When I went in search of a destination to have my long-awaited vacation, I initially sought out a place that was quick to get to, preferably via a non-stop flight, and perhaps had a few sites to see along with an offering of some spa-like pampering. On my quest for this "place", I happened upon a site that included information about TOSA La Laguna Holistic Spa and Retreat Center. I looked at the breath-taking pictures and was immediately captivated by what I saw. Needless to say, plans for the non-stop jaunt I had anticipated faded away. Once I had become aware of this beautiful treasure on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, I knew that I had to see what it was all about.
The first impressive aspect of embarking on a trip to TOSA is the remarkable attention to detail that is put into customizing a guest's experience there. I had never traveled to Guatemala before so I had a lot of questions, all of which were kindly and thoroughly answered by Kat, the first person with whom I had the pleasure of interacting at TOSA. Once I had finalized my plans to visit TOSA, I received a brochure that asked several questions that were tailored to making sure that my trip was exactly what I desired. I chose to take advantage of the "Stress Release" 3-day retreat. From food likes/dislikes and dietary requirements to what the objective of my journey would be...everything was covered. The fact that this is an all-inclusive set-up was also a comfort, as I did not have to be concerned with unexpected costs. I was also taken care of from arrival at to departure from the Guatemala City Airport. I was greeting by my very friendly and conscientious driver, Feliciano, who was waiting for me while holding a sign when I exited Customs. In order to get to the beautiful paradise that is home to TOSA, one must take a road trip that lasts about 2.5 - 3 hours, depending on the traffic in the city. However, with the pleasant company of Feliciano and the amazing sites that I saw along the way, this trek was a bit of a bonus and a great opportunity to witness life in the smaller pueblos of Guatemala outside of the rather sanitized vantage point that visitors often experience on a packaged vacation tour. There are also a host of visually interesting subjects to capture on camera such as the famously restless volcanoes and impressive landscapes that line the highway. Along the way, a stop at a small pueblo named Cocales yielded a chance to stretch my legs and sip on fresh coconut water, presented to me by one of the friendly local vendors. The final stop on land was the little village of San Lucas Toliman where I was greeted by the smiling faces of Lira (one of the general managers of TOSA) and Don Carlos, who manned the boat to take me across Lake Atitlan to my final destination. Frankly, after taking two planes, a mini van and a boat, I was more than ready to be there.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by Anam (the on-site staff assistant) and Lucien, the other general manager and incidentally, husband to Lira. Theirs is a wonderful story of serendipity, worthy of an inquiry if you should have the pleasure of meeting them. : ) As I was being allowed to get my "land legs" back, I enjoyed chatting with Anam and Lira, who are both very kind and engaging, while sipping on the non-alcoholic cocktail that was waiting for me when I disembarked from the charming TOSA vessel. I enjoyed a delightful foot bathing/massage, which is a treat that each guest receives upon arrival. I found it to be most refreshing and it was conducted with such care that the atmosphere of indulgence and service was set immediately. I quickly became at home in this exotically beautiful environment. I was taken on a tour of the property and introduced to its features while my bags were taken to my casita. There was quite an offering of interesting and innovative treatments to soothe the body and mind. A rather extensive menu of spa services was also available to cater to those of us who LIVE to indulge in hedonistic relaxation.
Many activities are offered including yoga and meditation classes; tours to nearby villages by boat; snorkeling; paddle boating; canoeing or just dipping your feet in the cool and refreshing, magical waters of Lake Atitlan, which was my choice. There is an exercise room with a mini-trampoline, a stationary bike and a body swing massager machine, which was my absolute favorite. I call it a hula machine on steroids because it jiggles away the pounds and provides a stimulating sensation of energy coursing through your body. All of this exercise takes place in the little hut overlooking the beautiful blue-green waters of the lake. You get to gaze at the mountain range on the horizon that is called the "sleeping giant" because if you look closely, you can see the outline of his face while he appears to be napping on his back. In my opinion, for those of us who do not really enjoy the act of exercising, this is the only way to do it...lol
All meals are vegetarian and although I am not a vegetarian, I did not find it difficult at all to adjust to this style of eating. They cooked the meals according to my specifications of likes and dislikes and they were all tasty and filling. (My absolute favorite was Lucien's delicious pasta with marinara sauce. It was delicious!)
