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Indian Nose Hike: The Best Hike in Lake Atitlan

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Lake Atitlan, Guatemala is known for its jaw-dropping natural beauty, with its deep blue waters that sit in a bowl of lush mountains and volcanoes. But if you want to see the most breathtaking views of the lake, head to the summit of Indian Nose, a mountain peak that towers at a whopping 9,393 feet tall and offers jaw-dropping views of the sprawling lake and the towns that dot its shores. Here’s everything you need to know about hiking to Indian Nose, the best hike in Lake Atitlan.

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Sunrise over Lake Atitlan from the summit of Indian Nose in Guatemala
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What is Indian Nose?

Indian Nose (La Nariz or La Nariz del Indio in Spanish) is the summit of a mountain peak, situated near the towns of Santa Clara and San Marcos, along Lake Atitlan’s shores. 

Given its vantage point, it offers absolutely spectacular views of the surrounding landscape and is the most popular place to hike for sunrise in Lake Atitlan, where you can watch as the sun eclipses the chain of the surrounding volcanoes and casts a golden light onto the water below. 

View of Indian Nose from San Pedro in Lake Atitlan
View of Indian Nose (the pointy nose-looking peak) from San Pedro

Its name originates from the fact that the mountain kinda looks like the profile of someone sleeping, with its tallest peak being the person’s nose. In recent years, there’s been a push to rename the trail “Mayan Nose” to more accurately capture the heritage of the Indigenous people of Guatemala.

However, from walking around San Pedro and talking to locals in the tourism industry, this doesn’t seem to be very widely adopted (… like, at all). In fact, I’ve read that some tour guides have actually taken advantage of the name change to swindle tourists into hiking to a lower viewpoint that they allege is called “Mayan Nose.” 

Aerial view of Indian Nose in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Either way, just be aware that the hike can go by both names and, if you book a tour to “Mayan Nose”, confirm that it’s the same viewpoint as Indian Nose. 

About Indian Nose 

There’s actually two common ways to get to Indian Nose—the trailhead in Santa Clara La Laguna or from San Juan La Laguna.

Indian Nose hike from Santa Clara stats

This route, which departs from the trailhead here, is by far the most popular route and the one that almost all of the tour guides use to get to Indian Nose for sunrise.


1.7 miles (2.7 km)

Elevation gain

951 feet (290 meters)

Woman watching sunrise at Indian Nose in Lake Atitlan


The climb up to the summit is STEEP and requires climbing about 100 steep stairs carved into the dirt. However, it’s also quite short, taking just 40-45 minutes to climb. Overall, I’d say this is moderately challenging, but, if you’re not in decent shape, get ready for this hike to kick your butt!

Trail map

Indian Nose hike from San Juan La Laguna

Alternatively, there is a trailhead near San Juan, located here, that offers a longer and more challenging route to the summit. Because it typically takes most people at least an hour and a half to reach the summit along this trail, it is not typically treated as a sunrise hike and is more commonly used for day hikes or even to watch the sunset.


3.8 mi (6.1 km)

Elevation gain

2,500 ft (762 meters)

View of volcano across Lake Atitlan in Guatemala


Hard—the route is INCREDIBLY steep and requires quite a bit of scrambling.

Trail map

Pssst... before lacing up those boots, be sure to follow these key hiking safety tips that you need to know before hitting the trail!

Can I hike Indian Nose without a guide?

So you can hike either of the paths to Indian Nose by yourself—but I really wouldn’t recommend it. 

There have been a handful of reports of self-guided hikers getting robbed along the trails. However, in reality, the biggest issue with hikers that go by themselves is that both trails weave through private land, owned by a number of farmers. Like any good Guatemalan entrepreneurs, the owners of this land have frequently demanded that self-guided hikers pay some kind of fee for crossing their land—oftentimes, with a menacing-looking machete attached to their hip. 

Farmland along the Indian Nose hike in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Between the machete wielding, the usual language barrier, and the fact that a lot of travelers don’t expect these fees, this can (very reasonably!) cause hikers to feel distress—and to even have the perception that they’re actively being robbed (which is usually not what is happening). 

If you have a guide with you, this won’t occur. Plus, you’ll almost certainly actually pay less to go with a guide than you would to pay the individual farmers, unless your Spanish and sweet-talking skills are, like, really, really  good.

Sunrise over mountains at Indian Nose in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Additionally, it’s worth noting that, if you want to hike to the summit for sunrise (which you ABSOLUTELY should—it’s one of my favorite memories of Guatemala!), you’d have a really hard time finding transportation to Santa Clara by yourself so early in the morning. And you’re not going to want to take the much longer trail from San Juan for sunrise, unless you want to wake up REALLY early. 

