as six weeks, and it is interesting to note that several former guests have subsequently purchased property in San Marcos.
PLEASE NOTE WHEN READING COMMENTS BY PAST GUESTS THAT CASA PALOMA WAS TOTALLY RENOVATED IN 2009, WITH A MAJOR ADDITION ADDED AND UPDATES THROUGHOUT THE HOME. THE HOUSE NOW COMFORTABLY ACCOMODATES UP TO TEN GUESTS.
I first travelled to Lake Atitlan in 1973, at age 20, and fell in love with the lake then, vowing to return, though another twenty eight years passed before I made my way back. In 2001, I travelled to San Marcos for what was meant to be a two day vacation, fell in love with the town , and decided to rent a house there for the next eight months. I wrote a novel there (The Usual Rules, published in 2003) and decided to buy a house. Since then I've returned multiple times a year--sometimes for no more than a week or two, often for months at a stretch. It is the place I feel most at home in the world, in many ways.
I established a writing workshop there in 2002. This winter (2010) will mark the eighth year I've been helping American travellers discover Lake Atitlan.
Over my years in San Marcos, and running the workshop, I have learned a lot about how to make the experience of spending time there as magical as possible. Coming to Guatemala is definitely not the same as travelling to a place like Hawaii or Florida. One thing that helps a lot: having someone help you settle in and point you in the right direction . For this reason, I am very happy to have enlisted the assistance of a wonderful couple, Niels and Lily, who live very close by and manage the property while I'm away. Because they are in the hotel business (running my favorite San Marcos hotel, Aaculaax), they are enormously experienced in helping travellers explore the area and pointing out little known treasures of the lake. Lily's an American (who first travelled to the lake as a tourist, and like so many of us, fell in love with the place.) She'll be meeting you on arrival, and assisting in your arrangements. You could not be in better hands.
Lake Atitlan is my favorite place on earth. The same aspects of live at the lake that can be challenging for some of us first-world types (how slowly things move, how un-modern it is) are the reasons why the experience is so precious. There is no television at my house, for a reason. (though there are many wonderful books ). I come to the lake to get away from all of that....and I do.
I will add that every time I return from the lake, friends say I look ten years younger. I know I feel that way.
Swimming, health treatments, swimming, gardens, fresh fruits and vegetables, swimming, saunas, markets, swimming....
Can you tell I love to swim? (Night swims under the stars, best of all. followed by a sauna.)
Mayan Ruins, Visiting Local Artisan Markets, Spanish Lessons, Yoga and Massage, bike rentals, horsebackriding, local women will cater pizza night on great outdoor pizza oven (or cook it yourself)