The Acatenango Volcano Hike was one of our most intense adventures of 2023. Seeing the erupting volcano was clearly the climax of our trip to Guatemala. So here is our feedback on the ascent of the Acatenango volcano to an altitude of almost 4000m.
Some information about Acatenango and Fuego volcanoes
These two volcanoes are next to each others near the city of Antigua. Acatenango has not been active for some decades but is one of the highest volcanoes in Central America, with a peak reaching 3976 metres in altitude. Whereas Fuego is one of the most active volcanoes in the world (it can erupt every 15 minutes !).
Antigua : our starting point for this adventure
We arrived in Antigua a few days before the expedition. Antigua is the former capital of Guatemala. It’s a charming mountain town with a colonial architecture. It’s quite touristic so you will find a lot of places for internationals, but there are still some spots where to find an authentic Guatemala.
In preparation for the expedition, we took it easy so we didn’t get tired before D-day. We also booked a couple of extra days on our return from the trek as we had been warned that we would need one or two days to recover. It also allowed us to leave our luggage at the hotel during the expedition.
Where to stay ?
We stayed at the Hostal Morenos Antigua. It’s a family business, the owners are super nice. It’s a good place where to sleep and there are good breakfasts, different every morning.
The Acatenango Volcano Hike, an unforgettable experience
The Acatenango Volcano Hike is not an easy one. It takes about 5 to 6 hours to reach to top and a guide is needed. There’s two kind of trek; the one or two-day hike. As we really wanted to see the eruptions at night, as well as the sunrise on the volcano, we chose the two-day expedition. We booked it with the agency Acate Local Adventure.
Day One of the expedition
On D-day, we met the team on the main square of Antigua, and they took us by car to the beginning of the trail. They have premises there with all the equipments needed. Once we arrived there, we were equipped and given food for the 2 days. With the addition of the 3 litres of water each that we had to bring, we were ready to start the hike !
We are supposed to walk 5 to 6 hours to reach the campsite. Right from the start, it’s very steep! This is even the most complicated part. We walk between fields with an incredible view of the mountains in the background.
Then, part of the Acatenango Volcano hike is done under the shade of the trees, we arrived in a forest.
Finally, the last part, the path is flatter, and the surroundings change drastically , a kind of lunar landscape offers itself to us. Unfortunately, it started to rain a lot so we had to speed up a little.
Once arrived at the camp based on the Acatenango Volcano, we were in the middle of the clouds and it was raining heavily, so we couldn’t see the volcano El Fuego. We stayed in our little cabin where we had to spend the night until the rain passed. It lasts 3 hours .. The uncertainties of the weather!
But at one point the rain stopped, and we started to see the light of the city far below us. Then everything went very fast, we heard a first rumble and through the clouds, we could spot a few bursts of red light. Within a few minutes, the clouds cleared and the show began.
We were so happy when we finally had the chance to see the volcano unveiled. It was already dark so we could see the lava so well.
For the most courageous, there is the possibility to climb the Fuego volcano to get closer of the crater and the lava. It’s an additional 4 hours hike. Pierre did it anyway. A fabulous show, I am told.
Day Two of the expedition
After a very short and cold night, we woke up at 4 am in order to complete the rest of the climb and reach the top of the Acatenango top. It’s an hour hike in the dark, but the reward is definitely worth it.
At the top of Acatenango volcano, we discovered a beautiful view on the mountains in the middle of a sea clouds. Moreover, the colours of the sun rising over Fuego were so epic. We stayed about 30 to 45 minutes up there to admire the sun rises and the volcano explosions before to hand back to the camp site.
After a breakfast at the camp, it was time to start the descent which took approximately 2 to 3 hours. It was not the easiest part as it had rained the evening before and the ground was quite slippery. Plus, our legs were beginning to weaken.
The following day, I’d advise you not to plan too much so you can get some rest! Your body will need it!
Which agency to choose for the Acatenango Volcano Hike?
We definitely recommend to book your expedition with Acate Local Adventure.
Firstly, it’s a quite new agency so their price are really competitive. Moreover the entrance to the park is included unlike other agencies. Snacks and food are included and they organise a nice campfire with marshmallows and wine (always good to mention).
Tours are organised in small groups (maximum of 12 persons). They provide extra equipments (gloves, coats, hiking poles, shoes). Their campsite is well located to observe the volcano and the guides are great.
Tips for the expedition
- During the night, it’s very cold so bring warm clothes. You can rent everything you need with the agency but I advise to bring with you : sweater, warm socks (several pairs), leggings to put under your trousers, hat, a rain coat and the rain cover of your bag
- I would advise to rent the hiking poles. I’ve never found it useful before despite the many hikes I’ve done, but I have to admit that they were pretty useful for this one.
- Go at your own pace. It’s an altitude hike, so pay attention to your breath.
- You have to bring 3L of water (some of it will be used to cook your meal) and you can bring additional snacks.
- If you like photography, consider taking a tripod to take night shots of the volcano.
The Acatenango volcano hike remains one of our best memories of our trip to Guatemala. We were proud of ourselves for having succeeded in such a hike!