My girlfriend was born in Guatemala, and the occasion of a pair of family weddings called us there. In between the weddings, we traveled to three locations outside of the capital city, including the beautiful and mysterious Lake Atitlan. We chose Tzam Poc at Atitlan based on the photos of what looked like a dramatic view of the lake and the volcanoes beyond. The view was all that and more, but it is only part of what makes Tzam Poc special.
Tzam Poc is more accurately described as a bed and breakfast, not a resort. They'll cook dinner on request (for a small extra charge) too, but you have to let them know early in the day so they can get fresh ingredients from the market. It's perched on a hill just beyond and above the village of Santa Catarina. (Hint: when entering the grounds via a very steep access road, DON'T STOP. Better yet, rent a 4X4!). It consists of a series of small buildings, each containing no more than 2 units (on different levels), and the main house where the owner lives. Thus, it takes ramps and stairs to get from one place to another, but also provides a feeling of total privacy in each unit.
It is very much the product of the somewhat eccentric imagination of its owner, Lucio Mamberto, who is an architect. Imagine a Mediterranean villa (the owner was born in Italy) crossed with a bit of Antoni Gaudi and Dr. Seuss. If that's not your cup of tea, I understand. And the quirkiness can lead to a few things not being particularly efficient or logical. No matter. It's magic. Lucio is a charming host with a lifetime of interesting and somewhat mysterious stories, and you are treated like a personal guest in his home.
Home cooked breakfast is served on the terrace (dinner in the dining room of the main house). There is a patio with a swimming pool, jacuzzi, and wood-fired sauna. This patio provides some of the most spectacular vistas I have ever seen, multiplied tenfold by the optical illusion of the pool hanging directly over the lake. At night, the sounds of the village float up the mountain, sounds of musical instruments and parties.
Lucio is a local now, having lived there for many years. He employes a handful of residents as cooks and maintenance people, and it very much feels like a family operation. So, when we decided to take a boat ride across the lake to one or more of the surrounding villages (there are 12), arrangements were quickly made with a pilot who was a friend of someone on staff. This proved to be a huge bonus, as we were spared having to negotiate with the many boat captains that gather at the dock in the village. We got a ride down in the back of a pickup, introductions were made, and off we went. Enrique, our pilot, knew who was who in the villages as well, and would call ahead on his cell to make sure the right tuk-tuk (a kind of three wheeled mini-taxi) driver was waiting for us. Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say that we were guided to an inside view of local culture by locals, and I'm pretty sure we owe it to our decision to stay at Tzam Poc.
If you are looking for orderliness, anonymity, and typical luxury, Tzam Poc my not be for you. If you are seeking something truly unique, you'll find it there. Given how magical Lake Atitlan itself is, that seems entirely appropriate
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- Also Known As:
- Tzam Poc Hotel Santa Catarina Palopo
- Tzam Poc Resort Guatemala/Santa Catarina Palopo, Lake Atitlan