San Marcos: The Zen of Lake Atitlan and The Journey Part 8

Through travel I first became aware of the outside world; it was through travel that I found my own introspective way of becoming part of it.
— Eudora Welty

What describes your dream location? Does it include a peaceful setting? Is your location beautiful? What about a beach or waterfront location? Are you looking for great weather? What about a "zen-like" experience? Well if you are looking for these, San Marcos is your place!

Some people are turned off by the laid back nature of San Marcos and the hippy vibe. In all fairness to those people, there are a lot of meditation and yoga places around San Marcos. I don't find this distracting when you are trying to unplug or disconnect for a little while. I find this is exactly what one needs. This type of setting is extremely nice and needed every once in a while. 

Getting away from television, media, and the hectic nature of our lives and our technological leashes is necessary to keep our sanity. San Marcos offers such an opportunity.  Don't get me wrong, there is access to television and also access to WiFi. Once you wander through San Marcos you will see why none of those are necessary while here.  Wander the streets and meet local people. Most are happy to talk with visitors.

Sit on the dock or at one of the beachfront establishments and have a drink while watching the activity on Lake Atitlan. Sit and drink a few beers, glasses of wine, or cocktails. Who cares? You sure aren't driving around here. If you don't drink then grab some food and some fresh pineapple juice.

Get up for the extraordinary sunrises or go out for an amazing sunset. In fact, San Marcos (and Lake Atitlan) has some of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever witnessed. During the cool mornings there is a smokey haze that surrounds the lake which is highlighted by the red tones in the sky during the sunset. The volcanoes around the lake bring a beautiful background to the entire scene. Early in the morning, the lake is very still and quiet so you get the reflections of the colorful sky and the beautiful volcanoes on the water. It is just so beautiful it is hard to put into words. Often in the mornings, there will be nobody else around so you get the added peace of having this beautiful scene to yourself.

If you are adventurous, water activities are popular on Lake Atitlan and are available to visitors at a very small price. You can rent a boat, canoe, or paddle boards.  If you arrange it right, you can go out onto the water during sunrise or sunset and enjoy the scene from the middle of the lake. If you are into fishing, you can also fish the lake and try to catch the famous black bass. I do have to warn you that the numbers of fish have dwindled in years due to pollution from local fertilizers getting into the lake through run-off so it may be a little harder to find the fish.

If you are searching for more; looking for that inward journey to find yourself, San Marcos is the place. This quiet place is great for soul searching. You can feel the power and presence of something greater here. San Marcos has an energy about it. It is quiet, peaceful, and comforting. You are put into such a beautiful setting and then it draws you into yourself. You can see that many of the people here are on their own spiritual quest. Many are quiet and focused inward. There is a calmness here unlike any other place I have been. Sitting at the side of the lake for a couple of hours in the early morning can sure recharge you mentally. If you need help, San Marcos has many centers for meditation, yoga, and mind healing. Just stop by any one of them to find out more.

 French toast from Il Giardino's in San Marcos.

French toast from Il Giardino's in San Marcos.

There are some great places to eat in San Marcos. I had an excellent breakfast experience in several places. I think the best breakfast I ate was the french toast at Il Giardino. French toast topped with honey syrup, raisins, and shredded coconut. It is served with the most delicious fresh fruit around. You can get this great meal plus coffee for right around $6 USD. I am telling you this is sooooooo good you will not want to miss out. I ate at Il Giardino several times while I stayed in San Marcos and I was never disappointed by any of the food.  

 Pizza from Happy Tacos in San Marcos.

Pizza from Happy Tacos in San Marcos.

I am a pizza lover. I grew up in Chicago and as most Chicagoans I am pretty particular and very opinionated about pizza, Italian beef, and hot dogs. If you are looking for decent pizza while on Lake Atitlan, I highly recommend Happy Tacos. I know, right? A taco place for pizza? You bet. The pizza is wood fired right there in the little oven in the dining room.  I know this isn't deep dish pizza from Gino's East but considering this is pizza in Guatemala it is done well. When you order pizza in foreign countries, you are never really sure what you are going to get.  Consider this: the crust is handmade and all of the ingredients are fresh, not frozen. This makes all the difference. Let me tell you, it is much better than any pizza in the town I live in! 

If you get a  chance, strike up a conversation with Edwin. Edwin is a local tour guide and also the owner of Happy Tacos. I loved to frequent Happy Tacos for the conversation, beer, and pizza. I ate there multiple times and had some great conversations with Edwin and his family who are all extremely nice people who genuinely care about their customers. Even Edwin's kids are quick to start up a conversation to find out more about where you come from and about your life there. Hell, go and get the experience of talking with some extremely nice locals, eat some pizza, and have a beer. It will be a great time!

There is not really a night scene in San Marcos. The locals go dancing many nights at the church up on the hill which serves as a community center. They often have live bands, and invite locals who like to sing. The music and festivities run until late into the evening and then everything dies down. I never saw a single bar or pub in San Marcos but you can buy beer and liquor in several places. If you need a nightlife scene like pubs, clubs, or bars then I recommend San Pedro la Laguna.

While I am on the subject of purchasing, I need to mention something very important about money. There is no bank in San Marcos. There are no ATMs in San Marcos. No credit or debit cards are accepted anywhere in San Marcos. Everything is on a cash basis. Make sure to take enough money with you to pay for everything you will need. Although there is relatively no crime in San Marcos, keep it safe as you would anywhere. The most important tip of all; make sure you keep enough money to take the taxi to Panajachel to go to an ATM in case you start running low on money. I recommend Panajachel for ATMs because they have multiple ATMs from various banks in case your card doesn't work for a particular bank's ATM (this happens a lot in Guatemala). 

San Marcos is kicked back and chill. It is a great place to chillax and find yourself internally. It is a great place to partake in water activities. San Marcos has the best view on Lake Atitlan and it is such a magnificent place to enjoy this beauty. It is also a great location to stay on the lake because it is centrally located between the towns on the lake and it makes it easy to get to the other places via water taxi for day trips.

The hippy town of San Marcos is an excellent destination for anyone planning a trip. Stay a day or two or stay a month. You will love it no matter how long you stay. Meet the locals, eat some good food, find yourself. It has everything a great destination needs and nothing more.

Stay tuned for my next blog post, where I visit one of my favorite places, Antigua. Until then, get out and travel friends.