Hiking Up Vulcan de Pacaya in Antigua | Guatemala

I woke early, pulled on my clothes and grabbed my bag, thankful I had packed the night before. In my sleepy haze I brushed my teeth and left my hostel, waiting outside for the minibus to arrive. We hopped in along with a few others and begun driving, parking up before we had even drove for five minutes. The guide opened the sliding door and said a few words of Spanish, gesturing to the coffee shop across the road. ‘Ten minutes’ he repeated in English when there was no response from the seats. I stayed put, not wanting to move from my seat and closed my eyes. In what seemed like a few moments, the van was twisting and turning up narrow village paths. We arrived in a small car park and we shuffled out, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. We were told to queue up and buy our ticket from the small counter, use the bathroom and find our guide for the walk and off we set.

Top tip : Before setting off on your hike, buy a stick from one of the children at the entrance, it will help steady you at the top and on the way down.

The hike began fairly easy, a earthy path surrounded by plants and trees, the sun shining through. But after ten minutes, the path become steep and uneven, I quickly fell to the back of the group. I didn’t mind, the shade was lovely and watching for birds and other small creatures while I took sips of water. The guide would stop every so often, giving a chance for us to regroup and stop at the lookouts. A woman with a gentle smile followed at the back of the group with a horse, occasionally asking if we wanted to ride the rest of the way, but most of the time quietly walking with the sound of hooves. The walking was hard, but after 40 minutes, the tunnel of trees gave way to large expanses of loose black rock. Rounding the corner and reaching the final climb, Vulcan de Pacaya stood, towering above us with steam billowing from the top. ‘Wow’. ‘Right!’ the girl next to me said, before powering up the final ascent.

Crossing over a lava flow to reach the finish.

We clambered over the lava flow, being careful to step on the flat rocks – it was this point I was glad I had bought a stick off the child at the entrance, it came in useful for balancing over the unsteady terrain. And then I turned to look at the view. The view was spectacular, with three volcanoes
(Acatenango, Agua, & Fuego) rising from the Earth, it really was amazing. The sun made them look so detailed and smoke spewed from them. It was then I realized – I was standing on an active volcano. And then I was told, the lava flow I was currently standing on was made only a month before which the guide then followed up with ‘Who wants marshmallows?’

Top tip : Take the morning tour – it is usually cooler, has less cloud cover and a lower chance of rain.
The view from the top.

Sure enough, he produced a big bag of fluffy marshmallows and proceeded to poke them onto sticks. We made out way to some of the volcanic rocks, and boy could you feel the heat. He prodded the gravel and a glowing red center was reveled, allowing us to toast marshmallows on an active volcano. Now that’s something you don’t do everyday! After eating the warm treats and taking many photos we slowly made our way back down the volcano, being careful to take our time and not slip down the loose rocks. On the way, our guide handed me a piece of lava which he had collected for each of us, a little souvenir of our hike up one of Guatemala’s beautiful volcanoes.

Roasting marshmallows from the heat of the lava.
HOW TO DO IT YOURSELF!  When in Antigua or Guatemala City, ask at your accommodation for the best tour recommendation. The tour should cost about 100Q ($14) and will take up to 6 hours return. There is a 50Q ($7) entrance fee and its 5Q for a walking stick. The hike itself is 8km return and will take about an hour to reach the top. Horses will follow your group half way and will cost extra if you decide to take one to the top. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and take a hat and water for the trip.

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