The Indian Nose hike is one of the most popular things to do in Lake Atitlán. It was actually one of the first activities on our bucket lists after crossing from Mexico into Guatemala. You can spot the Indian Nose (La Nariz or La Nariz del Indio in Spanish) easily from the Tz’utujil Maya town of San Pedro La Laguna, located just opposite, as it towers above the other hills surrounding the lake.
It’s here, in the early hours of the morning, where both locals and tourists come to watch the sunrise as it peeks out behind the chain of volcanoes both near and far.
Hiking Indian’s Nose is a must if you want to enjoy a bit of outdoor adventure while learning about the surrounding Maya towns and volcanoes. Particularly, if you appreciate nature and want to learn more about volcanism in Guatemala, you should go with a geologist – which is what we ended up doing on the long version of the Indian Nose hike from San Juan La Laguna.
Indeed, waking up at 4 am to hike Indian Nose at sunrise isn’t the only way to experience this summit and its magnificent views!
You can opt to go after the sun comes up, via a much longer hike (2.5 hours instead of 30-45 minutes) that starts at the bottom of San Juan La Laguna and meanders all the way up to the tippy top of the nose a few kilometers away.
But before you strap up your hiking boots, here’s everything you need to know about the Indian Nose hike in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
The Complete Guide: Indian Nose Hike in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
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Can You Hike Indian’s Nose Without a Guide?
Before our hike up to Indian Nose, we had often heard and read online about safety concerns regarding hiking around the lake – whether Indian’s Nose or the hike between Santa Cruz and San Marcos. Yes, there have been reports before of petty robberies, but it’s rare that should happen. In the case of the Indian Nose hike, it’s most often a misunderstanding.
The land upon which the Indian Nose trail sits is actually partitioned into three sections, each among different landowners. So, of course, in good Guatemalan fashion, it only makes sense that you pay a fee to pass through said land. And since the hike up to Indian Nose crosses several parts where the land is divided (the chin, the nose, the eyes, etc), there are several fees to pay.
Not many tourists know this, and so they think they are getting robbed. Especially, – as our guide said – when the owners and sons are asking for their fair share of the payment with a machete strapped to their hips.
If you don’t know these owners or land, it’s hard for tourists like you and me to know who to pay and who to trust. If you don’t speak Spanish either, it will make the situation even more precarious.
That’s why it’s recommended that you hike Indian’s Nose with a guide. You technically could go on your own, but you shouldn’t. Not only will it be safer, but you’ll likely save money too. If you go on your own, you will definitely be overcharged.
Indian’s Nose Sunrise Hike VS the Long Hike
You have two options when it comes to hiking Indian’s Nose.
Sunrise Hike (35 – 45 minutes up)
If you want to hike up to Indian Nose for sunrise, then your tour operator will shuttle you from San Pedro La Laguna to Santa Clara La Laguna, where you will then hike the short 35-45 minute trail to watch the sunrise from the summit. You could also do this later in the day, but it’s most popular at sunrise.
Long Hike (2.5 – 3 hours up)
For the long and intense hike, you will depart a bit later in the morning and start your ascent from the bottom of San Juan La Laguna, just next door to San Pedro.
Here, you will pay the park entrance fee ($10 GTQ) and then slowly zig-zag your way up the face of the Indian, who appears to be lying peacefully under the forested mountains (that is if you are looking at him the proper way – chin on the right).
We decided we wanted to do the longer hike for the chance to have more vistas and explanations about the lake and surrounding towns. If you enjoy hiking and don’t mind a good sweat, I’d recommend the long hike.
No matter which version of the hike you end up doing, since the Indian Nose summit is situated on the northwest shore of Lago de Atitlan, you will be able to see the:
- Volcán San Pedro
- Volcán Toliman (and its little “parasitic cone” of Cerro del Oro), and Volcán Atitlán
- Towns of San Juan La Laguna, San Pedro La Laguna, and Santa Clara La Laguna, as well as some of the towns on the left shore on a clear day (San Pablo, San Marcos, Santa Cruz, and Santa Catarina Palopó and San Antonio Palopó).
Indian Nose Hike Tour Cost
There are a few ways you can book the Indian Nose hike tour.
- In-person at one of the local tour operators in San Pedro La Laguna (on the main road just off the Pana dock)
- Online via GetYourGuide
- Matt the Geologist — the fun and knowledgeable expat and owner of Geo Travel Guatemala, who will excitedly tell you all about volcanism in Guatemala and how Lake Atitlán formed! Check out his website to get in touch with Matt for bookings.
