For US$5 you have yourself a half-day climb up Guatemala's most popular volcano. The tourist bus drops you off at the village outside of the entrance to the park, where you buy your entrance ticket (25 quetzales I believe) and some snacks/water/beer if need be. From there it's approximately a 2 hour hike, or so the tour guide told us. Of course, he's been doing this every day for the past 10 years and literally ran up the volcano himself! It got quite strenuous at times, especially near the peak where it was steep and gravely, but definitely worth the climb once we reached the top! Sulpher fumes blocked the view of the crater, but some people claimed they could hear the lava flowing inside. Very cool! The climb down was infinitely easier, more or less skiing on lava rock, fun! I recommend bringing a warm sweater as it gets cold up at the top, lots of water, hat, sunscreen, and some food to replenish your energy. The hike was at a leisurely pace, so when we needed to rest we could sit for a bit, have a snack, etc. Our guide was really friendly too. It was a great experience.
A trip to Pacaya Volcano is well worth. It is located 30km south of the center of Guatemala City and an hour drive from Antigua Guatemala. Many of the travel agencies in Antigua Guatemala can arrange a trip which includes the transportation and a licensed guide. You need to be physically fit as it takes about 2 to 2.5 hours to climb to the top of the highly active volcano. The published elevation is 2560m, but it varies from year to year, according to the building and destroying volcanic processes. The condition on the top is constantly changing. What you see will be most likely different from the photos I took.
Apply sunblock lotion before climbing. Bring drinking water and extra clothes with you as you will sweat a lot and the wind is usually strong on the top. Don't forget your sunglasses.
There are usually two trips every day - one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Less people go in the morning as it may be cold and so foggy up there that you end up seeing nothing. But you'd better check with the travel agency before booking as it may also depend on the season and weather.
Volcanos are highlights indeed for Antigua. Looming twelve thousand feet over the city, the volcano Agua rests in century old dormancy. In the shadow of Agua some miles distant is the volcano Pacaya, lava covered and perpetually active.
Climbing to the top of the Agua volcano just outside of Antigua can be at first miserable and frightening, but then exhilirating once you grow accustom to the thin air. Looking down on the valleys below is a definite highlight of a trip to Antigua Guatemala.
Check out my travelogue "Volcanos"
Volcan Pacay is a half day trip from Antigua.
You simply get a guide and bus to the volcano and then walk the volcano. Its easy to begin with, nice track through woods. This all ends when the top is reached, an hour or so of scrambling up loose volcanic ash that gets progressively hotter. top is great if its not cloudless and the volcan is grumpy enough to be spitting lava. We were. Going down is a fast controlled slide and extremely good fun.
View from halfway up.
The volcano trip can be booked anywhere in Antigua and most of the tour operators ask the same price: 10 US$ per person (warning: you have to pay with quetzales and that could vary from 59 to 75 !!!). Watch out.
They come to get you at your hotel by 2 pm. Two hours in the 4x4 to arrive at the starting point at 1800 metres. You'll only have to cover 770 meter in altitude but every single meter counts...hard, very hard
You arrive on top for the sunset at descend in the dark... Spooky.
All the time two uniformed guards accompany the group
While the volcanoes Agua, Fuego and Acatenango are directly visible from Antigua, Pacaya (near Guatemala city) is also a very popular option (you can summit Agua but it will be a 5am-9pm ordeal and I suspect it is quite physically challenging). The tour will arrange your transportion to and from Antigua to the National Park where you will hike to the top with a guide. Armed security is found throughout various points on the trail. Horses accompany the hikers most of the way so if you become very tired you can hop on. The hike is 2-3 hours uphill (not that easy) where you will reach a point with great views over the valley below and the volcanic crater (the most active volcano in Guatemala). There you can spend the next 30-60 minutes on a very difficult hike to the very top. We encountered 70 km/hr winds, lots of dust, dirt, slippery rocks but it was a great accomplishment to hit the top and ever funner to litterally "ski" down the slope, screaming all the way.
Bring lots of water, healthy snacks, a sweater and a good windproof jacket for the windier parts above. A hat and sunglasses (not just for the sun but for the flying volcanic dirt BUT dont bring super good ones as they WILL get scratched). A walking stick would also be useful and/or gloves for the last part when you are summiting practically on your hands and knees.
That's what you see when you arrive the top.
Descending in the dark looked like a very risky business and the use of our flashlight was necessary.
Another nice picture from nearly above on the Pacaya Vulcano.
You can see it's getting dark by that time.
Looking down on the city while very near to the crater.
Look what clothes we wear - it's very cold up there. Much colder than we expected.
Emilio, our guide, looks 70 but is far better condition than all of us.
He speaks reasonable English but is not much of a talker.
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