Guatemala is the land of volcanoes, with 30 volcanoes in the country. Three of them are currently active, so we couldn’t resist getting up close and personal to at least one of these.
Our hope was to go on a day or overnight trek to Acatenango, a volcano near Antigua which allows you to see its neighboring exploding monster, Fuego, up close:
However, we were told Fuego might be quiet on the day we wanted to hike, so we went to visit a different volcano by the name of Pacaya instead:
The Pacaya volcano is perhaps one of the most active volcanoes in the region with three large eruptions in the last twenty years; the most recent one in 2010 causing a state of emergency in much of central Guatemala. Since that time it has been less violently active and, until recently, had large rivers of lava flowing down its slopes.
Naturally, we were drawn to it after reading and seeing pictures of being able to walk up to rivers of lava. Unfortunately for us, for the last few years this lava has died up and instead left vast fields of volcanic rock and ash. Still fun, but not quite as impressive as what we were imagining.
The hike to get to the top is relatively easy with a vertical of only 400 m and a length of just 3 km. If that isn’t easy enough, the locals (who know the volcano attracts all walks of life) follow hikers with horses offering those who may not be up to the challenge a quick and easy ride to the top. There was one lady with us who succumbed to the “taxi” as they called it. Her nationality shall remain anonymous…
All in all the hike was quite easy and we were still able to watch the fuming volcano spitting up molten lava and many noxious fumes.
Fuego also ended up being quite active that day after all, so we were lucky to watch it erupting (from a safe distance away).
Roasting Marshmallows Over Lava
After enjoying the views we walked down onto the rock field and roasted marshmallows over a vent that was releasing heat from the underlying lava. It was kind of cheesy but fun nonetheless.
Also I’m pretty sure the marshmallows were toxic after we roasted them over the fumes coming out of that hole, but “when in Rome”…
Elevation: 400 m | Distance: 3 km | Difficulty: Easy
The Pacaya volcano is about a 1.5 hour drive outside of Antigua. You can get to the entrance yourself or go with a tour company. When you get to the starting point of the hike there is an entrance fee of 50Q, which includes a mandatory guide for your hike. At the start of the hike, horses are available (if a “taxi” is needed), walking sticks can be rented (1 USD), and there are several small snack shops.
The entire hike and transportation from Antigua takes about half a day, with the choice to go in the morning or afternoon. We left at 0600h and returned at 1300h that afternoon.