After a very active and busy first few days in Guatemala, the second part of my trip was spent relaxing in gorgeous Lake Atitlan. There are several towns surrounding the lake, and I chose to stay in San Marcos since it’s known for its hippie community, gorgeous surrounding nature, and relaxing vibes over more popular destinations around the lake like San Pedro. I also read on a travel blog that San Marcos is similar to Pai in Thailand, which was my absolute favorite city on that solo trip, so San Marcos was a no-brainer.
Day 3: Travel to Lake Atitlan + exploring hippie-dippie San Marcos + movie night with Alicia
After my last morning in Antigua, I took a 3-hour bus to San Marcos. I settled into my hostel, Hostel Del Lago, which I immediately fell in love with. The entire hostel was like a small campus right on the lake-front with a dock, yoga classes, message studio, hammocks, fire pits, a comfy communal area with a cafe…one of my favorite hostels I’ve stayed at yet.
I still had a few hours before sunset and wanted to squeeze in some initial exploring of San Marcos. From walking around, I immediately felt at home. Small merchants sold their hippie organic products on the small streets which were lined with lush greenery. There were tons of massage centers, spiritual workshops, yoga centers, vegan/vegetarian restaurants…the town was also filled with a large expat community who gravitate towards San Marcos to start these businesses.
I got a Swedish massage since my legs were super sore and tense from the volcano yesterday. Afterwards, I went down to the pier to enjoy the view of the gorgeous pink-purple sunset and the volcanos surrounding the lake. Lake Atitlan is hands down one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.
I went onto the main street for dinner, and while I was walking, I ran into a friend who I met at the hostel earlier, named Alicia. We decided to grab dinner together at a vegetarian restaurant whose profits go towards supporting women in Guatemala. Alicia and I immediately hit it off over dinner as we chatted away about our lives back home. Alicia has an amazing life story: originally from Canada, she has lived in Korea, Colombia and now lives in Mexico as an English teacher! She had so many fascinating stories I and couldn’t help but ask endless questions about her travels.
After dinner, Alicia and I headed back to our hostel and shared a bottle of wine while the hostel hosted a movie night. It was the perfect way to shut off my brain for an evening after being pretty social the past few days.
Day 4: Yoga + mushroom farm + nature reserve + cliff jump + drum circle
Alicia and I woke up early to do a morning yoga class at our hostel. The studio was incredible as it overlooked the lake – hearing the sounds of the waves while feeling the sunshine was so therapeutic, especially during meditation. The class was on the beginner side but it was just what I needed given that I was still recovering.
After yoga, Alicia and I jumped right into the lake for a swim. The water was so clear and refreshing and it felt so nice to cool off.
Then some breakfast at our hostel. Another reason Hostel Del Lago is one of the best – their breakfast was INCREDIBLE. I had the most delicious pancakes with fruit and yogurt.
Then, Alicia and I decided to take a 30-minute hike to a medicinal mushroom farm in the San Marcos mountains. Artur, my friend from the kava bar in SF, connected me to his friends in San Marcos who ran the Fungi Academy, known for cultivating medical mushrooms; Alicia and I were both fascinated by this and decided to pay them a visit.
The farm was so remote that we had to take a dirt trail off the main roads – all we had to follow were these mushroom drawings on the trail, ha.
The people at the Fungi Academy were incredibly welcoming, especially since we had a mutual friend in Artur. They gave us a little tour of the property – their operations were modest but overall it felt it would be a nice vibe to live in the mountains on this farm; they had a gorgeous view overlooking the lake.
After our tour, Alicia and I headed back down the mountain and then went to a popular nature reserve in San Marcos. We strolled around different trails and felt like we were in a forest.
As we were strolling, we saw a cliff jump! It was 12 meters/35 feet high. I wasn’t planning on doing it, but Alicia was brave enough to jump in and then encouraged me to jump too. I told myself not to look down or even think about it or else I’d never jump. I didn’t even have a bathing suit, but I just knew in my gut I needed try – I stripped down some of my clothes and without even looking or thinking, I ran off that cliff!
