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The Writers' Retreat

GUATEMALA: Santiago, Lake Atitlán

Get away from it all while drinking in the Mayan character at Orchids by the Lake. Quiet and secluded, yet just minutes away from civilization, this is a tranquil retreat to write and recharge. Nestled on the slopes of Volcán San Pedro and overlooking the town of Santiago, is the acreage called Orchids on the Lake. It's the perfect quiet natural retreat and a very special place to experience the lake and to get the creativity flowing.
Secluded, the Santiago retreat is just a three-minute boat ride across the bay to Santiago and connecting boats to all other parts of the lake. After a long day at your writing desk or exploring the area, the retreat becomes the perfect place to sit back and relax in a comfortable chair on the veranda and take in the breathtaking scenery or walk in the gardens.

The 30 year old main floor is comprised of a small library, living room, kitchen, and bathroom; it has the comfort you’re seeking with its stone walls and old re-appropriated wood from the old Guatemalan railway. The upper floor offers two bedrooms/writing area and a full bathroom. Each bedroom features a fireplace in addition to the one in the living room. The whole house is modernized and 100% off the grid (solar); we never have power outages here.

There are no restaurants, bars or stores, only gardens on this side of the bay. That’s why you’ll have a kitchen fully equipped and stocked with basics; there's a great market in Santiago for fresh picked fruits and produce, fish and meat. We have Internet access with a Tigo stick modem for your normal PC. You choose a plan for usage and we can buy it in advance for you or you can decide to do that yourself on your visit to town. Or, you can buy a Guatemala SIM card and use your Smartphone as a hot spot for your computer or tablet. Macs may be incompatible.

If you need time off from writing, we will help you organize your sightseeing and any special interests you may have. We live on the premises in a small house nearby and rest assured we will give you plenty of privacy or all the help you'd like. We want to make sure you have an enjoyable stay and leave you a little manual with tips and info on the area, details about the house and the property. We are here to assist you but when you’ll need all your privacy, you'll hardly see us. We work around your schedule. There is no specific time to write at our retreat!


There is no smoking indoors, outside only on patio or balcony. We have a cat and a friendly dog living on the property. If you have a pet and want to bring it, please let us know beforehand and we'll discuss whether this will work. Cats, definitely not as our kitty will not share.

After travelling from England to India visiting over 60 different countries, I fell in love with Central America and decided to stay! I lived eight years in Panama and then relocated to Lake Atitlán in Guatemala after several trips here. I found my dream property and spent several years building. I still can't get over the view. It's incredible! I love being surrounded by nature, serenity and creative people.

Born in Ontario, Canada. I took my BA in English Literature and Drama at the University of Western Ontario.
I have written travel articles published in various magazines and for three years held the position of food editor publishing a full page article on food and restaurants once a week for the Kelowna Courier, British Columbia. I had a major catering company and restaurant while living in Kelowna, and had successful restaurants in Panama. I financed my travels by working in restaurants and learning the cuisine of the country. I speak both English and Spanish.

I will be delighted to meet you soon in my little paradise!


Your Host and Retreat Operator:  Cynthia Cornell.

Region:  We use a water taxi service to get back and forth to Santiago. It's only a five-minute ride and the launcheros work from about 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., so, you need to be back on the property before 5 in the afternoon. From Santiago, you can catch other public boats to any town around Lake Atitlan. Some of the towns are not connected by road so here, boats are the main form of transportation. We can book a private shuttle for you directly from Guatemala City International Airport to Santiago – just let us know. Or, upon reservation, we will give you all the specifics on the best way to come here by public shuttle which is less expensive but more complicated for a newcomer. The most convenient way across the lake from Panajachel is to take the public ferry (Q20 per person) from Panajachel to the public dock in Santiago. The ferries depart Panajachel at 5:45, 8:30. 9:30, 10:30 a.m.; 1, 3, 4:30 p.m. There are also “Colectivos,” smaller boats that depart when they fill up.

Location:  ‘Orchids on the Lake’ is situated in the bay of Santiago Atitlan, 5 minutes across from the village of Santiago, accessed by boat.

Closest airport:  Guatemala City La Aurora Airport (GUA), Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Tourism information:  Lake Atitlán, Guatemala


Studio Name Description Weekly Rates
Orchids Retreat 2 bed/2bath house, Internet access, swimming pool, fireplaces, decks, DVD player/DVD's. Dog allowed by arrangement. US $700


  • Private bathroom
  • Out smoking

Payment terms:  To guarantee your reservation, you will be confirmed upon receipt of $200 deposit via Paypal. Balance is due upon arrival. ATM's are available in Santiago. All currency is in US dollars.

Cancellation policy:  If at least 30 days prior to arrival, deposit will be refunded less $25 admin fee. Cancellations under thirty days will not receive a refund. Trip cancellation insurance is strongly advised and can be obtained through your travel agent.

A sampling of memories from our residents

A. If you're looking for a secluded spot on the water of Lake Atitlan, this is absolutely the place to go. The house is gorgeous, with a unique view of the lake and an incredible surrounding property, full of the most beautiful grass and flowers I've ever seen on the lake. I've stayed at many properties at Lake Atitlan, and this is definitely one of the best. Alycia

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