If you haven’t heard about the famous volcanoes in Guatemala then you are missing out. Central America is famous for its abundance of volcanos and especially one in Guatemala named Volcan Acatenango. The Volcan Acatenango hike is special in its own regard but the main reason it’s on everyone’s to-do list is because of the neighboring volcano, Fuego. Volcan Fuego is one of the most active volcanos in the world. It has “mini” eruptions at least every 20-30 minutes and possibly even closer together than that. If you hike Volcan Acatenango at night, then you will get to see something truly special.
Many people when flying to Guatemala immediately go to the town of Antigua. Whatever hostel or hotel you stay at, there will be signs everywhere talking about the Volcan Acatenango hike. Hiking any volcano comes with inherent risks. There have been deaths over the years for various reasons. The last time Fuego erupted was in 2018 and killed 69 people who were located in the local town next to the volcano. Don’t let this scare you though as it is still overall safe to do and is an experience worth living.
Why You Should Hike Volcan Acatenango
The photograph pictured above should solely make you want to embark on this incredible Volcan Acatenango hike. I had wanted to do this for a couple of years before finally arriving in Guatemala. It wasn’t until we met some people in Montezuma, Costa Rica who showed us photos that this was going to be the most epic thing ever. During the hike, you will walk across different terrain and see multiple types of vegetation. A lot of the time you will be alongside the volcano with amazing views of the surrounding area. Once you start to get a little bit higher you will be able to see Lake Atitlan surrounded by Volcan San Pedro, Volcan Toliman Volcano, and Volcan Atitlan. The views alone should be the driving force behind your wanting to do the Volcan Acatenango hike. That along with the great times with some old friends and new friends made it the highlight of our trip to Guatemala.
Acatenango Volcano Facts
- Distance: 8.6 miles out & back
- Time: Average 7 hours according to Alltrails
- Elevation Gain: 5,252 feet
- Acatenango Elevation: 3,876 meters (13,044 feet)
My Suggested Hiking Gear
Below is a list of some of my favorite hiking/travel gear I bring everywhere. Everything below is something I currently use and never leave my house without.
- KEEN Durand II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots: I finally upgraded my hiking boots in 2022 and these are fantastic. They have top-notch ankle support and are super durable.
- Petzl Tikka Headlamp: A headlamp for hiking is a must if you’re like me and love sunrise hikes. This is a great price for a quality headlamp and also has a good red light to not disturb others in the morning.
- Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks: I originally got these as a present but I had to buy more because these are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever tried on.
- Grayl GeoPress Water Filter Bottle: You will never have to rebuy plastic water bottles. This is the best water filtering device on the market. It is excellent for hikers and travelers alike.
Best Time to Hike Acatenango
You can hike Volcan Acatenango year-round. The best time to complete this hike is between the months of February and June. My friends and I completed this hike the first week of March and we had perfect conditions all throughout the hike, especially at the top. There is a chance that you won’t get to see as much because of cloud cover during this time period but that is rare. It is very hard to predict the weather around these areas. If you are to hike Volcan Acatenango outside of these months, know that there is an increased chance of cloud cover because it is during the rainy season. The true start to the rainy season starts in May and ends in November but sometimes these can start earlier or last longer.
Acatenango Overnight Hike
When we were planning our trip through Guatemala, we knew we would always camp on the side of Acatenango. There was no other choice for us. If you want to see Fuego light up the sky, then you have to do the night hike. This will also give you time to relax at the top more and not have to worry about making it down before the sun sets. In my opinion, it is almost pointless to not camp at the top. You will also have the chance to see the sunrise from the peak of Acatenango.
Volcan Acatenango Hike Difficulty
Overall, the hike to Acatenango is moderately difficult. Though this all depends on your fitness level, everyone in our group of 25 made it to the top. We had all kinds of different people. They have a bunch of people from the tour group hiking with you. After the first break, you will go through the first major incline and the terrain is very soft dirt. This can be difficult. After getting past the major wooded area, it starts to flatten out a little bit. At this point, you are getting extremely close to the campsite. If you bring the proper gear, you will definitely be able to complete this hike.
Which Tour Company is Best?
Earlier I mentioned that we met some people in Montezuma who did the Volcan Acatenango hike a couple of weeks before. They mentioned Tropicana tours and loved them. We looked into it and were satisfied with our decision. We have looked at other tour companies but it seemed Tropicana was the best value for our money.
Tropicana Acatenango Hike Details
Being the same company that runs the famous party hostel in Antigua, I was a little skeptical about how good they would be for this tour. It was $60 for the night tour which seemed like a great deal after I saw everything they offered. Here is everything that was included in the bundle:
- Transportation to and from the Acatenango trailhead
- Sleeping bags with blanket and pillow
- Breakfast that included pancakes, eggs, coffee, and fruit
- Lunch (vegan options available) which was a burrito, apple, brownie, and juice
- 1st dinner (instant soup)
- 2nd dinner (noodles & veggies)
- Hot chocolate and a glass of wine
- warm fire with benches to sit down around it
If you are needing equipment to rent like jackets, pants, boots, gloves, and poles then they also rent those out. I HIGHLY suggest renting some poles if you don’t have any. They cost 25 Quetzales per pole and were well worth it.
Is Hiking Acatenango Safe?
There is always an inherent risk when doing a long and strenuous hike like this. It is especially different when this is a volcano next to one of the most active volcanos in the world. That being said, yes it is very safe to hike the Acatenango volcano.
Acatenango herself is dormant and will not be erupting. The last eruption of Fuego was in 2018 and people in the surrounding areas had to be evacuated. This was a tragedy but at the end of the day is an outlier and should not scare you.
