For most people climbing a volcano is one of the most memorable trips they undertake while travelling around Latin America. Choose Guatemala and you`ll have 30 volcanoes to pick from!
You should not climb any of these volcanoes without a guide. The paths are often not clear, you can easily get lost. If you don’t want to take an organized tour you can go to the village where the trail starts and hire a local guide. But they only speak Spanish! Make sure you have good hiking shoes and bring enough water.
Don’t underestimate the weather. You might think it is always warm and sunny in Central America (which it is most of the time), when you get higher up it will be very windy and cold. For most volcano hikes it will be enough to bring a fleece jacket. But if you do an overnight camping trip to Acatenango, temperatures can drop to freezing point. You will need gloves, a thick jacket and a hat.
When you are traveling you don’t want to carry all that gear around, since you probably won’t need a coat when your next destination is the beach. It might be a good idea to go to a second hand clothes market (there are a lot in Guatemala), the clothes on these markets are really cheap and afterwards you can leave them behind for other travelers or give them to a local.
Hiking volcanoes in Guatemala, the 3 most popular:
Pacaya 2309 m
Located about one hour driving from Antigua. Day tours are offered everywhere in Antigua leaving at 6 am and 2 pm. The hike itself is about two hours up. First you hike through forest with great views along the way. When the forest ends you will be walking on an almost moon like landscape of dried up volcanic stone and ash. Although this is an active volcano, it is dormant at the moment, it is too dangerous to go all the way to the crater but towards the top there will be some holes with steam coming out, where you can roast marshmallows.
Acatenango 3,976 m
About one hour drive from Antigua. In Antigua you can arrange one day hikes as well as overnight camping tours. A very tough climb, 5 to 6 hours up, but definitely worth it because this volcano is right next to an active volcano called Fuego. Especially if you take the overnight tour you are almost guaranteed to see some lava and a beautiful sunset and sunrise. If you take the overnight tour go with a reputable company, even if you pay a bit more, so you can be sure they have good camping gear (tents and mattresses etc.).
San Pedro 3,020 m
This is a hike leaving from the village of San Pedro at the shore of Lake Atitlan. This is also a tough climb, the hike up takes about 4-5 hours. You will walk through forest, but higher up you get to see amazing views of the lake! This is usually a one day hike, that starts really early in the morning. Tours can be arranged in the village of San Pedro La Laguna.
Do you have any experience hiking volcanoes in Guatemala? What did you think? Which are the best ones?