Acatenango Volcano, at 3,976m (13,000ft) it is one of the highest peaks in Central America. For me it was a no brainer when it came to decide to hike to the summit so me and my wife went for it.
In my opinion if you go to Guatemala, you’ve got to see these incredible volcanos that are in the south of the country. You can see them already before landing in La Aurora International Airport from there you can go to Antigua, just an hour away from Guatemala City. Antigua is a great place to be based on when it comes to hike them.
Which volcano to hike?
I say them because there are 5 Volcanos that are very close to each other. You can hike all of them even the active ones, De Fuego and Pacaya.
- De Agua
- De Fuego
- San Pedro
To select which one to hike what mattered the most was the experience, difficulty and the view. I can say that without a doubt the view from Acatenango Volcano or De Fuego are the best of all.
Pacaya Volcano was too easy of a hike (that’s why many tourists and locals prefer to go there) so that was a no go for us, me and my wife wanted to make our effort worth it and unique.
Then the other option for us was the active Volcano, De Fuego. However, after reading about it, this is a very technical hike and only climbers with good experience should do it as the hike is not a joke, plus you need to camp there and we didn’t have too much time.
Hiking Acatenango Volcano
Having already experience in hiking I prefer a “do it yourself” approach, I’m not a tour kind of guy (and I save money of course). For this hike it is strongly advisable to use one of the companies that offer the tour in Antigua as there isn’t just one path to the summit, weather conditions can change quickly, poor visibility, wind, so you need a guide with experience.
This time we did the 1-day hike with OX Expeditions, the package included transportation and lunch too. Our guide David knew a lot about the place and the whole group had a lot of fun. They also have a package to camp in the Volcano and that way you can see the sunset and the sunrise. We didn’t have time for this so we just did it in one day, the view is incredible anyway.
We left Antigua in a mini van at 5am with the group and started hiking the Volcano at around 6am to reach the summit at around 11am. The hike can get pretty intense, the ground can be a bit loose so grip is hard at some point and the elevation starts to play with you as oxygen doesn’t flow as you are used to.
But the thought of reaching summit and see the view is what keeps you going. A few people of our group were totally unprepared for it and after the first 20 minutes of hiking decided to rent a horse and climb it that way.
We did about one 10-minute break per hour and then a longer one for coffee.
This was definitely the most difficult part of it and it is where you start to think that you packed too much stuff! and you need to work out way more when you get back home 😀 The last 100 metres are very tough but as you are that far, you will climb it no matter what.
While resting after reaching summit, I took my gear off and suddenly I was so light that I said that I could run up there easily. That’s when David, our guide, told us OX Expeditions have this challenge in which you have to run around the crater (600 metres) and if you do it without stopping then you get a t-shirt. So well I went for it and accomplished it (coughing my lungs out though). It took me 3 minutes and 48 seconds (this year’s record is 2.28 from an Ultra Marathonist). Take a look:
We stayed at the summit for about an hour to enjoy the view of the active Volcán de Fuego (just 3km away from Acatenango).
Descend and what to take
We started the descend at 12.30 to reach the base camp at around 4pm. Take care of your knees from the beginning of the hike because they’ll kill you while going down if you don’t. When we reached the starting point there were some locals selling drinks, a beer has never tasted so good in while.
Deciding what to take is crucial as you don’t want to take too much. This is what I recommend per person for a 1-day hike:
- At least 3 litres of water
- 1 wind stopper jacket (If it is waterproof that will be a lot better, if not then take something like a poncho in case it rains)
- Good hiking shoes
- 1 sweater (It can get cold in the summit)
- Some candy or chocolates to get energy on the go
- 1 extra shirt to descend (You will get very sweaty going up and it can get pretty cold if you leave that shirt on)
- Cash to buy coffee or other stuff during or after the hike
- And camera of course!
So? Going to hike it? Let me know! I promise it will be one of your adventure’s highlights.