While I was still visiting Antigua, Fuego started to become more and more active. Her mini eruptions became continuous and I heard some groups only were able to sleep for 20 minutes before being told they had to evacuate down the mountain. I am not telling you this to scare you but it is something that does have the chance of happening.
My Experience During the Volcan Acatenango Hike
The beginning of hiking Volcan Acatenango could not have started any better. The breakfast was a lot better than I thought it would be. Nothing insanely good but I figured we’d get much less than what we did. Unfortunately, I hate it too fast for me to be able to get a photograph of it. After this, you have about 30 minutes to go rent anything that you need. If you want to rent poles, sticks, or headlamps then that will all be rented once at the trailhead.
After all of that, we got in a shuttle and headed toward the trailhead. This took around an hour to an hour and a half. The trailhead for the Tropicana tour is different than if you are going with others. You will be starting 200-300 meters up the mountain already. This was nice to hear as it felt like we were getting a little bit of a slow start to the hike. Once everyone was ready the team went over the plan and the area and we started our trek. The first section was extremely easy with not that much incline. We stopped fairly early at a restaurant area for longer than I would have liked but it was alright.
When we began to start hiking again we went through some extremely soft dirt areas and an area that looked like had been excavated strictly for hikers. Going up and down this section is completely different. These are essentially stairs but you won’t be on this section for long and the soil will begin to get a little bit harder.
The soil starts to get a little better but the incline becomes steeper. You won’t be in this new area for too long before the next break. The next break is technically the entrance to the park. Here you will fill out a piece of paper with your information on and a guy will give you a wristband. This is probably where you would pay if you were doing the hike without a group because they asked who we were with.
After everyone has filled out their sheet and gotten a wristband, you will start back up. Everyone seems to stay pretty close together at first and then more space beings to form in between others. These areas are where having poles are so nice. They will take away the overall stress on your legs and knees if used properly.
The incline stays pretty steady but you can sense that you are getting closer to your goal. The breaks feel far and less frequent. As you keep hiking up the forest starts to open up. Every time you look off to your right there is another spectacular view worth stopping for. Keep pushing as you are getting closer and closer. The trail stays pretty clear and well-maintained throughout the whole hike, which I love.
After a few hours, you will get through the forested areas and will be on the edge of the volcano. But right before this, you will have to climb some sort of stairs on a very steep section. This is the most important section for you to have the proper boots on. Some girls that we were with were slipping because they only have basketball shoes on. After this section, you are on the home stretch.
The views from here are so crazy and it also becomes flatter. At this point, you will be hiking through the clouds. It’s a surreal feeling. To be on the edge of the earth seems like something out of a movie. I had to tell myself that this is real life multiple times. After another 30-45 minutes you will get to the campsite. Once there you will relax, eat 1st dinner (instant soup) and get ready for the Fuego hike if you choose to do it.
Volcan de Fuego Hike
For those who are feeling extra adventurous, you are able to hike to Volcan Fuego as well. This will cost an extra fee of 200 quetzales. Once you get to the top you may have around 1 hour to an hour and a half before you will start to head down and then back up to Fuego. Depending on the group, you will usually be gone for another 4-5 hours. I decided to stay back and enjoy the fire while watching Fuego’s explosions. I ended up going to bed at 9 PM before they got back. Most of them didn’t even wake up early for the sunrise hike. Some photos were pretty cool but I’m not sure if it was worth missing sunrise for it.
Volcan Acatenago Sunrise Hike
I was glad that I went to bed when I did because, in order to do the sunrise hike, you have to wake up at 4:30. The tour guides come to everyone’s tents and wake up the group. The sunrise hike and Fuego are when you would want to bring your headlamp. When sleeping at the base camp you are sitting at around 3700 meters. You will be hiking around another 200 meters straight up to the peak of Volcan Acatenango at 3976 meters. It is extremely cold and windy so bring all of your gear but it is totally worth it. Once again there will always be someone at the beginning of the group and someone always waiting behind the whole group. The group stays up there for around 30 – 45 minutes or so and then you head down. You will have such a great view of the lake and its Volcanos from this area.
What to Bring for the Hike
Having the right equipment can be essential to you making it to the top or not. I had a pair of boots with me and this is the most common item travelers will usually have. I tie these to my backpack when traveling and this helps me to now have to fit them in. If you don’t have boots then I would highly suggest you rent some. I also had a Patagonia jacket which was crucial. These items I consider MUST-HAVES if you don’t already own them. Below is a list of all the items you should be bringing:
- hiking boots
- thicket jacket
- extra clothes
- long pants
- wool socks
- extra snacks
- 4 liters of water (Tropicana suggests 4 liters. 3 for drinking and 1 for dinner)
- trekking poles/sticks
Final Thoughts on Volcan Acatenango Hike
This is BY FAR the coolest and best thing I have done since I started traveling 2 months ago. Not only was this the highest altitude I have hiked to (24 meters off of 4k…oh well) but I also got to see an active volcano show off its power. Never did I think something like that was going on so frequently and that you are allowed to get so close to it to see. The vast majority of people you bump into in Guatemala have either done it already or are about to and there’s a reason for that. I cannot recommend the Volcan Acatenango hike enough.
Other Activities to do Around Antigua, Guatemala
Antigua, Guatemala is a magical town that feels like a European town in Central America. The cobblestone streets and old buildings take you back in time. Everyone you meet is nice and the coffee is amazing. This country and especially this town should be on everyone’s list when traveling to Latin America. Below are a handful of activities that you can choose to do during your visit to this amazing country.