When I started my trip through Latin America, I never in my wildest dreams thought I would climb a volcano. All the way to the top, 3976 meters above sea level. It was a difficult climb, it was painful and it was an amazing experience. Here is a little summary of my experience climbing volcano Acatenango. I can’t recommend this volcano hike enough!
Acatenango is one of many volcanos, located in the area around Antigua in Guatemala. As you can see in the photo above, Acatenango has a great view of the active volcano Fuego. These two volcanos are actually connected in a volcano complex named La Horqueta. You can see both volcanos in the distance from Antigua, but being up on the volcano itself is something totally unique. If you’re lucky, you can see lava erupting from the volcano crater of volcano Fuego. I’d met people on my trip who told me about their incredible experience hiking the volcano. Eventually, I decided to do the hike myself. Even though volcano Fuego is active, to great joy and awe for hikers, its been almost 2000 years since Acatenanco last had an eruption.
Climbing Volcano Acatenango
The pick-up at our hostel was scheduled at 9, but like everything else in Central America, they came a bit late. Trust me you get used to it after a while, then you’ll start being late yourself. When we finally were on our way, we were a group of 12, with two guides. Despite the fact that they both only spoke Spanish, they were great support and amazing guides. There is usually someone in every tour like this, that speaks more or less Spanish. Our tour group was no exception, so big thanks to the German girl being the translator from time to time during our hike.
These guys climb volcano Acatenango several times a week, which is super impressive. Take into consideration that they also do so in converse and jeans, not to mention that one of them was 62 years old too.
The view of the volcano Agua was beautiful from the camp.
Hiking up the Volcano
We started off at the base camp about an hour and a half outside the city of Antigua, at 1200 meter above the sea. I didn’t keep track of the time, but I was told we used about 5-6 hours. This included 3 “longer” stops to rest before we arrived at our camp for the night.
The camping area had a beautiful view over Fuego and as the sky changed from blue to shades of pink and orange. Then the night came and Volcano Fuego started its show. Sitting around the bonfire with good company and eruptions happening every now and then, was just magical.
At the camp, and the final hike to the top
We went to bed early and tried to keep warm in our sleeping bags. The tents, bags, and mats provided by the tour company were decent for one night. I will, however, add that you should definitely bring extra warm clothes.
After a night of uneven sleep, caused by the cold and the altitude, we were woken up at 4 am. Shortly after started our last climb, in light of the moon and a couple of headlights, to the very top of Acatenango. At this point I was struggling, the ground loose and slippery, muscles tired. Every step forward felt like two steps backward. The uphill hike felt like it lasted forever but actually lasted about 1,5-2 hours. The wind so strong at times, that I lost my balance on every step I took, but we finally made it to the top. Fuego decided to greet us with an orange lava firework just as we reached the summit. So beautiful and in pefect harmony with the sunrise happening at the moment.
Being at the top, no matter how amazing it was, was also super windy and cold. We ended up sitting together 3 friends underneath a sleeping bag to minimize the cold. We each took out turn to run out to snap some photos. After a short stop we were all shaking like leaves and decided to run down again. I promise the hike down to the camp was way more fun than the climb. One of our guides at 62 was jogging in front saying “vamos, vamos”, we were all entertained and impressed by his physical shape.
Going back down
Before backing up and heading back down, we all enjoyed breakfast, with a breathtaking view around the bonfire one again. The descent took about 2 hours, believe it or not. Be careful as there are loose areas and with tired legs its easy to fall. On our way down we saw a guy that had to be supported by two guides as he managed to hurt himself pretty badly. I have to say it was a mental and physical challenge for me. I’m proud and happy that I climbing volcano Acatenango as my first volcano ever.
The tour include
All the tours are basically the same. Transportation back and forth to the city of Antigua, with pick up and drop off at your hostel is included. Other than that they provide tents, sleeping bags, and “food”.
They say the food is more or less included, but the food qualifies more like snacks. We got one pack of instant noodles, a banana, a pack of powder for hot chocolate, yogurt, a sandwich and a bar of chocolate. As it’s a long hike it’s really recommended to bring extra food.
Although there is a tour that stands out and is organized differently. It’s run by two brothers and they supposedly hike slower, cook you proper food and speak English. This tour though is in another price class, but I’m sure it’s an amazing experience.
As for the price of the standard tour, ask around at different travel agencies to get the best price. It variated a lot and I think we went to about 8 agencies before we decided on the one that gave us the best price.
- Lots of water – The guides will ask you for water too, to make tea, water for the instant noodles and so on.
- Extra food. – As written above, they don’t provide enough food. Consider meal prepping a couple of meals, or buy something in the town to bring up. We made pasta and omelet that we brought with us.
- A lot of warm clothes. – Like, you won’t ever have enough clothes here. We were all cold, even though we were prepared for it. If you don’t have warm clothes, there are plenty of places that rent stuff in Antigua.
- Walking stick, optional, and can be rented at the bottom of the volcano for 5 quetzal per stick. It helps make walking in unstable areas easier. Especially the last part you during the night to get to the top.
- Painkillers – As being in altitude can give you a headache, among other things, it’s nice to have painkillers. Bring them along just in case. I was not the only person who got a headache that night and one of the girls even got really sick cause of the altitude
If you’re in the area, please don’t miss this unique and amazing experience! And don’t miss out on beautiful Semuc Champey in the Guatemalan jungle!