Hiking the Live Volcano - Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua Travel Blog

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walking on the lava flow

We arrived in Antigua the night of August 3, walked around for a bit and found a hotel for $5 each for a nice, clean double with private bathroom at the Hotel Refugio. Definitely look around for cheap places in Antigua -- we were quoted much higher prices for other hotels of varying quality.

I also walked around town scouting volcano tours that would take us up the live Volcan Pacaya. The cheapest ones were about $8, plus the entrance fee of about 40 quetzales. We signed up for one heading out the morning of August 4.

There were about 12 tourists and a driver packed into a tiny clown car of a microbus making its way out of town and up the mountain. The microbus dropped us off at the entrance to the volcano trail, where you could rent horses and walking sticks for the hike up the mountain.

lava flow

The first hour or so up the mountain is a dirt trail, steep, but very doable for most people. The guide takes a few breaks to talk about the volcano, and there are dudes with horses all the way up the mountain ready to rent a hill pony to anyone who gets tired.

After a while, you reach a big clearing where the lava flow begins. This is where the fun begins. The next hour or so is spent climbing up the lava flow (wear good shoes!), over sharp volcanic rocks where you can feel the heat beneath your feet.

We got almost to the top, but had to stop due to the condition of the volcano that day. Our guide showed us a video of the hike 3 days before, when there was fresh lava on the ground. It looked so cool. Unfortunately for us, it had already dried up when we got there, but the volcano was still too volatile to go all the way to the top.

Antigua Ruins
If conditions are good, you can supposedly looked into the caldera.

It was pretty awesome nonetheless. We saw some glowing molten rock down a hole, and our guide showed us how twigs would start fire simply by being stuck on the hot ground.

I think there is a shuttle or bus you can get to go up to the volcano for cheaper than the tour, but it was nice having the tour guide to tell us where not to go. He pointed out a big flow, which he said was pretty fresh -- the outside layer was dry, but if someone had stood on top of it, they would have fallen into the still molten core. I think if you're staying in Antigua for a while and you want to go up the volcano more than once, though, you could definitely find a way to go up without the guides for cheap.

At the highest point where we went, the mountain was all gravel.

View from our hotel rooftop
Our guide led a group of us to run down the side of the volcano on a stretch of gravel. And by run, I mean trot/fall/hobble/fall/stagger.

We hiked back down the mountain and packed ourselves into the clown car back to Antigua. Atousa and I were pretty tired and kept nodding off on the soothingly bumpy ride home, despite being packed into the van like sardines. Atousa: "Everyone else must of thought we were on heroin"

We got into town in the late afternoon and walked around some more. Our hotel had a nice rooftop with a table and chairs overlooking the city. It was a great place to relax, although I wasn't quite sure if it was part of the hotel or if we had accidently stumbled into part of someone else's house.

At night, we found the most awesomely ridiculous place to drink: A fast food restaurant serving liquor out of a cabinet with a karaoke machine. It was so awesome. So earsplittingly awesome.

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walking on the lava flow
walking on the lava flow
lava flow
lava flow
Antigua Ruins
Antigua Ruins
View from our hotel rooftop
View from our hotel rooftop
volcano horsies
volcano horsies
lava rock? Or... lava rock?
lava rock? Or... lava rock?
twig starts fire in the heat
twig starts fire in the heat
Our guide
Our guide
view from the volcano
view from the volcano
Lava flow, another volcano in back…
Lava flow, another volcano in bac…
climbing up
climbing up
more volcano horsies
more volcano horsies
Strategically placed cloud
Strategically placed cloud
Antigua rooftops
Antigua rooftops
View from our hotel rooftop
View from our hotel rooftop
Antigua
photo by: monky