Guatemala, a land of tropical weather and home of frijoles and fried plantains, contains some of the most impressive and beautiful volcanoes for hiking in the world.
In the colonial city of Antigua, you can hike up Volcano Pacaya and roast marshmallows with the lava. You can also hike Volcano Acantenago and watch Volcano Fuego on the side. Both are unforgettable experiences in Guatemala.
Nevertheless, in the beautiful Lake Atitlan, there is a hike that you must do called the Indian Nose Hike. It is one of the few hikes that give you a panoramic view of Lake Atitlan without having to hike for hours. Be sure you come at sunrise for a surreal way to start your morning!
Here you will find all the information you need about the Indian Nose Hike in Lake Atitlan.
Why Hike Indian Nose In Lake Atitlan?
Indian Nose, or La Nariz del Indio, is one of the most spectacular hikes in Lake Atitlan. It is a vantage point on the northwestern part of Lake Atitlan and overlooks much of the volcanic crater lake. Situated at about 2,200 meters high, it is a whopping 640 meters above the lake.
On a good day, you can see up to 8 volcanoes of Guatemala, but even the views will amaze you on a day without incredible weather. The geological features of Lake Atitlan can be fully appreciated from the top of Indian Nose.
The mountain has earned its name by looking like a reclined face. The highest point of the face when reclined is the nose, hence the name Indian Nose.
On Indian Nose, there is arguably the most famous photo spot in Lake Atitlan – Pico de Loro. It is a standalone tall rock that many people climb up to take a photo. It is a beautiful spot, but many people have gotten hurt trying to take a photo from there.
Besides Pico de Loro, there are two other viewpoints on Indian Nose – the lower viewpoint and the higher viewpoint.
Sunrise Hike Or Day Hike or Sunset Hike?
Before you strap on your hiking boots, you must decide when you want to hike Lake Atitlan. The hiking trail is open 24/7, but extra planning is needed for the sunrise hike.
After experiencing sunrise at Indian Nose, I would highly recommend you go for the sunrise hike. The viewpoint offers a direct view of the sunrise from the east, and it is a magical view when the sun slowly illuminates parts of the lake one after another.
Hiking Indian Nose during the day is better for those that would like a more challenging hike because you can start near San Juan instead of Santa Clara. But when it comes to the views, sunrise is the best time to hike Indian Nose.
Sunset at Indian Nose is also another option but be aware that the sun will set behind you. Your views just aren’t going to be that nice and it can be treacherous going down the path at night.
Can You Hike Indian Nose Without A Guide?
Perhaps the most common question is “Can you hike Indian Nose without a guide or a guided tour?”
The answer is yes, you can, but I definitely would not recommend it due to safety reasons.
If you are planning on doing the hike for sunrise, you should DEFINITELY go with a tour company. If you are planning on doing the hike in the day and don’t want a guided tour, I would at least recommend going as a big group. But ideally, you still want a guided hike.
Bandits on Indian Nose Hike
Why would I suggest only visiting Indian Nose at sunrise with a tour company? One word, bandits.
There are many hikes in Guatemala such as Santa Maria in Xela that could be done without a tour guide, but I would HIGHLY NOT RECOMMEND hiking Indian Nose without a guide, especially at sunrise.
We’ve been told that there are lots of “bandits” on the path, especially around sunrise. The bandits extort you and say you have to pay an entrance fee while aggressively pressuring you, and they are usually armed with a machete.
I have heard of multiple people getting robbed like that, and if you just do a simple Google search, you will find loads of people in the same situation. Some people are saying that there is an entrance fee to different parts of the trail that you need to pay, and the guys you pay just so happen to have a machete.
I have been informed that sometimes the bandits are working with the tour guides to “hunt” down anyone not on a tour on the hiking trail. Some people have also reported those bandits to the police in town after getting robbed, and not much has been done.
As one of the best things to do in Lake Atitlan, you don’t want to ruin it by being extorted. There is no guarantee as to what’ll happen on the trail, both at sunrise or during the day, so we recommend having a guided tour for the Indian Nose hike.
