when to go
November - April
Best POST-YOGA MEAL
Cafe El Escondido
The Maya believe Lake Atitlán is the place where the seeds of humankind emerged, making it the center of their universe. As you careen around the bend and catch your first sweeping view of the lake and the three volcanoes shrouding it, you’ll start to understand why. The ancient Maya gods would have been hard-pressed to conjure a more majestic site for marking the creation of human life.
Atitlán may be far from the place where yoga originated, but it compensates by offering one of the world’s most mystical settings to practice. Given the lake’s spiritual significance, it’s no surprise so many of Guatemala’s 23 distinct indigenous groups call it home. The 12 villages surrounding Atitlán afford some of Central America’s most fascinating, and rare, insights into well-preserved Maya cultural traditions.
One particular ritual is all the proof we need that humans have an innate desire to update our fashion look annually, and make a spectacle of it. The women of each lakeside village wear a unique style of traje (dress), made up of a huipíl (embroidered blouse) and a long skirt. Every Maya New Year, in a tradition astoundingly similar to Fashion Week, the villages hold ceremonies to unveil their new designs, colors, and patterns for the year.
Antigua’s Colonial Charm
Get acclimated in Guatemala’s capital of culture, just a 40 minute drive from the international airport. The UNESCO protected town of Antigua is a colorful colonial stunner flanked by three majestic volcanoes and filled with friendly people.
It’s easy to wile away a few days strolling through the cobbled streets, admiring the pastel facades, and soaking up local life in plazas watched over by 300 year old churches. Look a little deeper, and you’ll find some of Guatemala’s top museums, best restaurants, lively bars, and boutique shops. Outside Antigua, coffee farms and volcanoes offer natural beauty and outdoor adventure.
GETTING TO ATITLAN
From Antigua, it’s a three hour drive to Panajachel, the bustling gateway town of Lake Atitlán. At the dock, the driver will leave you with a local guide, with whom you’ll board a lancha (small motorboat) to take you to your lakefront yoga hideaway.
Yoga on Lake Atitlán
While San Marcos may be the lake’s designated yogi village, our favorite retreat is in Santa Cruz, a low-key, car-free village only accessible by boat. Woman-owned Villa Sumaya is a lake-front, ecologically sustainable property offering personal and group retreats, 22 unique and beautifully appointed guest rooms, and a spa. The onsite restaurant focuses on organic ingredients sourced directly from their gardens or local producers. Whether you’re laying down your yoga mat or relaxing in the hammock on your room’s private patio, the views throughout this special property are magnificent.
maya crafts + CUISINE
Each lakeside village is known for a distinct ancient craft, ranging from textiles and ceramics to holistic therapies.
Take a quick boat ride over to San Juan La Laguna, which specializes in weaving and natural dying using local plants. The village has pioneered a few women’s cooperatives to preserve the craft and create sustainable employment. At the Lema Co-op, visitors can learn about their techniques, and shop for bags, scarves and other items made by the women.
Before departing Atitlán, don’t miss an absolute gem of a lunch experience at Cafe El Escondido, the lake’s only restaurant fully owned and run by indigenous women. Located in the village of Jaibalito and accessible only by boat or footpath, this is easily the most legitimate local cuisine around the lake.
Tikal National Park
If time allows, take a short flight to Flores to explore the expansive, amazingly preserved ancient ruins of Tikal. This UNESCO World Heritage site, inhabited between 600 BC and 1000 AD, formed one of the Maya Empire’s largest and most important cities. Yet due to its location, Tikal receives a fraction of the visitors as other famous archeological sites in the region (looking at you, Chichen Itza and Tulum). Don’t miss one of the world’s most fascinating relics of ancient human civilization.
explore + Unwind
Just an hour’s drive from Tikal, Las Lagunas Boutique Ecolodge offers an appealing blend of relaxation and adventure amid the private reserve’s five lagoons and wildlife-filled scenery.
Explore the area’s natural beauty and abundant flora and fauna, including many endangered species and over 250 species of birds. Hop on an ATV for a guided jungle excursion, kayak around the lagoon, bike or hike along the trails.
Or, just relax at the lodge with top notch spa treatments, and delicious cocktails served poolside. You won’t get any judgments from us.
Las Lagunas Boutique Ecolodge
Las Lagunas delivers rustic luxury on a 200 acre private nature reserve. The boutique lodge, owned by a local conservationist, is stylishly constructed from natural materials and blends seamlessly with the surroundings. Choose from 19 totally private bungalows, each perched over the lagoon with a porch, hot tub, and lovely view.
An unexpected highlight is the onsite museum, which features the owner’s private collection of regional art and Maya artifacts. No matter what sort of adventure or relaxation your day holds, wind it down with dinner and drinks at the lodge’s superb restaurant.