Having spent so much time in Guatemala, Luke and I are always slightly embarrassed when people ask us for travel tips, because we've really never left Lake Atitlan! We are just so entranced with the magic of the Lake that we've never felt compelled to explore further. So here is our guide to getting the most out of your stay around Lake Atitlan (be warned, you may never want to leave!).
WHERE TO STAY
If you're looking to splash out on some luxury there's no going past the stunning Lush Apartments with it's unique design and breath-taking views.
If you're on a budget, but still like a little luxury and a great breakfast, Circles Hostel is a small boutique hostel connected to a great cafe. (fun fact: we use to live here before it became a hostel!)
And if you're looking to make lots of new friends and enjoy the night life that San Marcos has to offer (read drum circles, live bands, movie nights) Hostel Del Lago is the place to be.
For long term stays there are lots of beautiful houses for rent. Check out San Marcos Facebook page
WHAT TO DO?
Start the day early and hike up to the Indian's Nose to watch the sunset over The Lake - absolutely beautiful (pictured below - we made the hike to welcome in luke's 30th birthday).
a Cacao Ceremony with the infamous Keith.
a Mayan Astrology Reading at the flower house.
Iridology reading/acupuncture/massage/reiki - whatever holistic therapy you're looking for, you'll find it in San Marcos!
Spend a month getting in touch with your esoteric side at The Moon Course run by Las Piramides De Ka.
Study the art of fermentation with Love Probiotics (your tummy will love you).
Take a permaculture course with Atitlan Organics.
Enjoy morning yoga class high up in the mountains at The Yoga Forest. Daily yoga classes are also held at Hostel Del Lago and La Paz hostel.
Watch the sunset in the reserve (and jump off The Trampoline if you're game!).
Visit Latin America's largest outdoor market Chichicastenango. Day trips can be organised in San Marcos. you can also head straight to Antigua after you've finished at the market at 2pm.
Visit the talented artisans of San Juan and learn the art of the backstrap loom and natural dying.
Sit by the dock and read your favourite book, watching the boats go by.
Relax on the deck at the beautiful Isla Verde as you work on your tan, sip on some cocktails and enjoy the view (the mediterranean plate is amazing too!)
WHERE TO EAT?
Local organic fresh produce! There is nothing better than a home cooked meal, using local produce! And a great way to support the indigenous community too.
For all of your superfood supplements, powders and a great range of dried herbs visit Salud Para Vida
Circels Cafe offers great breakfasts! be warned though, their cookie caramel brownies are addictive!
Zen out and drink some delicious chai tea while listening to some local live music at Shambala Cafe
If you go to Guatemala you have to try the coffee... unless you're like me and you don't drink coffee! however Word on the street (and according to Luke) is that Cafe Loco (cool vibes) and Crossroads Cafe (where you'll find the most amazing cheesecake and the friendliest of friendliest barista) in Panajachel are the best places to go. Well worth the boat ride. And a great gift idea too!
If you've worked up an appetite, there is no beating a falafel burrito at Moonfish Cafe.
If you're looking to "treat yo'self", then you can't go past the iconic Cheese & Wine in San Juan. Words can not describe how incredible the food is here... put aside a entire day (no I'm not exaggerating) to enjoy the experience of cheese, cured meat and wine in a breath-taking setting. And don't be put-off, if you're vegetarian, there are some great vegetable dishes available too. Did i mention the endless artisan bread baskets!
Love Probiotics. It is not uncommon for people who visit the lake to experience parasites. Actually it's very rare that you won't get parasites, which is why it is so important to build up your gut health with delicious fermented foods. These guys offer so many amazing products! Our faves are the apple cider vinegar, kimchi (on sourdough with avocado!!!), bliss balls for when you need a little snack on the go, jun tea and the hot sauce! Fun fact: there are a few scorpions around town, and we found that the best way to treat these pesky little bites is to apply apple cider vinegar. I was bitten on the face last time we were there and the A.C.V. worked a treat.
For authentic Italian head to Pequenos Pecados (the nutella gelato is the best on The Lake!)
For a nutritious meal that will not only make your tummy feel good, but also your heart try out Konojel Comerdor . These guys originally started out as a nutrition centre for the town's most in need, and due to generous donations, they have expanded their do-good reach by opening a cafe in the centre of town, empowering the local women by providing training and jobs.
WHAT TO PACK?
Grapeseed extract (great for washing fresh produce and for any tummy bugs)
Runners. Luke and I love our early morning runs over to the neighbouring town of Tzununa, breathlessly greeting the locals on their way to work! There are lots of great hikes around too.
A yoga mat. Surprisingly very hard to find around town, and if you don't want to take it home, there will be so many people grateful to take it off your hands after your finished with it.
Yoga gear... you'll most likely spend all day in it.
Long pants/skirts/dresses - it's important to respect the local culture wherever you are, and around Lake Atitlan short shorts are a no-go. That goes for walking around in your swimmers too.
Spare ATM cards. They have recently opened up an ATM in San Marcos, however, it is not uncommon for cards to be scammed at the ATM's in San Pedro, so just to be safe bring and extra card.
Books! Oh so much time for reading!
Motion sickness tablets (the roads are winding and the lake can be rough).
If you're there during wet season, definitely a good rain jacket and thongs.
HOW TO GET THERE?
You can fly into Guatemala City and take a 3 hour shuttle to Panajachel and then a 45-60 minute boat ride to San Marcos (or you can pay for a private that will take you directly to San Marcos, but this is pricey).
Or if you're coming from Mexico we always like to stop by San Cristobal De la Casas and take a shuttle from there (8 hours... although be warned we have experienced road blocks, doubling our transit time). Again, this will drop you off in Panajachel, so depending on what time you arrive, you can grab one of the last boats for the day to San Marcos or spend a night in Panajachel.