Useful tips for hiking to Indian Nose, Lake Atitlan – a surreal experience
Do you want to see a surreal sunrise in Guatemala from Indian Nose? Are you planning to go hiking around Guatemala? One of the more popular hikes around Guatemala is the hike to Indian Nose. Climbing to the top of Indian Nose, in 1-3 hours, will be one of your most memorable experiences ever! I can promise you that! In November 2018, I climbed to the top of Indian Nose via San Juan La Laguna. This post tells you everything you need to know about how to make it to the summit of Indian Nose for a surreal sunrise experience.
Indian Nose Guatemala, also called Cerro del Rostro Maya Guatemala or La Nariz del Indio, is a mountain located on the northwest corner of Lake Atitlan, one of the top destinations in Guatemala. Indian Nose sits at 2,863 meters (9,393 feet) and divides the towns of San Juan La Laguna and Santa Clara La Laguna. The name comes from the fact the profile of the mountain looks like a sleeping Indian. The peak of the mountain is the tip of the Indian nose. The peak was considered sacred by the Mayans, who would pray and conduct religious services at the top.
Hiking Indian Nose Guatemala with a tour company
You can either choose to hike Indian Nose with a tour company or alone. When you walk around in San Juan La Laguna or Santa Clara La Laguna you will find several agencies where you can buy a package to climb Indian Nose. These packages often involve a local guide and a cup of coffee at the top. Groups meet at a predetermined location around 3:45 am, and you take either the ‘chicken’ bus or shuttle to the start of the hike in Santa Clara La Laguna. Here you walk within 45 minutes to the top of Indian Nose, watch the sunrise, drink a coffee, and walk back down to the bus. You will return before 08.00 am at your hotel. Most of the agents charge between Q 100–150 / $ 13-20 / € 11-17 per person and they need a minimum of 2 people.
Hike Indian Nose Guatemala Alone
You can also choose to hike Indian Nose Guatemala alone, without a guide. You can either choose to start from Santa Clara La Laguna or from San Juan La Laguna.
Hiking Indian Nose from Santa Clara La Laguna
It will be an early start! To see the sunrise at Indian Nose, you need to take a Chicken Bus to Santa Clara La Laguna around 03:00 am or 04:00 am. The buses run every 30 minutes to Santa Clara La Laguna from San Pedro la Laguna and takes about 45-60 mintues. Ask the bus driver to drop you off at la Nariz del Indio in Santa Clara La Laguna.
The starting point of the trail in Santa Clara La Laguna is a bit hard to find. It kind of start in the backyard of a local. I recommend you check out the starting point during day light and to mark it for example on your GPS, so you can easily find it in the dark. Remember there won’t be any people to ask at 04:00 am or 05:00 am. The trail is very straightforward once you start, and is mostly level until the neck of Indian Nose. The second part of the walk is pretty mainly steps.
Hiking Indian Nose from San Juan La Laguna
When hiking Indian Nose from San Juan La Laguna, I recommend you to overnight in San Juan La Laguna, because you will start very early in the morning. I decided to book a hotel overnight at Posada Mana, a family owned hotel with six rooms. I have spent two nights at this place and the quality was worth the money. From the hotel, it only takes 10 minutes to walk to the starting point of the Indian Nose hike in San Juan la Laguna.
Hiking Indian Nose Guatemala
Since the hike begins before sunrise make sure to bring warm clothes with you for during the night. Dress in layers and wear a hat and scarf to keep warm and cool down when necessary. I brought a thermos shirt, zip-off pants, rain jacket, and a hat. I would also recommend bringing gloves and a scarf with you. I felt very cold at the top and made a fire with some other hikers to keep warm.
At some parts of both trails, the hike is steep. Make sure to wear good hiking shoes and to bring enough water and snacks with you to get some energy again. There are several viewing platforms along the way. Make sure to make a stop at them as they provide amazing views! Overall, the trail is very easy to follow if you always take the most well-worn path.
When you arrive at the top, it won’t take long for the shapes and shadows of peaks and clouds to become visible, and to see the stars and darkness transform into a grey-blue air with San Pedro Volcano peeking through a vast pillow of floating white cotton. I’ve seen plenty of amazing sunrises in my life, but this one was really breathtaking! The incredible landscape around lake Atitlan really provide amazing reflections and views of the volcanic landscape.
Getting back from Indian Nose Guatemala
After the sunrise, you can either walk back the same way or take the other mountain side, either San Juan La Laguna or Santa Clara La Laguna. Since, I started in San Juan La Laguna, I walked down the mountain to Santa Clara La Laguna. At Santa Clara La Laguna you can get some breakfast, for example coffee and fresh fruits at the market, and head back to your village around lake Atitlán. When you have to go back to San Pedro La Laguna or San Juan La Laguna, you can jump in the back of a collective pickup truck and drive back to San Pedro La Laguna or the pickup to San Marcos La Laguna. From San Marcos La Laguna you easily take a boat to San Pedro La Laguna and San Juan La Laguna. When taking the ride to San Marcos you will cross some beautiful landscapes and hills! The pickup truck you see in that photo is the one we were riding in. About 12 people packed in the bed of the truck, standing up, and holding onto the bars. A great way to end your morning.
Costs of hiking Indian Nose Guatemala
From Santa Clara La Laguna there is no entrance fee to hike Indian Nose. From San Juan La Laguna you pay an official entrance fee of Q30 (when the desk is open, when I arrived the desk was closed and I could enter for free). Along the way or on top of the mountain, there will for sure be a local to take advantage of you. They demand you to pay a fee ranging from Q15-100 / $2-13 / € 2-12 per person. When I had to pay this fee, they claimed that the mountain was private property (which is not true of course).
Indian Nose Banditos
Please be aware that there might be robbers on Indian Nose. Please back up your pictures before hiking and leave all unnecessary valuables at your hotel. I recommend you to only bring your phone with a camera on it and to leave your expensive camera or Go Pro at the hotel. Also, do not take a lot of money with you and only the necessary to pay entrance fee, demanding fee, and transportation. If you are squeamish about being subjected to violent crime, you may want to consider other hiking and sightseeing options
Tips for hiking Indian Nose Guatemala:
– Bring some hiking boots. You really need good shoes while climbing Indian Nose, because the route involves some steep and slippery parts.
– Since the hike begins before sunrise make sure to bring warm clothes with you for during the night. Dress in layers and wear a hat and scarf to keep warm and cool down when necessary. I brought a thermos shirt, zip-off pants, rain jacket, and a hat. I would also recommend bringing gloves and a scarf with you.
– Bring enough snacks. Sometimes you really need sugar, to get some energy again.
– If you like camping, you can also carry your camping stuff to the top and overnight for free!
Climbing to the summit of Indian Nose, Guatemala was definitely one of the most amazing things I have ever done. This is a must do hike when visiting Lake Atitlan. Combining this easy sunrise trek with an awesome view, a hike down a mountain, and a visit to San Juan La Laguna is a great way to start the day.
While it’s possible to do this trek on your own, I do not recommend it. It’s difficult to find the starting point, the trail isn’t well marked and it’s not unheard of for robbers to hold up unsuspecting hikers. Just book a tour or take a local with you.
I hope this post has helped answering some of your questions to prepare for hiking Indian Nose without a tour. Have you already hiked the Indian’s Nose near Lake Atitlán? What was your experience like? Please share in the comments below.
This article is part of the GPSmyCity iOS app. You can download it, read this article offline and obtain travel directions (by foot, car or bicycle) to the places mentioned in this article. Click here to download it.
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