Villas B’Alam Ya Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Are you a design-junkie sybaritic self-caterer interested in seeing the lake that Aldous Huxley called “too much of a good thing” in his 1934 travel book Beyond the Mexique Bay? You are now.
Villas B’Alam Ya (which means Water Jaguar in the local Mayan dialect) is a super-private collection of just four villas crafted along a steep hillside on the shores of Lake Atitlan—the vast expanse of blue ringed by three perfectly conical volcanoes that inspired Huxley’s proclamation.
All villas feature stunning views of the lake and the volcanoes along with ample patios and terraces to enjoy them from. Each has a full gourmet kitchen as well—though breakfast of fresh fruit salad, granola, yogurt and fresh-squeezed orange juice will be set up for you on your dining table each morning at the time of your choosing. A private chef is also available if you want to simply relinquish your kitchen altogether.
Guests also have access to a private dock and kayaks (the best way to explore Lake Atitlan) and a lovely sloping lakeside lawn with sun chairs.
Like its sister hotel, the celebrated Meson Panza Verde in nearby Antigua, décor matters at Villas B’Alam Ya. Each of the four villas, designed by four different architects, is a perfectly-formed interpretation of a different style incorporating antiques and custom-made furniture, original art and playful construction to get just the right look and feel.
The two storey Villa Mirador lives up to its name with the most stunning views of the lake and volcanoes—particularly from the Jacuzzi on the upstairs deck. Built in 2010, Villa Mirador also has a loft-like feel and can sleep six. Lots of white and a circular wall of windows topped by a circular deck off the master bedroom give Mirador a vaguely nautical feel—as if you’re cruising the lake in style.
Walking into Villa Bambu is a bit like walking into a beach house without the sand: tons of light, bright white furniture, an all open narrow triplex two bedroom floor plan (which sleeps five). Like a beach house, Bambu encourages communal living and makes a great place for a reunion with buddies.
Jade Cottage is, by far, the smallest of the bunch with just one bathroom and one bedroom plus a kitchen, but it oozes romance. The queen size bed is elegantly draped, the claw foot bathtub is inviting, the shower is finished with local jade green marble, and the patio has its own bbq. It all adds up to a luxe Bauhaus NorCal cabin feel which made it my favorite. Jade Cottage is also the closest accommodation to the lake, which feels right there when you look out at it through the wall of windows facing the water.
Villa B’Alam Ya, the hideaway’s namesake, was the first accommodation built here and it sits lakeside too. The two-story villa is the most home-like with an enormous amount of space, most of it devoted to shared areas. Organic materials and meditation-ready nooks and crannies give it an Asian feel.
Rates start at: $130 including breakfast
Km. 4 on the road between Panajachel and Santa Catarina Palopó
Lake Atitlan, Sololá
Guatemala, C.A. 03001
In April of 2006 peripatetic travel writer Karen Catchpole left her job as deputy editor of SHOP Etc. magazine in New York City and embarked on the Trans-Americas Journey, a five year 200,000+ mile working road trip through North, Central and South America. When she's not writing about luxury hotels, resorts or ranches Karen can be found enjoying the nearest campground.