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…
#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.
Hike Indian Nose Without a Tour
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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.
#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.
#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.
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.
#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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Take a kayak out on Lake Atitlan
- Climb Volcan San Pedro for excellent lake views
- Learn to cook at Ixiim Cooking School
- Study Spanish at San Pedro Spanish School
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 visitRead more
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***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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Super easy DIY travel around city centres
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Visited in September 2016