At Lake Atitlan we lived the “real digital nomad life”. Working on the laptop with a fantastic view. Well, it wasn’t the beach but similarly beautiful.
It was the first time that I fully appreciated our digital nomad life. Our apartment had a glorious view of the lake, and we finally found the perfect balance between work and life. That’s why I had to write, maybe even brag a bit, about our digital nomad life at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.
We stayed in San Marcos La Laguna. It is a very small and laid-back village where you’ll meet a lot of nature-connected, yoga-loving and spiritual people.
Why is our digital nomad life at Lake Atitlan different?
My start into this lifestyle was far from easy. We usually rented the cheapest room or apartment that met our needs. This time, however, it was different. We are earning a bit more money and I (especially) am not as stressed as I was in my first year.
Therefore, we picked a nice apartment with a lake view and a rooftop terrace. We pay around USD 800 per month and it is worth every single penny. Swinging in the hammock inside or outside the apartment became my favorite activity to relax. We have a cleaning service twice (!!!) a week so that we can completely focus on our life and work.
The property is pretty big. It has a lot of sitting areas and access to the lake. So, we can go swimming whenever we want. The sauna is right next to the lake for cooling off right after.
Pierre, the owner, is a wonderful person! We had a great time talking with him, and we organized some weekend barbecues there.
Let me show you our place so that you can really see how fabulous it is.
So, the bottom line is: Our financial situation improved so that we can live in a nicer place. It takes a lot of stress away, not just because of the living standard but also working hours. That’s why it was the perfect timing to come to Lake Atitlan. We can be active, social, learn Spanish, and work. It’s just an amazing balance!
How I finally balance my work & private life
As a digital nomad, it is often hard to shut down the computer. You may say “I am done working”, but then you browse through Facebook, read some posts in a group and baaamm, you’re back to work because you find something interesting or important.
There I tried to avoid this and instead I was actually taking time off the internet. Woohooo!
We usually woke up at 6 am because of the rising sun. We didn’t close the blinds and we didn’t use alarms. We just naturally woke up as soon as the sunlight brightened up the apartment. We got into a very natural rhythm, which was amazing.
After a couple cups of coffee, I would start the day with yoga, especially on workdays. It helped me to get my mind straight while doing something for myself. Before Guatemala, I always wanted to do this but never really did. A yoga session with this view and tranquility is the best start in the morning! Can you blame me?
We also both started taking Spanish classes – FINALLY! We found a great maestro who taught us 2 hours per day, 5 times a week (sometimes only 3 times). We learned so much more than with months of Duolingo. We did this the whole time we stayed there.
I also read more because we didn’t have a TV and streaming Netflix wasn’t possible with the slow WiFi. So, I would spend most of my evenings reading in the hammock. I think I’ve never done this so often before.
I believe I didn’t work much less than in other places. But I could take more time for myself to improve myself, which I have been neglected quite a lot since I started the DN journey. Earning not enough money from freelancing produced a lot of stress and you automatically work much more. I am glad that my husband got me out of this miserable life and took me into the dropshipping business. It’s less stressful because I am more of a boss than an underpaid employee.
Reasons to live at Lake Atitlan as a digital nomad
Enough about me. Let’s talk more about Lake Atitlan and why it’s a great choice for digital nomads.
I love it if I can look at a beautiful scenery when I take my eyes off the screen. It helps with creativity and also reminds me not to work all the time. If your desk is facing the lake, you’ll probably have the same experience.
These views of the volcano, mountains, and lake never get boring. Even after a couple of months, you’ll be still amazed. Getting up and seeing this, gives you a pure energy boost, which starts off the day just right. Sometimes there were rolling thunderstorms on the opposite lake side that we could observe safely from our apartment.
If you need a laid back place, far away from hectic cities, go to Lake Atitlan. You can truly relax there! When we got there, I was impressed by how amazing tranquility can feel. No street noises, no crazy traffic. Just good vibes and relaxation.
I found it pretty easy to eat healthy there, especially in San Marcos. Vegetables and fruits are cheap and most places offer vegetarian dishes. Although vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. However, whatever I got served in restaurants seemed pretty healthy to me, and most importantly delicious. Buying meat in San Marcos is nearly impossible. There is a BBQ place in San Pedro that sells meat products and holds a big BBQ every weekend.
