Diary Guatemala: Lake Atitlan and San Marcos

Last Updated on by Charlotte van de Sande

Tired but with an after a great experience, climbing the Acatenango volcano, we travelled to Lake Atitlan. As you might have read here, the journey didn’t go very smoothly and we did not make it to our final destination San Marcos, but we stayed overnight in the backpacker village of San Pedro. In this blog, I will tell you about the remaining days at Lake Atitlan.


Day 5: finally off to San Marcos

I wake up early and around 05.50 I see the first rays of sunrise over the corrugated iron roof of our hostel. Yes… our hostel has corrugated iron on the roof and the bed linen, well that smelled on arrival not too fresh. We were happy to be able to sleep somewhere, but now in the morning when I look around me, I realize that this hostel is not quite my thing.

And the same can be said about the village of San Pedro. Because breakfast is served from 8 am (that is nice though, breakfast is included in the hostel), we decide to kill the time by discovering San Pedro. We walk through the empty streets that are completely filled with tourist hostels, eateries and tour operators. Flashy colours, cheap tours and happy hours are offered everywhere on posters. We become a bit sad and therefore after breakfast, we immediately take the boat to San Marcos.

Lake Atitlan

San Marcos versus San Pedro

San Marcos is much smaller than San Pedro and is only a five-minute boat ride on the other side of Lake Atitlan. As soon as we set foot, it seems as if our backpacks are a lot lighter and we both take a sigh of relief. What a feeling of peace and quietness compared to San Pedro. San Marcos is a bit of a hippie village. You will find dozens of yoga and meditation centres, see enough hippies walking around and you can eat vegetarian or vegan food in many different places. Exactly the place where we want to rest after the heavy volcanic trek that we have done.

When we arrive at our hostel, we are warmly welcomed by the Israeli Dor. Together with his girlfriend, he manages this hostel for three months. He immediately gives us some good tips on how we can spend the rest of the afternoon. After we have put down our backpacks and admired the open roof terrace with hammocks, we walk to the first tip of Dor: the Trampoline in the Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve. The name is a bit misleading but certainly does not disappoint, we walk into a nature park built on the rocks directly on Lake Atitlan. Everywhere you will find small seats, a beach and of course ‘the Trampoline’, a wooden platform, from where you can jump eight meters down into the lake. There is hardly anyone and it is wonderfully quiet! We walk along the steep cliffs, over small bridges and then take place on a bench in the sun. Ries takes his snorkel and dives into the clear blue water. It is fresh and deep, just a few meters from the side, you can’t see the bottom anymore. Besides being super pretty because of the blue water with the green trees around it, the lake is extra special since it’s surrounded by three large volcanoes. Lake Atitlan is itself a volcanic lake: a collapsed magma chamber created by explosion thousands of years ago.

Lake Atitlan - San Marcos

Falafel and yoga

After a few hours of relaxing and jumping from the trampoline, we start to get hungry. Another tip from Dor is Pita Gordita, a falafel takeaway on the main street. Behind the counter is a huge Israeli, who looks rather sullen, but makes the most delicious falafel ever. Blissfully we eat pita sandwiches full of falafel, hummus and shakshuka. A top lunch!

At the end of the afternoon, we start a search for the well-known Yoga Forest Center. We are all rather stiff and have severe muscle pain from the volcano tour, and a yoga class seems like a good remedy. After a hike of 20 minutes, it appears that the location on Google Maps is only the beginning of the path to the Yoga Forest. Ries is grumbling behind me. He wanted to take a tuktuk, but I insisted on walking. However, we are no longer walking, but running to be on time since the yoga class starts in ten minutes. The only indication which points to the Yoga Forest Center is small flowers, painted on the ground, poles or trees. We walk quickly between the trees and bushes on a barely visible path. Eventually, we encounter a large gate with a high staircase behind it. This seems like a treasure hunt! Eleven minutes later, heavily panting, we are finally there: Yoga Forest Center. Just in time for the yoga class which takes place in a beautiful studio overlooking the valley, the lake and the volcano. Once on the mat, we quickly settle down and it appears that those muscles should indeed be stretched a lot.

Lake Atitlan - San Marcos

Completely relaxed we exit the studio one and a half hours later. That relaxedness, unfortunately, doesn’t last long, the sun has gone down and so we have to walk home for half an hour through the dark. On the way, we are shaken about three times by street dogs, who seem to be quite aggressive. Nothing happens, but since I am not a big dog fan, I am delighted when we walk into the illuminated city. We end the evening with Gin Tonics and lasagne at an Italian restaurant.


Day 6: Sunrise at Indian Nose

It is four o’clock at night when the alarm goes off. Fortunately, we are now used to these kinds of wake-up times, so without too much effort, we get out of bed. Today we are going to see the sunrise at Indian Nose, a beautiful viewing point, just 40 minutes walk from the village of Santa Clara.

With a tuk-tuk, we are taken to a bus, and when it opens, our friends Stef and Matthias are already waiting for us. Good to see them again! But there is also a nice surprise: Olivia and her mom Kim are also on the bus. They come from Indiana, although Olivia lives temporarily in Guatemala, and we got to know them during the long bus ride from Antigua to Lake Atitlan. The six of us and our guide, start to hike to the top of the mountain Indian Nose. You can guess what it is named after, and when we sit in the boat the next day we see that the top of the mountain really looks like a head with a big nose.

Seeing the sunrise above the volcanoes

Once upstairs, we are not the only ones, another ten or so people watch the twilight and the slowly rising sun. We sit down on a large wooden plateau, occasionally take some pictures but especially enjoy the beautiful view. In the beginning, the lake can’t be seen, there are still large clouds above it. The top of the volcano San Pedro is clearly visible, and in the distance, we also see the Acatenango and the Fuego volcano that we climbed a few days ago. When the first rays of the sunrise above the mountains, the clouds also pull away and we see the lake among us slowly change colour. It is a really beautiful view and when it is completely light, we don’t really want to leave this place. But on the other hand, our stomach begins to rumble and it is high time for breakfast.

Breakfast and falafel again!

We have breakfast at Vida, a restaurant on the water that has only been open for a day. Coincidentally, we sat with the owner in the boat from San Pedro to San Marcos, and when we enter we are warmly welcomed. It is only 8 o’clock in the morning, and it is still quiet. On top of the first floor is a kind of open relaxation area, with nice pouffes and chairs. After a huge breakfast of pancakes, coconut rice and a dash of rum, Ries sleeps a bit in the sun. In the meantime, I am working on the first blog about Antigua and chatting with some friends from home via Web Whatsapp. I get a message from Stef, who proposes to come to San Marcos this afternoon with, nice!

And so we spend the afternoon together, again with a falafel lunch at Pita Gordita, after which we show them the Trampoline and the park, and we the rest of the time we play cards. A relaxed day! It is also our last day in San Marcos, tomorrow we will travel together with Stef and Matthias to Lanquin. It’s going to be a big travel day, more than ten hours on the bus and we don’t look forward to it. I had absolutely not mind staying a few days longer in San Marcos, it is so quiet and nice here. On the other hand, it is nice to travel together with Stef and Matthias for a bit longer, so the choice is made quickly.

After we pack our stuff in our hostel, we eat a few sandwiches that we bought this afternoon and then watch a Netflix series in bed. Outside it is raining, but we are cozy dry and warm inside. And so we end our time in San Marcos.


Blogs on Guatemala

All my other blogs about Guatemala.


Other blogs about Guatemala

Travel Guide : San Marcos at Lake Atitlan
Budget tips: What did we spend in Guatemala?

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