There are affiliate links in here. I get a small commission if you purchase through them at no extra cost to you.
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!
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 in Antigua, is right between the city and Pacaya.
How to climb Volcan Pacaya
You can climb it without a guide, but it’s not the safest. Your car would be left unattended and ripe for stealng from and I distinctly remember in my Lonely Planet the mention of thieves on the trail that would be much more likely to target lone hikers over the groups. I wouldn’t recommend climbing Pacaya without a guide.
Most people go with a guide and it’s what I did and would recommend. It was a small group, probably under ten people, and we ddn’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?
$15-20 and you can book it through most hostels in Antigua. 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 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. But I don’t remember for sure. There is a sunrise climb and sunset climb to choose from. 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).
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.
What to bring to climb Volcan Pacaya
Hiking poles – These will be helpful on longer hikes that are on the steeper side. They’ll be good if you have bad knees for when you’re going downhill and will give you something to lean on going up the hills.
Snacks – These are more important for long hikes, but you never know when you’ll get hungry! I like EPIC bars (kind of like beef jerky but different), Sahale nut mix things, and Moon Cheese. There’s always the good old Clif Bars and trail mix, too. Anything from a store in town will get the job done, though.
Water bottle – It’ll be hot and humid and you’ll need to stay hydrated. A Hydro Flask will keep your water ice cold all day long. Plus, they’re better for the environment and you can usually fill them up with clean water at your hostel or hotel.
Light Jacket – You’ll definitely want to bring a jacket and maybe even a sweatshirt if you do the morning hike. It was SO cole when I went. The afternoon one may not be as cold, but it’s good to bring just in case. I usually use my rain jacket for this, but needed something a little warmer underneath.
Headlamp – I tend to carry my headlamp around all the time when we’re hiking. This isn’t the exact one I have, but it’s similar and if I needed to replace mine, I’d probably get this one. This would be good to have with just in case you’re hiking before sunrise or after sunset.
Have you hiked Pacaya? What did you think of it? What about other volcanos? Would you like to?