Guatemala and volcanoes are synonymous. In fact, Guatemala has 37 volcanoes, of which 4 are still active! So, of course, hiking a volcano was on my bucket list. There were two volcanoes that I was eyeing, San Pedro and Acatenango. Both challenging and above 3000 meters. Since Acantenago is about 1000 meters higher than San Pedro, I decided to use volcano San Pedro as a way to acclimatize for Acatenango. Volcano San Pedro is also reputed for offering some of the most beautiful views of Lake Atitlan and the surrounding villages, which turned out to be very true!
Below I describe my experience hiking volcano San Pedro along with several useful tips and tricks.
Guide or No Guide
The day started early. My plan was to wake up at 6:00am, which would leave me plenty of time to get ready and catch a tuk-tuk to the trailhead. But, as usual, things did not go as planned.
I was rudely awakened in the middle of the night by what Guatemalan’s define as a small ‘earthquake.’ This was the first earthquake I had ever experienced, and the term unsettled does not begin to define my emotions at that moment. It felt like the earth just started shaking, and there was no escape. At one moment, the swaying had jolted me out of bed.
While it felt like it had endured for an eternity, the shaking eventually stopped after a few minutes, but I was unable to fall back asleep.
I spent the rest of the night staring up at the ceiling, realizing that I had no way to escape if there was another earthquake. So, by the time my alarmed sounded at 6:00am, I was already awake. Tired and a shaken-up, literally and figuratively, by the nights event, I prepared my bag and started to stroll the streets of San Pedro in search of a tuk-tuk.
From the center of San Pedro, it was roughly a 10 min ride to the trailhead, and tuk-tuks were supposed to be available around 7:00 am. After about 5 min, I found a tuk-tuk that was ready to take me to the trailhead for only 10 quetzales.
Once I arrived at the trailhead, I passed through the visitor’s center to pay the 100 quetzales hiking fee. The receptionist welcomed me and said I had the option to take a guide. The fee would be the same, but hiring a guide meant part of my fee would be given to the guide. So, I opted for a guide.
Useful tip: Travel agencies in San Pedro may try to convince you to hire a guide through their agency, however, you will still need to pay the 100Q entrance fee at the visitor center.
There was only one guide, Sam, available that early in the morning. Sam was an elderly gentleman who hiked up and down San Pedro on a daily basis. One look at him and I was sure this would be a gentle run rather than a hike. But I was ready for a challenge. My goal was to hike volcano San Pedro in preparation for climbing Acatenango. I also wanted to be at the summit before the clouds and the rain covered any of the anticipated amazing views.
A Race To The Summit
While the beginning of the trail was a bit difficult to find, and, for that, I was glad to have Sam, the rest of the trail was clearly labeled. There was really only one way to go – up.
Once we reached the actual start of the trail, Sam began to race to the summit. I had the impression he was trying to beat his previous time. At first, it was not too hard to keep up. The beginning of the trail was just a dirt footpath with a small incline, and not too challenging. But about halfway, steps began to appear, and, this is where I really had to push myself to keep with Sam’s pace.
From that point onward, the trail alternated between the dirt footpath and the large steps, which was made it more exhausting.
Along the way, there were several look-out points that offered beautiful views of Lake Atitlan, and a chance to catch my breath.
As we approached the summit, the trail became quite steep, and there were several points where trees had fallen on the path. Luckily, Sam had a huge machete to clear the way.
Eventually, we reached the sign – Volcano San Pedro → – and I knew we were close.
After a very steep incline followed by some crafty maneuvering over large boulders, we reached the summit of volcano San Pedro.
We had arrived just in time and were rewarded with beautiful views over Lake Atitlan. I was also lucky enough to have the place to myself!
Return To San Pedro
I spent an hour at the top before starting the hike back to San Pedro.
Shockingly, the descent was not as dreadful as I had anticipated. Even the sections with stairs were relatively easy. The steps were quite large so I could almost run down. In fact, I was able to walk swiftly down the volcano faster than I had ascended, which is not always the case.
Once back at the visitor’s center, a tuk-tuk was waiting to take me back to the town center.
Summary of My Hike to Volcano San Pedro
Overall, I really enjoyed hiking volcano San Pedro. While the summit is just over 3000 meters, I was used to hiking at this elevation so I did not have suffer from any altitude sickness.
I, personally, chose to take a guide, but it’s not mandatory. The trail was labeled, and there was only one way to the top. By taking a guide, part of the hiking fee is given to the guide as a salary, which is why I choose to hike with a guide.
The trail was well-maintained and the lookout points gave stunning views over the surrounding area. It is definitely a hike I can recommend, especially if you are planning on hiking other volcanoes in Guatemala. It is a great way to acclimatize.
Tips for Hiking Volcano San Pedro
1. Start hiking early so you can have a clear view at the top and avoid the afternoon rains.
2. The trailhead can be reached by tuk-tuk from just about anywhere in San Pedro and costs roughly 10 quetzales. Tuk-tuks are available starting from 7:00 am.
3. Once at the trailhead, there is a visitor’s center where you will need to pay an entrance fee of 100 quetzales – this includes a guide, however, you are not obligated to use a guide (the fee is the same regardless of your choice).
4. The ascent takes on average 2-3 hours, and the descent is, only, slightly faster. The trail is a dirt footpath with a gradual incline at the bottom and becomes significantly steeper at the top.
5. Due to the high altitude, it is important to hike slowly and drink plenty of water.
6. Travel agencies in San Pedro may try to convince you to hire a guide through their agency, however, you will still need to pay the 100Q entrance fee at the visitor center.
7. Bring a light jacket. It can be cold and windy at the top.
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Check Out My Other Guatemala Travel Guides
Hope you enjoyed my post on hiking volcano San Pedro. Here are some of my other Guatemala travel guides that you might find interesting.
- Visiting Semuc Champey
- Hiking Acatenango: Face-To-Face With An Erupting Volcano
- Fun Things To Do In Guatemala
Have questions about hiking volcano San Pedro on Lake Atitlan? Send me a message in the comments below!
Interested in more travel tips & tricks? Check out my other posts for more travel tips.