How to Hike Indian Nose for Sunrise Without a Tour for Q10

How to Hike Indian Nose Volcano Without a Guide

In Guatemala, Hiking by Erik8 Comments

There are many unanswered questions about how to hike Indian Nose in Lake Atitlan – we tell you everything you need to know about how to make the summit for sunrise on an epic Guatemala volcano hike.

Who Controls Indian Nose?

Indian Nose is located on the northwest corner of Lake Atitlan, one of the top destinations in Guatemala.

Most of the confusion regarding this hike is who has jurisdiction over the summit.

The mountain divides the towns of San Juan La Laguna and Santa Clara La Laguna.

This leads to ugly situations with locals from Santa Clara La Laguna who demand payment for access when those hiking all the way up have already paid San Juan La Laguna Q30 / $4.15.

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View of Indian Nose and Cruz Lookout from San Juan La Laguna

Who owns Indian Nose? Is it San Juan, Santa Clara, or the people of corn – Mayans?

Bandits on Indian Nose

Officially, there is no entrance fee from Santa Clara La Laguna, but these banditos are still left to operate each day.

If you are like us & plan to hike all the way up Indian Nose rightly it is annoying to have to pay twice even if you plan on hiking the same way back down.

The problems with the Santa Clara La Laguna bandits are: 

  • They don’t provide a receipt
  • They’re threatening (sometimes to the point of displaying weapons)
  • There’s no fixed price for what they want to be paid
  • They give nothing back to the community
Indian Nose San Juan La Laguna Entrance

Some people ask why they have to pay twice for the same hike. We ask why we have to pay at all.

Everyone knows about them so it is no secret.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the tour operators encourage this behavior to secure business since it is so easy and quick to hike there on your own.

Not to mention that it’s a one of the best hikes in Guatemala.

More on this later…

Indian Nose Path from San Juan La Laguna

With paths this clear, it is impossible to get lost on this Guatemala volcano hike.

Hike WITH a Tour

Before we get into how easy it is to visit visit Indian Nose on your own, let’s tell you what you could expect when you purchase a tour.

Prices in San Pedro La Laguna range from Q80-Q150 / $11.00-20.65 and the difference among the numerous operators is quality of transportation.

Cheaper tours to Indian Nose will take the ‘chicken’ bus, while more expensive companies have a private shuttle.

All will provide a hot beverage and snacks.

Indian Nose Tour Shuttle

Minus speed, there isn’t much difference between a ‘chicken’ bus and a shuttle.

Groups meet at a predetermined location at 3:45 am, and you take either the ‘chicken’ bus or shuttle to the start of the hike in Santa Clara La Laguna.

You walk on flat ground for 10 minutes to the ‘neck’ of Indian Nose, before climbing to the vantage point for sunrise and a light breakfast.

Depending on your tour company you either stop there, or can climb all the way to the peak on the ‘nose’.

Once the sun rises, you start your return and are back in San Pedro La Laguna by 8 am.

If you have extra gusto, you can also hike Volcan San Pedro from San Pedro:

How to Hike Volcan San Pedro Without a Guide

Volcan San Pedro looms over Lake Atitlan in Guatemala and provides excellent views from the top – find out everything you need to know on how to hike Volcan San Pedro without a guide

Read more
Trail to Indian Nose from Santa Clara La Laguna

We did the hike from Santa Clara La Laguna twice so you know what to expect in the dark!

Hike WITHOUT a Tour

What if we told you, you could do the same tour without a guide for Q10-20 / $1.40-2.75?

The price range depends on if the bus driver’s assistant is a bandito as well, and charges you Q10 / $1.40 despite officially being Q5 / $0.70 for the ‘chicken’ bus from San Pedro La Laguna to Santa Clara La Laguna.

Better yet, we can show you an even better way to reach Indian Nose for sunrise for a max of Q10 / $1.40 – Here’s how…

Huehuetenango to Todos Santos Cuchumatan Chicken Bus Driver Erik

All aboard! Next stop Indian Nose

  • #1 How to Get to Santa Clara La Laguna from San Pedro La Laguna

‘Chicken’ buses run every 30 minutes to Santa Clara La Laguna from San Pedro La Laguna, and start at 3 am.

