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Hiking A Live Volcano in Antigua Guatemala

Smoking Live Pacaya Volcano near Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala is a gorgeous town, filled with beautiful buildings and indigenous culture, and surrounded by volcanoes.  Agua Volcano towers about the town, Fuego Volcano spews smoke and lava, Acatenango is a tough hike with glorious views of Fuego, and Pacaya Volcano is still live but a gentler hike.  I was in two minds about whether to hike the Acatenango volcano in Antigua, as I have never been a lover of hiking, but so often the destination makes the hike worth it.  However, I knew Acatenango would be torture, despite the view that awaited me if the clouds cleared.  So, to see if I was up for the challenge, I tested myself by hiking Pacaya volcano, which is an easier hike but on a live volcano all the same!

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A Pacaya Volcano Hike Tour from Antigua Guatemala

All hostels in Antigua can arrange the Pacaya hike for you.  Costing 80Q from my hostel, El Hostal, including transport and a guide, but not the 50Q entry fee, it would hardly bankrupt me.  And I wanted to do at least one volcano hike in Antigua Guatemala!

Smoking Live Pacaya Volcano & lava stream near Antigua Guatemala
Smoking Live Pacaya Volcano & lava stream near Antigua Guatemala

I was picked up from my hostel in a minivan which was already rather full.  We still had another couple of stops to collect more people, and more seats appeared, folding down to fill up any available space.  I had taken some travel sickness pills, as the road was windy on parts and I didn’t want to start the hike feeling sick!

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Our group was quite large, maybe 20 people had been crammed into the minivan.  We gradually drove higher, and I was relieved to see we would start hiking already fairly high up.  Everyone paid their entry fee, and there were a few kids around renting out wooden walking sticks for 5Q – I took one, which would be collected again when we came back down. 

Our guide explained how the hike would be, and a few information boards around the entrance explained how the volcano was formed, and how it was still active.

Hiking the Pacaya Live Volcano in Antigua Guatemala

Pausing to admire the view part way up the hike on Pacaya Volcano near Antigua Guatemala
Pausing to admire the view part way up the hike on Pacaya Volcano – and the volcanic steam vent

Our group set off on the hike, and we settled into a rhythm and found our places so we wouldn’t be overtaking each other constantly.  I took up my usual position towards the back of the group, but I actually found the first part of the hike very easy.  We stopped regularly along the hiking trail to allow everyone to catch up, so there were regular rest stops along the way.

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We hiked up the volcano for about an hour until we reached a flat top.  It had been partly sunny on the way up, but now we reached the summit it was cloudy. 

When the clouds cleared I realised that we weren’t actually at the top of the live volcano Pacaya, rather just next to it, as I could see the steam seeping out of the top of Pacaya close by.  We took some photos, and could see the other Antigua volcanoes Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango in the distance.

The gorgeous view of Antigua Guatemala's other volcanoes - from hIking the Pacaya Volcano
The gorgeous view of Antigua Guatemala’s other volcanoes – from hIking the Pacaya Volcano

We continued our hike, descending a little way to actually reach Pacaya, and descended sharply to reach the lava field.  Pacaya’s last eruption was in 2010, when lava had flowed out of the volcano, covering part of where we were standing in what was now a steaming black river of rock. 

We walked around the edge of the wall of lava, it reached up to waist height, and found a spot to roast marshmallows on the volcano.   A couple of holes went deeper into the volcano, and the heat coming off them was quite shocking. 

The guides offered us long sticks and marshmallows to thread on, and we gathered around the holes and toasted our marshmallows.  It was an interesting campfire!

Toasting Marshmallows on the hot lava on Pacaya Volcano near Antigua Guatemala
Toasting Marshmallows on the hot lava on Pacaya Volcano near Antigua Guatemala

The Shop on the Pacaya Volcano

We turned a corner and climbed onto the lava flow where footpaths crisscrossed the black field of lava.  In the middle of the lava was a shop.  We made our way over, taking care to follow the path.  I had no idea how hot the surrounding lava was, and didn’t want to find out! 

At the little shop, the owner explained that they had decided to open the shop after the most recent eruption in 2010 to help the communities affected by the eruption.  The shop sells beautiful jewellery made from pieces of lava, embedded into silver chains or earrings, keyrings and bracelets. 

I sadly hadn’t brought enough money with me, so if you think you may want to buy something then take plenty of cash with you, or check out their website Mayan Rebirth.  The owner showed us a video he had taken on his camera of the last eruption, as he watched from a safe distance, which looked scarily close to me!

Pacaya Volcano & lava flow with the Lava Store near Antigua Guatemala
Pacaya Volcano & lava flow with the Lava Store near Antigua Guatemala

We left the lava jewellery store and climbed up another ridge to look down on the smoking summit of Pacaya volcano.  We sat for a while, had a snack and took a breather, before heading down the other side. 

The descent for me was actually the worst part, as the path was very steep, and underfoot the shingle was slippery. In places, I preferred to sit down and scramble down on my backside than risk falling and breaking an ankle.  Once we had struggled through the steep parts the rest of the walk down was much quicker, and in no time we were back to the entrance. 

The kids who had rented us the walking sticks ran over and collected them back, and we headed back to the minivan for the ride back to Antigua.

Check other tours in Antigua Guatemala with GetYourGuide:

Tips for Hiking Pacaya Volcano

Wear good walking boots – in rainy weather and for the descent, you will be glad of them

It is definitely worth hiring the walking sticks from the local kids

Remember to bring cash for the lava jewellery store

Snacks, plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat are also essential

I had enjoyed the hike and didn’t find it difficult, but by the end of the descent my knees were beginning to hurt.  I decided not to take on Acatenango as I had heard it was a very difficult ascent, but if you got clear views of the smoking Fuego volcano it was totally worth it. 

