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Travel and culture

What to do on a day off at the Mystical Yoga Farm at Lake Atitlan

Home to volcanoes, rainforests, and ancient Mayan history, Lake Atitlán is the deepest lake in Central America, formed by a gigantic volcanic eruption that occurred during the Chocoyos Eruption! A mystical, freshwater lake in a massive volcanic crater… there’s a reason the Mystical Yoga Farm was built here (and why SYI was founded here!!) 

So, called by the majestic energy of this unique landscape, you’ve decided to do your 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training at The Mystical Yoga Farm.

Looking out over the lake, you’ll see tiny boats and fishermen on the water, drifting peacefully with huge volcanoes towering in the background. Rugged cliffs and lush greenery surround the lake, with tiny dwellings scattered amongst the jungle landscape. The mornings are sweet and peaceful, as the calls of the birds welcome in the new day, and the evenings are often misty, cool, and best spent sharing cacao and songs around the fire.

Now it’s your first day off, and you’re excited to branch away from the peaceful seclusion of the MYF and discover all the Lake has to offer (but only for the day – you’ll certainly be back in time for Juan and David’s divine dinner!) So, what is there to do on a day off at Lake Atitlan?

Check out this list of all the best things to do in Lake Atitlán, suggested to you from my personal experience!

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Here are 5 things you can easily do on a day off at Lake Atitlan:

  1. Visit San Marcos
  2. Visit all the local towns by boat and go Shopping 
  3. Hike San Pedro / Indians Nose
  4. Go Paddleboarding
  5. See the Quetzal

1. Visit San Marcos ~ Hippie Mecca of Central America

A Yoga Teacher Training at Lake Atitlan is not complete without a trek over to San Marcos. TONS of spiritual-seekers, expats, and yoga instructors have moved here to share their practice and meet a like-minded community. San Marcos is packed with retreat centers offering yoga and meditation. Stop in any cafe (we like Circles or The Hidden Garden) and you’re likely to see countless fliers for energy healing, aura readings, sound healing, traditional Mayan ceremonies, drum circles, guided meditations, lucid dreaming exercises, tribal and ecstatic dancing, massage therapies, Shamanic readings, psychic readings, and any other type of spiritual practice or activity you can think of… practice to your heart’s content! Feeling overwhelmed? I’d suggest coming over for an ecstatic dance, followed by a meal at Samsara. And don’t forget to save some $$ for the shops! Second-hand clothing and unique jewelry abound in San Marcos, and styles seen here can’t be found in any other town on the lake.

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2. Visit all the local towns by boat and go shopping 

Traversing from town to town by land would require arduous hikes up and over volcanoes. So, how do locals and visitors alike explore the many villages and towns of Atitlan? All over the lake, there are small boat taxis, known as “lanchas”, that travel across the lake to bring people to all the different towns. They are usually very cheap and you pay the drivers in cash. The Mystical Yoga Farm can provide you with a private boat driver or arrange rides for you. Once in town, you can bounce between towns by taking the public boat and enjoy the experience of riding with locals on their daily commute!

All the separate towns of the lake have their own unique vibe, artisan crafts, and sights to see. So which towns should you visit? For a day of sightseeing, I’d recommend these as my top 3 – San Juan: in this small and artistic town, catch a weaving demonstration and shop for unique souvenirs, most notably fabrics, hats, and other clothing items. Panajachel: it’s likely you passed through this most easily accessible town on your way to the lake. As the most developed and touristy of the towns, it might seem a good location to skip in favor of a more traditional, authentic experience. If you’re in search of a quiet and peaceful small-town vibe, Pana is definitely not your best option. But if you’re interested in a bustling city and a TON of great selections of artisan crafts and souvenirs, don’t pass up a day spent on Calle Santander! And, last but definitely, my TOP suggestion is Santiago, nestled right across the bay from the MYF. Santiago has a unique and dynamic political history, which leaves it with a different, more independent, indigenous-represented government than other towns along the lake. You’ll feel the difference as soon as you get off at the dock. Santiago is more locals-driven and the least touristy… a day walk through this town will leave you with an interesting perspective on the modern-yet-traditional lifestyle of the Mayan people of Guatemala’s highlands. But don’t worry – even though it’s less touristy, Santiago has some of the best shopping on the lake!! You’re in extra luck if you make it over on market day – Fridays and Sundays.

3. Hike San Pedro / Indians Nose

Indian’s Nose is a small mountain located between San Juan and San Marcos. The name “Indian’s Nose” comes from the shape of the mountain, which some say looks like the profile of a man lying on his back, face up. TGet up early – this is known as the best sunrise spot in Atitlán! The hike usually takes less than an hour so this is a nice day hike for those who want to get active but don’t want to commit to hiking an entire volcano. For those who’d like to hike, look into Volcano San Pedro. It is not recommended that you attempt any hikes without a guide, as tourists have been known to be pickpocketed. You can book a guided tour for Indians Nose or San Pedro with any tour company in San Pedro, San Juan, or San Marcos, and sometimes the Mystical Yoga Farm can assist in connecting you with a phenomenal local guide from the nearby town.

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4. Go Paddleboarding

One of the best ways to experience Lake Atitlán is inarguably from the water. While paddling on the lake, you get a 360-degree view of all the volcanoes, mountains, and villages surrounding the lake. Borrow a paddleboard from the MYF and mosey out into the bay, or if you’d like to see more of the lake, hire a tour out of San Pedro!

5. See the Quetzal

Interested in some of the unique ecology of the Atitlan area? Aside  Whether you’re an avid bird-watcher or you just love a good walk through lush forests, prepare to be wowed on the early-morning trek to discover the elusive Quetzal.

 You’ll meet your guide in Santiago, board the pickup truck, and after a 25-minute ride, begin to hike up the trail as the sun begins to rise. This forested trail ascends the rim of the lake, with phenomenal views towards the Pacific coast, as well as the three large volcanoes surrounding Lake Atitlan: Atitlán, Toliman, and San Pedro, through dense forests, opportunities to see locals tending to their farms. (main crops are coffee, avocado, corn)

When you reach the top of the ridge (a roughly ½ hour-long hike), your guide will position you in the ideal location to await the arrival of the Quetzal, flitting up to the high elevations from the dense forest below for its morning meal. Prepare to be amazed!

The Mystical Yoga Farm offers one-of-a-kind high-vibe living in a lush, vibrant, secluded region of Lake Atitlan, and if you were to arrive for your YTT and never leave, you’d be beyond satisfied! And, if you’d like to make the most of your stay and explore all the amazing things the lake area has to offer, we hope this list of recommendations will support you in planning your days off. With so much beautiful nature and the welcoming local culture, there are plenty of inexpensive or free things to do in Lake Atitlán. If you’re willing to spend a little money, many experiences offered around the lake are truly a once-in-a-lifetime. No matter what you choose, you’re sure to have a great time!

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