Hiking Volcan Acatenango in Guatemala
Visiting Guatemala for the first time? The first thing you will notice will be the mountainous region along with many volcanoes...37 to be exact. If you are visiting Antigua, you will be able to catch a glimpse of three volcanoes from almost anywhere in the town: Volcan Fuego, Volcan Agua and Volcan Acatenango. The third tallest volcano in Guatemala is Acatenango. It last erupted in 1972 and it has been dormant ever since. You will hear about the "must do" hike to Volcan Acatenango all over town. If you have the chance and you are up to the challenge, we highly recommend it!
BUT FIRST...LET'S BE HONEST...
One of the most challenging physical obstacles we’ve ever encountered has to be hiking Volcán Acatenango. With that said, it’s also been one of the most incredible things we’ve ever experienced. We are not the most in shape people in the world, but with determination, mental preparation and booking a good tour guide/company you should be able to hike Volcán Acatenango. Full disclosure: within the first hour I was ready to throw in the towel and walk my happy ass back! This climb is very hard. You have a combination of loose volcano gravel for the first hour to hour and half and a very steep ascend for most of the way up. You also have to take into consideration the altitude. As you start ascending you might start feeling shortness of breath and dizziness. In my case we had an excellent guide Alex, willing to stay with us as I was trying my best to make it up this volcano. If it wasn’t for Alex, I might have given up!
MORE ABOUT VOLCAN ACATENANGO
Volcan Acatenango is the volcano you will be hiking and where base camp is located. From base camp you will be able to see Volcan Fuego in its full glory. It is especially scenic and impressive at night. It is safe to camp on Volcan Acatenango and watch Volcan Fuego erupt from a distance. We also witnessed a few brave souls climb up Volcan Fuego and stand very close to all the eruptions. Not our cup of tea, but if you ask your guide this might be possible.
A few facts about Volcan Acatenango:
Acatenango last erupted in 1972
Currently in a dormant state
Highest Point 3,976 m (13,045 ft)
To the summit 3,768 m (12,362 ft)
To the campsite 3,736 m (12,257 ft)
Approximate ascent time: 4-6 hrs
Approximate descent time: 2-3 hrs
Depending on season, temperature can drop -5* C or 23* F
OUR HIKING EXPERIENCE
It is highly recommended you book a tour through a reputable company or hire a local guide. Although the hike is hard, having an experienced guide who has done this before and knows the area will give you reassurance and make safety a non-issue. We took the first couple of days in Antigua to walk around and ask for prices/information about the Volcan Acatenango hike. The prices we found ranged from 250Q-800Q ($34-$110USD). Once we compared all of our options, we decided to purchase our tour with Tropicana Hostel. The total price was 450Q each ($61USD) which included the 50Q ($6.82USD) entrance fee to the volcano.
We opted for the option to camp and stay overnight at base camp on Volcan Acatenango. You start the hike around 11am and get to base camp around 3-4pm. The guides start cooking dinner on an open fire around 5pm. Followed by some hot chocolate and wine. The open fire helps keep you warm. For the rest of the evening you enjoy the eruptions of Volcan Fuego. You then wake up at 4am to hike to the summit of Volcan Acatenango to watch the sunrise. This part is by far the hardest climb of the entire hike. It takes about an hour to reach the summit. For this part, you carry only essentials like your flashlight, water, warm clothes and leave the rest at camp. You spend a few minutes at the summit, enough to take pictures and enjoy the views. You then climb down to base camp, have coffee/bread and get ready to start the descent around 7:30-8am. Tropicana has the best view of Volcan Fuego. Tropicana Hostel has a private platform where it will only be you and the group you hike up with. They also have a bathroom facility at base camp. The guides we had that day Oscar and Alex were exceptional! (Read more about our guides below.)
TIPS FOR HIKING VOLCAN ACATENANGO
We can't stress enough how important it is to be prepared for this hike. Although we are not experienced hikers, many in our group (some were very experienced hikers) mentioned how this was the most challenging hike they had ever done. So how did we prepare? We asked a lot of questions and asked many different people about their experience. A few things to keep in mind when selecting a tour company/guide:
Be clear on what the the tour company/local guide is providing and what you need to carry yourself. Most companies already have the gear (tents, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, etc.) at base camp making it easier for you. I would highly recommend going with a company who does not require you to carry the gear. You will be thinking about every single ounce of weight you are carrying as you hike up Acatenango. Ask about the quality of the tents. Some companies have better quality tents than others which makes a difference when it gets cold and windy. Ask about the food that is provided and if you need to carry the food up yourself or if it will be carried up for you.
Dress warm. Don’t take this recommendation lightly. It gets very cold and windy up there. Some companies allow you to rent clothing items. Take them up on this! We had a light North Face Jacket with us, but we also rented hats, pants and an additional thicker jacket. It was still cold, but it kept us warm enough.
Bring a flashlight. The climb up to the summit at 4am will be almost impossible if you don’t have a flashlight or a mobile phone with a light.
The hike in sneakers is doable. If you have hiking boots…great! If you don’t, don’t worry as we were able to do the hike with sneakers and didn’t have any problems.
Bring 3-4 liters of water per person. You will need all of this water since the tour guides will use the water you carry to make food for you including soup, hot chocolote and coffee.
Bring extra snacks like peanuts, chocolate or any other high energy, but light foods. We personally didn't need much food on the way up and ended up overpacking food.
Bring toilet paper!
Don't worry if this is your first time hiking. Don't be shy to ask your guide to go at a slower pace. If you need a breather, chances are someone else in your group does too.
If you can't climb with your backpack, tell your guide! There are options for local porters to carry your backpack for around 200 Quetzales/$28USD. The backpacks are carried on horse and this helps the locals earn some money so don't feel bad if you opt for the additional help.
So are you ready to take on the adventure of a lifetime and hike Volcan Acatenango?
Check out more pictures and videos of the hike down below!
Our Local Guides:
Alex & Oscar
On our hike to Volcan Acatenango we were lucky to have Alex and Oscar as our guides. They are both local tour guides from the town of La Soledad, a town located at the base of Volcan Acatenango. Alex is also a freelance tour guide. If you decide to visit Guatemala to hike Volcan Acatenango and want a local private experience and don't mind practicing your Spanish, don't hesitate to reach out to Alex to reserve a private tour at Expedicion Volcan Acatenango on Facebook. Alex is currently only doing private tours in Spanish. He will be opening it up to English tours in the future. He is extremely professional and knows the hike to Acatenango like the back of his hand.
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