We often benefited from the ice chest at our rental. Pierre offers beef and fish as well. *cough* another good reason to stay at his place *cough*
On top of the good food and absence of stress, you can live a healthy life in San Marcos. If you are not living right inside the village, you will most likely walk quite frequently. Or you can take a tuk-tuk but that’s just lazy. Then, yoga, kayaking, SUPing, swimming, socializing at the hostel, and other activities offer a great distraction from your laptop.
It’s quite cheap to live here. Our apartment and the Spanish lessons were definitively our biggest expenses that some may not have. Food, drinks, and activities weren’t all that bad. I believe we spend around USD 1800 for the 2 of us (in total per month).
In San Marcos, you can meet a lot of spiritual people. You’ll also just find yourself getting closer to your true self. I don’t know what it is with this area but it is surely special. If you need some more help, you can do yoga and meditation, as well as attend other cleansing events.
Because San Marcos isn’t that big, you’ll be able to get to know people quite easily. There are events at the Hostel del Lago and at other venues. Just have a look around and be open. We haven’t met any digital nomads there, but many backpackers or expats who decided to move there. It is a great and interesting community that is waiting you there.
Downsides of living there
There aren’t many downsides really. One of the biggest troubles for me were the spiders and scorpions. You kinda have to get used to massive spiders 2-3 inches (6-8 cm) and scorpions (often babies). It’s just their environment there, so you have to get used to them and watch out more.
The WiFi isn’t all that amazing either. I mean it is ok but it can just disappear with the electricity for a couple of hours. You can, of course, get a sim card so you can use your data for Skype calls etc. We used Tigo and it worked great!
There is only one ATM in San Marcos so be careful with how you spend your money. You can only withdraw a certain amount and only once a day. If you want to get more cash and you can’t wait a couple of days, you’ll need to go to San Pedro or Panajachel by boat.
Street dogs, not just because it’s sad to see them, sometimes they are not that nice to you. We didn’t get bitten but a pack of dogs barked at us a couple of times when we walked down to the hostel.
Where to stay & how to find accommodation
You can wait until you are there and just book the first nights at the hostel or anywhere in the town. Then walk around, ask people, and you’ll likely find a great place to stay. Book your first nights here!
If you want to organize everything before, you can obviously contact places upfront. Pierre from Pasaj-Cap, where we stayed, was very responsive and answered all our questions patiently. Here is his website. You can email him to reserve an apartment or house. His website isn’t up-to-date, but he usually answers within a day. He’ll give you the available apartments and prices for your time period.
Keep in mind that high season starts towards December. So, lots of places will be rented out.
You can find places for any price. Some find apartments for only USD 350. We paid around USD 800, including the cleaning service. I know it’s quite much, but we didn’t pay much for food etc., so it was ok for us.
You could also join this Facebook group. It is the San Marcos group. Sometimes people share available rentals there as well.
Places to work at
We mostly chose Hostel del Lago. It had the most reliable WiFi. You can order food and drinks and we met with our Spanish teacher there. In addition, it’s a great place to meet other people and socialize a bit. There are daily events like poker nights, parties, dance night, special dinners, and so on. They also have daily yoga classes on a deck facing the lake.
There are no Coworking spaces around the lake. So, you have to either work at home, at cafes, restaurants, hostels or similar places.
What to do in San Marcos and around the lake
There is not that much to do in San Marcos. You can go to the nature reserve, rent a kayak, do yoga, visit a shaman, swim in the lake, and take a boat to a different city or village.
You can book a hiking trip for example to San Pedro Volcano or Indian Nose Peak. Going on your own isn’t quite easy, nor safe. Information is sparse, locals mostly don’t even know the trails, and they may not be well-marked. So, do your research before you go hiking on your own or pay a private guide.
If you haven’t learned Spanish yet and you are going to stay at Lake Atitlan for a while, you should definitely take a Spanish class. We hired a Spanish teacher for 2 hours a day (private class). It was around USD 20 per day (for both of us together). We met Rafael 3-5 times a week at Hostel del Lago. Here is his Facebook page. You can send him a message via Facebook or Whatsapp.
He taught in a very conversational way. We learned very quickly. I was impressed by how fast one can learn a new language. He explains everything in Spanish unless you really don’t understand. Then he’ll do it in English. However, I actually enjoy hearing everything in Spanish. With visualization and some English words, you’ll get the point of a rule quite easily.
In my point of view, Lake Atitlan is a great place to learn Spanish. It’s not just the low price, but the surroundings and the lack of English with locals that make it worth practicing and learning there.