Having done the hike with Matt, I can say that you will get the best price/value with his Indian Nose tour (800-1125 GTQ depending on the group size). He offers sunrise tours as well (which also includes the geology spiel so you don’t miss out on anything) in addition to private transfers to the airport.
Our Experience Hiking Indian’s Nose with a Geologist
The summit of Indian Nose sits at over 2200 m (7217 ft), which means it’s a pretty decent climb if you’re coming from the base of the mountain.
Seeing as Lake Atitlan sits at 1562 m (5128 ft) in altitude, that works out to be around a 650-750 m (2300 ft) ascent. Not bad, eh? I am thankful for all the stairs leading up to our Airbnb in San Pedro because without this minimal “training” I would’ve had a difficult time climbing up to Indian’s Nose.
Our morning began by hopping in a bright red tuk-tuk before picking up some sunscreen and meeting Matt at the Pana dock in San Pedro.
Together, along with his adventure pup Spike, we speedily jumped into a lancha boat and skirted across the lake to San Juan La Laguna – the town just over. (Normally, you could go via the road connecting the two towns but it was under construction when we went).
Our hike technically began straight from the dock into San Juan La Laguna, which is quite the climb in itself. From the town, the hike continues up into the park to access mirador La Cruz (viewpoint) overlooking the town. From there, the trail splits off to the left and continues up the mountain until the top.
Colorful streets of San Juan La Laguna
Paying the park entrance fee to hike Indian Nose (Q10)
Cerro Mirador de la Cruz
Along the way, we learned about the native flora speckling the hills, the coffee plantations hiding under the forested slopes of the mountain, the corn harvesting season, and about the colorful indigenous communities that populate the lakeside Mayan towns.
The storytelling and fun textbook facts courtesy of Matt made the time go by quickly. We kept a steady pace nonetheless, eager to beat the clouds already covering the volcano peaks in the distance that can normally be seen on a clear, sunny day.
Once at the top we had plenty of time to rest, eat our snacks (and sip on a surprise), before listening to Matt in an all-too-perfect classroom setting – in the bewildering setting of nature herself.
For the next hour, while Matt drew charts and visuals in the dirt with a stick, that Spike loved to steal, we listened attentively and with great curiosity about the geology of not only Lake Atitlan or Guatemala but about volcanism around the world across time. On a clear day, you can see 8 of Guatemala’s 30+ impressive volcanoes from atop Indian’s Nose, including Volcán Fuego and Volcán Acatenango in Antigua, the charming colonial city 2.5 hours away.
The geology talk truly puts what you’re gazing at into perspective on a global scale. Oh, how we are truly small!
After our imperative photo session at the summit, we headed back down the mountain, however this time via the Santa Clara – Indian Nose trail which is a little less steep, before rejoining the path from which we came just a few hours earlier.
If all that sounds like your kinda adventure then book your Indian Nose tour with Matt the Geologist – you won’t regret it. 🙂
What to Wear & Pack for the Indian Nose Hike
The elevation gain hiking up to Indian Nose can make it go from fairly warm to chilly, especially in the mornings when the sun isn’t yet shining.
Here is a quick and easy packing list for you to keep handy before you set out to do the Indian Nose hike.
- Reusable water bottle (32 oz. per person recommended)
- Hiking shoes (be wary of loose rocks and soil)
- Light jacket
- Capris or shorts (just mind the prickly plants and biting insects)
- Biodegradable bug repellent
- Hat or sunglasses
- Granola bars
- Action camera
- Small change (quetzales)
- Rain-proof day bag to carry it all in
Please make sure to practice Leave No Trace! Whatever trash you pack in, be sure to pack out! Read more eco-friendly travel tips here.
Let’s keep these lands plastic-free, shall we? Also, beware that there are no public restrooms at the top. If you have to go wee outside, dig a small hole away from trails and coffee/cornfields and cover it properly.
If you are looking for a great hike to do around Lake Atitlan while learning about the country’s wild landscapes, then don’t miss out on the Indian Nose hike. Whether you want to do the short or the long hike, you will be rewarded with panoramic views that’ll blow you away.
If you have any questions about hiking Indian’s Nose or what to do around the lake, be sure to check out my other guides to Guatemala and drop me a comment below!
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