After climbing Indian’s Nose we had one more hiking route that we wanted to try before leaving San Pedro. The trail starts in Santa Cruz and winds along the lakeside and over the hills to San Marcos, passing through the much smaller towns of Jaibalito and Tzununa on the way.
We decided to get up fairly early to start the hike, and made our way over to Santa Cruz by boat from San Pedro. Our first challenge was getting up the hill from the boat dock to the main part of town – the road is long, winding and painfully steep, so much so that tuk tuk drivers were openly laughing at us as they drove past – and our second challenge, once we had been able to drag ourselves up to the centre of town, was finding the start of the route itself.
We had read on several blogs and on Lonely Planet that you can either walk a path that starts right by the dock, or walk up to the town and take a different route that takes you up over the hills. This way offers much better views of the lake, so we decided to try and find it. We stopped and asked an official looking man in uniform where the start of the trail was, and he had a long chat with his friend before directing us back down the hill to ask one of the tuk tuk drivers. Afterwards we approached the owner of a tienda and asked him about the trail, and he told us that it didn’t even exist!
On the verge of giving up, we started walking back down the hill only to come across a fellow gringo who looked quite out of breath. We asked him if he knew where the start of the trail to San Marcos was, and on a complete stroke of luck it turned out that he had just hiked the trail in the opposite direction. He walked us a little way back up the hill and showed us the start of a narrow dirt path, next to a small corrugated iron hut – it’s not marked so would have been impossible to find if we hadn’t been shown where it was! If anyone reading this would like to find the start of this trail, the best advice we can give is to walk about halfway up the road to Santa Cruz and look out for the corrugated iron hut that marks the start of the trail. From there you just walk along the trail until you reach a fork, then take a left and follow the path to Jaibalito. After Jaibalito the route is marked on Google maps, so if you have your phone you shouldn’t get lost!
Once we found the route, we really started to enjoy the hike – it’s a lovely path that goes over the hills (with some tough climbs over rocks in places) and has some spectacular views of the lake. It gets easier as it goes along, and by the time you’re on the path from Tzununa to San Marcos you’re walking along a paved, relatively flat road. The whole route took us around 3 hours. Another piece of advice that we received from our Airbnb host in San Pedro was to always check with the locals about the safety of walking trails between the towns before attempting them – at the moment, the trail from Santa Cruz to San Marcos is considered safe, but that is subject to change.
After our last hike it was time to leave San Pedro and make our way to our next stop: Quetzaltenango. The second largest city in Guatemala, Quetzaltenango – or Xela, as it’s more commonly known – is further up in the highlands and is a great hub for volcano hikes as well as Spanish schools. There are several direct chicken buses that leave San Pedro for Quetzaltenango between around 5 a.m. and 11.30 a.m. Monday to Saturday, departing from just outside the catholic church. We opted for the 10.30 a.m. bus, and were rewarded with one of the most entertaining chicken bus rides we’ve had so far – the driver was obviously a fan of old school rock music, so we listed to a selection from The Beatles, Stevie Wonder and The Eagles, interspersed with a range of classic Christmas tunes. Needless to say, us gringos in the back of the bus loved every minute!