The other factor in my decision was rainy season, and I’d spoken to a few people who had climbed up, but didn’t see a thing due to the weather!  I made peace with my decision but would have still loved to hike Acatenango too! 

Without that though, Pacaya was a gentler hike, and suitable for kids or those who might struggle on the tough Acatenango hike.  I enjoying hiking Pacaya, and can at least say that I hiked a live volcano!

Have you hiked a live volcano?  I’d love to hear your experiences below!

Where to stay in Antigua

There are a lot of hostels and hotels in Antigua to choose from.  Hostal Antigueño is great for families and for overlanders, with a ping pong table and outside garden and terrace.  It is about 10 minutes’ walk from the main square, so if you are alone you may want to stay somewhere more central like El Hostal or Somos.  If you want to stay somewhere completely different, check out the amazing Hobbitenango, a hobbit-themed eco-hotel in the mountains surrounding Antigua.


Or check the options on Airbnb.   If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get $30 credit to use on your first trip!


If you’re looking for travel insurance for your trip to Guatemala, get a quote now from World Nomads.

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Antigua Guatemala is a gorgeous town, filled with beautiful buildings and indigenous culture, and surrounded by volcanoes.  Hiking the live volcano Pacaya is one of the easier options to get your volcano hiking fix in Antigua! Read on for the full details of the Pacaya volcano hike. #Guatemala #AntiguaGuatemala #Pacaya #Volcano #Hiking #LiveVolcana #travel #adventure #extremesports

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Last updated: April 25, 2020


16 thoughts on “Hiking A Live Volcano in Antigua Guatemala

  1. Paige says:

    Now this sounds like an adventure! I love that you toasted marshmallows on the side of the volcano. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Also, great tip for bringing cash for the lava jewelry museum!

  2. Sigfrido says:

    Nice article, Claire 🙂 Been there many years ago, in 2008, it is an amazing hike, i remember we fed a lot of stray dogs on the way up and ended up being hungry ourselves! But they were so skinny we couldn’t help but giving everything we got…

  3. Christopher says:

    South America is one continent I have yet to conquer. So much beautiful spots. I’ve been to several places with volcanos, live or otherwise but surprisingly I’ve never hiked up one. The photos you captured are breath talking.

  4. Suruchi Mittal says:

    Hiking a live volcano is on our bucket list. The Pacaya Antigua in Guatemala looks quite thrilling and the views from there look amazing. Toasting marshmallows over a volcano are so cool! Your pictures are just Wow! Lovely

  5. Hannah says:

    Wow, hiking Pacaya Volcano sounds amazing – getting to see those lava flows and toast the marshmallows – you a right, a very unique bonfire! By the sounds of it, it sounds like you made the right decision not to hike Acatenango – to endure that more difficult hike only to be surrounded by clouds – that would be heartbreaking!

  6. Ghia Lorenzo says:

    Wow! What a cool experience hiking in a live volcano in Pacaya. I really love that marshmallows are being toasted on a lava! Indeed thrilling. The surrounding from there is so beautiful, I just love all of your photos. Thanks for sharing this post!

  7. Efthimis Kragaris says:

    I have never hiked on a steaming volcano before. I guess 8 years from the last eruption wouldn’t be enough for me! I would be horrified! Haha But good for your since you managed to do what you wanted; hike in Antigua Guatemala!

  8. Tala Valino says:

    Those are gorgeous views! I’ve also climbed a volcano once here in the Philippines and what I love about it is that like you toasting marshmallows, our guide brought eggs and he was able to make it into hardboiled eggs fom the hot lavas. So cool! I’ve always find hiking volcanoes (especially dormant ones) extra thrilling!

  9. Natasha Amar says:

    I loved reading about your experience since Guatemala is on my mind for my travels this year and I love hiking. Sounds like a volcano hike is a worthy must-do when in Guatemala. I have bad knees so it’s useful for someone like me to have as much information as possible about what to expect.
    How long did the hike there and back take?

  10. Medha Verma says:

    A shop that sells Lava jewellery? Sounds pretty interesting, doesn’t it? I am glad that you had plenty of time to take it easy and let people in the group catch up because I know if I go for a hike like this, I might be the slower one and I would be struggling to catch up. The experience looks quite amazing though, I’d love to give it a shot!

  11. Jenn and Ed Coleman says:

    We just got back from Arenal in Costa Rica and bemoaned that we couldn’t hike to the summit. It looks super cool roasting marshmallows on hot lava and imagining an eruption. Of course, during the eruption things go from Guatamala to Guatapeor… Sorry dad joke.

  12. LaiAriel Samangka says:

    wow, I’ve been hiking to a lot of mountains already, but never tried hiking in active volcano like this one. I love that you guys were like around 20 hikers, and surely it must be really fun. I also find Toasting Marshmallows on the hot lava on Pacaya Volcano interesting, never tried it before.

  13. Vibeke Johannessen says:

    Haha, I love that you can toast marshmallows on the lava. I have hiked some active volcanoes in Ecuador, but not been close to the active crater or lava. Would love to hike Pacaya in Guatemala 😀

  14. Iuliana Marchian says:

    I have friends that have just hiked Pacaya Volcano. They have told me that Antigua Guatemala was such a great place and that they would like to go there back. Latam is a bit to far from Romania, but I wish I will visit these beautiful countries someday.

  15. Rayssa says:

    This is so cool! I just saw a lady on tv this week that zip lined INSIDE a volcano. It was so amazing, I kept thinking when would I be able to do something like that. I don’t think I’m quite as brave as she was so a hike may be my way of compromise. Thanks for the tips. 🙂

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