Indian Nose Hiking Trail
Perhaps what makes the Indian Nose such a desirable hike in Lake Atitlan is how easy it is to find the trailhead. Visitors have two options when hiking Indian Nose, they either start from:
- Santa Clara La Laguna
- San Juan La Laguna
From San Juan La Laguna
- Distance: 4.3 kilometers (2.67 miles) out-and-back
- Duration: ~2.5 hours (not including break and photo time)
- Difficulty: Medium
Hiking from San Juan La Laguna to Indian Nose is popular for those considering a day hike or sunset hike. That is because it is simply too long and exhausting to hike up to the peak, especially early in the morning. The hike on average takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to summit,
The hike begins at San Juan village (home of the Tz’utujiles Mayans), which is easily accessible by boat or a mototaxi (tuk-tuk) from San Pedro or San Marcos. There you must pay an entrance fee of 30Q.
Twenty minutes into the trail, you’ll find the Mirador Kaqasiiwaan, a lookout point built by the Institute of Tourism of Guatemala to help promote tourism in the area. This lookout point is beautifully decorated with art from local artists. You’ll also find plenty of vendors selling drinks and food!
The path to the top of Indian Nose is quite easy to find. On the way up, you might need to pay again (and again) for “passing through private properties”. This is why it is sometimes better to have a guide so you don’t have to deal with the ambiguous fees and charges.
From Santa Clara La Laguna
- Distance: 2.7 km (1.68 mi) out-and-back
- Duration: 1 hour in total (not including break time and photo time)
- Difficulty: Easy
Hiking from Santa Clara to Indian Nose is the route you would usually take to get there for sunrise. That is because it only takes about 40 minutes to get from Santa Clara to the viewpoint, and it is a lot less steep than going from San Juan.
Along the way, you pass through tons of local farmlands where you can see coffee beans being grown, as well as plenty of livestock.
If you are not doing the sunrise hike, starting from Santa Clara is usually not popular. That is because the trailhead is a lot harder to get to, and you miss the Mirador Kaqasiiwaan.
There is no entrance fee at the entrance of the trail, but you are very likely going to find people asking you to pay a fee somewhere along the trail.
Where To Find Guided Tours For Indian Nose Sunrise Hike
There are two villages in Lake Atitlan where you can sunrise tours for Indian Nose:
- San Pedro
- San Marcos
The tours from San Pedro tend to be cheaper because it is much easier to get to the start of the hike there than San Marcos.
It is difficult to find sunrise tours for Indian Nose from Panajachel. Being one of the furthest Lake Atitlan villages from Indian Nose, you’ll need to take a boat across the lake hours before sunrise and the boats do not run at night. The only way is through a 90-minute car ride which could make your tour expensive.
Looking for an Indian Nose sunrise tour from Panajachel?
Check out our recommended tour here!
If you want to save a little bit of money, we recommend booking your Indian sunrise tour when you get there instead of online. I booked my tour in San Pedro on the main street. It is the road with Alegre Pub and Bar Sublime. Unfortunately, that street does not have a name.
If you are staying in San Marcos, there are a few tour agencies around town that could help you book the Indian Nose sunrise hike. If you are not able to find some, your accommodation should be able to help!
For regular Indian Nose hike, you’ll also find tours for that in the agencies mentioned.
What To Pack For The Indian Nose Hike?
Anyone hiking the Indian Nose must prepare an adequate amount of water. For those during the sunrise hike, the sun won’t be out yet and minimal water will be needed. But for those doing the day hikes, you’ll need plenty of water because the trail is only partially shaded.
You might also want to bring some snacks with you so you can relax and have a picnic if you’d like to. Many people go for a picnic at Mirador Kaqasiiwaan near San Juan.
If you are visiting Guatemala in the rainy season (June to November), I recommend bringing a light rain jacket. Pack some good hiking boots as the trail is quite steep and it can get even worse after a rainstorm.
