Looking for the best place in Lake Atitlan to view the sunrise? You'll definitely want to read on to learn more about the Indian Nose hike.
The most challenging part of reaching the top isn't the hike itself, it's finding a starting point and getting yourself out of bed early enough to make it happen!
Have a specific question about hiking to Indian Nose? Jump ahead using the table of contents below:
This post will highlight everything you should know before planning a trip up to one of the best view points in all of Guatemala.
You'll notice some links and advertisements from partner or affiliate sites throughout this post. I typically earn a small commission on any purchases made through those links at no additional cost to you. If you check those out, great. If not, I'm still happy you're here!
Where is the Indian Nose hike located
During my visit to Lake Atitlan we stayed in Panajachel which is located along the eastern shore of the lake. This guide caters to travelers also staying Panajachel, but if you're staying in San Juan just know that you'll have an easier time reaching Indian Nose than I did!
Starting points for the hike can be found between San Juan and Santa Clara which are located on the western side of Lake Atitlan.
This is the part where I recommend you hire a guide for this hike.
I had read online that some visitors had issues with locals (referred to as bandits) on the trail. This is in part because many of the paths leading up to Indian Nose cross over land owned by locals and there have been disputes over public use.
Having a guide ensures you're not trespassing on local property and provides good insurance if you run into any undesirable characters. To be clear, on our hike and during our entire stay around Lake Atitlan we never felt unsafe or had any negative experiences.
The guide we hired was through a company called Tours Atitlan and you can check out their website here. We had such a good experience with them that we ended up booking two other activities with them during our trip.
Their primary form of communication is via WhatsApp and payment via cash so ensure you have those two things lined up when attempting to book.
What to expect when hiking Indian Nose
If you're looking to hike Indian Nose at sunrise (which you absolutely should) you're going to need to start very early in the morning. Your start time will depend on time of year, so be sure to check when the sunrise is occurring based on your stay. But chances are you'll need to reach the peak at 6am or earlier.
From Panajachel we drove nearly 90 minutes to the starting point of this hike. The trailhead was very poorly marked and I'm not sure how solo travelers would find it on their own.
We did the shorter hike up that took about one hour. You can start further down the mountain if you're interested in a more challenging hike to start your day.
You'll also want to budget your time so that you're reaching the peak at least 30 minutes before the official sunrise time to get the full effect. This also gives you some extra wiggle room if you're slower than expected on the hike up.
The summit sits at about 7,200 ft (or 2,200 meters) which means the air is on the thin side. The actual elevation gain is much less than this (in the 1,000 ft or 300 meter range) since you're starting well above sea level.
While the hike isn't too long, it's fairly steep. Steepness and thin air make this slightly more challenging than you would anticipate. Add in a super early wake up call and beers the night before and this quickly goes from easy to moderate in difficulty.
The trail up will likely be very dark if you're hiking up before sunrise which means you'll want to bring a headlamp or flashlight. Your cell phone flash light will also work in a pinch.
When we finally emerged at the top there were a dozen or so people already hanging out waiting for the sun to peak over the horizon. This area is very popular among the locals and I got the impression we were the only tourists there on this particular morning.
There were some benches and plenty of room for this number of people, but I could imagine on busier mornings it being slightly crowded up here.
In general there's plenty of room to move around and take photos, but you might have to wait your turn to get one near the actual overlook.
It was on the chilly side at the peak since we were much more exposed to the wind here, I'd definitely recommend bringing an extra layer since you could easily spend an hour hanging out up there if you plan to take in the entire sunrise.
There aren't normally any food or water vendors here so be sure to pack snacks and water.
For all of your hard work you'll be rewarded with an out of this world sunrise and sweeping views of the entire Lake Atitlan region. If you're lucky, you'll have just the right amount of cloud cover like we did.
I seriously couldn't get enough of any sunrise or sunset we saw in Lake Atitlan. Between the lake, volcanos and water taxis zig zagging across the water there was never a shortage of beautiful backdrops.
Other Things to Know About Indian Nose
How long does it take to hike Indian Nose
You should budget 60 to 90 minutes for the hike up to the top. From there we spent about an hour hanging out taking in the sunrise.
Going back down is much quicker since it's all down hill. Visitors looking to hike up the entire mountain will need significantly more time than this to reach the summit. You shouldn't have any issues booking a guide for the longer version of this hike.
It should take most visitors about 30 minutes to journey back to the starting point. We took closer to an hour since our guide stopped to explain a Mayan ceremony site we encountered on our trek back.
