Published on August 23rd, 2013 | by admin
My Guatemala: Travel Tips from Claudia Bosch, Casa Palopo Hotel
Claudia Bosch liked Casa Palopo so much that she bought it. As the owner of this upscale boutique hotel —a former private home scenically located near Lake Atitlan in the Guatemalan Highlands — she’s had the opportunity to get to know even more about what makes Guatemala special for travelers.
In this exclusive Q&A interview, Bosch shares her favorite Guatemala travel tips — including great Guatemalan restaurants and things to do in Antigua Guatemala.
Where are you from originally, and what gave you the idea to get involved with Casa Palopo?
I am originally from Guatemala City, born and raised. I come from a very business-minded family. Although many families in Guatemala visit the lake during their vacations, it wasn’t a place I had been to very often. In 2010, I visited Casa Palopo, which at the time was owned by a good friend. Over lunch, he casually mentioned that he was looking to sell the hotel and move back to the States. I had fallen in love with the hotel, so without missing a beat, I told him I would buy it.
What do you like best about living in Guatemala?
The people! Guatemalans are generally very happy, grateful and service-oriented people. I love that our culture is based on courtesy and values.
What Guatemalan foods are “must-try” items that you recommend to foreign visitors?
You cannot leave Guatemala without having refried black beans with a freshly handmade corn tortilla. Fried plantains are also a popular staple, along with atol de elote, which is a classic Central American beverage made with sweet corn and milk.
Aside from your hotel’s own restaurant, what restaurants do you recommend to travelers in the area?
Panajachel, the biggest and most popular town at the lake, has great restaurant options. Circus Bar is known for homemade pastas and pizza, which has been called the best in Guatemala, and for live music in the evenings. A stop at Pollo Campero is highly recommended for delicious fried chicken, Guatemalan style; there’s one in Panajachel.
What restaurants do you recommend to travelers arriving via Guatemala City?
When travelers arrive to the capital, I recommend they go straight to Antigua, which is an hour drive away and where Casa Palopo also has accommodations. In Antigua, my favorite restaurants are Bistrot Cinc, which serves classic French bistro dishes like Steak Frites and roasted chicken, and Como Como, which is a European gastropub. Locals and tourists love both! If I had to recommend lunch or dinner in Guatemala City, it would be at Tamarindo’s, a modern restaurant where the menu is influenced by Italian and Asian cuisine.
What are the “must-do” activities, outside of your hotel, for first-time visitors to the Lake Atitlan region?
Aside from the spectacular views, one of the most beautiful things Guatemala offers is its rich culture. A visit to the open-air market at Chichicastenango (an hour away from Casa Palopo) is where travelers can really submerge themselves in the local culture with vendors selling handmade textiles and native goods. Around the shore of Lake Atitlan, there are 12 Mayan towns, each with its own set of traditions and activities unique to each. We arrange boat tours to the nearby towns of San Antonio Palopo, where they specialize in textiles and ceramics, and Santiago, which sits between two (dormant) volcanoes. There is plenty around the lake for the active type to do, from yoga to horseback riding to paragliding. Some days, you might just want to stay at the hotel to curl up with a book and relax. The peace that the lake brings is said to come from the spiritual rituals of the shamans around the lake. You can even visit one.
What brings visitors to your region of Guatemala?
Visitors come to Casa Palopo to experience a quiet, luxury retreat where they can lose themselves in the natural beauty of the country and its culture. An overnight stop at Antigua, where Casa Palopo has accommodations, is of a lot of interest to travelers. Antigua is one of the most important cities in Guatemala, known for its history and Spanish-baroque architecture. In and around Atitlan, there is a lot of interest in exploring the culture of the different towns all around. We recently finalized packages that give travelers the full experience, whether they want to spend a night in Antigua or come straight to the lake. Destination weddings and honeymoons are also becoming very popular, and the hotel has packages to accommodate both.
What’s your idea of a perfect free day in the place where you live?
I live in Guatemala City. A perfect day for me involves taking a trip to Antigua, where I love to walk around the cobblestone streets to admire the rich culture and browse through the shops and markets. The perfect ending would be enjoying a nice glass of wine and gourmet dinner alongside a fireplace at one of Antigua’s cozy restaurants.
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