The Indian Nose hike in Guatemala was by far one of my favorite experiences I’ve had while traveling. If you want to see the best sunrise in Guatemala then you really need to do the Indian Nose hike.
Indian Nose Hike – The best Sunrise in Guatemala
I mean where else can you get a view like this? Hiking Indian Nose before sunrise means you get to see the sun coming up from behind this chain of Volcanos.
Walking around San Pedro you will find no shortage of tour companies offering to take you up Indian Nose. You can also book online through GuateGo, or read on for my recommendation…
Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you need to be prepared for anything! Travel insurance has always been high my list of things to get before I travel but now more than ever its at the top of my list.
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If you are doing shorter trips or an extended backpacking trip then Hey Mondo or Travel Insurance Master are the best option. If you are a digital nomad or planning travel of at least 6 months then go for Passport Nomads or SafetyWing.
The general itinerary when hiking Indian Nose is:
Take the bus to San Clara, then you walk the 45 minutes up to Indians Nose, watch the sunrise drink a coffee, and then you will walk back down to the bus. You leave around 3:45 am and should be back in San Pedro at 8 am.
The cost of the Indian nose hike is pretty much the same across all of the agents 100Q per person and they need a minimum of 2 people. Sadly being a solo traveler I couldn’t find anyone to take me on my own. But it actually worked better for me as I came across an alternative tour!
Book the tour with Geo Travel Guatemala (Matt the Geologist)
After doing plenty of research online I kept coming across people who had taken a tour with a guy called “Matt the Geologist” everyone seemed to rave about his tour as it lasted much longer and he also gives a talk about how Lake Atitlan was formed and the history of the volcanos. This sounded right up my street but I couldn’t seem to find any contact details. Not one to be deterred I continued to look and I eventually found his email address.
Unfortunately, after contacting Matt, it was a similar story but this time I would need to find a group of 6 people to make the tour possible!
This tour with Geo Travel included the following:
- 3:35 Meeting
- 4 am Chicken Bus to Santa Clara
- Hike up to Indians nose
- Watch the sunrise
- Talk about how the lake was formed and why you can see 8 volcanoes from the top.
- As Matt describe it:
“In order to fully appreciate the magnitude of the caldera-forming eruption, I start right back at the start with the structure of the planet, why that leads to plate tectonics, talk about earthquakes and “normal” volcanoes in order to get a sense of scale for the massive eruption that formed the lake.”
- Walk back down to San Juan through the maize fields and coffee plantations. A local guide will share his knowledge about the coffee process, medicinal uses of local plants, and local customs during this time.
- Pick-up back to San Pedro ETA 10 am
A few days before I was due to leave I was not feeling optimistic about the tour happening but Matt kindly offered to run the tour for 4 people, with a few tweaks (YAY). We would all go in his car and we wouldn’t be able to take a local guide or do the walk back through the coffee plantations. Matt did stop and talk to us about coffee though on the way down (just without the walk).
Update: Since I did this back in 2016 Matt is now online and you can get more information about all of his tours on his website here.
So here’s what to expect on your Indian Nose Hike in from San Pedro:
It’s an early start, but worth it. You will leave San Pedro around 4 am normally on the Chicken Bus to Santa Clara.
The first part of the hike from Santa Clara is pretty flat and we walked quickly over this part. It’s dark so does make sure you bring a torch if you have one.
The second part of the walk is pretty manly steps. Matt was great and took it really slow with just enough stops. Despite being in San Pedro for 3 weeks by this point I still wasn’t used to the altitude and it didn’t take long before I was out of breath. If you are worried about this then make sure you place yourself towards the front of the group, never at the back. One thing I learned in the forces what you always keep the pace with the slowest person. Once you reach the top of the steps you will be glad to know you are half way up!
The third part of the walk was winding up the mountain to the first viewing platform. I personally found this much more challenging than the steps. At the point when I thought I couldn’t do much more without a quick rest I looked up and could see the platform, relieved isn’t the word!
When you get to the first platform the view is pretty spectacular. Sadly I didn’t get any pictures as I stupidly forgot my tripod… Take my word for it though it was an incredible view seeing the villages all beginning to light up. You have a great view down over San Pedro.
The fourth and final part of this hike is a short and steep climb up to the top viewing platform.
When we arrived we had about 30 minutes to wait before the sun began to rise. Matt kindly let me use his tripod to take a few shots. I just missed Fuego erupting, but the ash cloud still looks pretty cool.
Make sure you bring warm clothes as it’s pretty chilly up there before the sun comes up.
We couldn’t have timed it better, Fuego erupting, and the sun rising. It was a pretty special moment and the perfect final day for me in San Pedro.
Matt even brings you a cup of proper Guatemalan Café!
The Sun Rise
Once the sun is up and you have taken all the pictures you can the next part of the tour begins. This was the bit I was really looking forward to and what really makes this tour different from all of the others.
As I mentioned before Matt is a geologist, one of those science people in love with rocks. I haven’t met a geologist yet who isn’t, and they all seem to have a knack to rubbing off their passion onto anyone who will listen. I must say as someone who was never particularly interested in Geography or Geology at school this talk completely changed my view. If only I’d been able to learn about Geology or Geography sat looking out at these views. I think it would have been a whole different story!
The Geology Talk
To explain about the area you first need to go back to the beginning of time, as Matt explains.
He talked us through how the earth was formed, tectonic plates, earthquakes and lava flow. It was fascinating and made me even more aware of just how special this place was. It made me appreciate the lake Atitlan area on a whole new level.
Once the talk was finished we made our decent stopping on the way to talk about corn, coffee and many other interesting local facts.
I can honestly say this was one of the most interesting and value for money tours I have ever taken and if you are in the slightest bit interested in local history, geology or just getting some really great images then you need to do this tour.
From the moment we got into Matt’s car until the moment he dropped us off he was a vault of local information. He spoke to us about everything from the different languages spoken by the Mayan people to the politics of the local area. This tour was a real treat.
How to book The Indian Nose Hike
If you are interested in booking a tour with Matt his company is called Geo Travel Guatemala and you can visit his website here.
The only other company I recommend for booking transport and tours in Guatemala with (other than the individuals and companies I have named) is GuateGo. They are a Guatemalan owned company that has painstakingly brought together all of the transport and tour options in one easy-to-use website. You can book transport in Guatemala with them here and Guatemalan tours with them here.
Looking for somewhere to stay in Lake Atitlan?
If you want to stay in San Pedro then I’d recommend Zoola San Pedro Atitlan, AmiGos, Hotel Tinamit, or Cristalinas Cafe, Hotel & Restaurant at Lake. If you are planning on staying in San Marcos and enjoy yoga then I cannot recommend Eagle’s Nest Atitlán enough. If yoga isn’t your thing and you want something a bit more upmarket then you can’t go wrong with Lush Atitlan.
My friend Julia is developing an incredible retreat center close to San Marcos. They have several places to stay and I can’t recommend them enough! I stayed there and it was the most blissed-out I’ve been in years. In Panajachel, I recommend PanaHouse or Selina Atitlan
I also wrote a whole accommodation guide for Antigua, Guatemala City, and Lake Atitlan. And I have gathered all the best places to eat in Antigua here in case you need any recs.