Climbing Pacaya, My First Volcanic Adventure

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.

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 store 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.  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!








Helpful things:

  • Dress in layers.  I went in the morning and was freezing, but it could get warm walking.  I heard it was a lot warmer in the afternoon.
  • Bring water, as always.
  • Pay attention to Fuego on the way up and down.  It was erupting fairly regularly when I went.
  • There’s a little shop at the top.  Bring money in case you want to buy something.

Have you hiked Pacaya?  What did you think of it?  What about other volcanos?  Would you like to?


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