January 11, 2008 at 08:38 PM From L. Laffont, NY
“I am just back from Guatemala, where we went for the Christmas/New Year’s Holiday, and I would like to put the experience on your radar and the radar of your readers. We had a world-class, five-star experience in third world settings with hosts of impeccable taste who took fantastic care of us while truly showing us their country from hill to vale, volcano too! The fellow who runs this operation is John Heaton. He and his partner, Catherine Docter, maintain two guest properties and arrange guided experiences throughout their country. We stayed at their 16th-century villa in Antigua and also their jungle retreat on the Rio Dulce. Both were stunning.”
EDITORS’ NOTE: With political turbulence now a thing of the past, Guatemala is attracting more and more foreign visitors with its stunning, lush landscape; mild year-round climate and deep history (reflected in a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Quirigua and Tikal National Park). One early fan, the French-born John Heaton, decided, in 1990, to build a small lodge (the “jungle retreat”) along the Rio Dulce as well as restore a number of colonial homes, including an Antigua property, which he named Quinta Maconda (after Macondo the village in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s landmark novel One Hundred Years of Solitude). Originally just a guesthouse for visiting friends, Quinta Maconda, is, today, an exclusive four-bedroom residence that also features an extensive collection of antiques and primitive art, gathered from Heaton’s travels all over the globe. The jungle lodge, Rancho el Corozal, which sleeps up to 10 and can only be rented as a house, is a bona fide eco-lodge: torches and candles replace electricity; the buildings have thatched roofs and beds with safari netting, and collected rainwater is used for showering. For guests at either property, various rainforest adventures, including volcano climbs in Antigua and helicopter safaris over the Sierra Madre, as well as archeological tours of Mayan ruins, can be arranged—either as a one-off outing or as part a larger itinerary.
Quinta Maconda (private rental) from $1500 + tax. or Quinta Maconda For Rancho el Corozal rates:Jungle Retreat