Hiking Acatenango: Face-To-Face with an Erupting Volcano

Guatemala has 33 volcanoes. That’s right 33 VOLCANOS! And these volcanos make up the Pacific Coast ring of fire. When I heard this I thought, well surely there must be some volcanos that you can hike. Maybe I am a bit crazy? But, at the same time, how cool! Hiking Acatenango easily made it to my buck list of things to do in Guatemala.

Acatenango is Guatemala’s 3rd largest volcano, towering at 3880m just outside of Antigua. Even more interesting, it joins with Volcano Fuego (aka Volcano of Fire) – a very active volcano!

Here’s my experience hiking Acatenango and coming face-to-face with its joined partner, Volcano Fuego!

Volcano Fuego Erupting whie Hiking AcatenangoPin
Volcano Fuego Erupting!

Warning! Volcano Fuego is an active volcano. Its last eruption was in 2018. It was the deadliest eruption in Guatemala since 1929. Do not attempt to hike in the area without speaking to the locals and doing research.

Day 1: It Must Be Thunder! It’s Going to Rain!

I left (with a group I met in Antigua) early in the morning to start hiking Acatenango. The bus dropped us in front of the start of the trail, next to a family selling supplies for the hike. I stocked up on some extra snacks and we began hiking. The start of the trail was technically easy, but within about 5 min, the ascent became really steep. It continued with a slow and steady climb with some make-shift stairs here and there.

We kept a quick and steady pace as our guide was worried it might rain in the afternoon. I spoke to several hikers who were caught in a storm on Acatenango, and it did not sound like fun. So, every now and then he yelled “VAMOS! Amigos, VAMOS!” It became a running joke after a while, as there was not a cloud in sight!

Burned Landscape while Hiking AcatenangoPin
The Aftermath

As we climbed higher, the trees began to disappear, and we had beautiful views of the surrounding area. The horizon seemed to go on forever. Yet, the dead trees that blocked some of our view was a reminder that we were still on an active volcano. And it was capable of destroying everything in its path.

We continued onwards and upwards. The more we climbed the flatter the trail became, which was a relief. Two days prior, I had hiked San Pedro volcano to acclimatize, and my legs were killing me. Then, all of a sudden, we heard BOOM…BOOM……and, again, BOOM. “It must be thunder! It’s going to rain!” I took out my waterproof gear, and we walked faster. A few drops came down, and we walked even faster! We kept hearing thunder, but nothing more than a few drops of rain came down. We, finally, reached base camp, after about 5 hours of hiking. And there it was, Volcano Fuego…the source of the thunder!  It was even spuing lava!

Volcano Fuego Erupting at the Basecamp while Hiking AcatenangoPin
The Source of the Thunder!

Day 2: The Summit

The night was spent watching Fuego’s fireworks display. After a while, we retreated to our tents to try and get some sleep before our 2 am wake-up.

The alarms sounded at 2 am, and we stammered over to the fire for some coffee and a light breakfast. We had a 2.5-hour climb to the summit…in the pitch black. Half of the group suffered severe altitude sickness during the night, so there were only 5 of us to attempt the summit.

We began hiking, and it became apparent that this would be straight up. We walked slowly zig-zagging up the volcano, and finally reached the top. Success! It was freezing at the top and the wind was strong. Luckily, after 30 min, we were greeted by the warm sun, and could see all the way to Guatemala City! It was magnificent.

Then, the dreaded descent. Shockingly, this was not too bad. We skid down the volcano, and it only took 30 min! We arrived at base camp, and we, again, had beautiful views!

Sunrise while Climbing AcatenangoPin
Epic View!
Picture of Jen and the Group in Front of Volcano Fuego while Hiking AcatenangoPin
The Team

The Final Descent and Return to Antigua

The descent was relatively easy. I usually find the return journey more difficult, but the soft ground decreased the impact on my knees. Again, this hike is not technically difficult and the trail is wide with no drop-offs, so it was pretty fast to get down.

Once we arrived back at the start of the trail, we had a big breakfast in the house in front of the trail and took the bus back to Antigua.

Wrap-up of Hiking Acatenango

For me, hiking Acatenango was awesome! The scenery was beautiful and my group was a lot of fun. I, personally, did not have an issue with the altitude, but I always hike slowly. The people who had issues tried to run up the volcano and never made it to the summit. The only thing I did not like was the food. I would recommend taking some snacks. (Read below for more tips & tricks) Overall, it was an awesome hike, and it was definitely worth it!

Tips for Hiking Acatenango

1. Pack Light. You will need to carry your own water (4L, for cooking and drinking) for the 2 days. There is no water source or shop along the hike.

2. Waterproof Everything. When it rains, it rains. Make sure you have a waterproof jacket and bag. You can line your backpack with trash bags to help.

3. Bring extra snacks. The food was light, and not great. I had a few granola bars, and that helped a lot!

4. Choose the agency carefully. If you decide to use a guide, research the agencies carefully. They tend to change frequently, so talk to others who did the hike. Make sure to ask questions, like: are the tents already on Acatenango, or do I have to carry all my own equipment?

5. Bring a headlamp. The hike to the summit starts at 2 am, and it’s pretty dark.

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Read About My Other Adventures

Hope you found my post on hiking Acatenago in Guatemala useful. Here are some of my other hiking adventures that you might find interesting.

Have questions about hiking Acatenango in Guatemala? Send me a message in the comments below!

Interested in more travel tips & tricks? Check out my other posts for more travel tips.

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