When our alarms when off at 03:15 in the morning to hike the Indian Nose I knew we were a little crazy.
Despite the majestic sunrise hike to the Indian Nose being one of the main attractions of Lake Atitlan, I couldn’t find much information about it online. Below I have bundled all the information you need! For example, did you know there are different viewing points to choose from? And where is that rock everyone takes photos on?
Do you want to hike Indian Nose without a tour and go solo? In this blog post I’ll share the coordinates to get to the start of the Indian Nose hiking trail.
Table of Contents
First things first: the different names for the Indian Nose
There are many different names used for the tour to visit Indian Nose, which can be quite confusing: Indian Nose, la Nariz de Indio, Cerro Cristalino, or mirador Cerro del Rostro Maya. These terms are often mixed up, but refer to the same area. However, they actually refer to slightly different things! So make sure you know what you are talking about before booking a tour!
El Rostro Maya (The Mayan Face) is the name of the hill, which is shaped like a face as if someone were lying on their back. In the indigenous language the hill is also referred to as: Rupalaj K’istalin. The tallest point is the The Indian Nose (La Nariz de Indio) which is located at the nose of the face. The Cerro Cristalino (Crystalline hill) is located where the mouth of the face would be.
What’s the difference between the viewing platforms at Lake Atitlan?
There are three different lookout points and platforms along the ridge of the these hills. The highest one is on the peak of the Indian Nose, the second is just below at the base of the Indian Nose (at the nostrils of the ‘nose’ so to say) and the third is at Cerro Cristalino.
For a very incredible photo you can stand on top of Piedra de Pico de Loro (Parrot beak rock) with the majestic backdrop of the lake behind you. It’s quite a dangerous climb to the top though (see video below). Pico de Loro is below the Indian Nose. Our photo is of a smaller rock that was just below our viewing platform at Cerro Cristalino.
Where should I book my Indian Nose sunrise tour?
All tour agencies in San Pedro offer the Indian Nose tour. You will see plenty of travel agencieson the main road Calle 8a. We booked at Travel Agency Helen for 80Q pp. This agency can’t be found online (yeah, for no overhead costs). It’s on 8a Calle, just north of the intersection with the harbour. The guy who sold us the tour turned out to be our driver and guide all in one.
All tours are more or less the same. They all go to the same view point. The slight differences are the mode of transportation to get there (private car or chicken bus) and some agencies give you fruit during the wait for sunrise.
Price Indian Nose hiking tour
What should I pay for an Indian Nose guided tour? What’s included?
We paid 80Q per person. This included:
- Transportation by shuttle (return)
- Guide (likely only Spanish speaking)
- Entrance fee
- A cup of coffee
We landed up having a private tour because no one else signed up. Tour operators offering transportation by chicken bus instead of shuttle are likely a little cheaper. Breakfast is not included, so make sure to bring you own snack.
The guide will tell you some history about the lake and give you information about the vegetation you pass on the way, like coffee plants and avocado trees.
What is not included in the tour?
Breakfast and water are not included in the fee.
What should I wear on the sunrise hike to the Indian Nose?
According to our guide you could even do the hike in flip flops if you wanted to. I would recommend sneakers. Also bring a warm sweater to wear while you wait for the sunrise over Lake Atitlan.
Cloudy weather? Don’t worry! You will have softer colours and a more colourful sunrise!
Itinerary for sunrise Indian Nose hike
- 04:00 Departure by shuttle from San Pedro
- 04:45 Start walking
- 05:15 Arrival at the top look out
- 06:15 Sunrise! (Depending on the time of year)
- 06:45 Walk back down
- 08:00 Back in San Pedro
How to hike Indian Nose solo
Can I do the Indian Nose hike solo without a guide?
Yes, you can hike the Indian Nose without a guide. Though finding the start of the hike in the pitch black could be challenging. Also inquire locally about the safety situation before setting off. There are rumoured to be bandits and locals with land disputes amongst themselves that harass or threaten tourists. Joining a tour gave us peace of mind.
Exact coordinates for starting point Indian Nose hike (hiking without a guide)
Want to give it a go anyway and do the hike solo? Here are the coordinates of the trail head in Santa Clara: (14.715887, -91.297893). The starting point on maps.me does not match with this, but this is the route we took with our guide. Leave the main paved road and take the dirt path heading south. On your left is a small building and to your right is an open grassy field. From this starting point it is only about 20-30 minutes to the Indian Nose.
Alternative starting point for the Indian Nose hike: San Juan
There is also a starting point in San Juan, though this involves a 3 hour walk to get to the viewing points. So it’s only advisable to take this route if you would like to do the hike to the Indian Nose during the day. You can also start you hike in Santa Clara and continue walking so you finish in San Juan.
Camping with Lake Atitlan views
Did you know its possible to camp on top of both Cerro Cristalino or the Indian Nose? It’s good to check the safety situation before venturing our by yourself or you can also join a group.
Instagram vs. Reality
There were about 40 other people up at the lookout, with various tour organisations. The viewpoint area isn’t that big, but there is a terraced look out spot. This means you can get a pretty clear view without too many other tourists obstructing your line of sight.
The guides of different groups time it so they all go up and down at slightly different moments. This means it feels like you are walking the trail by yourself.
The verdict: Indian Nose worth it?
The big question is of course: Was the 03:15 alarm worth it? YES!
We had no idea there was more than one viewpoint. In retrospect the higher platforms would have given us slightly better views. Our lookout was a little crowded with other tourists and shrubbery obstructed the view a little. Make sure to check with your guide to which lookout you will be going.
However, all in all it was a special experience with beautiful views. It’s a great way to experience the lake and it only takes a morning, leaving the rest of the day to explore the rest of Lake Atitlan. Curious what else you can do at Lake Atitlan in Gautemala? Check out the blog posts below!