Hippie village San Marcos La Laguna is the best village at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala to choose as your base while exploring the area. The lake is considered one of the most popular places to visit in Guatemala. As it is surrounded by many charming villages, each visitor first has to choose which village to stay at. The villages all have a beautiful view over the volcano-surrounded lake, great restaurants and beautiful places to stay. But San Marcos is different from the other villages because of its relaxed vibe and it is often referred to as the ultimate hippie village in Guatemala. The tiny village offers vegetarian restaurants, handmade jewelry, crochet tops, yoga, massages, reiki and sound healings. This blog will tell you everything to know about San Marcos on Lake Atitlan, including the best things to do, the most beautiful hotels and practical tips.
Why Lake Atitlan is worth visiting
Lake Atitlan is one of the most popular places to visit in Guatemala because of the clear blue lake, surrounded by volcanoes, mountains and charming villages. This beautiful landscape offers fun activities on the lake, unique and beautiful hotels and hostels, and great places to relax by the water.
Read more: the best things to do at Lake Atitlan
As Atitlan is extremely popular with travelers, it offers many great restaurants, fun excursions on the lake and beautiful places to stay. The best things to do at Lake Atitlan include exploring the villages, hiking to beautiful viewpoints, shopping at local markets, kayaking on the lake and enjoying the great restaurant scene. The easiest and most fun way to get around is by the boat that connects most Atitlan villages like a bus would do.
How to get to San Marcos La Laguna
Lake Atitlan is located in western Guatemala. Its location makes Atitlan easy to fit into any Guatemala travel itinerary with other popular destinations like the colonial town Antigua also located in this part of the country.
Most visitors travel from Antigua or Semuy Champey to Lake Atitlan. The lesser-known destination Quetzaltenango, worth a visit for its authentic Guatemalan experience and volcanoes, is located in this part of the country and is close to Lake Atitlan. You can easily get to Lake Atitlan from those destinations by minivans, Uber or even the local chicken bus. Almost all travelers arrive at Lake Atitlan at the main village of Panajachel. From Panajachel you take the boat connection to travel to San Marcos. The boats sail across the lake like a kind of bus service. Almost all villages are visited several times an hour by such a boat and for 10 to 20 Quetzal you will be taken to the next village.
Where to stay in San Marcos La Laguna
As one of the three most popular villages on Lake Atitlan – Panajachel and San Pedro are the other two – San Marcos has plenty of great hostels and hotels to suit every budget. We think that San Marcos is the best village to stay at Lake Atitlan and it also has the most unique places to stay at Atitlan to offer. You can spend your days in San Marcos in picture-perfect luxury accommodations, an hippie eco-resort or glamping domes on the lake!
The best hostels and hotels in San Marcos:
#1 Lush Atitlan (San Marcos) for one of the most beautiful hotel options at Atitlan. The hotel offers a phenomenal view of the lake and is beautifully built from natural materials and with calm tones.
#2 Eagle’s Nest Atitlan (outskirts of San Marcos) for a hippy-style eco-resort located just outside San Marcos, built against the rocks like an eagle’s nest. The view over the lake and the volcanoes is phenomenal. There are mountain huts, dormitories and apartments. A booking is always all-inclusive, so with three meals a day, yoga classes and a sauna.
#3 Anzan Atitlan (outskirts of San Marcos) for a modern luxury hotel with a sun terrace, a private beach, yoga, massages and a terrace on the water. Anzan is located a little outside of San Marcos, but is a short walk from all the restaurants and shops of the village.
#4 Kula Maya Boutique Hotel (San Marcos) for a beautiful, relatively new boutique hotel near the San Marcos jetty and the Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve. Each suite and design dome with a thatched roof has a patio overlooking the lake. There is a spa, outdoor pool and terrace.
Tourist map of San Marcos
San Marcos de Laguna is small. Very small. It roughly consists of two long, parallel streets from the pier to the main road. One of the two is little more than a narrow alley, but the other street is the hip center of San Marcos. The walls are filled with colorful street art and on both sides you stumble across the great restaurants and shops.
Tip: San Marcos only has one ATM, located in a small shop on the edge of the village.
Best things to do in San Marcos
#1 The hippy vibes of San Marcos
We didn’t exactly associate Guatemala with yoga classes, sound healings, buddha bowls, goji berries and knitted tops. Yet San Marcos on Lake Atitlan turned out to offer just that. The well-known hippie village of Guatemala is very different from other villages, making it one of the more interesting places to visit in Guatemala.
