San Juan La Laguna sits under the ‘nose’ of the popular Indian Nose hike on the northwest shore of Lake Atitlan. Find out how this weaving village creates a vibe of their own.
Things to Do in San Juan La Laguna
There is no can’t miss attraction in San Juan La Laguna, but there are a few quick highlights if you are hiking Indian Nose from here. Check out our post Indian Nose Sunrise Hike Without a Tour for Q10 for more information. Other things to do in San Juan La Laguna are a quick hike to the Cruz lookout, finding Maximon (San Simon), visiting the main church, and watching a weaving demonstration.
The official path to the Cruz lookout is the same as hiking to Indian Nose so it is best done together. However, you can still visit if you just want a quick view of the eastern shore of Lake Atitlan. Admission for the Cruz lookout is Q20, and all of Indian Nose is Q30. The entrance is opposite the gas station on the road to Santa Clara La Laguna.
A free alternative is to scramble up and down the side of the hill past the gas station. There is a set of stairs etched into the hill you can climb before hiking up the side of a corn field. Follow the road to Santa Clara La Laguna for two bends until you see the stairs near a telephone pole. Try to be discreet as a foreigner. The vegetation will hide you once you get past the initial stairs quickly. The Cruz lookout will be visible and on your left at the top.
San Juan La Laguna’s Church
The main church in San Juan La Laguna is different from others on Lake Atitlan. The front façade is multi-dimensional, and comprised of two different types of stonework with an older annex to the left. Take a look at the ornate wood-carved doors upon entering. The interior is simple but spacious as you make the rounds looking at the artwork on the walls.
Finding Maximon (San Simon)
Maximon, also known as San Simon, is a revered god to Guatemalans in the highlands. He is part Mayan gods, Jesus, and even the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado. The main purpose of finding Maximon is that he is a bad-ass. Each village has different customs, but he always likes offerings of tobacco, alcohol, and of course money. How many gods do you pray to that openly have as many bad habits?
Unfortunately, the first guy at Maximon’s house wanted Q25 to visit so we declined. It was free in Zunil, and only Q14 for two of us with pictures in Santiago Atitlan. We then tried going back twice more with different people working the door, but they both denied he was located there. Either they recognized and blacklisted us, or they really don’t want tourists to witness a ritual they take very seriously.
Maximon (San Simon) moves locations each year to maintain an equilibrium, but can be found on 5a Calle near the church until May 2017. If they refuse you entry as well, there is always Zunil and Santiago Atitlan.
You can find out more information and pictures in our posts, Zunil: Finding San Simon and Fuentes Georginas, and Santiago Atitlan: Finding Maximon and Markets.
Weaving Shops and Demonstrations
What differentiates San Juan La Laguna from surrounding Lake Atitlan villages is that they are a non-touristy town with an artsy edge. There are still cheap hotels and Spanish schools, but it is nowhere near as overrun with tourists as San Pedro La Laguna and Panajachel. The handful of weaving shops near the market are low-key, and have nice designs.
One shop also runs demonstrations for tips on how the thread is dyed, and created. We didn’t catch a performance, but got an idea from the displays lining the wall. It was interesting to see what traditional materials are used to create the colors. Definitely poke your head in for a quick lesson.
Getting To and From San Juan La Laguna
Most people visit San Juan La Laguna from San Pedro La Laguna when hiking Indian Nose. You can walk the 2-3 km in 30 minutes, or take a tuk-tuk for Q5-10. Another option is to catch the ‘chicken’ buses that pass through at Q5. It is best to catch ferries to other Lake Atitlan towns from San Pedro La Laguna, with the exception of San Marcos, as they are infrequent.
***The Final Word – Don’t go out of your way to visit San Juan La Laguna, but give it two hours if you find yourself there.***
Were you able to see Maximon (San Simon) in San Juan La Laguna?
Super easy DIY travel around city centres
Visited in September 2016