There are so many things to do in Antigua Guatemala that you could easily lose yourself for days just walking through the streets at its centre. Look a little further afield, though, and you’ll find volcanoes of various difficulty levels waiting to be summited. One such volcano the Pacaya Volcano – can be climbed in half a day and the hike includes some special surprises.
THE PACAYA VOLCANO HIKE
The initial slog up Pacaya Volcano is not the easiest hike. It’s a constant and fairly steep climb and the guides take it at a pretty hefty pace. They also bring horses with them, which you can pay additional money to ride if you’re struggling.
Stick with it if you can because the guides are adept at picking up on the first signs of weakness and you’ll probably be fine if you take it at a slightly slower pace.
RECENT CHANGES TO THE PACAYA VOLCANO HIKE
This half-day trip isn’t quite what it used to be. Back in the day, when safety regulations in Guatemala were even more lax than they are now, tourists were guided really close to molten lava.
Today, the tour still gets pretty close to the crater, but the focus is more on the views than the lava. For this reason, a lava sighting is certainly not guaranteed, but you could be one of the lucky ones.
The highlight of the tour is the chance to roast marshmallows on the end of sticks over a steamy natural vent. The marshmallows are supplied by your guide, but if you come prepared you’re allowed to try cooking anything you like. A few crisscrossed sticks act as a pretty decent grill for a cheese toastie!
Close to the spot where you roast your marshmallows is a small souvenir shop selling Pacaya volcano-related trinkets. If you’re keen to look around, check when you book the tour whether or not it will be open on your chosen day.
A FEW TIPS ON HIKING PACAYA VOLCANO
MORNING OR AFTERNOON?
It’s best to go for the morning tour as afternoon ones can finish up with a mad rush down a narrow path in rapidly fading light.
It was pitch black by the time our group reached the jeep and we also hit heavy traffic on the way back to the city.
The best photo opportunities came just before we began the descent. It might be hard to ignore some of the earlier shots, but the sooner you reach the summit, the more time you’ll have at the most scenic spot before you lose the light.
WALKING BOOTS OR TRAINERS?
Wear proper walking boots if you have them. Not only will they be more comfortable, but they’ll support your ankles on some of the steeper descents.
TIPS AND PARK FEES
Bring some spare cash with you. There’s a park fee that’s usually not included in the tour ticket cost. You also might be tempted to buy a beer or a can of coke as refreshment before you jump in the jeep back to Antigua.
If you’re feeling energised after this trek, check out one of the more challenging volcano hikes in the area. Acatenango takes in a diverse array of microclimates and includes the chance to watch nearby Volcan Fuego erupt as you bed down for a night of camping. If you’re continuing on to South America and you’re looking for something you can really sink your teeth into, check out the Cotopaxi Volcano climb in Ecuador.