Intending to get off the beaten tourist path around Lake Atitlan, I came to San Marcos la Laguna for some chill-axing before beginning my Spanish schooling in nearby San Pedro. Little did I know just how chilled out San Marcos would be.
The low season in Guatemala began a few weeks ago when the afternoon rains became prevalent and predictable. Thus many places of higher altitude are less touristy and “gringo” packed than they would be during the hotter months of July and August. Though I have had to adapt to daily precipitation and clouds that roll in at around two in the afternoon, I will gladly choose traveling during this time of year. I just wish I had a pair of gum boots with me (and an extra sweater or two.)
Lake Atitlan is definitely one of the most beautiful lakes that I have visited around the world. The serene landscape is set in a majestic oasis of lush hills, sun baked villages, and towering volcanoes. Thirteen Mayan settlements dot the shores of Lake Atitlan, and visitors can hop on and off a lancha for transport around the picturesque lakeside shores.
I began my lakeside experience in San Marcos la Laguna where a hippie, bohemian reputation is well presented at the many yoga ashrams, holistic centers, and reiki shops popping up along the village’s two pathways. There isn’t much to do in San Marcos except relax in a shaded hammock with a book, swim off a secluded jetty, or stroll along a stone path through papaya and avocado forests.The village dogs and cats are certainly adjusted to the tranquil vibe and tend to drape themselves in the sun without a care in the world.
I stayed at Hostel San Marcos, a lovely hostel managed by the most wonderful Guatemalan couple, Carlos and Angela (and their two cats.) My four bed dorm cost 50 Quetzals ($7 US). However, after lasting exactly one evening killing some rather large, hairy spiders and sleeping with the lights on thinking that the glaring bulbs would convince the spiders that it was still daylight and thus stay in their hideaways, I moved to a drier, less spider-friendly two bed dorm for the same price. I slept much better the second night.
Aside from having a few eight-legged visitors, Hostel San Marcos boasted a pretty garden for practicing yoga, several cats seeking cozy laps and cuddles, and yummy licuados (fruit or veggie based smoothies). Breakfast was included in my nightly accommodation, and I easily found street food stalls sprinkled through the village. Mayan women sold enchiladas, tostadas with vegetables, and tamales for 5 Quatzals 5, or about .70 cents US. And, of course, I am spoiling myself with Guatemalan coffee too.
I spent one morning kayaking and exploring the nooks and crannies of Lake Atitlan. The views were incredibly stunning as shadows and sun rays silently wrestled across the waters. I headed out before the clouds rolled in, but I became too distracted taking photos and had to hurry back to the dock, fighting against a strong head wind.
I also took advantage of the many yoga classes offered throughout the village. Nearby Las Piramides meditation center had a 7 a.m. Hatha yoga session, and I eagerly showed up with my yoga mat in tow on morning. I’ve never actually tried Hatha yoga before as I tend to favor the quicker, more fluid movements of Vinyasa and Ashtanga. My experience that morning consisted of a lot of breathing and stretching – no pushups, downward dogs, or warrior poses so I felt a bit off-kilter. The rest of the yogis were participants at the Piramides’ one-month Full Moon course, and I later discovered that they were on their week of silence and fasting. I thought it was a bit odd that nobody talked to me! Hostel La Paz also offered yoga three times a day (9 a.m., 12 p.m., and 3 p.m.), and I found their mixture of Hatha and Vinyasa much more to my liking.
I met two Canadian girls, and we are heading to San Pedro la Laguna together tomorrow. I begin my one week intensive Spanish course next week, so we will spend a few days hiking around San Pedro and perhaps take a quick trip up to the Chichicastanego market. On with the adventure!