Slowly bumping down the unpaved road, the van bounced at each rock and pothole we went over as we made our way from the hill above to where the waters of Lake Atitlán kissed the Guatemalan Earth.
The setting sun illuminating a nearby volcano perched over the lake, with a soft glow. Gazing at this spectacle I mindfully closed my book.
Without having yet stepped foot in San Marcos la Laguna, Lake Atitlán, I was immensely overcome with a knowing that this scene, this moment, I was going to cherish.
Traveling through Central America in early 2017, I kept hearing I had to visit Lake Atitlán - two words uttered so frequently that I quickly understood that this lake was something... spectacular.
Soon, I would find out for myself just how spectacular the lake truly is.
Lake Atitlán is rugged, almost primal; unreliable internet, sporadic hot water for showers, and only a handful of produce stalls at the market. No frills, yet abundant in expansive loving energy.
Unbeatable blue waters that sparkle with life in the sunlight (and moonlight!). Children happily playing on docks and diving into the waters, grinning from ear to ear. Towering volcanoes serving as a reminder of how much history and power the Earth has under it's belt.
As soon as we stepped off the van and onto the land, we were greeted by what can only be described as a welcoming committee. One bus comes and goes each day, and at those times, the town shows up for the event.
About two hours north of Antigua, Guatemala, Lake Atitlán was formed by filling an enormous caldera from a volcanic eruption about 84,000 years ago. Today, the lake is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.
Sunny and serene with three volcanoes perched above the shores, Lake Atitlán is home to several towns along it's edges; San Pedro, San Marcos, Santa Cruz, Panajachel, San Juan and a few others.
San Marcos, Lake Atitlán was often described to me as the "green smoothie drinking, yoga doing, hippie town". As an avid yogi, I decided that I would stay there, claro.
I planned to stay about a week in San Marcos la Laguna, a small town of maybe 250 ex-pats and indigenous living together in harmony. I'd swim in the lake, do yoga, hike the volcano that welcomed me to the lake with a glow, maybe take some Spanish classes since I barely knew how to count to ten in Spanish.
One week in Lake Atitlán, I anticipated. One week. I ended up staying a month.
I was absolutely hooked.
That is, once I got past my own judgements and criticisms of hippies wearing a half dozen layers of patterned clothing and no shoes who embrace each other for what feels like minutes as they pass. I'll admit that even my yoga loving, mostly vegan diet, collective consciousness believing self had to adjust to this eccentricity over a few days. This reputation often proceeds San Marcos but I promise you that if you can look past the fanaticism, San Marcos offers many options for personal growth.
Truly, there is no shortage of things to do in San Marcos, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, that will expand your eyes, heart and mind. Here's a few to get you going to ensure you have an absolutely interesting and life-changing week here.
TRAVELER'S TIP: Make sure you check the Community Boards located throughout the town for updated information on available classes, workshops, and events!
As the primary reason for visiting the town of San Marcos, you can bet there are endless offerings of yoga classes - the Yoga Forest, Hostal Del Lago, Hotel La Paz, Kaivalya, Ananda, Las Pirimides, and more all offer an incredible array of options.
TRAVELER'S TIP: To get to the Yoga Forest is quite the trek and classes are at 7 am and 4 pm. If you go for the morning class, you don't have too much time to get lost. I recommend asking someone exactly where to find the path, not just on the back street behind the school you'll find rocks painted with flowers and follow the path. This isn't all the information you'll need. Try looking for the path a day or two before you decide to go up here so you don't miss out on this opportunity.
Keith's Cacao Ceremony
The reputation of Keith's cacao ceremony precedes him, this event is not to be missed. A wise and sweet man, often with a cat curled up in his lap, Keith is the leading expert on cacao ceremonies. This ceremony is five hours long and he leads you through a meditation and we ended up in a group energy transfer and healing.
Swim in the Lake
Seems obvious but there are so many places to jump in and play in the lake. Either from the dock of your hotel, or from the nature reserve.
