Hike to the Indian Nose, Lake Atitlan

Indian Nose Trailhead

Indian Nose or Mayan face is a gorgeous hike from San Juan La Laguna. As you go up in the dark you feel the vastness of Lake Atitlan. From the top you can see an explosion of colors as the sun comes up above Panajachel.

You start off in the town of San Juan La Laguna. The hike starts at lake-water level which is around 5,000 ft (1,500 meters above sea level). It goes up on a steep hill with plenty of stairs. 15-20 minuties you'll find yourself at the top of a hill with a cross that overlooks San Juan. This view is only half as good as the view from the top. It takes about 2 hours to reach the top so start around 4:30 at the trail head. The top gets chilly and windy so bring an extra layer.

The trail goes up on a single track between corn and coffee fields. As you reach the top there are some signs for "Rostro Maya" which you have to follow. You'll go up some sketchy wooden stairs - no waivers needed!

The total eleveation gain is about 2,500 ft (800 meters) so you're higher than many mountains which allows to see the most beautiful sunrise. It's a total explosion of colors even on a cloudy day. On a clear day you'll be able to see Atitlan's 3 volcanoes and beyond. You can even see eruptions of Volcan de Fuego from the distance. 

The top separates San Juan and Santa Clara so if you reach some wooden structures and camping spots you've reached Santa Clara. The local guides wait there to charge people another Q50 so just go back down a bit and stay in San Juan if you don't feel like paying. Usually you pay Q30 at the trailhead in San Juan but at dark no one will charge you. When you go down the same trail just keep running!!

Make sure to check out Flor de Ixcaco, the women weavers association, La Cueva leather shop and medicinal herbs association, art galleries and coffee shops in the town of San Juan. 

Sunrise is around 6:30 almost year round since we're close to the equator. 

Pack List

  •  Day pack 10-30 Liters
  • 1 Liter of water
  • Headlamp
  • Warm Layer
  • Camera
  • Money
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RT Distance 1.2 Miles
Elevation Gain 2624.7 Feet
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Dog Friendly
Forest
Groups
Lake
Picnic Area
Scenic
Wildflowers

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Robbery and Attempted Murder at the Summit of La Nariz

Robbery and Attempted Murder at the Summit of La Nariz On February 13, 2018, a friend and I hiked to the popular La Nariz on Atitlan for the sunrise. What started as a promising sunrise excursion turned into a harrowing experience that highlights how I believe tourists are openly targeted for violent crime by the locals with the tacit permission of the local authorities. On our journey up the mountain, guides and other tourists accompanied us. After the sunrise, my friend and I followed behind the group. However, as my friend tried to descend from the peak, a young guatemalan man in front of my friend turned, pulled out a machete, put it to my friend’s throat and demanded his money. My friend quickly backed away and ran down the hill through the brush. As my friend ran, the man picked up and threw grapefruit sized rocks trying to kill him. Already being further down the mountain, the guides and the other tourists fled. Unfortunately, everyone else’s escape left the young man shoving me at machete point demanding my money. After a tense few minutes of talking, I gave him my money (120Q) and ran down behind my friend. As we descended, another man with a machete blocked our path and demanded even more money. We ran through the brush and escaped. When we arrived at the town below, we stopped at a small tienda and told the lady what had happened. While talking with her, the two bandits walked past. We told the lady they were the criminals who had assaulted us. She knew who they were and gave us their names. She also called the police for us and told us that she was afraid to get involved. Twenty minutes later, when the Guatemala national police arrived, we told them what happened and gave them the criminals’ names and a picture. The police asked us if we wanted to file a report. We told them that this was their community. If it helped the community, we would. Otherwise, we would just leave. They said they wanted us to file a report so we followed them to the police station. As it turned out, we didn’t need the criminals’ pictures or names. They met us and the police as we walked through town. As expected, they denied holding us at knifepoint, kidnapping me, or trying to kill my friend. When we arrived at the police station, neither the town police nor the national police took a report. We reviewed nothing. We signed nothing. Neither man was arrested. We left enlightened. Upon returning, I researched La Nariz more thoroughly combing through travel blogs. I found that the two criminals are a father and son team who have been committing violent crime against tourists for years. Here is a blog entry from 2016 that spells out their activities: https://diytravelhq.com/hike-indian-nose/ It’s highly unlikely that the local authorities don’t know this. In the end, going to La Nariz is simply dangerous. It is remote and away from town giving criminals the time and space they need for their dirty work. With proper support from the police, it could be safe. But in my experience you, as a tourist, are considered by the police and the guides to be fair game to the locals who are regularly committing violent crime against foreigners. If you are the adventuresome type and don’t mind being robbed at knifepoint for a few bucks, then the sunrise at La Nariz is nice enough. You’ll get some exercise and see a pretty sunrise. If you are squeamish about being subjected to violent crime, you may want to consider other sightseeing options. After talking with lot of people, it also seems that virtually all paths around the lake are being worked similarly by violent criminals. The guides will tell you that it’s safe if you go with them, but it’s not.


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