Dabbling in Jet Lag
Guatemala is a country of diversity, particularly in its landscape. From the coast to the jungle and everything in between, you’ll find 14 ecoregions here. This is in part due to its location. Guatemala, actually, sits between two tectonic plates, and, as a result, it has a whopping 37 volcanoes! I spent 10 days traveling through Guatemala’s ecosystems and to say I was in awe would be an understatement. Granted there are a ton of things to do here, but my favorite was hiking volcanoes. I hiked two volcanoes, one of which was Volcan San Pedro on Lake Atitlan. This magnificent beast is dormant and provides some of the most spectacular views of the region. So, I put together a complete guide to help you hike San Pedro Volcano, both with and without a guide. It has everything you need to know to guarantee an epic adventure.
Table of Contents
- Where is San Pedro Volcano?
- Do you need a guide to hike San Pedro Volcano?
- Practical Information
- Hiking Itinerary
- Packing List
- Tips for Hiking San Pedro Volcano
Where is San Pedro Volcano?
San Pedro Volcano is located next to the beautiful village of San Pedro on Lake Atitlan. It towers over the town, offering hikers magnificent views over the lake and other villages. From the town center, you can walk to the trailhead or take a tuk-tuk for 10Q (1 USD). See below for complete details.
Do you need a guide to hike San Pedro Volcano?
The route to the summit is not difficult to find or follow. There’s only one way and it’s well-labeled on maps.me. A few signs are posted along the trail, but you’ll find that you won’t need them.
So, why take a guide?
Unfortunately, reports of bandits along the trail are cause for concern. And, despite the stunning views at the summit, this has prevented many from even attempting the hike. However, the majority of tourists who get attacked are those who try to avoid the entrance fee. So, the best way to avoid any problems is to follow the rules and respect the locals. It’s also advisable to leave any unnecessary valuables at your hostel and only take what you need.
I, personally, chose to take a guide. The entrance fee is the same regardless. But if you prefer to hike without a guide, try to find other travelers or start at a later time. There are also tour guides that can be found in San Pedro village. However, you’ll still have the pay the entrance fee. So, it will no doubt be more expensive. If you decide you’d like to hike with a guide, take one at the visitor center.
Location: The hike starts and ends at the San Pedro Volcano Visitor Center (GPS Coordinates: 14.680355, -91.272815. The visitor Center is labeled on maps.me and Google Maps.)
Distance (round trip): 6.8 kilometers (4.2 miles)
Time (round trip): 5 hours (3 hours up, 2 hours down)
Signage: This is a well-trodden trail that is easy to follow. There are a few signs that point to the summit, but not many. Since there’s only one path, don’t let the lack of signs deter you.
Terrain: The trail is a dirt footpath that gradually inclines. Towards the top, the trail becomes significantly steeper.
Elevation: Lowest point – 1609 meters (5282 ft.), Highest point – 3020 meters (9908 ft.)
Accommodation: Since this is a day hike, there is no accommodation, and there is only one toilet (near the summit). There are, however, hostels near the starting point.
Resupply points: There is no option to buy food along the trail.
Water: There are no water sources along the trail.
When to Go: The best time to San Pedro Volcano is in the morning so you can have a clear view at the top.
Entrance Fee: 100Q (13 USD)
Hiking Itinerary for San Pedro Volcano
6:30 am – Exit your hostel and start walking to the trailhead. On average it takes 30-40 minutes from the center of San Pedro village. Or look for a tuk-tuk. It costs 10Q and takes 10 minutes.
7:00 am – Arrive at the San Pedro Visitor Center and pay the entrance fee (100Q), and decide if you want to hire a guide. The fee is the same, regardless of your choice.
7:05 am – Start hiking and follow the trail and make your way to the summit of San Pedro Volcano.
7:05 to 10 am – The start of the trail is flat until you cross a semi-dry stream, at which point it starts to steadily incline. The beginning of the hike is relatively flat until you cross a dry stream. This is the first of three viewpoints and showcases a rock wall and out to the lake as well.
After an hour, you’ll reach the first viewpoint. This is the best viewpoint (aside from the summit) so it’s a good place to take a break.
As you near the top, the air begins to cool and the vegetation becomes denser. This is what’s referred to as the cloud forest section of the hike. Eventually, you come to a hut with a swing and an outhouse. Follow the sign that points to Volcan San Pedro, and make your final ascent to the summit.
Warning: You will have to climb a few boulders to get to the best viewpoint. Be sure to use caution and do not attempt to do this if it’s raining.
10 am to 11:30 am – After you’ve taken pictures and enjoyed a snack, make your way back down the volcano via the same route. At the bottom, there are plenty of tuk-tuks waiting to take hikers back to the San Pedro village.
Check out my ultimate hiking gear checklist for the specifics of each item listed below.
- Backpack (20-25 Liters) – check out my guide on choosing the right backpack.
- First Aid Kit (Toilet paper, band-Aids, disinfectant, and pills (ibuprofen, anti-histamine, and anti-diarrhea))
- Water Bladder/Bottle (2-3 Liters)
- Dry Bags (or rain cover for your backpack)
- Trekking Poles
- Trail Runners (Hiking boots are not necessary)
- Quick-dry T-shirt
- Standard Hiking Shorts
- Waterproof Jacket
- Hat with a Brim
- Long sleeve shirt (for the summit)
- Phone (with maps.me downloaded)
- Camera Gear
- External Battery
- Protein bars (2)
- Pre-made sandwich (1)
- Snacks: trail mix of nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate
Tips for Hiking San Pedro Volcano
- Start hiking early so you can avoid the afternoon rains and have a clear view at the top.
- Take a tuk-tuk to the visitor center. It’s only 10Q (1 USD) and they are available as early as 7:00 am.
- Hike slowly and drink a lot of water. You will be hiking at high altitudes, where altitude sickness is an issue. So, it’s important to hike slowly and drink plenty of water.
- Do not rent a guide through a tour agency. If you want a guide, it’s cheaper to hire a guide at the visitor center.
- Bring a rain jacket and a long sleeve shirt. It can be cold and windy at the top.
- Do not try to avoid the entrance fee. It’s rude and disrespectful.
- Make sure to follow Leave No Trace Principles.
- Leave unnecessary valuables at your hostel.
Hiking San Pedro Volcano was one of the highlights of my time in Guatemala. It’s a moderately challenging hike, but it’s you’re ready to push to the top you won’t be disappointed. Make sure to use the guide to help organize your trip! Then, afterward, plan a trip to Semuc Champey and take a dip in its beautiful turquoise waters.
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