What to Expect Along the Indian Nose Hike

Your experience along the Indian Nose trail will obviously vary a bit depending on which route you go. 

Indian Nose Hike from Santa Clara

As mentioned above, the vast majority of people—including myself—do this as a sunrise hike with a group tour. 

If you choose to go this route as well, get ready for an EARLY wake-up call. I was told that my guide would meet me at my hostel, Amigo Hotel, at 4 AM, but they actually got there around 3:40! I walked with my guides to several other hostels to pick up the rest of the guests (there were probably about 30 of us in total) and then boarded a bus. 

View of people sitting on a bus in Guatemala

The bus ride from San Pedro to the trailhead takes about 30 minutes, winding up curvy roads. As you step off the bus, the mountain air will have become noticeably cooler—I really wish I had brought a few extra warm layers to bundle up! 

Once you reach the dirt path, the first 0.4 miles (0.6 km) of the trail is actually downhill. However, the latter half of the hike consists of about 100 stairs cut into the dirt and eventually, some very steep switchbacks through the jungle. It typically takes around half an hour to 45 minutes to climb up to the summit.

People sitting on wooden benches at sunrise at Indian Nose at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

At the end, there’s a platform with a series of wooden benches that overlook the lake, the twinkling lights of the town below, and the towering volcanoes surrounding it all- you can even see the Fuego Volcano erupting off in the distance!

You’ll usually sit here for about half an hour or so, watching the sky turn spectacular shades of pink and orange before sunlight finally spills over the mountaintop. And to make things better, almost all of the guided tours come with some kind of hot drink, like chocolate or hot cocoa, and a sweet bread to enjoy as you watch the sunrise. 

I actually enjoyed the hike down much more than I normally do—in large part, because it was the first time that I could actually see the surrounding landscape! The farmland along the trail is quite beautiful, with lush greenery as far as the eye can see. 

Group hiking along the Indian Nose trail through the jungle in Guatemala
Tip: One other big reason that I’d recommend heading to Indian Nose as a sunrise hike from Santa Clara that I never knew about before actually visiting Lake Atitlan? 

This area is absolutely BEAUTIFUL—but, unfortunately, after about 11 AM, it starts getting really, REALLY hazy from pollution, especially during the dry season (from November through the beginning of May). I personally wouldn’t want to hike up a tough trail and have the views that I worked so hard for be totally obscured by haze. 

Indian Nose Hike from San Juan

Because it generally takes one and a half to two hours to reach the summit, this route is usually hiked as a day or sunset hike. 

View of cliffs along Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

If you choose to do this hike by yourself (which, again, I wouldn’t really recommend), you can catch a boat from the popular tourist towns, like San Pedro, Panajachel, and San Marcos, to the town of San Juan. 

At the trailhead, you’ll need to pay a 30Q entrance fee. Along the first 0.2 miles (0.3 km) of the trail, there will be a variety of vendors selling water, Gatorade, and even cervezas if you’re in the mood. You’ll then reach Mirador Cerro Kaqasiiwaan, a beautiful overlook of the lake on a brightly painted wooden platform, where artists frequently sell their wares. It’s a great resting spot before you continue your hike up.

Dog along the Indian Nose trail at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

From here, the rest of the hike is INCREDIBLY steep, with grades reaching up to 75%(!!!), and oftentimes requiring some scrambling. It also passes through private coffee plantations and corn fields, so don’t be surprised if you meet one (or several) of the aforementioned farmers demanding additional payment along the way. 

While this trail definitely has its downsides, there’s several stunning viewpoints of the lake and the towns along its shores on the way that the Santa Clara route doesn’t offer.

Hazy view of volcanoes and mountains at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

And, of course, at the top (if the haze cooperates), you’ll be rewarded with views from Indian Nose, with jaw-dropping vistas of the lake and the incredible green bowl of mountains that surround it. 

How to Book an Indian Nose Hike

There’s a couple of ways that you can book an Indian Nose hike. 

It’s worth noting that almost all of the options that head here as a sunrise hike depart from San Pedro or San Marcos, given that most of the other towns are too far away to get to the trailhead so early—meaning you’ll usually have to stay in one of these towns the night before your tour. In fact, that’s the whole reason that my husband, Justin, and I stayed at Hotel Amigo in San Pedro during our time in Lake Atitlan is so that we could easily hike to Indian Nose. 

