Apart from its Maya authenticity and natural beauty, Guatemala offers plenty of hiking possibilities on active and dormant volcanoes alike. We’ve always dreamt of seeing an eruption from close by, so we decided to join an overnight hike on the Acatenango Volcano in order to live the experience and see real lava flowing from the crater.
The days before the trip we found lots of negative experiences online from people who did the same trail, and we really hoped it will not be our case also. Luckily we found the guys from CA Travelers, a local owned and based tour company and had an amazing time. Farah and her colleagues plan everything with care for the guests, guides and community alike and make sure they are as much eco-friendly as possible.
Do we recommend them? YES YES YES
Duration of the trail: 2 days and 1 night of camping
Price: 350 GTQ/38 EUR + 50 GTQ/5.5 EUR (entrance fee to the natural park) + 60 GTQ/6.5 EUR (camping fee paid to the mountain rangers)
In case you need a porter: you can hire one to help you with your backpack for 300 GTQ (we decided it was not our case and we managed just fine)
General facts about the trail
The hike will start at 2225m altitude and you should expect a medium (to high) difficulty. This is because the oxygen level drops as you climb higher, coupled with lots steep parts of the trail.
The camp is set at 3600m high, and while the tents are well equipped with thermal sleeping bag and linen, it does get very cold at night. Thus do not forget to take warm clothes and enough layers with you.
What CA Travelers provides
Don’t worry if you do not have all the necessary equipment yet, Farah and her team provided almost everything we needed to have a good experience:
- 3 meals (very consistent ones): lunch for the first day (chicken with rice and salad + fruits – the regular menu, but they will accommodate also vegetarian, no gluten needs, etc), dinner (spaghetti Bolognese + marshmallows + garlic bread), hot chocolate, breakfast for the second day. However, be aware that you will carry this for yourself in a small thermal bag
- winter jacket
- ski gloves (something thinner will not be suitable for the temperatures up there)
- thermal linen for the sleeping bag
- camelback with 3 liters of water
- sleeping bag (already set in the camp)
It is important to know that we carried all of our equipment and food for the whole duration of the trip (except for the tent and sleeping bags, already set up in the camp).
What to bring with you
- hiking sticks: were of big help to us. These can also be rented from locals from the starting point of the trail (5 GTQ one)
- hiking boots, not running shoes: for safety reasons
- warm hat
- warm tops and bottoms, and of course layers of clothes: while on the trail it was quite hot due to the humidity of the rainforest and effort, once we got to the camp it was freezing cold (reeeeaally cold)
- 30-40 L backpack
- camera and tripod
- cash: for paying the national park and camping taxes. Additionally, there is a small restaurant and shop 1,5 hours after the beginning of the trail, where you can buy a snack.
What to expect
Day 1: the shuttle picked us up from our address in Antigua around 8:00 AM and about 30 minutes later we arrived in their supply office in Jocotenango in order to pick up the food and necessary equipment. Our multicultural group was formed of around 14 people + 2 guides + 2 porters, which gave us the opportunity to make some friends and share travel experiences with each other.
1 hour later we boarded the bus again and drove for 45 minutes until the beginning of the 4-6 hours trail (depending of the group). From there a steep 1,5 hours of hike starts, so be ready for quite an effort. After this part you get to a small uphill restaurant where you can chill for a few minutes and treat yourself with a snack.
Then another 1h of steep trail will begin, this time with some stairs involved. But at its end you get to the entrance of the National Park from where, after you pay the 50 GTQ fee, the hike will get easier. All this time we were amazed to see how the nature around us changed, from volcanic soil to corn crops, rainforest/jungle and then high alpine vegetation.
We had 6 official breaks, 3 of which a bit longer (lunch included). Once you get into the camp the views are absolutely amazing. To the left we had Volcan de Agua and to the right Volcan de Fuego which erupted once per every few minutes. And the best part is that we were only 1 km (straight line) away from its active crater. Once there, you can take an extra hike closer to its crater, but this will be for an extra cost paid to the guide and the return time will be after dark.
The evening passed fast, with stories, traditional hot chocolate and dinner around the fire pit. And although freezing cold, this will be a night we will never forget. We got to HEAR and see the volcano erupting in the dark, with red lava covering the mountain over and over again. An image that still plays in our minds, so incredible that the words just cannot describe! So have your camera and tripod ready to catch some very good shots (not our case unfortunately).
In case the sky is clear, the wake-up call would be around 5 to be able to catch the sunrise from the summit of Acatenango (1 hour hike). In our case the day was quite cloudy so we woke up at 6:30, ate breakfast and started the descent (around 2 hours, same way). The driver picked us up from the end of the trail, and after we left the equipment at the supply office everybody was drove to their addresses in Antigua.
Overall, seeing what we saw during this trip, even though we could not reach the summit of Acatenango also, was one of the best hiking experiences we had so far and one of the highlights of the time spent in Guatemala. So if you are planning your Central American trip pin this article and do not miss this adventure!