They originate in front of the church near the market. The latest bus to catch to see first light is at 4 am.

First light is usually half an hour before sunrise so you will want to check these times online in advance.

Budget 1 hour for the bus ride, and 30 minutes hiking to get to a lookout.

Sunrise for us was at 5:53 am, and we arrived at the lookout around 5:20 am, which was perfect.

Huehuetenango to Todos Santos Cuchumatan Chicken Bus

‘Chicken’ buses are the Cadillac of Guatemalan transportation. *Sarcasm*

  • #2 How to Find the Path’s Starting Point

If you’re heading to Indian Nose, ask the bus driver’s assistant to let you off at la Nariz del Indio in Santa Cruz La Laguna.

With any luck, you will have people taking a tour on board, and you can follow them.

During the slow season, plan on a backup since no one is around to ask at 5 am.

We returned for a daytime picture before continuing down the mountain so you have an idea what to look for.

We also marked the approximate location on Maps.me since the app does not have the trail marked from Santa Clara La Laguna.

Start of Sunrise Hike to Indian Nose

It’s obviously going to look different in the dark, but combine this with GPS to locate the start.

  • #3 Hike to Indian Nose

Remember to bring a flashlight or head lamp on the hike.

The trail is very straightforward once you start, and is mostly level until the neck of Indian Nose.

The start of the climb is on your right before the trail starts to descend.

The lower lookouts are better for pictures of the volcanos, while the peak is good for 360 degree views.

This is where the hike ascent ends, and our experience with the bandito begins.

Guatemala volcano hike

This is the point where trails from San Juan and Santa Clara merge, and then climb to the summit.

  • #4 Santa Clara La Laguna Banditos

I reiterate, there is no entrance fee to hike Indian Nose from Santa Clara La Laguna.

However, there is a father/son combination, and sometimes friends, that take advantage of hikers without tours.

They demand anywhere from Q15 to Q100 / $2.05 to $13.75 per person, and usually assault you once at the top.

They then block your path to return until you pay.

Guatemala volcano hike Indian Nose sunrise

It’s a new day, banditos. We now know how to avoid the scam!

If you refuse, they call in reinforcements on other lookouts.

Do not expect large groups or tour groups to help you.

As you can imagine, most people pay something to ease the situation.

These horror stories online are probably the driving force behind people choosing to take a tour to Indian Nose.

Indian Nose Lookout Pavilions

At least we know the banditos are confined to the top of Indian Nose.

We got lucky as the bandito was ahead of us and blocked us from entering without paying.

We much prefer that than to be confronted after the fact.

Happy with the views from our ‘neck’ lookout, we decided to hang out there and watch the sunrise.

Indian Nose Sunrise and City Lights

Get to whatever lookout you choose early to watch the sky change hues, and take the best pictures.

If you decide to still climb to the top, know that you are supporting the continuation of this exhortation.

That being said, we understand you are only there once so make your own choice.

The questions that still remain unanswered for us are:

  • Was this the actual bandito?
  • How much did he want?
  • Would you have to pay again to someone else further on?

We didn’t feel the hassle was worth the reward on the hike to Indian Nose.

Indian Nose Lookout Pavilions View from San Juan La Laguna

Even in the dark it is easy to find where to view sunrise, with pavilions marking the spots.

Here is what we have gathered from our experience and reading reviews online.

You are generally safe from the banditos any point lower than the ‘neck’ of Indian nose.

Whether you choose to do hike for sunrise or during the day, this rule should apply.

Since most people only visit for sunrise, our bandito returned once the sun came up. We saw him on the path after taking a picture of the path origin.

If you climb Indian Nose during the day, there may be no one at the top. Try at your own risk.

Indian Nose Path from Santa Clara La Laguna

It is a short 10 minute hike to the ‘neck’, and another 20 minutes to the top. Who needs a tour?

We also noticed that at least one tour guide seemed to encourage this behavior.

We were waiting for our GPS to activate to verify the path, and saw him notify the sleeping bandito that two hikers without a tour have arrived.

That is why we feel tour companies are colluding with the banditos.

Indian Nose Hike Starting Point in Santa Clara La Laguna GPS Coordinates

Mark this location on your map, and you should be able to find the starting point with no problem.

That being said, we never felt that Indian Nose was unsafe.

