Planning a trip to Guatemala? If you are then don’t skip Lake Atitlan. There are plenty of choices of places to stay around the lake, you really can’t go wrong with any of them. But San Marcos is a little bit special, especially if you are into all things alternative, ‘new age’ and spiritual. San Marcos is commonly known as a vortex, and for good reason. It can often seem impenetrable so I have put together this guide to help you find your way into this very special village.
Why go to San Marcos
As I mentioned in my opening San Marcos is pretty special. It’s hard to really describe to someone who hasn’t been there, but it just has this energy. Yes, I know I sound woo-woo, but it’s true, as you will discover when you get there. It has something to do with the position of the village on the earth, next to the lake and surrounded by Volcanos. Because of this energy San Marcos attracts many people either wanting to be healed or wanting to heal. For this reason, if you have any health, emotional or spiritual issues San Marcos is the place you can be guaranteed to find the right therapist (and therapy) to help you heal. For such a small place it has a lot of healers!
It’s also a great place to learn to be a Yoga Teacher or Holistic Therapist. There are a number of Ashrams offering teacher training and retreat centers offering everything from Crystal Healing training to learning to grow medicinal mushrooms…or any other kind of mushroom you might like to grow!
If that really isn’t your thing I would still recommend going to San Marcos for a morning or afternoon, just to take a stroll around the center (it’s small and only takes 10 minutes), get a nice organic vegan lunch and maybe book a massage!
How to get there
The only way I recommend getting to San Marcos is by boat. You can easily catch a public launch from any of the villages to San Marcos. If you are traveling from Antigua, Guatemala City or anywhere else go to Panajachel first by tourist shuttle or chicken bus. Then get a boat. It’s far easier and safer. A boat from Panajachel should be 25Q max.
Where to stay
There are a number of places to stay in San Marcos depending on your budget.
I stayed in an Air BnB in between San Marcos and Tzunana. It was incredible! There are two options a small rustic cabin (outdoor toilet and shower):
Or a larger more modern cabin (with indoor bathroom):
Either way, the views are stunning and it’s worth the short Tuk Tuk ride to get there. I stayed for a few nights in the small cabin and I actually quite enjoyed showering outside in nature! Karsten the host is super nice and helpful and I can’t recommend this place enough. It’s also great value for money
Too book click here and get a voucher worth $33 if you don’t already have an Air BnB account.
The only hostel I recommend staying in San Marcos is Circles for a few reasons. Rebecca the owner is a bit of a powerhouse kick-ass woman who pays her staff well and also pays her taxes (not every business owner in Guatemala does this sadly). If you book for three nights you get the third free and breakfast included (or you did at time of publishing) making it great value for money. They have great WiFi (by Lake Atitlan standards).
The food is sooooo good, and they have the best bread around the lake, good bread isn’t easy to find in Guatemala! But the thing I like most about Circles is that it is the place to go for information. So even if you don’t stay there be sure to go in and ask about things happening in San Marcos.
Lush Atitlan is my pick if you prefer to stay in the main village and have a little more money to play with. Breakfast isn’t included but the rooms are clean and spacious. They have great WiFi and plenty of common space for you to hang out and relax in their gardens. If you are visiting San Marcos in the rainy season then be sure to check their rates as they normally do a seriously heavy discount. My friend got a single room there for less than a dorm room at Hostal del Largo!
Hostal del Largo
I personally don’t recommend staying here, I did and it was awful (my standards aren’t particularly high so for me to say this it’s not great). It was dirty, dark (the light didn’t work), the breakfast wasn’t great, no hot water and the morning yoga class was canceled. That said it is a great place to go for food, take a yoga class, chill out on their deck and spend some time reading their notice board which is always full of workshops and offerings. So absolutely go there, just don’t stay there!
What to do
Things in San Marcos change quickly so it’s hard to really list things to do here. But I’ve listed a few things that are pretty regular and some places to go and find out what they have on. It’s worth noting that it is difficult to plan or get much information until you are actually there. Things move quickly and people prefer to deal in person. There is a Facebook Group that I found invaluable in finding out what was going on there, it’s also good to post any requests you have in there and people will always be happy to help.
To find out information visit:
Nectar is a cultural hub that runs and promotes various workshops, call in and find out what the have on. You can also check out their Facebook Page here. It does a lot of woman empowerment work and has a weekly women’s group. Nectar is also run by a kick-ass Guatemalan woman.
Circles – As mentioned above be sure to call in here and ask what’s going on.
Hostal Del Largo – They have a HUGE notice board full of information. And daily yoga classes.
Del Largo have daily classes close to the center of town. If you want to take a drop in class at one of the Ashrams I recommend Yoga Forest. Ask in Circles and they will help direct you there (you will likely need a Tuk Tuk) or there is sometimes someone who will come and pick people up from there. Either way, ask in Circles and they will help.
Want to learn how to grow your own mushrooms? The Fungi Academy offers a weekly workshop on a Tuesday.
You can’t go to San Marcos and not pay a visit to Keith the Caco Shaman. He offers group Caco ceremonies on a Wednesday and a Sunday from 12:30 until around 6 pm. It’s 200Q if it’s your first time and 100Q after that. It’s a unique experience and if energy healing work is new to you it might be a bit much, but go and see what you think. You can always leave if it’s not for you.
recommend going to the Ashram in Tzunan (there is only one), take a Tuk Tuk from San Marcos for around 15-20Q per person and ask for the Ashram. You go through Tzunan, past hostel Bamboo on your left and just across the bridge there is a dirt path on your left, go p there and there is a door/ gate on your left. The Kirtan is each Friday at 11 am lasting for a few hours. You get Caco to drink and some instruments to play. It’s a pretty magical experience and best bit is it is by donation so you can pay what you can afford.
You name it you can find it in San Marcos. I recommend posting in the Facebook group what you are looking for and asking for recommendations. Do this just before you arrive so you can get the most up to date information as people come and go quickly in San Marcos.
I hope this helps to shine some light on this mystical place and you are able to find what you are looking for there. Don’t forget you can ask me any questions in the comments below or send me an email. I’m always happy to help.