Cacao adventure | Cacao experience | Homecoming | Travel
They say home is where the heart is, and for all of us lovers of the original, best quality, 100% pure Ceremonial Cacao, our hearts partly beat in San Marcos La Laguna! No wonder so many of us are literally crossing the globe to get to Homecoming 2024 this February. Whether you have already signed up to "come home" or are still thinking about it, or even if you can't make it this year but are curious to know more about the birthplace of Keith's Cacao and the Chocolate Shaman's chosen home, read on to find out more about this magical place on the lake.
On the northwestern shore of Lake Atitlán, in the Sololá department of Guatemala, San Marcos La Laguna is a small village with a big name. This traditional Mayan pueblo has become a popular destination for travelers seeking a beautiful spot to escape the world –chill, swim, and hike– and for the mystically inclined who come for its reputation as "the Mecca for all things spiritual," an "energy vortex," and a "green smoothie drinking, yoga doing, hippie town!"
One thing is for sure: San Marcos is a magical place for more reasons than one. It is definitely the "hippiest" –and possibly the prettiest– of the villages around Lake Atitlán, with a distinct cosmic vibe, and an alternative, creative, artistic, and spiritual scene.
The main street in San Marcos, lovingly named "The Hippie Highway," is lined with vegetarian restaurants, local shops & spiritual event billboards featuring something to do every night of the week!
The lake itself has been famously described by 18th-century scientist, explorer, and founder of the field of plant biogeography, Alexander von Humboldt, as the most beautiful lake in the world. And National Geographic, in its Spanish version, agrees. Famous writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley also exalted its beauty, albeit in a somewhat ambiguous way. "Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but (Lake) Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing," he wrote in his 1934 travel book Beyond the Mexique Bay.
Indeed, Lake Atitlán offers visitors some truly stunning views. A caldera –a cauldron-like hollow formed by a major eruption leading to the collapse of the volcano's mouth filled with water– this perfectly blue lake is surrounded by three other dormant volcanos perched above its shores. As the sun sets behind the San Pedro volcano, you get to see some of the most stunning sunsets from the docks of San Marcos; and in the mornings, you can watch the smoke erupting from Volcan Fuego.
The area around the dock is the most 'touristy' and where most expats have made their homes in narrow pedestrian-only walking paths, with beautiful and colorful street art, shaded by jungle vegetation and meandering through tropical trees and plants. The narrow main path is studded with cafes, restaurants, hostels, small shops, and holistic centers offering a vast array of services, classes, and workshops. Posted on the Community boards lining the alleys, you will find ads for anything from crystal healing to meditation, yoga, tarot readings, reiki, reflexology, and massages. Most restaurants have outdoor seating among gorgeous lush green gardens and offer an impressive variety of Guatemalan food and fantastic vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Keep walking uphill along the main pathway, and you will reach the main village area on the lush mountainsides with its own unique charm, peaceful and tranquil atmosphere. This is where most of the locals, the friendly and welcoming indigenous Mayans, live.
A short five-minute walk outside San Marcos, along the lakefront, is the Reserva Natural del Cerro Tzankujil, a densely treed nature reserve with hiking trails and look-out areas offering beautiful views of the lake and volcanoes. A wooden platform on the edge of a steep cliffside –referred to as the "trampoline"– invites you to jump 30 feet into the lake below. Other areas around the platform offer easier access to the lake to enjoy a refreshing swim or rent a kayak for the less adventurous.
Guatemala has seen a surge in Cacao Tourism in recent years, especially since the Guatemala National Tourism Board introduced the "Cacao Route of Guatemala." Advertising the country as "the Birthplace of Chocolate," this tourism initiative has led to Cacao Tours packaged with a visit to the Chocomuseo in Antigua, day trips to plantations, and mini-chocolate workshops.
Luckily, San Marcos has Keith! The reputation of Keith's Cacao Ceremonies precedes him. The leading expert on Ceremonial Cacao, this wise and sweet man attracts many travelers to his home village of choice, who come to experience real connection with the cacao plant medicine, open their hearts, focus their minds, and energize their spirits! Participants of the Homecoming 2024 Retreat will have the opportunity to take a trip into the rainforest to pick fresh Cacao fruit from the trees and see how Keith's Cacao is prepared in the traditional method at Keith's workshop with the help of local Kaqchikel Mayan people. That is the real Cacao Tour!
The climate in San Marcos is mild, and generally warm and temperate. The rainy season begins in May and ends in October, with December through to April staying dry. For the "Home-comers," chances are that the skies will be clear to sunny in March, with temperatures ranging from a high of 82°F (28°C) and a low of 58°F (15°C) and a good 12+ hours of sunlight in a day. So pack your favorite t-shirts and sandals for the day, sneakers and a jacket for the evenings.
San Marcos is some 4-5 hours bus ride away from Guatemala City, 3-4 hours from Antigua, and 2 hours from Xela (Quetzaltenango), which is the closest city. The best way to get from La Aurora Airport Guatemala City Airport (GUA) to San Marcos La Laguna is to get together with a few other homecomers and hire a taxi or private shuttle. There is also the option of the tourist shuttle or "chicken bus."
Buses don't go as far as San Marcos, but you can take the public shuttles that await outside the airport and run to Antigua and then arrange for a tourist shuttle or a tuk-tuk, the small 3-wheeled taxis to San Marcos. You can also get a shuttle to Panajachel if you wish and then cross the lake by small public boat, locally called lancha.
The 4th annual Keith's Cacao Homecoming Retreat begins February 27 and runs through March 6. Join us along the magical shores of Lake Atitlan in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala. Tickets are still available! Click on the link below.