San Marcos de Laguna, Guatemala
(Looking up towards the forest from its jungle trail)
Yoga Forest is located on the jungled hillsides of San Marcos de Laguna, a small Maya village on the shores of Lago de Atitlan (in the highlands of Guatemala). We’ve been in Guatemala for almost a month now, two weeks of which have been spent right here in San Marcos. The pace of living is slow—it is very slow. But that is part of the charm. If I had to describe San Marcos in only one word, then that word would be friendly. Followed quickly by: quirky, hippie-ish, relaxed, introspective and fun.
Yoga Forest is a short hike from the center of the village—maybe 20 minutes. You follow the main stone paved street out of town, and look for the flower painted rocks heading up into the jungle covered hillside. For the most part they’re easy to spot and follow, but on my first trip I missed one of the arrows and ended up missing the forest altogether (resulting in a hike of about an hour and half, and way farther up in the mountains). Oh well, that’s part of the adventure.
Yoga Forest itself is privately owned, and offers courses in sustainable agriculture and other horticultural disciplines. It is open to the public, but you are encouraged to make a small donation (10 GTQ = approx $1 USD) in the way of buying a cup of tea, coffee or taking a short tour. We have not actually toured the property at this point, but have viewed it from outside its perimeter—we will visit the actual property shortly, and I will take photos of its interior (but from the outside it looks beautiful).
(Photographed from the jungle trail leading to Yoga Forest)
Even though it’s a relatively short hike, being vertical you still get a pretty good workout. And if, like me, you miss a turnoff it can become significantly longer (and steeper). There are many trails crisscrossing the hillsides, and if your goal is to simply hike in the jungle quietude and solitude of the Guatemalan wilderness, you can do so to your heart’s content. I have never felt threatened or at risk while walking this beautiful landscape, even when doing so alone. You will often pass the occasional Maya with his large machete, but you are typically greeted with a big smile, hola and buenos dias. What dwellings there are on these hillsides are all supplied by foot, and the heavy loads these natives transport up and down the mountains can be quite impressive—certainly way beyond my capabilities. The temperatures this time of year are moderate, and often accompanied by mist, drizzle, light rain and even torrential downpours at times. Looking back over your shoulder, and the down the trail, you are often treated to beautiful views of the lake.
Lago de Atitlan
San Marcos, Guatemala
It is interesting to see coffee being grown on the hillsides interspersed with the native jungle growth. This time of year the bright red berries standout in the lush green foliage, and you will occasionally see an old Maya tending his coffee plants in this rarefied atmosphere. I suspect that corn and other vegetable crops are also thriving on the hillside. In the markets I’ve seen the world’s largest carrots, and absolutely beautiful and tasty tomatoes. Last night I had homemade cauliflower cheddar cheese soup, with a garden fresh salad (with honey mustard dressing) for dinner, all made with locally grown produce.
San Marcos, Guatemala
(Trail leading to Yoga Forest)