I chose to book the Sacred Mountain Dome as I was seeking the utmost in seclusion and privacy. I knew there was to be a bit of a hike and that it was situated away from the other casitas and main areas. However, the word "hike" in the context of the SMD's location has a few more critical dimensions to it. There is the aspect of having to navigate some rather challenging steps carved into the mountain that are not uniform and the majority of them are not smooth. Therefore, having your wits about you is imperative. Also, if height causes you a problem, this would not be a pleasant experience for you. There are some rather intimidating drop offs on the side of the mountain and there is no railing along the majority of the path. Walking sticks are offered and I became very attached to mine as it provided a sense of much needed support when I trekked up and down the mountain. "Party lights" illuminate the entire path to the SMD but if you ascend at night, flashlights are highly recommended. Don Carlos is a very sure-footed escort who is willing to patiently wait while you catch your breath, which is something that I had to do several times along the way. (He is also to be commended for the effortless way he took my heavy bag to my room up that precarious mountain trail...all the while, with the kindest smile on his face.) I am far from the athletic type but I can say that I had a rewarding sense of accomplishment and pride in the fact that I didn't "turn tail" and change rooms after I found out about the challenge of getting to my casita. I can say that the SMD was certainly worth all of the strength I had to muster to get up there. However, I must give a strong warning: The location of the Sacred Mountain Dome is not conducive to those who may not be able to take on physically challenging activities. Location notwithstanding, this casita is truly special and decorated with unique and colorful accents. It has a porch seating area with an umbrella under which to read, write or have your meals outside, if desired. It also has a jacuzzi, for those who wish to partake. The views are absolutely stunning from high atop the mountain and you truly feel as if you have the world to yourself.
Although TOSA is "off the grid", there are no concerns whatsoever about not being able to have the modern amenities for which electricity is needed. The property has back-up generators in the event that there are issues with the solar panels. I was also told that there are future plans for the use of wind energy. There are no televisions but there are ipod docks for you to enjoy your own music while participating in other activities that allow you to disconnect from the hectic world outside of this paradise. Guests are provided with a cell phone that allows them to call the on-site staff assistant for anything they may need. There is also Internet access via your cell phone, if you must have it. However, the tranquil, unspoiled, peaceful environment there actually promotes the feeling that everything can wait...and believe it or not, it really can. : )
While TOSA is an ideal place for one to come and have a personal, reflective and spiritual retreat, it must be emphasized that pure, mindless relaxation with only thought of unwinding is absolutely welcome there as well. The mystical quality of the nature reserve and the palpable Mayan influence that permeates the very atmosphere around Lake Atitlan provide the perfect environment in which to have ethereal discussions about spiritual enlightenment and self-improvement. However, there is no pressure to engage in any particular activity at all. Guests can decide the level of solitude or interaction they prefer and the staff are all there to provide world-class service that supports the chosen purpose of their guests' visit.
I must say that all of the effort it took to travel and see the majesty of this ancient land was well worth it and I look forward to returning with family and friends in tow next time. TOSA is a jewel on Lake Atitlan that I feel so honored to have had the opportunity to discover. For all of the gifts that TOSA bestows on its guests, the prices are an incredible deal. One would pay FAR more in the states for even lesser offerings of customized luxury and indulgences. The authentic kindness of the people who work there as well as the bounty of natural beauty the land and lake display made my visit one that I will never forget. I know that anyone else who feels the pull to explore this part of Guatemala will not be disappointed but thoroughly delighted with the enchanting surroundings and once-in-a-lifetime experiences they will acquire. I have posted pictures that include the wonderful members of the TOSA staff but I really wish I could have posted the videos I have of the beautiful, ever-changing sunsets that put on a show every evening. Ah well...I definitely suggest you visit to experience them yourself. You'll never regret it. : )
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- TOSA LL is a unique boutique eco-resort and private nature reserve on the shore of beautiful Lake Atitlan. Located at the cleanest and deepest part of the lake, the center is 100% eco friendly. Delight in the luxurious custom spa treatments and indulge in holistic health programs. All-inclusive, (3 meals per day plus snacks), with personalized cuisine and attention.Each of the five casitas is a stunning suite with tempur-foam beds and organic amenities. Abundant and unlimited clean drinking water along with personalized attention highlight your experience. While on-site enjoy hiking, spa services and gourmet cuisine or simply relax into the best sunset view of the lake.Discover peaceful tranquility, privacy and the gift of boat only access. Easily access all other parts of the lake for day tours and return to your sanctuary in the evening. TOSA La Laguna is designed to accommodate your comfort and assist you to vision your dreams...relax, rejuvenate and discover the unspoiled beauty. ... more less
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