We approached the beautiful La Lancha by a small boat across the lake, spying its pretty thatched rooftops peeking out from the rainforest high above. To the sound of birds and howler monkeys we were whisked up the rustic steps to the Lakeview bar for a very welcome cocktail made with potent local rum.
The La Lancha is an unusual, charming and luxurious boutique hotel with just ten rooms in the heart of the Guatemalan rainforest and situated close to the breath-taking Mayan ruins at Tikal, described as the ‘epicentre of Mayan spirituality’.
The hotel’s location is an ideal base for exploring Tikal, and its relaxed and lush atmosphere makes it a delightful retreat for anyone wishing to escape from the world, indulge their senses and be at one with nature.
La Lancha is part of the Family Coppola Hideaways, owned by film director Francis Ford Coppola and his family. He fell in love with the jungle while filming Apocalypse Now in the Philippines, and went on to establish two hideaways in Belize, one in the rainforest and the other on the Caribbean coast, and most recently a private island off the cost of his beach hideaway, Turtle Inn, called Coral Caye. Like La Lancha in Guatemala, all share a signature scenic setting with distinctive decorative touches and views worthy of a film-set.
After arriving at the landing, we were transported up into the heart of the property by a quirky funicular, although we could have trotted up 200 steps. La Lancha has a dream-like quality with winding paths that take guests on an adventure through the forest to the dwellings, swimming pool, restaurant and enchanting Mirador or look-out deck, complete with giant sofas from where to relax and drink in the views, not to mention one of the hotel’s delicious cocktails. This area is also available for a private dinner or an al fresco massage.
Here, as at the pool, in each room and at various points throughout we spot the hotel’s clever invention – the Shellphone – a pink conch shell which is actually a telephone for guests to pick up and order drinks or food to be brought to them wherever they might be.
We also pass the Temazcal, a traditional sweat lodge or sauna which is a place for detoxing, cleansing and relaxing with atmospheric candles and copal incense burning. The cave like building has a mythical quality which adds to the magical ambience of this unusual property.
Accommodation is in ten rooms or suites dotted around the hotel. They range from Rainforest Casitas, Lakeview Villas and rainforest Junior Suites which can accommodate two adults and two children. Each room is decorated with colourful Guatemalan hand-picked artefacts and furniture with a Bali-nese feel. The suites have sumptuous sofas and all rooms have bathrobes, safe, fridge, Illy espresso maker, air conditioning, writing table, hammock, umbrellas, organic locally sourced handmade toiletries, a Shellphone for communicating with reception. Wi-Fi is free. The real luxury here however is the view from the outdoor deck each with hammocks and chairs ideal for relaxing.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in La Lancha’s lovely open-air restaurant under the thatched roof of the Main Lodge with fabulous views over the rainforest to the lake. In the evening meals are cooked on an open parilla or grill. Food is a combination of traditional and Guatemalan dishes with touches such as a complimentary starter of onions in corn tortillas followed by fresh fish from the lake or a hearty Suban Ik containing chicken, beef, rice and spices.
Wines are from the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in California.
Complimentary breakfast of fruit, yoghurt eggs and banana bread is enjoyed with the parakeets for company dining on fruit on an adjacent tree. Drinks are on offer at the rooftop bar and library or down at the enchanting lake-view bar accessed by the funicular.
Food and drink is available more or less all day to accommodate guests’ requirements and room service is also available. The staff are friendly and cannot do enough to make the stay here memorable and smooth.
Peace and quiet is the order of the day with the only sounds being those of the jungle. There is a small gift shop in the Main Lodge area selling delightful locally made crafts and souvenirs and this is also the perfect spot to curl up with a book and enjoy the sights and sounds of the jungle.
La Lancha is perfectly situated for visiting the Mayan site of Tikal, and tours can be arranged through the front desk. Other activities on offer include horse-riding through local farms and along the shore of the lake. Or visitors can swim canoe or kayak in the lake – the second largest in Guatemala – or lounge by the pool and enjoy massages.
La Lancha, Aldea Jobompiche, San Jose, Petén, Guatemala
Tel: +(502) 3045 0817
La Lancha sits deep in the rainforest above the shore of Lago Peten Itza in Guatemala. The prettiest way to arrive is to cross the lake by boat from the charming Spanish colonial town of Flores (about 45 minutes) but the lodge can be accessed by road from the Belize border or from Guatemala City’s La Aurora airport (about one hour’s drive) which is served by a number of international airlines including American Airlines, Copa and Delta which all have connecting flights to the UK. La Lancha is also only 45 minutes’ drive from the famous Mayan ruins of Tikal.
Type of Hotel: 5-Star Luxury Boutique Rainforest Lodge
Number of Rooms: 10 rooms ranging from lake view rooms to junior suites and complimentary Wi-Fi.
Insider Tip: Order a delicious picnic to take down to the lakeside for a castaway day on the shore.
Price Band: Medium. La Lancha’s Off Peak room rates start at £110 + 12% IVA and 10% INGUAT tax per night for a Rainforest Casita. During the Off-peak season 16 April 2018 to 16 Dec 2018, the third night is free.
Reviewer’s Rating: 10/10
Judith Baker is a London-based freelance travel writer.
Photographs courtesy of La Lancha