Reiki is a Japanese healing technique that reduces stress, promotes relaxation and healing by tapping into our chakras to align and balance them. There are many businesses and individual who offer Reiki in San Marcos.
Hike Volcano San Pedro
A strenuous but lovely 5 mile roundtrip hike up a volcano on the shores of Lake Atitlan, climbing 4,000 feet to reach the peak of 10,000 feet. This one is technically not in San Marcos, but it's a day-trip necessary to mention! It begins in the neighboring town of San Pedro so you'll have to take a "lancha" or small boat there first and then take a tuk tuk to the entrance of the trailhead.
Kirtan & Cacao Satsang
Every Friday at noon, meet at the Mahadevi Ashram & Kaivalya Yoga School for Kirtan (chanting) yoga and a cacao ceremony.
Love Probiotics Fermentation Workshop
Love Probiotics is a small business based in San Marcos, whose ever growing product line includes kombucha, apple cider vinegar, raw sauerkrauts, organic kefir yogurt, peanut butter and much more. They regularly offer workshops, but you can also coordinate a private workshop for 5+ people.
Shamanic readings can help you deepen your understanding of your life and the choices you make through analysis of your true self and your ego.
TRAVELER'S TIP: If you’re not in San Marcos la Laguna, but still want a reading, I highly recommend Tabitha Ellis Shamanic Witch. She's done a few readings for me both in person and digitally, and every time is shockingly accurate, insightful and helpful!
Root Flute Sound Journey
Dan Hansen creates and plays instruments as a guided meditation. These unique instruments aid in deep emotional processing, remembrances and reconnections of self to evoke a pathway of receiving greater insight to themselves, their purpose and moving into transformational growth. Wednesdays at 12:30 at La Paz. Dan also does it in Colorado the rest of the year.
Sundays at 10:30 am, the Yoga Forest offers a Mayan Cacao Ceremony and the opportunity to dance to soulful beats and smooth grooves. A great opportunity to get out of your head and into your body and heart.
Rent kayaks and enjoy some time splashing about in the water.
Past Life Readings
Believe in reincarnation? Sign up for a one-on-one session to shed light on your past lives to help you identify patterns of behavior in order to help you make better, more authentic decisions for you and your purpose.
Reserva Natural del Cerro Tzankujil
Just past Hotel Aaculaax on the lake is a small nature reserve with short trails, swimming spots, and La Trampolina, a seven meter (23 feet) high platform where you can jump into the water (pictured above).
Fire & Drum Circle
A weekly fire and drum circle happens at Hostal del Lago. No need to bring your own drum, there are several there that get passed around. Don't be afraid to join in, even if you have absolutely zero drum knowledge or experience! You never know what might come out of you!
Additionally, Del Lago has nightly events such as movie screenings, DJ's, karaoke, poker, and more. Check their board as activities change weekly.
Hike Indian Nose
A large mountain situated between San Pedro and San Marcos, accurately describing what appeared to be the face of an Indian. The top of the mountain is over 9,000 feet and is a lovely sunrise spot!
Learn to cook authentic Guatemalan cuisine at Restaurant Fe. Students will prepare three main dishes and three side dishes. Cost is $30 and includes food and beverage. Offered daily 2-5 pm.
Open Mic Night
Every Friday evening from 5-9:30pm join fellow music lovers at the Love Cafe & Bistro for an open mic night.
Las Pirámides Meditation Center
A meditation center for private escapes from the busy mind or for retreats.
What better place to begin or continue learning Spanish than in a Spanish speaking country? Classes are offered in groups or one-on-one to provide you with specific and dynamic lessons that you actually want to learn!
And so many more options for things to do in San Marcos, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Again, remember to check the community boards upon arrival for update information of available classes!
Your travels shouldn't be stressful or mass produced. Let us navigate the often overwhelming world of travel planning for you.
We've been to Guatemala. We've walked the towns and seen the sights; so we know what to do and what not to do. More importantly, we know how to optimize each experience to save you time, energy, stress and money to make the most of your precious vacation time. Trust Sapphire & Elm Travel to craft a truly memorable and stress-free vacation, unique to you.
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