No reviews on TripAdvisor mentioned the taking of phones or cameras, but only paying an entrance fee.

This leads us to believe that the tales of real banditos may actually be just these opportunists.

Regardless, back up your pictures before hiking and leave all unnecessary valuables at your hotel.

San Pedro La Laguna Cheap Hotel Alley

Leave unnecessary valuables behind at your hotel.

If you decide to climb to Indian Nose’s peak, prepare your money ahead of time that you are willing to pay the banditos as a last resort.

Whatever the amount, do not alter your story.

If you have more money, consider sticking it in your shoe for safe keeping.

We would recommend offering no more than Q25 / $3.45 per person as a bribe to resolve any unpleasant situation.

20 Quetzales

We only had Q20 each after the bus driver charged us Q5 extra to reach Santa Clara La Laguna.

  • #5 Hiking Down Indian Nose

Once the sun comes up, the glare on the water and in the sky prevent any decent pictures from being taken so you can either return to catch a ‘chicken’ bus back to San Pedro La Laguna, or walk down the mountain.

We opted to walk down, and enjoy the viewpoints of several volcanos and Lake Atitlan towns.

Indian Nose Sun Glare on Lake Atitlan

Get started early, or come later in the day.

There are several clear vantage points of Lake Atitlan and of Indian Nose from the trail.

The trail is very easy to follow if you always take the most well-worn path.

There is a shelter slightly lower than the ‘neck’ that offers nice views of Lake Atitlan’s west coast.

The trails near San Juan La Laguna are marked on Maps.me if you want guidance, but really aren’t needed.

Indian Nose Hike View of San Juan La Laguna & Cruz Lookout

Hiking down Indian Nose to San Juan La Laguna provides excellent views the entire way.

Towards the bottom is a lookout with a cross that lets you know you are near the end.

Visit the site before deciding if you want the easy path that requires paying Q30 / $4.15 or the more challenging but free exit.

Of course we chose the free exit.

Indian Nose View From Cruz Lookout

I can see the inspiration behind the location of this cross. God Bless that these views exist.

How to Avoid Entrance & Exit Fees

We know some people feel that you should reward the town that is trying to do things correctly, and maintaining the trails.

Our take is this situation exists, because they have not reached a solution with Santa Clara La Laguna for splitting proceeds.

If given the choice, I prefer not to reward a municipality that charges an entrance fee and openly allows exhortation to occur on their trails.

Indian Nose Hike Entrance in San Juan La Laguna

The same trail leads to the Cruz lookout, and Indian Nose.

Anyhow, if you want to avoid the Q30 fee that San Juan La Laguna charges, then walk back from the cross until you pass a 10 meter long corn field on your right.

The official path goes west, when you need to go east towards Lake Atitlan.

This is not an easy descent since the soil is loose, and you will slide a bit. Take caution.

Hike to Indian Nose Avoiding Entrance Fee Scrambling Down Next to Corn Field

After avoiding paying the banditos money we made sure not to pay an entrance fee either

Follow this down until you reach the 3 meter high rock steps that lead down to the road.

San Juan La Laguna Indian Nose and Cruz Lookout Free Entrance

Avoid the entrance fees, and hike to Indian Nose and the Cruz lookout for free

Follow the road to the right, and make a left past the gas station to get to San Juan La Laguna proper.

The official trail would be on your right across from the gas station.

You can then walk (2 km, 30 minutes) back to San Pedro La Laguna or hire a tuk-tuk for Q5 / $0.70 per person.

It’s your personal choice if you choose to pay or avoid the entrance fee. Please use your own judgment and exercise responsibility for your actions.

Walking to San Juan La Laguna

The best part of visiting San Juan La Laguna was the stroll from San Pedro La Laguna.

The Final Verdict

We hope this post has helped answer some of the questions in order to hike Indian Nose without a tour.

This is a must do hike when visiting Lake Atitlan.

Combining an easy sunrise 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.

Make sure the weather looks good before visiting, or else all you will see are clouds. A good local forecast is Mountain Forecast.

Wondering what to bring? Check out our essential hiker’s gear guide:

Essential Hiking Gear List for All-Weather Hikes

Indian Nose Sunrise with Winter Jacket

Bring a jacket as it is cold in the morning until the sun rises.

