CLIMBING AN ACTIVE VOLCANO CALLED PACAYA HAS TO BE ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF BEING IN GUATEMALA. IT'S A GREAT EXPERIENCE AND ANYONE WITH GUTS WOULD BE A FOOL TO MISS THIS.
WHEN YOU ARRIVE AT THE PARK, YOU PAY Q30 TO GET IN AND YOU START ON A TRAIL UPHILL AND INTO THE WOODS WHICH TAKES AROUND ROUGHLY 3 HOURS TILL THE TOP OF THE VOLCANO. YOU CAN USE HORSES AS AN OPTION TOO.
AS SOON AS YOU COME OUT OF THE WOODS YOU'LL COME TO A HEATHLAND WHERE YOU'LL SEE THE ACTIVE CONE IN FRONT OF YOU. AS YOU WALK ACROSS THE HEATHLAND YOU'LL COME TO NOTICE THAT THERE IS LESS AND LESS VEGETATION AROUND THE NEARER YOU GET TO THE BASE OF THE CONE.
WHEN YOU START THE CLIMB YOU WILL FIND IT HARD (BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE) AS THE SLOPES ARE FULL OF LOOSE ROCKS AND DIRT WHICH CAN BE QUITE SLIPPERY SO EVERY 2 STEPS YOU MAKE YOU SLIDE A STEP BACK. WHEN YOU GET TO THE TOP ADMIRE THE VIEW OF THE GUATEMALAN LANDSCAPE AS WELL AS THE OTHER VOLCANOES IN WHICH YOU WILL SEE IN THE DISTANCE.
BE CAREFUL NOT TO BREATH IN THE SULPHER DIOXIDE FUMES.
From the small village San Vicente Pacaya to the top takes a climb of about one hour. The walk leads you over narrow, unpaved paths through the jungle on the volcano's slopes. On the way to the top you have stunning views of the environment once in a while.
Shortly after departing from the village you will see a small lake on your lefthand side. This lake is the water source of the wide surroundings. From the top it looks beautiful in the green area around it. A bit later you can have a look at the three volcanoes that surround Antigua. The city itself is not visible, but all three volcanoes make the view to a great one.
After this quite easy part, the real climb start, heading straight through the jungle. This part is very steep once in a while and quite though when it is hot and humid. No doubt you will be happy when this part is over and you reach the top of Pacaya.
After a long and tiring climb you will happy when you reach the top. However the top is not the end of the trip. From here you still have to make the decent into the crater of the volcano.
At the top you have a magnificent view of the environment. An even better view of the three volcanoes around Antigua, a good view of a mountain right next to Pacaya and a great overview of the crater down below and the lava in it.
You will get a few minutes here to rest and take some pictures here before the next heavy part starts: the decent down into the crater.
The highlight of a visit to Pacaya definitely is the decend into the crater. Because the volcano is very active, there is plenty of freshly dried-up lava around and you even have a good chance of seeing some fluid lava from very close range.
The crater you are decending in in fact is the remaining of an old crater. Inside this crater a new peak of the volcano appeared, which is forbidden and dangerous to climb. But in the old crater there is enough spectaculair stuff to see.
During by trip to Pacaya I walked over lava that was only 14 days old and was still feeling warm under your feet and I even walked by some red-hot lava (600 degrees Celsius!) at a distance of only 3 metres. It is really exciting to see al this from so close, but I thought it was irresponsibly dangerous once in a while. More about this in my warning-tip.
The climb up back out of the crater is a last and heavy job to do before you can decend the volcano back to the village.
I'm not an experienced hiker, and I loved climbing the Pacaya Volcano! The views are breathtaking and seeing the lava shooting out of the crater is amazing. You can also see lava rivers, depending on the volcano's activity.
We were recommended to go in the early morning to the volcano, and afterwards went to Baños Santa Teresita, which is a day Spa which works with thermal water from the Pacaya Volcano! I recommend doing the thermal circuit, which is going into small stone-pools with thermal water at different temperature. It is sooo relaxing! And they also have an all-natural and organic Spa, which is also amazing.
Doing both things in the same day is really worth the while. We slept like babies that night and completely renewed the next day!
It's a wonderful experience to hike the volcano and a great opportunity for tourists to help the dogs there by bringing several baggies of dry dog food to feel the dogs.
The dogs that live at Pacaya Volcano are very thin.
Also, please ask your guide to communicate the following concept to the ladies who run little vendor shops on the way up and on the top of the volcano - It's a great way for them to make money PLUS help the dogs.
Here is the idea:
The vendor-ladies buy a big bag of dog food
The vendor-ladies then re-package the dog food into small little plastic baggies
The vendor-ladies re-sell the small baggies of dog food to the tourists
Pease tell your guide to speak to the vendor-ladies to make this idea a reality.
That would help everyone- the dogs, the vendors, AND tourists to know that they helped.