Volcano Pacaya is one of Guatemala’s most active volcanoes, and one that is easily accessible from Antigua. After hearing the many stories of roasting marshmallows over hot lava, we knew we had to hike it!! It’s one of the best volcano hikes in Guatemala and a most-do if you’re in Antigua!
… it might have also been a little taster before we attempted Volcano Acatenango.
It’s mandatory to hike up Volcano Pacaya with a guide. You can either do this by booking with a tour in Antigua, or make your own way to Pacaya and hire a guide from there. From asking around, people paid around Q200 for the latter. Tour agencies we spoke to were charging anything from Q170-450, with added perks of lunch and hot springs.
Eventually, we decided to book though our hostel, Adra, who charged Q100 for return transport and a lovely local guide. The entrance fee for the volcano itself is Q50 – paid on arrival.
The two main tours on offer are 6am or 2pm. We chose to go in the afternoon to see the sunset. It’s worth nothing, you can book a tour to Pacaya from Guatemala City too.
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Getting to Volcano Pacaya
The minivan arrived at our hostel 25 minutes behind the scheduled 2pm departure time. As we were the last hostel pick-up, we headed straight to the volcano.
After a 90 minute drive along winding roads, we arrived at the hike starting point. We were instantly swarmed by kids selling walking sticks for Q10 and ‘taxi’ horses for Q100. The walking sticks would have been helpful at certain points, due to the slippery walking path and steep downhill to the lava. The horses follow you up until the viewing point and are available at any time if you need them. There are toilets at the car park too.
Related Post: Surviving the Volcano Acatenango Overnight Hike!
The hike to the viewing point was harder than I anticipated. The forest landscape has a steep track with loose gravel, ash and small rocks. We did take regular breaks along the way up, and fortunately, were blessed with clear skies! The views were incredible and we could see as far as Guatemala City!!
After an hour of walking, we reached the top and were awarded with breathtaking views of Volcano Pacaya. In addition, Volcano Acatenango, Agua and Fuego were visible from the other side. It made the sweaty hike up worth it!!
From here, we made our way down to Volcano Pacaya’s base. This was fairly challenging, given the amount of loose rock and ash. It was slippery and you had to be conscious of where you stepped.
Marshmallow Roasting on Pacaya Volcano
The terrain here was vastly different from the forest landscape we’d been hiking in at the start. We walked through a make-shift path surrounded by mounds of dried lava, until finally…marshmallows!! Our guide had us gather round a small hole in the lava that was hot enough to roast marshmallows.
This was probably one of the most surreal moments of my life – standing in front of an active volcano, surrounded by dried lava, eating roasted marshmallows.
Apparently, there’s a ‘lava store’ around here, which sells jewellery. However, we didn’t see it.
With marshmallows eaten, we made our way to watch the sunset.
The landscape changed once again as we walked across sandy-ash towards the sunset. We stayed here for 30 minutes, taking photos and appreciating the incredible sun setting below the clouds. Without question, this goes down in my top three favourite sunsets!!
Once the sun starts to set, you’re able to see the hot lava on Volcano Pacaya too. It started to get cold at this time, so we wrapped up warm and got ready for the descent.
At 6:30pm, we started the hike back down, guided by our phone torches. This was a different route to the ascent – much flatter with slightly easier terrain to walk on. Having said that, you still need to be conscious of where you step, and in the pitch dark, it was hard at time. Within an hour we were back in the van and on our way back to Antigua.
Tips for Hiking Volcano Pacaya
- DO THE SUNSET TOUR! I can’t stress enough how incredible it was to watch the sunset from above the clouds, surrounded by Volcanos. I don’t think the 6am tour would provide the same experience.
- Make sure to bring warm layers for the top. It’s windy and, if you’re there after sunset, can get quite cold.
- Consider taking a headlamp to help with the descent. Our group managed with phone torches, so although it’s not a necessity, headlamps would have made it easier.
- Wear proper hiking shoes or trainers. The hike is slippery at parts!
- Bring lots of water (and potentially some snacks). Although the hike isn’t long, we did the majority of it in the daylight and heat. You can’t buy water on the volcano so it’s better to pack some.
If you’re in Antigua, be sure to hike up Volcano Pacaya! It’s not a challenge, like Volcano Acatenango, and is a great price for what you get. The incredible sunset and marshmallow roasting provided such a unique experience. A definite highlight of our time in Guatemala!
Since speaking to a few people who hiked Volcano Pacaya, we realise how lucky we were with the weather. Some people had total whiteouts and weren’t able to have any views or see the volcano!
Let me know how you get on with hiking up Volcano Pacaya.
Happy Travels x