If you are hiking Indian Nose for sunrise and you want to take some awesome photos, you’ll need more than a phone camera. I use the Sony a7 III as my blogging camera and it has been nothing but bliss. Make sure you take a tripod with you because it’ll be too dark to take handheld images.
How Difficult Is The Indian Nose Hike?
If you are hiking Indian Nose from Santa Clara, the hike is quite easy. Though some parts of the trail are quite steep with large steps, the hike is only an hour. Compared to the best famous hike in Guatemala – Acatenango Volcano, it was a piece of cake.
From San Juan to Indian Nose, the trail is much steeper and longer. And with limited shade, It certainly isn’t the easiest hike imaginable. The altitude is also moderately high, which could make your hike even more challenging. But all in all, it is a moderate difficult hike, but don’t underestimate it!
My Experience Doing The Indian Nose Hike At Sunrise On A Guided Tour
Our tour company picked us up at the hostel at 4 AM in the morning in San Pedro La Laguna. We drove around to pick up other passengers before we headed towards Indian Nose. There were around 16 of us in total for the hike.
After around 45 minutes in the transport van, we arrived at Santa Clara (which I only found out after). It was pitch dark outside and we had to use our flashlights from our phones. We weren’t given any headlamps.
The hike itself took around 45 minutes and we reached one of the three viewpoints. When arranging the tour, we were told we would hike up to the highest of the viewpoints for the best views. However, it seemed like we were at the lowest of the three when we were finally able to see. Nevertheless, the views were unforgettable.
We arrived at the top and the guides prepared us hot coffee and gave us a short geology and history lesson on Lake Atitlan.
As we sipped on our steaming yet tasteless coffee, we could see the stars in the empty blue skies start to fade away. Little by little, the blueness of the skies turned lighter and lighter, and we could see the softness of a newborn sun.
The three volcanoes (Toliman Volcano, San Pedro Volcano, and Atitlan Volcano) were yet to be illuminated by the sun, leaving us with mysterious silhouettes that were so beautiful. Slowly, the whole of Lake Atitlan was illuminated by the sun and it was just an unforgettable sight.
After sunrise, we got back on our transport and were back at our hostels at 8 AM.
Where To Stay In San Pedro, Lake Atitlan
Though there are many amazing places to stay in Lake Atitlan, I highly recommend staying in San Pedro for your hike. It is a popular backpacker town filled with tour agencies and also one of the closest towns to Indian Nose. Here are some of our favorite accommodations:
Best Hostel/Resort In San Pedro – Sababa Resort
Sababa Resort is probably the best accommodation in San Pedro. A newly-opened property, Sababa Resort has shared dormitory-style rooms as well as private luxurious private rooms. The best feature of the hotel is definitely the gorgeous swimming pool that faces the lake.
It is the best place to relax and admire the wonders of Lake Atitlan.
Best Cheap Hotel In San Pedro – El Delfin Hotel y Restaurante
Unlike most of the accommodations in San Pedro that are quite noisy, El Delfin Hostel y Restaurante is located on a little quiet street. However, it is just one block away from the main street so you won’t miss any action. The property also has an amazing gym for those that are not tired from hiking Indian Nose.
Indian Nose Hike FAQs
How can I get Indian Nose from Panajachel?
To get from Indian Nose to Panajachel, you can drive 90 minutes or take the boat, which takes less than half the time. However, if you want to get to Indian Nose for sunrise, there are no boats operating at night so your only option is to drive.
How long is the Indian nose hike?
The duration of the Indian Nose hike depends on where you start. From Santa Clara, the entire hike takes about 45 to 60 minutes, which is why it is used for the sunrise tour on Indian Nose. From San Juan, the hike is much longer at 2.5 hours, which is more popular for day hikers.
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Have you done the Indian Nose Hike in Lake Atitlan? What did you think of it? I hope you weren’t robbed by the bandits… Let us know your experience in the comments!
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