Where are we?

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The workshops takes place in three picturesque Mayan villages on Lake Atitlán, Guatemala. The natural building week is held in San Marcos La Laguna (population 3,000), a village well known for its natural beauty and as a place to learn meditation, yoga and alternative medicine. It has several well-established hotels, restaurants, bars and shops. Classes are held in La Cambalacha’s workshop spaces and at The Yoga Forest, a farm and learning centre under development about 15 minutes’ walk up the valley – a moderate level of fitness is therefore recommended to get the most from this course. Some classes take place at a community health clinic we are building in San Pablo La Laguna, 10 minutes’ drive from San Marcos. Forest gardening and permaculture workshops are held in neighboring Tzununa (population 1,000), at Finca Huevo Verde – a minivan will transport participants the 10 minutes’ drive along the lakeside each day. We may also visit other food forests and permaculture sites around the lake.Both Tzununa and San Marcos have a growing population of foreign residents, many of whom learned how to build by building their homes and businesses with the help of local craftsmen. The absence of building codes has led to a huge variety of architectural styles and techniques and it’s a great place to see this diversity, as well as what not to do! Many residents are also keen gardeners who have created beautiful and productive gardens, a few of which we can visit during the course.Lake Atitlán is situated right in the heart of Guatemala’s western highlands and thus makes a great jumping-off point for exploring the rest of this small but incredibly diverse country.

Lake Atitlan rowing fishing man, kayak

Where will you stay?

San Marcos has many excellent and interesting hotels and we can help you find what’s best for you. We recommend the following hotels in particular as they are the most imaginatively and artistically built, and mostly from natural materials.

Hotel La Paz. San Marcos’ oldest hotel, the mellow La Paz is set in a haven of beautiful gardens. Rooms are traditional adobe and bahareque bungalows with thatched roofs, and some have loft beds. The organic gardens, vegetarian restaurant, traditional Mayan sauna and the music and book room all contribute to making this a special place right in the heart of San Marcos.Accommodation category is budget for a dorm room or upper mid-range for a private room

Hotel La Paz
Hotel Aaculax - Sonrisa Room Hotel AaculaxA very popular hotel with rooms built against a cliff-face near the lake shore, Aaculax’s construction made extensive use of natural and recycled materials with many detailed ornaments, including colorful glass bottle windows and tilework. Each carefully crafted room is unique, and most have lake views and a private terrace. A rooftop restaurant serves breakfast from 8-10am.Accommodation category is luxury.
Posada del Bosque Encantado The “Enchanted Forest Lodge” is secluded and yet central with three spacious double rooms of adobe set in a beautiful garden. It shares the garden with a very original café/restaurant built of bamboo, adobe and wood that serves a “gourmet típico” menu. A nearby sauna is available for rental by guests.Accommodation category is mid-range. Posada del Bosque Encantado
While the above hotels are the most architecturally interesting,San Marcos has several other comfortable hotels, including:
A local fisherman at dawn Hotel Paco Real – central location, palm thatched cabins, good restaurant and a sauna. Accommodation category: budget and mid-pricedHotel Posada Schumann – rooms and private houses on the lake shore, café/restaurant, sauna. Accommodation category: budget, mid-priced and luxury.Hotel Quetzal – rooms, bar and restaurant. Accommodation category: budgetHotel Unicornio – individual cabins with a self-catering kitchen. Accommodation category: budgetHotel Jinava – further to walk to but its secluded lakeside location, gardens and café/restaurant make it worthwile. Accommodation category: mid-priced and luxuryHotel San Marcos – lakefront rooms and cabins. Accommodation category: budget
If you are interested in a longer-term stay then we can help arrange rentals in the many houses in and around San Marcos, but book ahead as they fill up fast during the high season (Dec-Apr).

Getting Here

Flights can be found online via sites such as www.expedia.com, www.travelocity.com and www.ebookers.com – Airlines flying to Guatemala include Aeroméxico, American Airlines, Continental, Copa, Delta, Iberia, Spirit, Taca and United.

Immigration is usually hassle-free and most visitors are issued with a 90-day tourist visa, which you can extend for a further 90 days if needed. We recommend you find a flight that arrives in the morning so you won’t have to spend a night in a hotel near the airport.

Driving to San Marcos La Laguna from Guatemala’s international airport takes about four hours – we recommend a pre-booked minibus service, either private ($110 per trip – up to eight people), or shared ($28 per person). We will be happy to arrange this.

Extras

At first sight San Marcos La Laguna is just a sleepy village with a few hotels and restaurants, but it has much to offer hidden between its winding paths, including: massages, alternative therapies, short courses in massage and therapies, a meditation centre, Mayan spiritual centres and ceremonies, traditional Mayan saunas, yoga classes, chocolate ceremonies, a gym, walking tours, Spanish schools, salsa classes, a variety of excellent restaurants and bars, a small beach with a lake-jump off high rocks, kayaking, Internet cafés, shops selling imported food, volunteer projects, and a diverse community of residents and tourists.

We will gladly help you arrange tours to other towns either on the lake or further afield. Popular destinations on the lake include the Panajachel, Santiago and San Pedro, all of which have fun local markets and a wide selection of restaurants. Panajachel and San Pedro also offer a more active nightlife for anyone seeking live music or a dance party. We can also arrange Spanish lessons.

Walking down the main path in San Marcos La Laguna
Tikal Beyond the lake’s sanctuary there are many more attractions: the colorful artisans’ market in Chichicastenango, the former colonial capital of Antigua (from where you can climb a live volcano and get up close to real lava), the Mayan ruins of Iximche, birdwatching and canopy tours in San Felipe, Monterrico on the Pacific coast for big waves and black sand beaches, and Quetzaltenango for trekking, hot springs and city culture.Further afield, you can explore the lost Mayan jungle cities of Tikal, Yax’ha and El Mirador, swim in the the paradisaical pools and caves of Semuc Champay and Lanquin, trek in the remote Cuchumatan mountains and boat down the jungled Rio Dulce from Lake Izabal to the Caribbean coast.If you would like us to arrange tours or transport before or after the courses, then we are happy to help – just let us know what you’re looking for.
Tamales wrapped in cornChichicastenango Market

Food

Guatemalan cuisine makes excellent use of the abundant fruit and vegetables grown here. Guatemala’s traditional, thick tortillas are a daily highlight. Made with white or blue corn grown along the lake’s hillsides, women soak and grind the corn and pat them into shape with their fingers to place on the wood-fired hotplate. Something so simple tastes so good with such individual attention.

Lake Atitlán also boasts a surprising variety of international restaurants, from Japanese to Tex-Mex, Indian to Italian. We cater for two meals and a snack per day, giving participants a chance to enjoy the town’s restaurant scene and unique nightlife after the day’s work. No matter your dietary needs, San Marcos has it for you whether vegetarian, vegan or non-vegetarian.

A local tortilla standVarieties of Beans, Guatemala Central Market