Woman looking over a balcony at Lake Atitlan at Amigo Hotel in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala

Booking an Indian Nose tour in person

With that in mind, the cheapest way that you can book a tour is in person at your hostel or hotel in San Pedro or San Marcos or, alternatively, at one of the travel agencies that line the streets of San Pedro (and, to a lesser degree, San Marcos).

Man walking down a market in San Pedro La Laguna in Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

Originally, I had planned to book a private tour of Indian Nose online, but, after getting our butt kicked at the grueling Acatenango hike just a few days prior, Justin didn’t feel up to doing this one also. Since all of the private tour options required at least two guests, I wound up just booking a tour through our hostel for 100Q—which is WAY cheaper than what I would have paid if I booked online. 

Given the price I paid, the tour was fair. My guide picked me up on time, took our group to the trailhead without issue, and gave us warm drinks and sweet bread once we hit the summit. That being said, it wasn’t much of a tour—our guide didn’t speak much English, explain anything along the trail or at the viewpoint, and kind of rushed our (pretty large) group the entire time. So just expect to get what you pay for on these hostel-booked “tours”! 

Woman overlooking Lake Atitlan at sunrise at Indian Nose in Guatemala

Booking an Indian Nose tour online

While booking a tour online will generally be pricier, there’s a few scenarios where it makes sense for some travelers, like:

  • if you actually want a guided tour to learn more about the area around Lake Atitlan or just prefer private tours
  • if you’re short on time in Lake Atitlan and won’t have time to book a tour in person at San Pedro or San Marcos before you go on your hike (for example, my hostel stopped booking tours for the following morning at 8 PM or when the tour was sold out, whichever was sooner)
  • if you’re looking for a tour from one of the other towns around Lake Atitlan, where you might have trouble finding a tour agency that will take you on the hike
Woman watching a boat cruise by along Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

If any of those scenarios sound like you, consider the following tours:

Indian Nose tours from San Pedro or San Marcos

  • Sunrise Hike Tour: The awesome guides on this private tour are seriously committed to you having an awesome experience, from bringing along extra headlamps to stopping along the trail to point out interesting plants or animals along the way. Depending on your group’s mood after the hike, they’ll usually also stop at some local hole-in-the-wall restaurants or markets to make your morning even more special.
  • Indian Nose Hiking Adventure: The guides are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable on this private tour and awesome at pacing the hike just for your group.
  • Hike for the Sunrise on Indian Nose and Kayaking tour: If kayaking is also on your Lake Atitlan bucketlist, consider booking this small group hike. After you hike up and watch the sunrise at Indian Nose, you’ll also get two hours of kayaking, some time on the Cristalinas Beach, and stop at a local restaurant, right on the lakeshore. 
Light rays over a mountain and volcanoes at Indian Nose in Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

Indian Nose Tour from Panajachel 

  • Indian Nose Peak and Lake Atitlan Sunrise Tour: Get ready for an EARLY wake-up call on this one, given you’ll need to take a 90 minute ride from Panajachel to the trailhead. But I promise it’ll be worth it—the guides with this company are bursting with interesting tidbits about Lake Atitlan and the surrounding area and, of course, the sunrise views are epic! 
Guatemala flag flying at Indian Nose in Guatemala

What to Pack for Indian Nose


If I could only recommend bringing one thing along, it would be this. You start the hike in pitch black darkness, starting at first walking along a potholed cobblestone street and then, eventually, an uneven dirt path with roots, stones, and stairs. 

I had brought my headlamp along, but, even though multiple people asked for one, our tour group did not supply them. I honestly think I would have been terrified of falling on my face and breaking something if I hadn’t had a headlamp. 

View of Lake Atitlan in the early morning from Indian Nose in Guatemala

Trekking poles

There were a couple of middle-aged travelers in our group who asked our guides for hiking sticks, but they didn’t have any. If you plan on doing multiple hikes in Guatemala, it might be worth bringing your own (they saved my butt on Acatenango!)—just remember that you’ll have to pack them in your checked luggage.


Even though the mountain air is pretty chilly in the early morning, you wind up SWEATING due to the steepness of the trail. Be sure to pack along some water—Justin and I both swear by our comically enormous Nalgene bottles, which we were able to easily refill in Guatemala at the filtered water stations at our hostels.

Woman smiling at sunrise at Indian Nose in Guatemala

Warm layers

While you definitely work up a sweat while hiking, you’ll likely be sitting at the summit for half an hour or so, waiting for the sunrise—and it can get downright chilly up there! I’d recommend bringing along a jacket and, if you have it, a cozy hat to keep you warm while you wait for those first rays of sun.

I hope you enjoy hiking up to Indian Nose as much as I did! Do you have any questions about hiking this trail? Let me know in the comments below!

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