7 Lakeside Vacations: Lake Petén Itzá

Rainforest Casitas at La Lancha.
A balcony off one of the location's Lakeview Casitas.
Spend the evening by the fire pit.

Lake Petén Itzá

Eco-adventures and glorious ruins.


By Becca Hensley
The shores of this shiny Guatemalan lake, located just south of the Belize border, were once the stronghold of the Itzá Maya. Rife with wildlife, the region shelters more than 100 indigenous species, including jaguars and the red bay snook fish.
The Experience
A misty rain forest encircles the water. Toucans, parrots, and bananaquits screech from leafy branches as lemurs and howler monkeys scurry through the canopy. Beneath the lake, the remains of a bygone Mayan civilization await archaeologists, who exhume artifacts there regularly. Just beyond, the ancient city of Tikal, thought to be the center of Mayan spirituality, stands wedged amid the jungle, its temples, palaces, and plazas evoking the power of the past. In search of more modern pursuits? Visitors can zip-line, kayak, and ride horseback along the water’s edge.
Tamales have been traced back to the Mayans. In Guatemala they’re most commonly wrapped in banana leaves and stuffed with chicken, pork, or cheese.
Be Prepared
Pesky insects come out at night, so pack long pants as well as long-sleeved shirts, and expect to use some insect repellent on evening outings.
Advisor Tip
“La Lancha is the best base lodge for visiting the famous Tikal ruins and provides fantastic activities for everyone, from canoeing and hiking to horseback riding. Be sure to arrange a private guide and visit the ruins at sunrise or sunsetabsolutely magical! For a truly amazing experience combining culture, adventure, and stunning beaches, add a stay at its sister properties, Blancaneaux Lodge and Turtle Inn, in nearby Belize.” —Ginny Caragol, Old Greenwich, Connecticut
More Lakeside Vacations:
Lake Titicaca, Peru
Lake Como, Italy
Lake Louise, Canada
Lake Pichola, India
Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand
Lake Austin, Austin, Texas

Originally appeared in Virtuoso Traveler magazine, June 2014.


La Lancha
Treehouse-like, this lodge overlooks the lake and offers canoe trips, cultural excursions, and Spanish lessons.
La Lancha breakfast.