Pacaya Volcano Hike
If you’re looking for a fun day trip from Antigua Guatemala then you should consider doing the Pacaya Volcano hike. The Pacaya Volcano hike was one of the first fun things I did on my trip to Central America and provided me with not only a good workout but great views. The Pacaya Volcano is one of Guatemala’s most active volcanoes with many of its frequent eruptions visible from as far away as Guatemala City. Although, if you want to see some of the active lava on this volcano you’ll have to pay a little extra to your guide to venture into the off-limits areas where this is possible. Regardless of how adventurous you’re feeling, you can rest assured that this is definitely a fun and fulfilling way to spend half a day.
About the Volcano Pacaya Hike
Considering Pacaya is one of Guatemala’s most accessible active volcanoes, it has grown in popularity as a popular local tourist attraction. This is especially true for people that either has limited time or don’t want to do an overnight hiking tour over on the Acatenango or Fuego Volcanoes. The trails were not crowded at all as we were some of the first people to arrive for the day in the morning but on our way down we began passing others. So go early if you want the hike to yourselves but you may be caught in the clouds still as the sun tends to not break through until after 11am. When you reach the top of the hike there will be different segments of heated air vents in the rocks pushing hot air up from the lava below where you can melt some marshmallows and take some pics.
Level of Difficulty
This hike is listed as a medium difficulty but this is also relative to your general fitness level and preparedness. Many people rented the nice large walking sticks offered by the boys below for 10 Quetzales while others used their collapsible aluminum cross-country poles. Pacaya Volcan Hike doesn’t ascend the entire 8,373 feet to the summit but it does come pretty close, making for around 2 hours of hiking with plenty of spots for breaks and viewpoints on the way.
The hike started at the welcome center in the hamlet of San Francisco de Sales. I’m pretty athletic so this hike wasn’t very difficult but I could tell that others were having a more difficult time with it. I think the combination between the trail steepness and length with increased altitudes can catch you off guard if you aren’t moderately active in your everyday life. Even though I tended to stay at the head of the pack, I even f0und myself enjoying the breaks our guide would stop at every 10 or 15 minutes on ou way up.
Fortunately, not everyone has to be an athlete to do the Pacaya Volcano hike. So if the rented walking sticks just weren’t enough, you can even rent a horse for approximately 300 Quetzales or about $40 USD. The walking stick rental was 10 Quetzales and a couple of the locals usually follow you up about half of the hike to make sure nobody needs one of them before they return to escort the next group up. Although I didn’t rent a walking stick, I did find a pretty decent walking twig to work with that was about half the size but helped make the ascent a bit easier and also a little funny at the same time.
Pacaya Volcano Hike Fees
When you arrive there is a 200 Quetzal national park entrance fee which you will need to pay before continuing up the hiking trail which I believe includes the cost of the mandatory guide who will always welcome a tip as well. In case your level of fitness may be questionable or you just want to have all your bases covered, make sure and bring a little extra money in case you plan on renting a horse, for tips, food stands along the way and purchasing marshmallows to toast.
Booking a Tour
Like most places, you can eventually navigate your own way up to Pacaya Volcano but after adding several busses and hours onto your trip, taking a paid tour for something like this is usually a better option. Considering they usually offer hotel pickup and dropoff services alone can be enough to make the deal worthwhile, not to mention not stopping at every person who stands alongside the road like on the chicken buses.
There are various tour companies in Antigua and Guatemala City that organize half-day trips to the Volcano of Pacaya, which last up to 4 or 6 hours including transfer time and hiking. You can typically book them directly with your hotel or hostel concierge. If you wanna look at some of the local tours options ahead of time then here are some links you can check out:
- Pacaya Volcano Tour and Hot Springs with Lunch from Antigua
- Pacaya Volcano Tour & Hot Springs from Guatemala City
- Guatemala Pacaya Volcano Day Tour from Antigua
And just for a heads up, some places might advertise pictures with up-close active lava action but this is definitely not the case as those areas are off-limits…but like I said before, I’m sure some guides will take you for the right price.
Plam on having your fitness and endurance tested on this enjoyable medium level difficulty volcano hike in the beautiful countryside of Guatemala. If you feel like you absolutely can’t make it on your own then just order a horse and just enjoy the ride, especially if you have some health conditions, there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. If you do decide to rent a horse, there’s nothing wrong with bartering.
Best Times to Visit
I ended up doing the Pacaya Volcano hike in January, which is right in the middle of the dry season which is from November until March or April. At this time of the year, the surrounding countryside is still green from the recent rains and the clear skies make for excellent tropical forest views with other volcanos making up the distant landscape.
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