Logistics are dependent on where you're staying. For us, the roundtrip drive from Panajachel took about 3 hours. Water taxis don't operate early enough in the morning to utilize for a sunrise hike.
Are there bathrooms at Indian Nose
There aren't any restroom facilities at the trailhead so you really need to plan accordingly for this one.
Chances are you're going to need to rely on the great outdoors if you gotta go.
However, I did find.. in the event of an emergency.. that there is a makeshift restroom near the summit. My guide asked a local for me and he pointed me to a crudely assembled outhouse near the peak.
A few plastic tarps for privacy, a hole in the ground and a piece of stone with a hole through it will be your throne here if you gotta go.
Do I need hiking boots for Indian Nose
Given the short duration I wouldn't consider hiking boots a must for this trek.
However, parts of the trail were muddy since its densely covered by trees and shrubbery.
If you have a pair of lighter hiking boots I'd pack them for this. We didn't do any other hiking in the Lake Atitlan region, but if you're also visiting Antigua you should check out the Pacaya Volcano or Acatenango Volcano hikes. If you're doing those, you'll need more gear!
What is the best time of day to visit Indian Nose
As I alluded to earlier in this post I would suggest visiting at sunrise to take in the awesome views of the sun peaking over the eastern mountains that border Lake Atitlan.
Even if you can't pull off the logistics of arriving for sunrise Indian Nose is still regarded as the best view point in the Lake Atitlan area. It would be better to visit later in the day than not at all!
Can I book Indian Nose as a day tour
Yes! Not only can you but I encourage you to. There's quite a bit that can go wrong for tourists on this one so I'd recommend a guide. From hard to locate trailheads, land disputes and difficult logistics, this is one best left to a professional.
Can you purchase food at Indian Nose
You won't find anywhere to purchase food along this hike, neither at the start or finish. Be sure to pack hiking snacks to hold you over because once you factor in logistics this whole trip can take up a significant portion of your day.
Can I purchase souvenirs at Indian Nose
There aren't any formal facilities at the trailhead or summit to purchase souvenirs. Nor were there any locals setup pedaling crafts when we visited early in the morning.
Do I need a special permit to hike Indian Nose
This circles back to the point that I can't hammer home enough, this trailhead is poorly marked and there are disputes over the land that have caused some visitors issues in the past.
The path used by our guide is approved by the locals whose land we were walking across.
Is Hiking Indian Nose Dangerous?
The hike up to Indian Nose itself isn't dangerous. The path is well covered so sun exposure won't be an issue. If you're going for sunrise be sure to pack a flashlight or headlamp.
There aren't any sheer drops along the way so even people scared of heights should do fine on this one.
Rumors of bandits in the area could be of concern, which is why I recommend hiring a local guide. From what I've read these people are generally looking to charge non-locals a fee for hiking on the land. If you are going to do this by yourself, be sure to have a little bit of cash just case you have to pay someone off! Better safe than sorry.
Looking for hiking gear recommendations?
Finding gear that's functional, not overpriced and still looks great can be a challenge.
For your convenience I've laid out some of my favorite hiking apparel below. All of the gear I link to below are items I personally own and have tested out on the trails.
Hiking day pack - If you're in the market for a hiking day pack I'd suggest browsing REI's selection. If you've never owned one before you can go into a retail store and they'll ensure you find one that fits properly with any of the bells and whistles you may require!
Water reservoir - I have reservoirs from Platypus and Gregory that I really like. While these come in a variety of sizes I wouldn't bother with those smaller than 3L. You can always just fill up the larger ones part way if you're concerned about weight since they collapse to the same size.
Moisture wicking t-shirts - Patagonia makes really great hiking t-shirts that keep you dry all day long. They also perform well under multiple layers of clothing.
Hiking socks - I absolutely love the FEIDEER brand of hiking socks. I've tried some other hiking sock brands, but I think these take the cake! They make great socks for women and men.
There's nothing worse than missing out on a great hike because you didn't come prepared, don't be that person!
Be sure to read our guide on reducing airfare costs
One of those most unavoidable and dreaded travel costs is airfare.
Even if you budget carefully for food, accommodations and find budget friendly activities the cost of airfare can make many destinations prohibitively expensive.
But if you're a savvy traveler like me then you know there are ways to beat the airlines! I have a full post dedicated to all of the tips and tricks I use to pay the absolute minimum for airfare when I travel.