The writer Aldous Huxley called it 'the most beautiful lake in the world.' We think he shortchanged the place.
Lake Atitlan sits high in a basin of volcanoes, a breathtaking, cool and sunny expanse of water surrounded by dramatic cliffs and peaks. Our house, on the roadless north shore, has a parrot's eye view of a scene that hasn't changed much since the Mayans stacked the first two blocks together at Tikal.
To reach Pamakanya, you take a 15-minute boat ride from the town of Panajachel often in the company of local women dressed in village patterns dating back centuries. They're likely to be hauling a bag of avocados or papaya for sale in the market. You're likely to haul a few of them back for some fresh guacamole or some fruit salsa for your grilled fish. That's commerce, Atitlan style.
The house, called Pamakanya, is a work of art, literally. It's a bewitching maze of stone steps, walks and patios tucked into shady gardens, built over ten years by a local artist and architect.
Fine woodwork, tile and mosaics are at every hand, making it hard sometimes for the eye to chose between the craftsmanship and whimsy of the house and the ridiculously picturesque landscape of the lake and mountains.
One of our favorite places to indulge it is the Lido Deck, a stone patio where quiet reading time or cocktail hour can unfold a bit outside the fierce rush of card playing at the main house or the delighted shrieks of kids from the dock.
The main house, with fully stocked kitchen, extensive bath and shower, living room and more, sleeps up to five in a bedroom and loft. The dining table on the sunny porch that will be your Atitlan headquarters, can squeeze in up to 13 tortilla smackers with plenty of room for lounging in over the view. (Pascual, the caretaker, will show you where to pick some fresh limes and tart oranges from the garden for a rum drink, too).
Rental party size has ranged from one to fifteen. The main house alone is perfect for one to four/five people. If you have a larger group, two adjacent guest bungalows are available, with studio setup steps away for four more people each. Each has its own bath, hot shower, coffee maker, water dispenser, and, of course, covered patio with ageless vista.
The upper house boasts one of the best views on the lake. The lower house is closest to the dock and makes a great base for a day of swimming and kayaking in the four provided kayaks. Our days often begin with a plunge into the lake followed by a steaming outdoor shower at the lower house. If you prefer your hot water straight from nature, thermal hot springs can often be found at lake's edge.
After a few days, when you’re ready to pull yourself away from the black hole of relaxation that grips the house, take a hike to the nearby village of Jaibalito for a swim at the pool at Ven Aca or restaurant meal or some Internet time. Or catch one of the public boats that ply the shore every half hour to visit one of the many unique and lovely villages and towns that ring the lake. Or call for a private boat and take a tour.
Go east to Panajachel for shopping (either for world class textiles, a full array of groceries and fresh produce) or catch one of the shuttles to nearby famous markets of Chichicastanengo. Or hail a westward boat to San Pedro for a volcano climb, horseback ride or Spanish classes. Or Santiago a stronghold of Mayan culture, sites (and great shopping). Or to San Marcos, a village full of cafes, massage therapists and new age options.
The climate is high tropical (about 5,000 feet), meaning warm sunny days most of the year with cool breezy nights that sometimes dip to delightful fleece temperatures. The rainy season may means a downpour or two in the evening, but the days are generally dry.
Just make sure you’re back home in time for sunset. It’s going to be a great one.
As a recent renter stated ...
'... the highlight of our trip was Pamakanya! We were sitting on the patio our first evening there enjoying a drink and the fantastic view and saying “It doesn’t get much better than this!’ We were wrong! The sunrise the next morning was even more amazing. We have rented some very nice vacation homes in the past: twice in Mexico and twice in Costa Rica, but Pamakanya is by far the nicest.' Brenda, NB, Canada
We provide a booklet with extensive guidance about getting there and around the area, and local opportunities, restaurants, and other recommendations. More photos and information at www dot pamakanya dot com.
Keywords: House & 2 bungalows