Hiking La Nariz de Indio Before Sunrise

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Hiking La Nariz de Indio

La Nariz de Indio Mountain

We woke up at 3am to start our little adventure. Two Americans, a New Zealander, a French woman, and a Swissman armed with flashlights and water were about to hike up a steep Guatemalan mountainside for 2 hours in the dark.

Our mission: Climb La Nariz de Indio (The Indian’s Nose) to watch the sunrise over Lake Atitlan and Volcano San Pedro. You can see our objective in the photo above. The sharp point that looks like the nose of a face looking towards the sky.

Lake Atitlan at Night

Lake Atitlan at Night

We chose to go without a guide, so first we had to find the entrance to the trail. After a little difficulty (turn left at the statue of Jesus, not right) we found it. The trail was steep, and the peak is 7342 ft. tall. About halfway up, I got this early morning shot of the lake and the surrounding towns. You can see a hint of the sun starting to come up in the distance.

The town with the green-tinted streetlights is San Pedro, the one with the orange tinted lights is San Juan. There is a fierce rivalry between the two, and it obviously extends even to their utility providers.

La Nariz Summit View

Summit of La Nariz with Volcano San Pedro

Finally around 6am we reached the top, after scrambling up some steep wooden steps/ladders that had been put in. To our surprise there was a local man waiting up there. He was the gatekeeper of La Nariz. If we wanted to go down the other side of the mountain to the town of Santa Clara, we’d each have to pay a $20 Quetzales fee.

We really didn’t want to go back down the same way we came up, so after paying the man we were on our way to a totally new town none of us had been to before. Along the way we passed steep mountainside corn fields, and random piles of old clothes.

San Pablo Taxi

San Pablo Taxi Truck

After wandering into the sleepy town of Santa Clara, we jumped in the back of a colectivo pickup truck for the ride back to San Pedro la Laguna. This was a wild and bumpy ride down the mountainside past farmers walking to work, men with giant bundles of firewood on their backs, and over streams that crossed the road.

We entered the town of San Pablo, in the photo above, before ending at our final destination. The pickup truck you see in that photo is similar to the one we were riding in. About 12 people packed in the bed of the truck, standing up, and holding onto the bars. Quite an upper-body workout and roller-coaster ride. Also a great way to end our morning.

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19 Comments

  1. Robbery and Attempted Murder at the Summit

    On February 13, 2018, a friend and I hiked to the popular La Nariz on Atitlan for the sunrise. What started as a promising sunrise excursion turned into a harrowing experience that highlights how I believe tourists are openly targeted for violent crime by the locals with the tacit permission of the local authorities.

    On our journey up the mountain, guides and other tourists accompanied us. After the sunrise, my friend and I followed behind the group. However, as my friend tried to descend from the peak, a young guatemalan man in front of my friend turned, pulled out a machete, put it to my friend’s throat and demanded his money. My friend quickly backed away and ran down the hill through the brush. As my friend ran, the man picked up and threw grapefruit sized rocks trying to kill him. Already being further down the mountain, the guides and the other tourists fled.

    Unfortunately, everyone else’s escape left the young man shoving me at machete point demanding my money. After a tense few minutes of talking, I gave him my money and ran down behind my friend. As we descended, another man with a machete blocked our path and demanded even more money. We ran through the brush and escaped.

    When we arrived at the town below, we stopped at a small tienda and told the lady what had happened. While talking with her, the two bandits walked past. We told the lady they were the criminals who has assaulted us. She knew who they were and gave us their names. She also called the police for us and told us that she was afraid to get involved.

    Twenty minutes later, when the Guatemala national police arrived, we told them what happened and gave them the criminals’ names and a picture. The police asked us if we wanted to file a report. We told them that this was their community. If it helped the community, we would. Otherwise, we would just leave. They said they wanted us to file a report so we followed them to the police station.

    As it turned out, we didn’t need the criminals’ pictures or names. They met us and the police as we walked through town. As expected, they denied holding us at knifepoint, kidnapping me, or trying to kill my friend. When we arrived at the police station, neither the town police nor the national police took a report. We reviewed nothing. We signed nothing. Neither man was arrested. We left enlightened.

    In the end, going to La Nariz is simply dangerous. It is remote and away from town giving criminals the time and space they need for their dirty work. In my experience, as a tourist at La Nariz, you are considered by the police and the guides to be fair game to the locals who are regularly committing violent crime against tourists. As a tourist, neither the guides, nor the police have any interest in protecting you or your property.

    If you are the adventuresome type and don’t mind being robbed at knifepoint for a few bucks, then the sunrise at La Nariz is nice enough. You’ll get some exercise and see a pretty sunrise. If you are squeamish about being kidnapped or subject to violent crime, you may want to consider other sightseeing options. The guides will tell you that it’s safe if you go with them. It’s not.

    (During the ordeal, I got video pictures of the young man who robbed and assaulted us and would be happy to post that as well.)

  2. Just found your blog and I love it! Plus I’m a big fan of Guatemala. Love it there. Been there 3 times now. I always wish to climb those mountains but I have a sensitive back and it wouldn’t like it so much. haha But the view is beautiful! Maybe someday I will. That is funny about the two towns and the difference in the lighting. Geez.

  3. Hi. I just found your site. Amazing photos. Love, love the colors. About to embark on my own travel/volunteer trek through South and East Africa myself so I’ll be coming back to your site for inspiration :)

  4. Awesome shots. Reminds me of my hike to the top of Vulcan Picaya in May. Lots of lava runing then. A few days later it violently erupted and closed the Guate airport for a week.

  5. I love the pictures and unlike you, the only way I would see that summit is by Tram like the papa suggested. Thanks for saving me all that effort, I am a little jealous though.

  6. I am no longer shocked or surprised by the magnificent pictures you take, or the things you will do to get the pictures, but I continue to be impressed beyond belief, Matt. You are one a kind and I am so proud of you!!!

  7. None of your group look tired. Did you take a tramway up?
    Plus-$20. to the gatekeeper, or was it a troll? I have some swamp land to sell you Matthew John. I myself happen to charge $20.to receive photographs of strange lands, foods, and people with machine guns. You know where to send it.

    1. Ha. :)

      $20 Quetzales = $2.50 US

      At first we thought he was a fraud, but he did have a key to the locked gate. We could have went back the same way without paying, but we wanted to mix it up and walk into a new town on the other side of the mountain.

      I guess someone has to pay to maintain the hut at the summit, and the steep wooden stairs near the top (you’d need climbing gear without them).