Enjoying the hippie vibes of San Marcos is one of the best things to do in the villages. San Marcos has such a hippie vibe that even the usual little tiendas sell soy milk and goji berries in addition to their bottles of coke and crisps. That hippie vibe can be seen in the San Marcos’ murals, buddha bowls and shops with knitted tops, but also in an extensive range of yoga, sound healing, massages, reiki and more. We recommend you to go for at least one of the many activities in San Marcos to immerse yourself in what is called the ultimate hippie village of Guatemala.
Because of that hippie atmosphere, the village isn’t authentic Guatemalan at all. There are even many American and European hippies living in this village, working in the restaurants and shops. San Marcos will not give you a local experience, but the popular Lake Atitlan is not the best destination for that anyway.
#2 The hip hotspots of San Marcos
While all Atitlan villages have many hotspots and restaurants for all travelers, San Marcos really takes the cake. The tiny village is packed with cozy restaurants, coffee shops and cafes where you can enjoy delicious meals, cocktails during happy hour, great breakfasts and good coffee. Our days in the village therefore consisted largely of trying out the trendy hotspots.
Our favorite hotspots in San Marcos:
- Maloca for vegetarian meals on lounge cushions (tip: choose the buddhabowl)
- Circles Cafe & Bakery for the best coffee, cookies and sandwiches
- Pitta Gordita for pita bread with hummus and falafel and Israeli shaksuka
- Shambala for healthy breakfasts
- Comedor Konojel for local meals at a low price
#3 The sunset over the lake
The end of the day is the time to walk to the lake. The sun sets behind the mountains and volcanoes surrounding the lake, giving everything a golden glow. Tul y Sol is a good place to have a drink during golden hour. You can also look up one of the many jetties on the water to enjoy this beautiful moment in peace.
#4 The villages on Lake Atitlan
Atitlan has more great villages to visit, with Panajachel and San Pedro being the most famous two next to San Marcos. We recommend that you plan for one or two days to soak up the atmosphere in the picturesque villages around Atitlan. Take the bus boat from your base to the villages and discover how they each have their own character. As the largest village in Atitlan, Panajachel is very busy and San Pedro is known for its backpacker atmosphere and cheap party hostels.
#5 Hike to Santa Cruz
From San Marcos you can take a beautiful walk in two hours to the Atitlan village of Santa Cruz. Most travelers limit themselves to the short 30-45 minute walk between Jaibalito and Santa Cruz. But if you opt for a bit more of a challenge, you can extend this hike to San Marcos. You walk almost the entire route along the coast and have beautiful views of the lake and the surrounding hills and volcanoes.
#6 Viewpoint Indian Nose during sunrise
The Indian Nose is one of Lake Atitlan’s most famous landmarks. It is a mountain on the west side of the lake near the villages of San Pedro and Santa Clara. From the top, you have the most beautiful viewpoint over Atitlan. A platform offers a phenomenal view over the deep blue lake and the surrounding volcanoes. The hike up is quite tough. In the beginning the path is still fairly flat, but in the end it is a fairly steep climb.
Especially early in the morning – or rather at night – the Indian Nose hike is very popular, as many hikers come up here to watch the sunrise from the viewpoint. We also hear varying stories about this hike, whether you can do it on your own or better with a guide for safety reasons.
#7 Souvenir shopping
San Marcos is full of hippie shops where you can stock up on nice souvenirs. Do you prefer to shop at a larger market? Then go to the main street of Panajachel. The Calle Santander in Panajachel is a kind of tourist mecca with endless rows of shops with souvenirs. From colorful fabrics to handmade jewelry to traditional Mayan items, you can find pretty much anything at the Calle Santander market.
If you want to visit an even bigger market, you should visit the famous market of Chichicastenango on Thursdays and Sundays. Chichi is said to have the largest and most colorful market in all of Central America. A visit to this famous market is therefore not something you can do in half an hour. You can wander endlessly between the shops and stalls without getting bored.
#8 Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve
Right next to San Marcos is the Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve, a nature reserve that is right on the water and runs up against the cliffs. The park has jetties and decking on the lake, where you can relax. A popular spot is the meter-high jumping platform. If you have the energy, you can also climb all the way up to a Mayan altar in this natural park.
#9 SUP, kayaking and canoeing
With a beautiful blue lake as the main attraction, getting out on the water is of course one of the most popular things to do in Atitlan. Whether you opt for a sup, kayak or canoe, we absolutely recommend that you spend a morning on the water. Trips are offered by several organizations, where you start at one of the villages and sail along the coast.