Hi backpackers! Welcome to my article on San Marcos La Laguna – a spiritual oasis on the shores of Lake Atitlan. My name is Andrea and I grew up in Xela, a city in the highlands of Guatemala. This city is 90 minutes from Lake Atitlan. I have been living at the lake for the last six years.
Things I love which bring joy to my heart are yoga, paddle boarding, hiking mountains, imagining and creating beautiful architectural spaces that make sensations, and bringing inspiration for people when I can.
I admire everything about Lake Atitlan. Every sunrise and sunset, the magic of each town, how nature integrates perfectly and wisely between the mountains and water, the people who live here and most of all the diversity of places that provide me with endless opportunities for discovery.
A typical day for me in Lake Atitlan starts very early at 4am. I do meditation, yoga, journaling and twice a week I give yoga classes at my place in Panajachel. The perfect week involves going paddle boarding on the lake two times per week and hiking a mountain once a week.
My daily routine includes visiting natural areas to design bio-architectural proposals, supervise projects, prepare plans and take materials from one town to the next. As you can tell by now, I work as a passionate architect!
Why San Marcos La Laguna Should be on your Guatemala Itinerary
San Marcos La Laguna is a charming village situated on the western shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. When you arrive here, you immediately feel the spiritual atmosphere in every single detail – in the shops, restaurants, activities and in the smiles and blissful nature of the local inhabitants. Don’t be surprised if you catch this contagious positive spirit!
The village is home to roughly 3000 inhabitants and there are three main neighborhoods: two in the highlands and one near the lake shore. Both locals and foreigners live in this town which creates an interesting cultural mix. San Marcos offers great options for accommodation, experiences and food & drink – with various options for different budgets.
My Favorite Place at San Marcos La Laguna
A place that I consider special is La Piedra del Elefante. It’s an amazing elephant-shaped rock with a waterfall. The hike is epic and surrounded by nature. When you arrive, you feel the energy of the ancient rock. The rock has been changed by the water, creating waterfalls around it. A fantastic place to visit with a local guide and even during the rainy season.
Top 5 Things To Do in San Marcos La Laguna
1. Enjoy the Nature at Cerro Tzankujil (Nature Reserve)
Cerro Tzankujil (Nature Reserve) is the perfect place in San Marcos to enjoy the beauty of nature, take in the views of volcanoes, relax on top of the rocks in the sun and go swimming in the lovely waters of Lake Atitlan.
A few years ago, I celebrated my birthday here. A small group of friends came over to spend the morning with me at the rocks over a picnic. Some of my friends jumped from the platform into the water and it was just amazing to be in contact with nature and take in the views. If you are looking for the perfect picnic spot then Cerro Tzankujil is the place to be!
2. Hike to the Enchanting “La Piedra del Elefanate”
Take a nice walk through the woods to find a beautiful hidden treasure of Guatemala – La Piedra del Elefante (Elephant Rock in English). You will also discover a little oasis with a flowing waterfall. It makes for a great afternoon.
3. Experience a Meditation Class or Yoga Session
4. Visit the Santa Clara La Laguna Community
Near San Marcos La Laguna is the community of Santa Clara La Laguna. Here you can visit Rostro Maya, also known as Indian Nose. It’s a beautiful hike that offers the best sunrise in Guatemala! This is my favorite time of day and there is no better place in the world to see it than Indian Nose.
Santa Clara is located on the west side of the lake and is surrounded by humid forest and lush greenery (especially in the rainy season). I see it as a healing place where you can feel, observe, listen and be amazed by nature.
5. Eat Out at the Best Restaurants and Bars
Tips for Visiting San Marcos La Laguna
Arriving at San Marcos La Laguna can be achieved by car or boat. The most common way is from Panajachel by boat with rates between Q20 and Q25. Plan to visit Lake Atitlan for at least a week on your Guatemala travel itinerary as there is so much beauty to experience in the surrounding area.
Bring comfortable shoes and if you visit during the rainy season (April to October) be prepared with waterproof clothing. Explore the streets of the village with an open heart and take your time to choose an experience. You might find many options and you don’t necessarily have to take them all.
I recommend exploring the highlands with a tour guide if you are by yourself. This is a place that is best experienced in a group. Go on a couple of hikes to get a wider perspective and to connect with nature. Namaste!