Volcan Pacaya Hike

If you love hiking, want to experience great views, or simply say “I’ve hiked an active volcano” then I would 100% recommend Hiking Volcan Pacaya in Guatemala.

If you come to Guatemala, you HAVE to hike a Volcano!

It’s basically an un-written rule in their immigration law, and EVERYONE recommended that I do this… so I did, and I’m here to reveal all on this ‘must-do’ activity here in Guatemala.

As if out of nowhere, it was Day 99 of my travel journey (January 17th, 2019) when I realised that it would be a nice idea to do something unique to celebrate 100 days of consecutive travel on Day 100. What’s more unique that hiking up an active volcano, I thought?

There are two popular Volcano hikes you can take from Antigua:
1) Volcan Acatenango (Difficult Hike)
2) Volcan Pacaya (Moderate Hike)

Since this was my first ever hike, I decided to go with moderately difficult Pacaya Hike. The Volcano Pacaya tours depart Antigua both in the morning, at around 8am, and afternoon, at around 2pm. I was told that the afternoon was the best time to go, because you get to watch the Sunset from the top, which just adds to the whole ‘Volcano Hiking’ experience.

Late as usual, I quickly grabbed an Uber and headed into town at around 1pm, asking the driver to stop at the first sight of a tour agency – which happened to be La Union Spanish School. There’s dozens of tour agents around Antigua, and after a couple of days wondering the cobbled streets – you’ll start to spot them everywhere.

I went straight in to ask if I was in time for the 2pm departure, and after a quick phone call, sure enough I was booked on to Hike Volcan Pacaya, and my day 100 experience was happening!

The mini-bus was supposed to pick me up at 2pm, but Guatemalan time really is a thing, and after dozens of other pick ups, it finally arrived at 2:30pm. There was just one last pickup after me, and we were on our way.

Nobody spoke or welcomed me when I entered the mini-bus, which was weird, but I knew the journey to Pacaya was approximately 1 hour from Antigua. So I sat back and relaxed, after a quick trip to the petrol (gas) station to fuel up of course… professional or what? But what can you expect for Q. 75 I guess? (approximately £7.50 / $9.72)

I couldn’t bare the silence, especially for a full hour, so I decided to ask the girl next to me about our upcoming Volcano hiking adventure, and if she’d ever hiked a volcano before? The answer was no, she was a newbie, just like me, and she ended up being my hiking buddy throughout the whole trip.

When we finally arrived at the trial head, there was a huge crowd of other hikers, children selling sticks (used as hiking poles), tour guides, and men with horses – which they refer to as ambulances or taxis, for anyone wanting an easier trip up the volcano.

From here, we had to purchase our entrance to the national park, which cost Q. 50 (approximately £5.00 / $6.48) and any sticks to aid our ascent! I purchased one for Q. 5 (approximately 50p / $0.65) because I read that it assists you during the hike, but personally, it was annoying and only ended up being an extra thing to carry.

After purchasing our tickets, we all had a few minutes to chat amongst ourselves, only to discover that everyone had paid different prices for the tour, ranging from Q. 75 – Q. 110. I paid the least, at Q. 75, so I’d definitely recommend heading down to La Union Spanish School to book the Pacaya Hike to avoid a ‘pissed off I paid more’ moment, like the Iranian girl in our group who paid Q. 110 for the exact same tour!

We were all gathered together by our guide called ‘Monkey’ (slightly racist nickname I thought, but I’m not here to judge) to begin our leisurely stroll up the side of the active Volcan Pacaya.

From the second we began it was a steep uphill path, made up of ash that made any sort of forward momentum a challenge. I have to admit I was tired after 5 minutes, and found myself breathing heavier than normal. After 10 minutes the sight of the ambulances (horses) behind me were looking so much more appealing.

The guys walk their horses up behind the tour groups, in the hope that someone like me, will pay Q. 100 to ride a horse up the volcano. After only 15 minutes, I decided to give in, and I have to admit it was the best Q. 100 (approximately £10.00 / $12.95) I’ve ever spent, and I really enjoyed the trip up much more.

My hero horse that took me up Volcan Pacaya!

Pacaya is supposedly the easiest Volcano Hike you can take from Antigua, and whilst that may be true, it’s far from easy… unless you take a horse, of course.

In no time at all, I was jumping off my horse and enjoying an amazing view of the neighbouring Volcanoes & Guatemala City from the top!

View over Guatemala City

Well, 100m from the top. For your safety, you stop about 100m from the summit – Pacaya is still active don’t forget, and it’s reassuring to know that these tours do try to minimise your risk of ‘death by active Volcano’.

The almighty Volcan Pacaya!

After taking your selfies, you then trek down to the recently formed lava fields, to find ‘hot pockets’ to roast marshmallows – a unique experience that this tour offers. I don’t know anywhere else on earth, where you can roast marshmallows up an active volcano, do you?

Is this what walking on the moon is like?

Finally, if you opted for the evening tour, and if the clouds are co-operating, you get to watch the sun go down on the surrounding Guatemalan cities, at which point you realise “I’m now going to have to walk back down this volcano in the pitch black aren’t I?”

TOP TIP: Bring a torch (flashlight)!

After successfully hiking (or horsing) up one of Guatemala’s most active Volcanos, Volcan Pacaya – overall I have to agree that it really is a ‘must-do’ activity here in Guatemala.

The Frustrating Parts?
– The hour long journey in a mini-van from Antigua to Pacaya.
– Physically walking up the volcano.
– The incredibly dusty trails – bring a scarf or neckerchief!
– Having to carry a stick, that served no purpose to me.

The Awesome Bits?
– The horse ride!
– The view from the top & photo opportunities.
– Roasting marshmallows over lava!
– The fact that I can now say “I hiked an Active Volcano”

Overall Recommendation? 
If you love hiking, want to experience great views, or simply say “I’ve hiked an active volcano” then I would 100% recommend Hiking Volcan Pacaya in Guatemala.

If you hate dust, physical exertion, and long, squashed, sweaty mini-bus rides, then it’s probably an idea that you give this a miss.

Do you have a particular question about this post? If so let me know in the comments below and I’ll be happy to answer.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *