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Looking to hike Pacaya Volcano in Antigua?
One thing I knew I wanted to do before I left was climb a volcano, specifically Pacaya in Guatemala, mostly because that was the only one I knew about.
Pacaya is just outside of Antigua, about an hour’s drive. After a couple days wandering around Antigua, I decided it was time I do the climb.
I went and signed up for the 6:30 AM hike. It was either that or 2:30 PM. I like to do Early things and have afternoons free. Call me crazy, I know.
I figured it would be cool, weather-wise, but also thought it would be warmish. I was wrong. It was cold. It was windy. I was not prepared for that, but I managed. It was that much better when we got to the top.
My experience climbing Pacaya Volcano
After zipping through the cobblestone streets of Antigua in our shuttle at surprising speeds, we finally arrived.
When we got out of the shuttle, the wind surprised me. There was nothing I could change at this point though and our group set out for the hour-long climb.
We had the option of riding horses up for a few Quetzals, but I don’t like horses and the climb wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating, so I went by foot.
There were enough places to stop for a few minutes to catch our breath so it wasn’t bad. From Pacaya you can also see three other volcanos: Agua, Fuego, and Acetenango.
We saw Fuego erupt at least six times throughout the hike up and down. We couldn’t see lava, but the smoke was still exciting.
After we reached the crater, which isn’t actually the top, jut the highest we went, it was time for marshmallows! The crater wasn’t glowing red as I imagined all volcanos to, but it was more of a hot rocky pit.
If you moved some of the top rocks, heat radiated out. It was perfect for a brief time to heat up and roast a marshmallow.
There is also a gift shop on top. That’s right, a store. On a volcano. An active volcano. They sell jewelry made from the volcanic rock of Pacaya. This is the only place to get it too.
As far as I can tell, the Lava Store is no longer on top of Pacaya (let me know if you know otherwise). It was actually hard to find almost any mentions of this and was worried it was some kind of fever dream but it was real! I can’t believe I didn’t take it’s picture.
After waiting around a little too long in the blistering wind, we headed down. This was actually pretty fun because it was more of a forced run because of the angle. Much more fun than running on the ground if you ask me!
**The above text is my original post (unless bolded), anything below has been added in 2023**
Where is Volcan Pacaya?
Just outside of Antigua. It’s a little over an hour drive to the southeast of the city. Volcan Agua, the big one you see from the streets in Antigua, is right between the city and Pacaya.
How to climb Volcan Pacaya
You are no longer allowed to climb Pacaya without a guide! After some tourists got lost on the volcano the park started requiring guides.
I booked mine through Bigfoot Hostel (which is apparently closed now!), where I was staying, and was picked up there in the morning.
It was a small group, probably under ten people, and we didn’t have to stay right by each other allowing us to walk at our own paces.
But the guides would keep up and check on everyone. Plus, this way you get to learn more about the volcano on the way up and at the top. And, they’ll probably bring the marshmallows for you to roast at the top!
How much is it to climb Volcan Pacaya?
It was $15-20 when I went in 2015 and you could book it through most hostels in Antigua. But tours online (except one) are $60-115.
You can ride a horse up for about 100 Quetzales and you can buy/rent walking sticks from kids at the trail head for about 5 Quetzales.
How long is the Volcan Pacaya hike?
The Pacaya Volcano hike is about three miles round-trip.
How long does it take to climb Volcan Pacaya?
A few hours. I would say the tour took five to six hours for the drive there, climb up, time at the top, climb down, and drive back. I would expect 5-7 hours total.
When are Pacaya Volcano hikes?
There was a sunrise climb and sunset climb to choose from when I went. I did sunrise and we weren’t hiking in the dark at all (which I didn’t want to do and is why I picked morning).
I believe now there are 6 AM, 9 AM, and 2 PM hikes you can choose from. I don’t have advice on which is best as it just depends on what you want, and how much time you have and when. I liked 6 AM.
Is is hard to climb Pacaya Volcano?
It’s not a walk in the park but it’s not super difficult. I would say it’s comfortably moderate but could be strenuous if you’re not in great shape.
I wasn’t the fastest in our group by any means but I wasn’t at the end of the group either. I’m in fairly average shape.
There is about 1500 feet of elevation gain which isn’t nothing, but I think the steepness was the hardest part. At least from what I remember. I was there in January so it wasn’t super hot.
Is it worth climbing Volcan Pacaya?
Yes! Is it as exciting as climbing Acetenango? Probably not, but it’s great for people limited on time, that don’t like camping, and that aren’t in the right shape for a much more difficult climb.
This is still a bit strenuous, but it’s a good introduction to volcano climbs in Central America. I’m glad I did it. I’d even do it again. And I’d also like to try Acetenango next time.
Is Pacaya Volcano dangerous?
I wouldn’t say it’s more dangerous than other nearby activities. I was there in 2015 and the threat of bandits on Pacaya could very well not be an issue any more.
And as for Pacaya erupting, it’s pretty unlikely while you’re climbing it. I’m obviously not a volcanologist (I wish!) but I would think they would be aware of possible activity beforehand and wouldn’t let people go up, but what do I know.
Is Pacaya Volcano active?
Yes! Since the Spanish conquest of Guatemala, Pacaya has erupted 23 times. In 1961 it erupted quite vigorously and has continued regularly since then after being dormant for 70 years.
It’s most recent major eruption was in 2010 where many cities to the northwest, including Guatemala City, were blanketed in ash.
When did Pacaya last erupt?
Starting in April of 2021 Pacaya saw a period of near constant activity that resulted in a few 2km long lava flows down the volcano.
But that ended in August of the same year with some ash clouds and has remained quiet since.
Can you see lava on Volcan Pacaya?
Probably not! You may have been able to at one point and may again in the future but as of right now, no, you can’t see lava on Pacaya.
Is Pacaya a national park?
Yes! Pacaya and the surrounding area are now a national park, Pacaya National Park, which was created to supervise and help tourism in the area.
Where to stay in Antigua
The Purpose Hostel – This looks exactly how I would expect a hostel to look but with a rooftop garden with views of three volcanoes! This is a good choice if you want a quiet hostel.
Ojala – This is a modern hostel in Antigua that is great for digital nomads. It’s the bed and breakfast version of a hostel. Sign me up!
Flore Hostel – This is a beautiful boutique hostel in the heart of Antigua with plenty of room to socialize, including a rooftop terrace!
Hotel La Villa Serena – This is a beautiful cozy looking hotel with a beautiful garden and terrace to relax in. It has free breakfast and an airport shuttle.
Posada del Angel – This little hotel can be found in a colonial house in Antigua. They have a pool, parking, and a garden and terrace for relaxing.
What to bring on the Volcano Pacaya hike
Hiking poles – These will be helpful if you already have them with you. If not you may be able to get a walking stick from kids at the beginning of the hike.
Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen. I like the Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch a lot AND it’s reef safe! If you’re sensitive to fragrance though, it’s not a good choice. I also like the same one but specifically for your face.
Sunglasses – This is a must no matter where you are.
Headlamp – I tend to carry my headlamp around all the time when we’re hiking, just in case. It would be good in case you do end up hiking in the dark at all.
Other posts you might like
Have you hiked Pacaya? What did you think of it? What about other volcanos? Would you like to?