SOOOOO MUCH FUN!!!! What a rush of adrenaline. I felt like I was falling for ages but my pencil dive made everything feel pretty smooth. I’m so glad I took that leap of faith. With these things it’s always a matter of not wanting to regret NOT doing it!
Alicia and I loved the scenery and the relaxing vibes in the nature reserve, and so we found a spot on the rocks, swam some more, and chilled under the sun. This was one of my favorite moments in the entire trip. It all felt so adventurous and carefree, and I’m so glad I had Alicia pushing me out of my comfort zones to do all of these things.
After the nature reserve, it was time to say goodbye to Alicia, at least temporarily. She was heading back up the mountain for a yoga retreat, but we decided to play it by ear and potentially meet again if she had some free time.
The rest of the day, I ate lunch, grabbed a cup of cocoa (what Guatemala is known for), did some shopping, got another massage (they were so cheap!), and watched another sunset on the hostel dock…perfection.
At night, my hostel hosted a drum circle. Apparently this was THE event in San Marcos as people from other hostels and even locals came too. I was hesitant at first at the idea of a drum circle but it ended up being SO much fun! It’s amazing how the sound of percussion instruments alone can be so powerful and make such a lively environment. People drummed along with different sized drums and danced away – it felt like one big party centered around the power of unity.
Low and behold, Alicia came down from her retreat for the drum circle! I met some of her new yoga friends as well – even though it had just been a few hours since we saw each other, it felt so nice to reunite and we had many stories to tell each other about the rest of our day. I’m so beyond glad I met Alicia this trip. She and I got so close so quickly and by the end, she really felt like my big sister. The whole night hit my happy spot. ❤
Day 5: Sunrise at Indian’s Nose + last day in San Marcos
Another early morning! My alarm went off at 3:30am as I joined a group to hike up to Indian’s Nose for a sunrise view.
We drove 30 minutes to the mountain and then it took another 30 minutes to get to the top. Not too strenuous, although kind of eerie in pitch black. As we hiked up the mountain, we got a gorgeous view of all the surrounding lake towns.
When we made it to the viewpoint, it was still pitch black. We literally saw the lake transform from this:
The sunrise was absolutely incredible. The clouds made they colors really pop around the majestic volcanos. So worth the early wake up for this!
I went back to my hostel, slept a little more, and ate some breakfast, and then was off to relax by myself for my last day in San Marcos. I initially thought I would take a day to ride a boat and check out the different lake towns, but to be honest, I loved San Marcos so much and just wanted to chill and enjoy my last day in this beautiful place.
My day alone was absolutely perfect. I went back to the nature reserve for a bit, listened to music on the pier, met some new friends at my hostel as we chilled on the dock. Alicia even came back to town for an hour and we met up again in the afternoon.
Last sunset in San Marcos. This one was my favorite as there was a dark vibe to this sunset. This sound cheesy but it was so beautiful that I actually teared up. I cozied up on the dock in my sweats and melted away with the sunset. I remember thinking in that moment how thankful I was for this life, body, earth, and youth.
The evening ended with eating some pepian for dinner (Guatemala’s most famous dish, super yummy), journaling, and packing up as I had an early flight the next morning.
I really couldn’t have asked for a better last day in Guatemala. Lake Atitlan is a truly magical place, and one of the few destinations I would make an effort to go back to again. Not only was the scenery absolutely epic, but I love how it’s one of those places you go to just vibe with the other like-minded backpackers. Although San Marcos was a bit in-your-face-hippie, I’ve grown to really appreciate that culture around loving one another and the earth; it reminds of the vibe among my friends at SF’s kava bar. I really felt like I connected strongly with the earth in Lake Atitlan. I truly believe that nature has transformative healing powers, and I felt completely restored like a new person after this visit.
Next up is Mexico with the girls! Anna, Sarah and I will be ringing in Thanksgiving weekend in Puerto Vallarta. I’m really excited to see these close girlfriends after spending the past few days solo. Missing my family like crazy this Thanksgiving, but I’m grateful for these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to experience the world as a freewheel 🙂
Thank you, Guatemala. You’ll always have a special place in my heart. ❤