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JC Stays: La Lancha Lodge, Guatetmala

Francis Ford Coppola’s magical eco lodge in the rainforest of Guatemala is remote, luxurious and exotic

(Photo: La Lancha)
(Photo: La Lancha)

The ancient Mayan ruins and temples at Tikal, Guatemala, are said to be the very epicentre of Mayan spirituality - and tucked in the rainforest a short drive away is La Lancha Lodge, which captures a little of that same mystique with its jungle setting, hidden casitas and winding paths.

Part of Family Coppola Hideaways, it’s owned by director Francis Ford Coppola and his family, after the Oscar-winner fell in love with the jungle while filming Apocalypse Now in the Philippines. He went on to establish three luxury rainforest lodges in Belize and Guatemala.

La Lancha’s ten thatched suites and rooms are dotted around the site; my Lake View villa is a luxurious treehouse filled with Guatemalan artefacts and crafts, from colourful throws to animal masks and huipils (the traditional Mayan woman’s dress) hanging on the walls.

Each room has a terrace with hammocks and chairs looking out over the beautiful Lago Petén Itzá – the second largest lake in Guatemala – and a cool marble bathroom with handmade toiletries.

After a long day getting acquainted with the Mayans at Tikal the king-sized bed is welcoming and even the monkeys cannot keep me awake.

My favourite spots are the two-level swimming pool and the Mirador or look-out deck, complete with giant sofas from which to gaze out over the lake, listening to the parakeets and toucans. I can pick up the Shellphone – a pink conch shell which is actually a telephone for guests - and order a cocktail.

Later it’s time to detox at the Temazcal, a traditional Mayan sweat lodge or sauna for cleansing and relaxing with copal incense burning.

(Photo: La Lancha)
(Photo: La Lancha)

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in La Lancha’s lovely open-air restaurant under the thatched roof of the Main Lodge, with its own fabulous views over the rainforest to the water.

My breakfast of fruit, yoghurt eggs and banana bread comes with parakeets for company, dining on fruit on an adjacent tree.

In the evening, meals are cooked on an open parilla or grill, with food including Guatemalan dishes and fresh fish from the lake. Chef Ezechiele is happy to accommodate any dietary requirements.

Top class wines are from the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in California and drinks are on offer at the rooftop bar and library, or down at the enchanting lake-view bar accessed by a quirky funicular.

Tempting though it is to lounge the days away, guests can also swim, kayak or canoe in the lake or take a horse-riding tour, along with visits to Tikal.