Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala – The Ultimate Guide (2023)

This is a picture from the Pacaya volcano hike in Guatemala.

Hiking a volcano is one of the most thrilling activities available for tourists in Guatemala. The country is home to a total of 37 volcanoes, with three of them still active. Two of these active volcanoes, Pacaya and Fuego, are easily accessible from the popular tourist destination, Antigua.

The Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala stands out as a top choice for visitors in Antigua. Among the two main hikes in the area (Pacaya and Fuego), the Pacaya hike is the more convenient and less strenuous option. Located in the southern part of Guatemala, Pacaya Volcano is only a 1 to 1.5-hour car ride away (approximately 12 miles) from Antigua.

During my visit to Antigua, Guatemala, I fulfilled a long-standing bucket list item by choosing to hike Pacaya. It was the more accessible option for a volcano hike in the region. The experience of hiking Pacaya Volcano turned out to be incredible, and to our surprise, we even witnessed an eruption of Fuego Volcano during our descent.

In this guide, you’ll discover all the essential details for your own Pacaya Volcano hiking adventure.

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    Is Pacaya Volcano Active?

    Pacaya Volcano, situated in both Guatemala and the broader Central American region, is active and known for its frequent eruptions. As of the time of this article’s posting, the most recent eruption of Pacaya Volcano took place in 2021.

    Guatemalan local authorities diligently monitor Pacaya’s volcanic activity and allow public access to the volcano only when there is minimal risk of an eruption. Before embarking on your hike up the volcano, it is essential to consult with local guides for the most current information on its status and conditions.

    Is it possible to hike Pacaya Volcano independently, without a guide?

    Tourists cannot hike Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala independently; it must be done with a licensed guide. 

    There are several reasons that it’s essential to hire a guide for the Pacaya Hike, and safety tops the list. At a certain point during the hike, you’ll need to cross warm volcanic rock, and having a local guide is crucial to help you through this part easily. 

    Another important reason for having a tour guide is their awareness of volcanic activity in the area. They ensure that you are taken to Pacaya Volcano only when it is safe to do so.

    Many hostels in Antigua can help you organize a guided tour to Pacaya. If you’d like to book the tour on your own, I recommend booking a hike through GetYourGuide, such as this one.

    What Should I expect on the Pacaya Volcano Hike?

    If you’re staying in Antigua, here’s how most guided tours to Pacaya Volcano operate: They’ll pick you up at your hostel and drive you to the volcano base, which takes about 1.5 hours. Upon arrival at the base, your tour guide will assist the group in paying the National Park entrance fee, and then you’ll embark on a two-hour climb to the volcano summit.

    The ascent to the volcano summit is moderately challenging, with some steep climbs. It’s advisable to be in decent physical shape in order to hike Pacaya. The majority of the climb takes place on smooth dirt trails. Alternatively, if you’d prefer to skip the climb altogether, you can rent a horse to ride up to the Pacaya volcano summit.

    Once you reach the summit, you’ll need to walk across warm volcanic rock to reach the final destination. Don’t worry; the rocks aren’t scalding hot, and your guide will provide instructions on the best way to cross them.

    At the summit, most tours will allow you to roast marshmallows over the volcanic rock, take photos, savor the breathtaking views, and then commence your descent down the volcano. If you’re fortunate, while descending during dusk, you might catch a glimpse of Fuego Volcano erupting, which occurs approximately every 15 to 20 minutes. Our tour group had the privilege of witnessing this volcano erupt, which was an incredible experience.

    In summary, the entire tour typically takes about four to five hours to complete and takes around five to seven hours from most hostels in Antigua, from door to door.

    Renting a Horse to get to the top of Pacaya Volcano

    Horses are available to help hikers reach the Pacaya Volcano summit if they need extra assistance. You can rent these horses at the volcano’s base, and they’ll take you all the way to the top. It’s worth mentioning that once you’re at the summit, you’ll need to cross the volcano coals on foot. However, the horse will ease the more physically demanding part of the journey, which is the two-hour uphill walk to the summit.

    What to Bring on the Pacaya Volcano Hike

    It’s crucial to be ready for the varying conditions of the Pacaya Volcano Hike, which can range from extreme heat to extreme cold, along with periods of strong sun and spontaneous rain. With that in mind, here’s a checklist of items to ensure you bring on your hike:

    • Water in a refillable water bottle
    • Comfortable hiking shoes (Note: during our guided tour, we were advised that there’s a chance your sneakers may slightly melt on the hike due to the warm coals you’ll walk on—this didn’t happen to anyone in my tour group, but it’s good to be aware of)
    • Sun protection
    • Dress in layers—the weather on Pacaya can switch from very hot to very cold quickly
    • Rain gear (poncho, rain jacket, etc.) in case of rain

    When is the Best time to Hike Pacaya Volcano?

    The optimal time to hike the Pacaya Volcano is in November, which marks the beginning of the region’s “dry season.” During this time, the landscape is lush and green from the rainfall it received during the “rainy season” that will have just ended. The dry season extends until April, making any period from November to April an ideal time to plan your visit.

    Exploring Guatemala’s volcanoes, especially Pacaya Volcano, provides an exciting adventure for travelers. With its lush landscapes and accessibility from Antigua, it’s a prime choice for hikers seeking a moderately easy volcano experience.

    When embarking on the Pacaya Volcano hike, keep in mind that Pacaya is active. Therefore, it’s essential to follow the guidance of local authorities and consult with experienced guides to stay informed about its current status.

    Disclosure: Please note that some of the above are affiliate links, and I earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend companies that I’ve personally used and like, and the income supports this site. 

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