Monday, February 19, 2018

Stepping Back in Time at Guatemala’s Tranquil Mayan Inn

Despite the presence of bland chain hotels in even some of the most remote corners of the world, there remain thousands of small, unique hotels tucked onto narrow lanes or hidden in quiet quarters of cities and villages.

During a recent trip to Guatemala, I stumbled across just such a hotel in the highland village of Chichicastenango. Somehow I’d taken multiple trips to this culture-rich country and well-known market town without finding the one-of-a-kind, charm-filled Mayan Inn.

Tucked behind one of the two elevated white-washed colonial churches that serve as iconic bookends in the village center, the Mayan Inn is quasi-museum, part cozy Central American inn, and complete time-capsule. Opened in 1932, the inn is crammed with antiques and original oil paintings and has changed little in intervening days.

Housed in a former monastery, the hotel has several bougainvillea-framed courtyards, shady loggias, and bubbling fountains. Best of all, each room offers a fireplace and an attendant who will build and stoke the fire. Nights can be chilly in the highlands, but a blazing fire along with thick, locally-made, fuzzy wool blankets on the beds will make you swear off warm nights in the Tropics.

Need your fire built or stoked, want some fresh water, or need more towels? Press a clunky, metal button above your bed to summon an attendant assigned to your room. Until a few years ago, rooms didn’t even have locks, but were watched by the attendant. These days, rooms have deadbolts, but attendants remain.

It might be tempting to spend your whole visit in the friendly confines of the hotel. Don’t. Steps away you’ll find the massive craft and food market, historic, unique churches which combine Mayan and Catholic traditions, and the colorful cemetery which includes functioning Mayan temples.

It took me several trips to this otherworldly market town to find the Mayan Inn, but it’s on my radar now. And next time I plan to stay longer.

Bonus: An old school bartender shakes and stirs classic cocktails in the high-ceilinged rooms of the bar. A blazing fire can be set at cocktail hour and original oil paintings provide apt and fitting pairings for the expertly-crafted old school cocktails. For afternoon drinks, ask the bartender to set up a table in the shady loggia overlooking the garden.

Cautions: Vintage bathrooms are spotless, but might not be to everyone’s liking. If you’re looking for a throwback experience that can’t be duplicated anywhere else, stay here.

Details: Rooms are around $100/night. Basic, non-gourmet meals are served in an airy dining room which also has a fireplace and daytime views of a garden and the surrounding countryside. 


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