Category Archives: Central America

Indian Nose Lake Atitlan Guatemala.

Towards the end of my stay i wanted to climb the Indians Nose Lake Atitlan for a sunrise view over lake. The view point is situated high above the towns of San Juan and San Marcos. As this was an early start i had to stay in San Pedro for the night as the tour departed from there.

Meeting up with the guide at 3.45 a.m. we made our way to the chicken bus for our 45 minute drive to the drop off point. I would say the bus averaged 8-9 mph over the journey as it was either on cobbled roads in towns, good concrete roads on steep inclines with hair pin bends, or broken roads filled with deep pot holes and ruts. I felt sorry for the locals who endured this everyday on their way to work ! At least i knew is was going to get off soon and never do the journey again.

After we jumped off the bus we headed down a road and then between a couple of houses following alley ways, paths and dirt tracks. My guide was stopped more than once and entered into long discussions with locals who were clearly telling him the way to go. He stuck to his guns twice but was convinced by the last man and we changed our route. After a 15 minute walk we started to climb steeply and we all soon got out of breath stopping 3/4 times until we made the top.

We waited a short while for the sun to start to rise but you could already see the three main volcanos. Also in the background you could see the volcanos in Antigua (over 50 kms away) with one of them occasionally blowing a puff of smoke just to let you know its there.

indian nose lake atitlan Volcano in background blowing off

indian nose lake atitlan
Sunrise at Indian Nose


lake atitlan Main volcanos with the volcanos of Antigua in the background

This was where we climbed, Indian nose, can you see it ?!


We climbed down from the top this time without my thighs burning but with my knees and calf muscles twitching. Instead of the chicken bus we selected a mini bus and then changed as it was far too comfortable to a tuk tuk. The tuk tuk had to contend with the same pot holes, deep ruts, steep inclines, sandy roads, stray dogs, numerous speed bumps and other tuk tuk drivers. Its not a job i would want, i bet all your arm and shoulder joints are shot to pieces by the time you are 30. I reckon theres a rest home full of ex-tuk tuk drivers, arms in slings, drinking from straws, either that or they put them humanely to sleep at the end of their useful life.


Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Lake Atitlan is known by some as the most beautiful lake in the world. It is situated in the Guatemalan highlands approximately 50 kilometers west of Antigua and is the deepest lake in central Amercia. It was formed by a huge eruption 84,000 years ago and due to continual volcanic activity is now flanked by three big volcanos.

I arrived here after a 3 hour journey from Antigua, just when you think you have arrived you spend another 30-40 minutes driving down the twisty broken roads leading to the waters edge.

There are many local towns and villages around the lake all offering something a little bit different. I stayed in the main arrival town of Panajachel, it is mainly used as a base to get to the other towns but i quite liked it so stayed for a few days.

Obviously the streets are packed with souvenir shops and restuarants for the hordes of visiting tourists. It gets twice as bad at the weekends when the local and rich Guatemalans come to town for a weekend break.

The climate is cool and it can get quite chilly at night sometimes. The wind picks up during the day and the water can get quite choppy. It is always recommened that you do your boat trips in the morning unless you mind a bit of refreshing lake spray as you shoot from town to town.

I took a four stop tour of the lake one day which soon became a three stop tour when nobody else turned up at the agreed 8.30 a.m start. I was told to return at 9.30 a.m. and fortunately other people had arrived to do the shortened trip.

Our first stop was the small town of San Juan. Easily walkable in the hour we had including a stop for coffee. It was a nice relaxing little town where a few artists had set up gallerys and clearly enjoyed the peaceful environment.

First thing you see off the ferry, the only way is up –

lake atitlan

This was the church at San Juan, i like the way they built the  new church but kept the original front of the old.

lake atitlan guatemala
Church at San Juan
lake atitlan guatemalan
Inside the church at San Jaun

Same road looking back down, i bet the locals have very firm leg muscles –

lake atitlan
San Juan road to the ferry

I had a coffee waiting for the boat to return and noticed how most people had returned before the hour was up. If it is peace and tranquility you are after and you are a bit of an artisan then this maybe the right town for you in  Lake Atitlan.

Next stop was San Pedro, this is the backpacker/party town of Lake Atitlan plain and simple. Many people just come straight here after arriving by the lake and crash here for a while. Many hostels/hotels, bars, restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, you name it its got it. It also has quite a lot of Spanish language schools, apparantly one of the cheapest places to learn Spanish in Guatemala.

lake atitlan
Cobbled streets and markets stalls

The  main Catholic church in San Pedro with its well kept gardens –

lake atitlan

Whilst walking around town i came across the local cemetary. Instead of burying them they stack ’em high. All sorts of decoration from plain, coloured, window box features, pictures of loved ones on the front, some with no name.

Lake Atitlan
Local Cemetary San Pedro
lake atitlan
Local Cemetary



Next stop was Santiago Atitlan, this town has the largest indigenous population of Tzutujile Mayans. Also seems to have the largest densitity of tourist shops too !! It was time for a bite to eat so i stopped in a cafe for a while to consume some calories before finding the central square. There were many ladies selling all sorts of produce sitting by the side of the road until some old gentleman caught my eye.

Now i don’t know about you but i have become very concious of taking photos of people, grabbing my camera and pointing it at someone whilst they are going about their everyday business. I don’t really do it anymore but wanted this shot which i think typifies the older Guatemalans nicely. This group of guys were sitting in the shade in the early afternoon, although they probably knew each other quite well they just preferred to sit and watch and conserve energy.

Sorry for the poor photo quality but i took it on my camera phone trying not to be too obvious but i think the second guy from left spotted me !!

lake atitlan
Old Guatemalans

I returned to Panajachel after seeing 3 completely different towns around the lake, i just wonder what the fourth one would have been like ?!

Having the volcanos in the back drop always made it a nice place to have a beer and a meal by the waters edge.

Gallo – the beer of Guatemala in its natural environment –

lake atitlan

A good end to the day at Lake Atitlan.