One of the top tours booked in Antigua, Guatemala is the Pacaya Volcano Hike.
Hiking an active volcano and then roasting marshmallows on the volcanic vents?!? Um, yes please.
As soon as I heard about the tour, I thought it would be the perfect adventure for our family.
The reality? The actual hike is not as epic as you would imagine, but the natural beauty makes hiking Pacaya Volcano still worth your time.
About Pacaya Volcano-
Pacaya is an active volcano that first erupted about 23,000 years ago. It has been one of the most active volcanoes in Central America over the last 500 years.
The highest point of the volcano is 8,373 feet in elevation.
Because Pacaya Volcano Hike has been such a popular tourist destination, the Guatemalan government made the volcano and the area surrounding it a National Park.
Pacaya Volcano Hike Booking Options
Pacaya Volcano is 20 miles from Antigua and 30 miles from Guatemala City. I would suggest booking your tour out of Antigua (only because it is such a charming town and there are so many incredible things to do in Antigua).
There are quite a few tour companies in Antigua that sell the Pacaya Volcano hike tour. The price for a shared shuttle from your hotel and a guide for the hike is around 35 USD per person with no discount for children.
Because Pacaya Volcano and the area surrounding it is a National Park, there is a fee of 100 QTG (about 13 USD) per person to get in. The National Park fee is not included in the price of the tour.
All of the tour companies offer two different time options, early in the morning, and around 2:00 in the afternoon. After our Tikal Sunrise Tour, we’d had enough early mornings and decided to book the afternoon hike.
The Bus Ride to Pacaya Volcano
Pacaya Volcano is only 20 miles from Antigua but you should expect the bus ride to take at least an hour and a half. Everyone on the tour is picked up at their hotel so a lot of the time on the bus is spent picking up and then dropping off all of the passengers.
The bus to Pacaya from Antigua goes up into the mountains and then down through several small towns before heading back up to Pacaya. It is neat to see the Volcano from afar on the way there.
The area near the trailhead is equipped with bathrooms and a small store selling snacks and drinks. After arrival, you will be instructed to go pay your 100 QTG admission fee before meeting your guide at the trailhead and starting the hike.
Starting The Pacaya Volcano Hike
The hiking groups are generally very large (our group consisted of all 28 people who were on the bus with us). On top of the huge tour group, there are also 4-5 men on horses who are each leading an additional horse following the tour group trying to get the hikers to buy a “taxi ride” (horse ride up the trail).
The horseback riders follow the hiking group the entire way to the top. If you know you don’t want to ride a horse, stay at the back of the group and allow the horseback riders to pass. This will make your hike more enjoyable.
The Steady Hike Up
It is a steady climb with thick lush green vegetation on either side of the trail. In the mile-and-a-half climb to the top, there is an elevation gain of about 1,000 feet.
Along the way are viewpoints looking out over several other volcanoes in the area, making great places to stop and rest.
Pacaya Volcano Up Close
The trail ends on the top of an old crater with incredible views of the nearby majestic Pacaya Volcano. The vegetation is instantly gone. Pacaya Volcano has created a moon-like landscape covered with black lava rock. If you happen to visit Pacaya during an active eruption, you will be able to see red-hot lava and gigantic boulders occasionally erupting from the crater.
Roasting Marshmallows on a Volcanic Vent
It is quite unnerving to walk on lava with active volcanic vents hot enough to roast marshmallows. Those vents are hot! But, the marshmallow roasting was a highlight of the hike for all of us.
The Hike Down
After one last up-close view of the volcano, it is time to start the hike down. The hike back down is on a dirt road and was our least favorite part of the whole adventure. The ground was extremely dry and the dirt was fine and powdery. All of the footsteps made a huge brown dirt cloud.
Eli loved playing in the dirt so we stayed at the back of the group so Eli’s dirt-playing wouldn’t annoy the other hikers.
The amount of dirt we dumped out of our shoes at the bottom was unbelievable.
It was almost dark when we finally made it back to the bus.
What to Bring on the Hike
- Make sure that you have enough water and snacks to get you through the hike. There is a small store at the trailhead but the prices are a lot steeper than in Antigua.
- Dress in layers. It can be hot at the trailhead and heading up the mountain but the temperature drops dramatically at the top.
- Wear sturdy shoes. The lava rocks are sharp and hard to walk on. It would be difficult to walk from the viewpoint at the top of the hill down to the lava field in sandals.
How Long is the Pacaya Volcano Hike?
The hike is three miles long and takes about six hours including the roundtrip bus ride.
Is The Pacaya Volcano Hike Hard?
While it isn’t an easy hike, I wouldn’t consider the Pacaya Volcano hike to be hard. I’d say it is right in the middle. Eli hiked it with no problem at five years old and my mom hiked it in her 70s with no issue.
Is The Pacaya Volcano Hike Worth it?
Absolutely! We all agreed that it wasn’t a great hike. But, being close enough to an active volcano to roast marshmallows and hear the boulders tumbling down was incredible
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