THINGS TO DO FROM LA CASA DEL MUNDO, LAKE ATITLÁN, GUATEMALA
La Casa del Mundo, is a family run boutique hotel located on the volcanic cliffs of Lake Atitlán, a 15 minute boat ride from the busy town of Panajachel. The Fogarty/Valenzuela family opened the hotel for business in 1997 and prioritize in offering a fantastic sustainability policy to its guests hence preserving the surroundings. Lake Atitlan is quite the special place with many activities that can be enjoyed whilst residing around its serene waters and volcanic backdrop.
Lake Atitlàn is,what is known as a Volcanic Caldera. The lake is thought to have been formed by a volcanic eruption spanning the distance of Panama to Florida. 50 metres below the surface of the lake, is a Mayan burial site covered with water as the mantel layer of the earth has risen to elevate the water level. The lake is surrounded by three volcanoes, Volcàn de Atitlàn, Volcàn de San Pedro and Volcàn de Tolimàn. Thus making this a very unique landscape with Lake Atitlàn being the second largest lake in Guatemala.
LA CASA DEL MUNDO
Accessible only by private boat from Panajachel or on foot, Jaibalito, on Lake Atitlan hosts a stunning clifftop hideaway with gorgeous lush gardens, swimming holes and a hot tub in an overhanging alcove over Lake Atitlan. Explore the never-ending patios, variety of orchids, native trees, flowers, shrubs, creepers and exotic tropical plants that encompass this beautiful lakeside retreat.
Paint the picture in your head of lying back in one of the hammocks on a balmy afternoon surrounded by the terrace gardens and the scent of your Guatemalan dinner being cooked. Watch the sunset, swinging in a hammock from the location of Casa del Mundo, which has unobstructed panoramic views of Lake Atitilan and the three volcanoes right before your eyes.
The hotel has its own jetty where they dock their private boast as well as where the local boats pick and drop-off from the neighbouring towns and villages surrounding lake Atitalan.
La casa del Mundo has 17 rooms in total, all differing in size and location along the cliff-top. Some have lake views where as others have balconies donning the stunning Lake Atitlan scenery.
Our abode was a Lake View Suite, which was beyond stunning. It had a small terrace with a hammock outside and two queen beds as well as a seating area where you could sit and look out of the window at the views. A perfectly formed bathroom and not one but two balconies. A large one looking directly out onto the lake and then a side balcony with a similar view but perfect to watch the sunset from.
The suite was decorated in local textiles and handicrafts and also had the names and location of the maker displayed underneath. Such beautiful personal touch!
Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks are served at set times of the day and my goodness are they delicious.
All meals are served from the Café Jardin del Sol with all ingredients grown in the region, local, fresh and superb in quality. Breakfast particularly for me was such a treat as you can chose one of the lovely balcony spots and sit looking at the sun rise whilst picking a made to order breakfast from the menu.
Dinner times at La casa del Mundo are served ‘family style’ at 6:30 pm each night (you place your order during the day) and is candle-lit. All the guests sit on a long table and it’s the perfect opportunity to get to converse and make friends with travellers from around the globe!
Following dinner, the hotel adopts a quiet time approach from 9:30pm onwards and most people just retire to their rooms after a day of Lake-life.
La Casa del Mundo has a strict sustainability policy, which involves waste recycling in many ways. For example, washed plastic bags are donated to be used in weaving projects by cultural associations.
The septic system has been designed to pump all the drain water up to the septic tank well above the hotel. The waste is then filtered and subsequently used to irrigate the surrounding forests.
The hotel water system is heating by solar panels and solar panels have also been installed near to the patios by the lake to provide a sizeable portion of the electricity consumed by the hotel.
Casa del Mondo’s goal is to become 100% self-sufficient, thus reducing the carbon-footprint.
There are a plethora of activities that can be done; onsite activities include a hot tub, spa as well as paragliding, cultural tours of the surrounding markets, horse-riding, visiting the neighbouring towns of San Juan La Laguan, Santiago Atitlán, San Pedro, Santa Cruz La Laguna, Chichicastenango and Panajechel.
Activities offered by La Casa del Mundo include free hire of snorkelling gear as well as swimming in the buried balconies around the property, snorkelling, highland hikes, kayaking and paddle boarding.
SAN JUAN LA LAGUNA
San Juan is a town located about a 30 minute boat ride form the hotel. It’s a fab place to discover the Guatemalan local artisans and culture. There are weaving, textiles, artists, coffee producers and medicine women here who have formed co-operatives and trade from workshops in the town. You can even try your hand at some of the activities and book art classes should you wish. In my opinion, this is one of the best places to visit in terms of general home-grown ethos and values. There will be a blog post out shortly featuring San Juan and it’s girl power co-operatives!
Santiago is around two hours from the hotel so it’s best to leave via boat early or pre-book onto a tour. It is the largest town on the lake. This town is most definitely where you will see the ‘Tzutujil’ culture and their traditional dresses and colourful textiles that feature bird print embroidery.
We arrived via boat from San Juan and had lunch at a traditional Guatemalan restaurant at Hotel Santiago with a stunning lakeside location and got a tuk tuk into Santiago town. Where we delved into the local folklore, history and culture.
Maximón is also called San Simón, is a Mayan deity and folk saint represented in various forms by the Maya people of several towns in the highlands of Western Guatemala. Oral tradition of his creation and purpose in these communities is complex, diverse and born of the ancient Maya traditions centuries ago.
According to folk legend, when men left the village to work in the field, Maximón crept into town and slept with their wives. When the men found out, they returned and cut off all his limbs, leaving him behind as a womanising torso. He was also well known for chain smoking and drinking heavily. During Holy Week, an effigy of Maximón leaves his shrine and leads a procession through many villages in Guatemala.
In Santigao the Maximón effigy is hosted by a different ‘brotherhood’ thus having privilege of taking care of their god so his location changes to the house of those responsible for his effigy.
Maximón is depicted as very short and often without his legs or arms. Although he is occasionally presented with flowers, it is also common for worshippers to place cigarettes, money and alcohol in front of his effigy and to pour alcohol into his mouth. Worshippers regularly visit him throughout the year and finally give the saint special treatment during Holy Week.
Prior to Holy week, he is bathed, and the residual dirty water is then sold to locals. Fitting his general appearance and history, most people do not pray for Maximón for good luck during Holy Week, but instead pray that the drunken, limbless saint will not take out his anger on the town
FATHER FRANCIS STANLEY ROTHER
Father Francis Stanley Rother is quite the hero and saint in the town of Santiago and a visit to the church where he was assassinated in the rectory and is the place to visit to learn all about his work here.
Father Rother came to Santiago from Oklahoma and was assassinated in 1981. He built the church school in Santiago and helped the local people in this highland lake town to become recognised as people within their own right. For years they had been looked upon as second class citizens who were uneducated. He also tried to combine Mayan beliefs with that of the Catholic church and to this day the church in Santiago depicts Mayan deity images (the two at the top on either side of the alter) alongside catholic images on its alter, as supported by the Vatican for the work he did in the town of Santiago.
We booked private tours to San Juan and Santago de Atitlan through Imagine Travel and their local partners, Via Venture Central America.
Have you ever thought of visiting The Lake Atitlan area of Guatemala? Were you aware of this unique and culturally diverse location?
La Casa del Mundo
Tel. +503 5218 5332
Hotel direct contact: http://www.lacasadelmundo.com/web/index.php/en
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