Guatemala is one of the least developed countries in Central America. Only 2% of its territory is inhabited, the rest is, well… jungle. The country is mostly covered in mountains and volcanos offering incredible hikes and viewpoints. One of the best things to do is hiking a volcano in Guatemala.
Many people wrongly assume that the Maya vanished when the colonization of those lands started. In reality, most of Guatemala inhabitants are Maya descendants. Many of them live in small communities in the mountains, live off simple trade, have land with crops and coffee. Most of them don’t even speak Spanish.
If you are a tourist, like me, you will most likely stick to touristy places. No worries, everyone speaks Spanish over there. You might have some trouble with English outside of the big hotels, so brace yourself. Guatemala is fascinating, wild, and dangerous.
Be very careful, especially if you are a solo female traveler. Nothing happened to me and overall it was a pleasant experience, but this is not Mexico where everyone is nice and friendly. Sometimes I had the impression that I was not welcome. But maybe it’s just me.
Local life and volcanos
My very first encounter with locals was in Antigua Guatemala, where somebody told me: “You, tourists, come here and act like everything is normal. You don’t get to see the real-life in Guatemala. You stay in your comfortable hotels with hot water. Do you think that we have hot water in our houses? This is a luxury”. I was staying in a simple hostel in the city, but yes, indeed, we had hot water. It immediately gave me a sense of the normal life most people in this country are living. But I will talk more about it in another post.
Guatemala has 37 volcanos. Four of them are active and regularly erupting. But let’s not forget, that we are in Guatemala and it doesn’t mean that we can’t climb them. Climbing a volcano in Guatemala is one of THE THINGS people visit the country for. Next to Tikal and Atitlan. The most popular trek from Antigua is Volcan de Fuego. Actually, you will be climbing the volcano right next to it, Acatenango. The trip takes two days. You spend the night on the top of Acatenango, if you are lucky, you can watch Volcan de Fuego crashing lava during the night. This is truly a once in a lifetime experience!
Hiking the Pacaya Volcano
Me, I opted for a slightly easier, one-day trip to Pacaya Volcano. It is active and when I was visiting Guatemala, it has just erupted a few months earlier. Which means that there was a lot of fresh lava around the crater!
We started early, they picked me up at 5:30 in the morning. We drove around two hours to a small village on the side of the volcano where our local guide awaited us. The village was suuuper simple, with only a few houses, one small shop, dogs and chicken running around, and young people offering to take us up the road with their horses.
The hike was quite challenging. Not very difficult, but it’s definitely not a beginner level. The road was very steep. We stopped a few times along the way to catch a breath.
Roasting the Marshmallows
Finally, we arrived at the top. What a view! Totally worth it. But the best was yet to come. Our guide took out the marshmallows from his bag and said that we will now roast them on the lava. We proceeded to climb the dried out lava wall created by the last eruption. The “ground” was so hot under our feet that I was genuinely concerned that my shoes might melt. It was a very dangerous mission, let’s be honest. Finally, we found a hole in the lava where the steam was coming from. It was so hot that mi first marshmallow burst into flames!
It was an absolutely incredible experience! Of course, only once we were back on the road, the guide told us, that is was possible that the lava brakes at one point. Of course… But you know, no risk, no fun. And that was definitely a lot of fun!
Another thing: the whole tour, with pick up and the guide cost around 7 euros. Ridiculous.
Some advice for volcano climbing:
- Wear good shoes. The road is bumpy and steep.
- Wear sport clothes adapted to humidity. On the top, it can get quite cold, even though it’s super humid. It’s really uncomfortable
- Bring sunglasses, you will need them at the top
- Don’t forget the water!
- Bring some snacks to get the energy up
- Be careful not to fall into the lava 😉
Convinced to go hiking on a volcano in Guatemala? Have fun!