Hiking Volcano Acatenango (Elevation 3976): Ultimate guide to the one the hardest physical activities I’ve done

Volcano acatenango

Photo Credit: http://www.nathan-robert.com/

Slovenskú verziu nájdete tu.

I am writing this article just a few hours after the hike with clear pain but satisfaction in my body.

Hiking Acatenango in Guatemala was a great challenge and one of the best things I’ve done. The hike itself isn’t that difficult, the challenges are the conditions. Hiking with your full backpack, which consists of the tent, sleeping bag and mat, 5 litres of water and food, plus your personal items and warm clothes. The surface and weather make up the challenging conditions. Most of the trek has sand and gravel, which is not easy to get by, at times it’s one step up, two steps down. Weather of course is unpredictable, but be ready for a cold windy night and colder morning.

Hiking Acatenango

Our trek started around lunch time and finished at 6pm. 6 hrs of hiking is broken into multiple sections of about 30 minutes with breaks for about 10-15 mins, so you get plenty of chances to recharge your batteries. Don’t be scared to keep your own pace, the guides are amazing and happy to wait for the last person. We were lucky enough to have a group of amazing people and all get along really well which makes everything more fun.

The first hour is the worst. Trust me, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to finish it. The first hill starts with shitty gravel, but from here it will only get better.

We arrive at the base camp just after 6pm and the view was an amazing reward for our effort. At 3500m elevation, Volcano Fuego just in front of us started smoking, our guides made a bonfire and hot chocolate and we chat under the stars. The only wish I had at this moment was to see the volcano erupting, but our guides gave us only a 5% chance to see it as it was super active the previous week and they explained that it works in 2 month cycles. And then it happened. Just after midnight we were awoken by a loud explosion and felt the rumble in the earth. Hell yeaah, Volcano eruption! It was the most incredible thing I’ve seen. Sparkles on the top and lava spewing down the sides. At this point everything during the day was worth it for this little moment.

Volcano Fuego, Guatemala

Volcano de Agua, Guatemala

4.40am. “Buenos dias, Get up everyone.” Uuuugh not easy at all, but time to get up for our last big challenge. Hike to the summit of Acatenango, 3,900m elevation for sunrise and a 360 degrees view of the surrounding volcanos and towns in freezing cold and windy weather. At this point I started to feel the altitude sickness, feeling a bit nauseas but this is a challenge and I am going to be rewarded with amazing view. Remember when I said the first hour was the hardest? Sorry, this takes the cake! After a bad night sleep, tired muscles, minimal visibility and freezing cold weather, add the deep volcanic gravel and you’ve got an awful start to the day.

But we all did it, with frozen hair on our body, frozen fingers and toes but with a sense of achievement that made it all worth while.

Camping at Acatenango

How to prepare for the hike

How to choose an tour agency?

We went with a friends recommendation and chose Planet Maya located on 7 Avenida Norte. It is one of the cheapest companies in Antigua and we paid Q 120 which included transport, gear (tent, mat, sleeping bag) and food for your lunch, dinner and breakfast. In Antigua there is a lot more agencies with different prices, so definitely shop around.

There is an additional park entry fee of Q50 at the start, so ask your agency if this is included in the price.

Sunrise at Acatenango

Freezing cold at Acatenango

How to dress?

Be prepared for very cold weather. Each agency offers you to rent warm clothes such as jacket, hat, gloves etc for an extra fee from Q10-30 per item. What we did though, was visit a local second hand market in the town and bought amazing thick fluffy hoodies for way cheaper. Ask for La Paca market located just at the end of the local market.

What I wear for hike: thermo t-shirt, long sleeve thin top and waterproof breathable Colombia jacket which activates heat once you start moving. Click here for similar item I would never give up 🙂 Long sleeve top wasn’t needed after a few minutes.

For the night and early morning the hat, gloves and fluffy thick jumper was much appreciated in the freezing cold weather.

But do not take a lot of clothes, no need for a fresh change for the morning. Don’t forget you are hiking with a full pack of gear.

What to pack?

Agency provided us with quite a good amount of food but pack some extra goodies with you. What we got was 2 sandwiches with cheese, salad and ham, 2 hard boiled eggs, yogurt, 2 bananas and instant soup for the dinner. We packed some extra energising things with us such as chocolate, peanut butter, bread and extra bananas, which we were thankful for and finished everything.

Water – agency recommends to bring 5 litres of water and it’s no joke. Pack 5 litres as you will need to use your own water for the instant soup, coffee or hot chocolate. Keep hydrated early as it’s harder to get rehydrated and it also helps copping with the altitude.

Hiking stick – the number one recommendation. At the start point you will meet locals renting extra gear. Go for a hiking stick or two (Q5=$1/each). You will need it 100%.

Camping at Acatenango