Climbing Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala

Pacaya volcano

Day 40: Antigua, Guatemala

While Sally and Kate moved on from Panajachel, Isabel and I decided to stay another day and then part ways. I arrived in Antigua and was trying to find my hostel, which was difficult because my map was useless wmany of the streets did not have signs. I was walking in the wrong direction when I heard my name.

It was Kate and Sally.

They hadn’t moved on as quickly as expected and were staying in the same hostel. They offered to take me there and invited me to join them on the Pacaya volcano hike in an hour. I had just arrived from a 3-hour shuttle and normally I would have waited but I knew it would be nice to hike with people I knew.

Pacaya is an active volcano just outside Antigua. While it’s last major eruption was in 1965, tourism did not flourish until 2006 when a rivers of lava started forming on its slope. It’s a must-do activity in Antigua and everyone raves about it.

The hour long drive to the volcano was long enough to meet the other hikers and exchange a few tips. We stopped at the hiking entrance and as the doors opened we were mobbed by kids wanting to sell us walking sticks and convince us to ride a horse up the mountain.

After we figured out who was riding and who needed a walking stick, Arturo, our guide explained it was an hour hike and we would take two minute breaks every 10 minutes.

About 20 minutes into the hike the pansy came out in me; I couldn’t catch my breath and I was feeling a bit woozy. I’m not sure if it was the humidity, the altitude or the lack of any physical activity the last 40 days but I was lagging at the end of the pack.

Normally this wouldn’t be so bad; I had no problem taking my time, except I was being politely harassed by people on horses proclaiming it would be easier if I rented a (horse) taxi.

At that moment I felt like a lazy, bacon-eating pig.

Arturo dropped back and I told him in Spanish that I was fine and wanted to walk to the top. He told me I didn’t have 50 more minutes as the horsemen said, but only 15 and that the $5 they wanted to charge me for the horse was silly. Kate and Sally also dropped back and I felt a little less like a loser.

We celebrated the peak by toasting marshmallows in the lava and taking photos of the spectacular view. Arturo appeared wearing a burnt hat, apparently someone had ventured too close to the lava and it charred right on her head.

We stayed for sunset and then had to burn it downhill before it got completely dark. Arturo shared a short-cut where we were practically trail running in order to make it in time.

I finished first right behind him, because I may be the last person up a mountain but I won’t also be the last person down it.

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  1. says

    Hey, if you were a lazy bacon eating pig they would have roasted you at the top instead of marshmellows….but I can totally see you propelling yourself downhill to beat the

  2. says

    I felt the same way hiking Mt Kenya! It can be a bit of a shock! Love the burnt hat, I hope it feel in because if someone was wearing that when it singed… !

  3. says

    I don’t know how I missed this post last year but I can totally relate to your experience – you felt like a ‘lazy bacon-eating pig’, I felt like a lazy cake-eating pig and was also the last one in the group, being harrassed to take a horse 😉 Luckily, there was another guy who was really slow, too. Only him and me had bought sticks, so I felt much less of an adventurer than everybody else already! It was an awesome climb though, and I can’t believe how close to the eruption date you hiked Pacaya!!!
    Globetrottergirls recently posted..Polaroid of the week- Climbing for coconuts on Little Corn Island

  4. says

    Definitely want to do this from Antigua…was there lava to see on the slopes? Doesn’t appear so from your photos…?

    Also: do you know the name of the outfit that you went with and roughly what time they left Antigua? Thanks!
    Anita recently posted..Thailand Part IV- Diving

    • Ayngelina says

      It’s super easy to go from Antigua and I think all of the tour operators are pretty much the same and charge 7-8 bucks.

      You can either go in the morning or afternoon but I heard the afternoon was best to see the lava glow on the mountain. There was lava when I was there but it varies, the week before there was nothing. When you get to your hostel just ask around and people will be able to tell you if the lava is out. If not I wouldn’t bother going.

        • Ayngelina says

          I stayed at the Black Cat in Antigua and it was only okay, neither good nor bad.

          If I had to go to Lake Atitlan again I would not stay in Panajachel as it’s expensive and not the best place to stay. I think the @Globetrottergirls spent a lot of time in Guatemala and could probably help.

  5. says

    Don’t you think that climbs like these are very rewarding? There is an effort to it, but after enjoying the views from the top I am always so glad I did it…

  6. says

    When it comes to hiking you and I are so much alike. We should totally “hike” together one day … I prefer flat surfaces, you?? Seriously though, I’m really glad you got to experience that and push yourself to hike even if you felt pressured to rent a horse. How cool to toast marshmallows in lava!!!


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