View of San Juan La Laguna from Cruz Lookout

Top 4 Things to do in San Juan La Laguna

In City Guides, Guatemala, Traditional Villages & Markets by Erik2 Comments

San Juan La Laguna has more to offer than just the Indian Nose hike – find out the best things to do in this weaving village on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

Things to Do in San Juan La Laguna

San Juna La Laguna is one of the small villages on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

The main reason to visit is to hike Indian Nose but some of the other things to do in San Juna La Laguna include:

  • quick hike to the Cruz lookout
  • finding Maximon (San Simon)
  • visiting the main church
  • watching a weaving demonstration

Pick up a guide book for more Guatemala travel inspiration but for now let’s take a look at these attractions in more detail…

San Juan La Laguna Park

Tired of walking? Take a break in this San Juan La Laguna park.

#1. Cruz Lookout

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 just the lookout if you just want a quick view of the eastern shore of Lake Atitlan.

The entrance is opposite the gas station on the road to Santa Clara La Laguna.

Entrance fee: Q20 / $2.75. If you want to hike to the lookout & continue along all of Indian Nose the price is Q30 $4/15.

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Indian Nose Hike Entrance in San Juan La Laguna

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

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 if you’re 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 Indian Nose and Cruz Lookout Free Entrance

We took the free route to the Cruz lookout – do this at your own risk

 #2. 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.

San Juan La Laguna Church

San Juan La Laguna’s church is the architectural highlight of the village.

#3. 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?!

You can also find Maximon in Zunil.

Zunil Finding San Simon (Maximon) Badass

Donations appreciated. Bad habits aren’t cheap!

Unfortunately, the first guy at Maximon’s house wanted Q25 / $3.45 to visit so we declined.

It was free in Zunil, and only Q14 / $1.93 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.

San Juan La Laguna Maximon San Simon Location 2016

Is Maximon (San Simon) really in this building?

San Juan La Laguna 5a Calle

From the church, head down the street on your left to find Maximon (San Simon).

#4. 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 which seemed more original than those at Chichicastenango.

San Juan La Laguna Weaving

If you need a souvenir from Guatemala, then check out San Juan La Laguna’s weaving shops.

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 weaving materials are used to create the colors.

Definitely poke your head in for a quick lesson.

San Juan La Laguna Weaving Demonstration

Learn how to make your own weaving thread from scratch in San Juan La Laguna.

Getting To / 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 / $0.70-1.35.

Another option is to catch the ‘chicken’ buses that pass through at Q5 / $0.70.

It is best to catch ferries to other Lake Atitlan towns from San Pedro La Laguna, with the exception of San Marcos La Laguna as they are infrequent.

Walking to San Juan La Laguna

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

Accommodation in San Juan La Laguna

Hostels: The eco-friendly Casa San Felipe is highly rated on Hostelworld. Its rooms are made of adobe and the common area is made of bamboo. You’ll sleep well on comfortable mattresses and pillows made of rustic cotton which are 100% biodegradable. Dorms are around Q70 / $9.50 and private rooms are Q180 / $23.70.

Airbnb: With over 150 listings you can find great deals on Airbnb. Private rooms start from  Q75 / $10 while you can rent an entire apartment or house from Q150 / $20.

Hotels: Guesthouses and budget hotels start from $Q80 / $10.50 on Booking.com. You can find nice hotels for under Q380 / $50 and there are even luxury villas that cost over Q2290 / $300.

 

Check accommodation prices now

 

Things to do in Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is the most picturesque lake in Guatemala, surrounded by volcanoes & traditional villages.

San Pedro La Laguna is the perfect base for making day trips to the surrounding villages:

  • Panajchel – stock up on supplies in the Lake Atitlan’s biggest town
  • Santiago Atitlan – find (another) San Simon / Maximon & visit the markets
  • San Marcos La Laguna – relax in a hippy village
  • Solola – check out the lively markets

And don’t miss these must-do activities:

Tour options:

Safety in Guatemala

Safety is the first thing most people consider before traveling to Guatemala.

As of early 2019, the US Government is issuing a Level 2 travel advisory for Guatemala and for travelers to exercise increased caution.

The Australian Government advises travelers to exercise a high degree of caution across the country.

Of course, you should consult your own government advice as well. Circumstances can change fast, especially during elections.

Like the rest of Central America, Guatemala has a reputation for crime & violence but we didn’t have any problems in our 3 months in the country.

Nevertheless, always be aware of pickpockets. We recommend wearing a money belt with RFID blocking and traveling with an anti-theft daypack. In general, if you use common sense and are aware of your surroundings you’ll be ahead of the game.

We recommend purchasing travel insurance before any trip. We’ve been using World Nomads through 80+ countries over the past 12 years and have been really happy with their coverage and services.

For more details check out our Word Nomads review here.

Where to Next?

Top 15 Places to Visit in Guatemala

Ruins, volcanoes, lakes, villages & markets… Guatemala is a country of adventure & culture, with Maya traditions alive & well – in our ultimate itinerary find out the top 15 Guatemala attractions and places to visit

Read more

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San Juan La Laguna Guatemala

***The Final Word – Don’t go out of your way to visit but it’s worth checking out San Juan La Laguna if you have a couple of hours to spare on Lake Atitlan ***

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5 Shovels

Super easy DIY travel around city centres

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means that we receive a small commission if you click on a link & purchase something that we’ve recommended, at no extra cost to you.

Visited in September 2016

 

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing about your experience in San Juan!

    I have read about this town in my guidebooks and from other blogs, and I am actually really looking forward to spending some time here and experiencing this authentic village, that many tourists haven’t really discovered yet.

    Would you say that it would be (relatively) safe for a female to explore there alone?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi, Brittany. I would say San Juan La Laguna is a safe place to wander around. San Pedro La Laguna may be a better base though since there are frequent boats to other villages. It depends on what you are looking for on Lake Atitlan.

      I just hiked San Pedro Volcano, and that is safe since you get a guide included in the entrance fee and police were on the trail. Indian Nose has opportunistic residents, but is safe besides that. You just have to be careful on remote paths around the lake. The villages themselves are fine.

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