One of the top bucket list items for tourists visiting Guatemala is hiking a volcano. Read on to find out what its like and my tips for hiking the Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala.
Hiking the Pacaya volcano is a great experience; here you’ll find the scoop on what to expect and how to plan your trip! The Pacaya volcano is one of 7 active volcanoes from a total of 22 volcanoes that can be found in Guatemala. This volcano has an elevation of 2552 meters (8,373 feet) at its peak. The most reception significant eruptions were in 2010 and 2014 and much of the trail now goes over these lava flows. Hiking the Pacaya is a great option as it is only 30 km (19 miles) southeast of Guatemala city and also in close proximity to the popular tourist destination of Antigua. This hike is an easy day trip although there are also tours offered where you can camp overnight to see the sunrise and sunset.
The Pacaya is extremely safe as the federal tourism board known as Inguat controls the area. This also means that there are more rules and regulations than other volcanoes including what areas you can visit and during what hours. While limiting, you don’t have to worry about safety or being assaulted. The biggest bummer here is that you can’t reach the crater as Inguat deemed it too dangerous following deaths due to volcanic activity in 2010 and 2014. The volcano trail takes you across the 2014 and 2010 lava flows to the base of the cone.
The trail is a 2.5 mile hike up loose lava rock and takes around two hours. You can take two routes, the first being the Ruta Normal, which takes you up to the lava store. You can purchase jewelry made from lava rocks and roast a few marshmallows over volcanic vents before heading back down. The second option continues across the lava flow, and up to the ridge about 20 minutes from the crater. With a decent pair of binoculars, you can see the crater spit rocks and lava up into the air. Unfortunately, this is as close as Inguat allows you to get to the crater. From here, you take an alternate route down the volcano that goes through the jungle, a small village and back to the entrance at San Francisco de Salles.
A quick google search of the hike produces several results claiming this hike to be impossible, unbearable, etc. If you are in good shape and walk often, the trail is not that bad. The hike itself is steep only for the first mile and then levels off until just after the Lava Store where it again becomes steep. Proper shoes are key as the lava rock is loose and you can lose your footing if you are not careful. If you decide that the hike is too tough, the local kids follow you all the way repeatedly offering a ride on their horse instead.
Tourists must be accompanied by a guide who is trained and provided by Inguat. The guides speak a decent amount of English in addition to a few other languages. However, if you speak Spanish they have amazing stories to tell of the recent eruptions. At the entrance to the Pacaya National Park, you encounter a monitored parking lot. Here, there is a little street vendor where you can buy water or snacks. Above the parking lot is the guide booth where you pay an entrance fee and meet your guide. The entrance fee as of 2016 was 50Q for foreigners and 20Q for nationals.
If you’re looking for an easy way to hike a volcano, it doesn’t get any simpler than the Pacaya. Perhaps you wanted something a little more adventurous and without so many regulations? Guatemala has another 21 volcanoes that you can check out! Keep in mind that without Inguat involvement, you must do more research and be aware of the dangers. Either way, get out there and climb that volcano!