Tuesday, February 19, 2013

3 Great Meals at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

English writer Aldous Huxley is famously quoted calling "Lake Atitlan the most beautiful lake in the world" (while an easy catch phrase for travel marketing, he actually compared it to Lake Como writing "Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing." But I digress). Regardless of what Mr. Huxley actually said, Lake Atitlan is no doubt one of the most picturesque lakes in the world. Ringed by dramatic ridge-lines dotted by red-roofed indigenous villages and three jaw-dropping volcanoes, Lake Atitlan offers the traveler a host authentic experiences from weaving classes with local women's weaving cooperatives to visiting the Mayan syncretic folk saint Maximon.

But where to eat during your Lake Atitlan adventures? We've got 3 great dining options for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and drinks!):

Coffee with a view. Photo: Isla Verde
Breakfast at The Slow Food Cafe at Isla Verde, Santa Cruz La Laguna

Isla Verde is a wonderful little eco-chic retreat located lakeside in a peaceful bay near the village of Santa Cruz. It's only accessible by boat and is about a 20 minute ride from Panajachel, the village that serves as a jumping-off-point for other locales on the Lake. Their restaurant subscribes to the Slow Food movement, which strives to maintain traditions of the local cuisine by serving food sourced locally and organically from native plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem. All food is made from scratch using fresh ingredients. When you boil it down, it's really all about slowing down, relaxing and enjoying a well-prepared meal from the farm to the table. I enjoyed a delicious breakfast burrito, stuffed full of black beans, eggs, and tomatoes, complimented by some incredible coffee and an even better view! 

Lunch at Posada Santiago, Santiago Atitlan

Smoked chicken tacos. Best in Guate! Photo: Lyndsay Harshman
Posada Santiago is located a short walk outside the Tzutujil  Maya village of Santiago, Atitlan. The largest of the lakeside villages and one of the most popular due to its indigenous traditions and its historical place in the civil war of Guatemala, the Posada is the perfect retreat from the frenetic pace of the central village. The dining room is airy and full of light thanks to the high vaulted ceilings and large windows offering great views of the Lake and San Pedro volcano across the bay. But you may have trouble taking your eyes off of what is on your plate! One of my favorite restaurants on the Lake, lunch at the Posada means the best smoked chicken tacos in Guatemala!  The chicken is wood-smoked on the premise and prepared with onions, tomatoes and mild spices and served with freshly made blue corn tortillas with homemade guacamole, beans, chile and chimol sauce! Yum, yum, yum! The head chef is a local Mayan woman who has been at the Posada for over 20 years. She's an culinary artist! They make all of their own stocks, sauces, breads, pastries and ice cream and also grow, process, roast, and grind their own coffee, which is served as freshly brewed coffee, espresso, cappuccino and latté. A must-visit establishment for at least one meal while visiting Lake Atitlan.

Dinner and drinks at Zotz Restaurant, Laguna Lodge, Santa Cruz La Laguna

Laguna Lodge is a 5-star eco-lodge and nature reserve commanding stunning views of Lake Atitlan and all three of its volcanoes  The lodge is incredibly sustainable and eco-conscious while at the same time manages to provide the perfect amount of luxurious elegance for its guests. In the evenings, its award winning Zotz Restaurant has an incredibly romantic ambiance as the light fades watching the sunset over the distant volcanoes and the flickering golden hues from the large stone fireplace and candles set the mood. The atmosphere is worth the trip alone but food also delivers. Important note, Zotz is fully vegetarian (though not vegan) so if you're not willing to give up meat for a night, you should go somewhere else. But my advice, even for the most passionate carnivores, skip the meat and come experience this place. The cuisine features fresh organic vegetables, greens, herbs and eggs harvested daily from their own gardens, foraged from the mountains of their nature reserve or procured from local farmers. The offer a set 3-course menu or you can order a la carte. They also have an impressive list of imported wine or try the house special, the Molten Lava cocktail made with Guatemalan Zacapa rum, organic carrot and apple juice!

Stunning views and romantic ambiance. Photo: Laguna Lodge. 
Maya Trails can customize a unique Guatemalan journey that includes the best of Lake Atitlan's culture, nature and cuisine. Contact owner Jimmy Rogers and get started planning the perfect Guatemala vacation!

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