Know Before You Go

  • Transportation and Time: Catch a ‘chicken’ bus between 3-4 am from the central church in San Pedro La Laguna. Cost is Q5, but you may have to pay Q10. You either need to arrive before sunrise or later in the day for nice pictures.

 

  • Finding the Trail: The trail is very easy to follow once you start. See above for the approximate starting point in Santa Clara La Laguna to mark the location on your smartphone’s map. The official and unofficial trails in San Juan La Laguna are centered on the gas station.
  • Bandits: We feel the only bandits are the Santa Clara La Laguna locals that want unofficial payment for visiting Indian Nose. They tend not to bother you from the ‘neck’ down. Stick to ‘how much’ cash you have to give them if you need to ease the situation, and hide the rest somewhere else.

 

  • Total Costs: If you are lucky, you can do this hike tour for Q5. We paid Q10 for our bus ride, and that was it. You might also have to pay the bandits, the San Juan La Laguna entrance fee or ‘chicken’ bus back from Santa Clara La Laguna, and an optional tuk-tuk back to San Pedro La Laguna.

 

Hike to Indian Nose from San Juan La Laguna Trail Map

Here is the official information regarding the hike to Indian Nose.

 

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***The Final Word – Hike Indian Nose to see a beautiful sunrise with a surreal backdrop ***

Did you have any experience with banditos in Guatemala? Tell us about it in the comments to help other travelers.

3 Shovels

Accessible DIY travel to more distant locations via multiple connections or longer forms of local transport

Visited in September 2016

 

Comments

  1. 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 and found this post about their committing violent crime against tourists for years. 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 police work, 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.

    1. Michael,

      I’m really sorry to hear about your horrific tale. Thankfully you have made it out unharmed. We noticed a couple recent TripAdvisor reports say similar things too. It’s so sad to see a few bad apples ruin it for the greater community. The views are stunning and tourists generally like being on Lake Atitlan. However if the highlights are no longer safe even on tours, then less and less tourists will make the trip, which will hurt the locals more.

      If anyone is still planning on going, my advice would be to back-up your pictures before going, take nothing you can’t live without (i.e. phone if not main camera), and just a small amount of cash. You can keep a little more in your sock if you need it for the rest of your day.

      Thanks again for the update to help other travelers make informed decisions, and hopefully your trip only got better.

  2. I hope some people will come armed with guns and put these “banditos” in their place (ie six feet underground).

    1. We’re not sure what the current situation is with the banditos but a good start would be if local authorities start to take some action. The last report of an attack on Tripadvisor was in Feb 2018 so hopefully things have improved on the mountain.

  3. I read the whole post above as I wanted to learn as much as possible about the hike before venturing on my own. I want to make a few points here:

    1. I took the route from San Juan. Yes, I paid 30 Quetzales and, to my surprise, I had to put the date, my name, etc. in the journal and the guard also gave me a receipt for that. Not only that. He also showed me a hand-drawn map explaining how to get to the top. He also told me that just before the top I might be asked by some other people to pay 50 quetzales but he said that I should pay only 20. I hiked up alone, and there was nobody to ask me for additional payment.
    Here I want to emphasize that paying 30 quetzales is only the right thing to do. This is a poor country and we, as tourists who are usually much better off, should not be trying to avoid paying for the use of their trails. Of course, much more can be done on the trail but it is maintained somehow for us to use it and WE SHOULD NOT TRY TO AVOID PAYING THE FEE. In fact, on my return from the hike I gave the guard in the booth 5 quetzales tip for his good advice. I also gave him distance information (in the number of steps) to the points that he drew on the map, so that he could improve the map for others.
    2. Bandits. On the top I met a guy from Korea who just came from the other side (Santa Clara). He said that he was stopped by 4 guys with machetes who demanded 100 quetzales from him, but they settled for 50. The guy was a backpacker who intended to stay at the top in his tent (!!!) probably to see the sunrise.

  4. Unfortunately, the body of Catherine Shaw, 23, of the UK was found at La Nariz today.

    1. Thank you for the information. It is a shame whenever someone brave enough to travel the world at such a young age runs into tragedy. The verdict is still out, but hopefully Lake Atitlan wakes up and increases security in the region if this was malicious.

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