If you’re looking for the best sunrise hike in the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala then the Indian Nose hike is something you’ll want to check out.
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!
This post will highlight everything you should know before planning a trip up to one of the best view points in all of Guatemala.
When you’re finished here, don’t forget to check out my Lake Atitlan Video Guide available on YouTube where I’ll cover all of my favorite activities and places we experienced during my trip. That video will cover many other activities in the area including the beautiful Casa Del Mundo hotel!
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 in Panajachel, but if you’re staying in San Juan just know that you’ll have an easier time reaching Indian Nose than I did!
If you’re originating from Casa Del Mundo you’ll need to arrange for a private boat since you’ll be starting before the water taxi system opens for the day.
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. 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.
How long does it take to hike Indian Nose?
You should budget 60 to 90 minutes for the hike up to the top of Indian Nose. 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 hiking 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 the Indian Nose hike as a day tour?
Yes, I’d highly encourage visitors to book Indian Nose (Rostro Maya) through a local tour company. 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.
Is there 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 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.
If you’re looking for another blogger’s perspective on this activity then be sure to check out this great Indian Nose guide by Jay Walk the World.
Check out these activities available in the area
Looking for more ways to fill out your trip itinerary? Be sure to check out the list of activities below from GetYourGuide.
Other recommendations for your trip to Guatemala
If you’re visiting Lake Atitlan there’s a good chance you’ll be passing through Antigua at some point during your trip.
I loved my time in Antigua, we did all sorts of fun activities like driving ATVs through the Guatemalan countryside to Cerro de La Cruz viewpoint, took a cooking class with Cuscun, spent an afternoon at Hobbitenango and more.
I included links to more detailed information about those activities above, but if you’re more interested in video content I have a video highlighting our cooking with Cuscun experience, a video showcasing the hike up Pacaya Volcano and another that covers my favorite activities in Antigua.
Hopefully you found this guide to hiking Indian Nose (Rostro Maya) in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala helpful!