Acatenango Volcano Hike – Complete Guide
October 8, 2017
One of the best experiences on our trip to date would have to be the Acatenango Volcano hike. Many people are deterred from this hike due to its rumored difficulty, however, if you are prepared then I don’t believe that hike is too bad – and it’s definitely an experience you shouldn’t miss. Here are all our tips and things you should know before doing the Acatenango Volcano hike yourself.
The Acatenango Volcano Hike
In case you are confused, the name of the volcano you will actually hike is called Acatenango, the volcano you will be watching is called Fuego. Acatenango sits parallel to Fuego and is currently dormant. Some people do hike onto Fuego itself from Acatenango but it looked quite dangerous to me.
Tours usually start around 9am and will pick up at your hostel. It is about a one hour drive from Antigua to the base of Acatenango. At the base is where you can buy any last minute things or rent gear from the locals.
It took our group 4 hours to get to base camp, but sometimes groups take as long as 6 hours. We had four breaks of about 10 minutes and one 30 minute break for lunch. The hike is ALL uphill. The first half is harder than the second half but both will get your heart pumping. By no means is it unmanageable. Just take your time, especially if you aren’t used to the altitude, and you will be just fine.
We arrived at base camp around 3pm and we just hung out by the fire waiting for the clouds to clear to get a clear view of the volcano.
It was early night as we were all tired and knew it was an early wake-up call at 4am the next day. This 4am start is not mandatory. Basically it is the most challenging part of the entire hike as it is 1 hour hiking very steep to get to the very top of Acatenango to watch the sunrise.
After the sunrise everyone returns back to camp to pack up and then a 2.5 hour hike back down the same way you came up begins. Once at the bottom a van is waiting to take you back to Antigua. You should arrive between 12 noon and 1pm.
Booking the Tour
You will need to do the Acatenango Volcano hike on a tour, it simply isn’t safe without a guide and many people have died. Plus, it is good business for the local economy.
Every tour agency and hostel sells the tour for the same price, 350Q or $50USD. They have set a standard price to ensure a fair price and profit for all businesses involved. However, what you should ask around for is if they require you to carry your own tent and sleeping bag to the top and what food is included. Some tours offer better food and some offer to carry your equipment, depending on your needs you can decide what is best for you.
I also recommend booking through a trusted source. We booked through our hostel called Terrace Hostel and the tour was great. Camp was already setup when we arrived and we got a decent amount of food (for details on food keep reading.) The Terrace Hostel also stored all of our things that we didn’t need on the hike (free of charge) in a locked room. The hostel had nice rooms, good wifi, a bar and the owner Maggie was lovely.
The Weather on the Acatenango Volcano Hike
We did the Acatenango Volcano hike during September which is the rainy season. The rainy season is often warmer but it does pose a few more challenges in terms of preparation. First of all, rainproof gear was required. I had a raincoat and a cover for my backpack and then also brought an extra pair of clothes for when we got to camp to change into. You won’t want to be stuck in wet clothes all night. Not only do you need a rainproof backpack cover, I would also recommend putting your extra clothes in a Ziploc bag inside your backpack just in case some water does get in.
It is always cold at base camp on Acatenango and even colder at the summit for sunrise. Bring as much warm clothes as you can. Gloves are necessary as well as a beanie. I wore two pairs of pants first thing in the morning and was still cold! Be prepared for the cold, we have heard stories about people only bring shorts with them. Not a smart idea.
Warm clothes can be bought for cheap from the second-hand clothing market in Antigua or at the base of the hike beanies and gloves can be rented for just over $1 USD.
We heard mixed reviews from people about the food on the Acatenango Volcano hike. Basically, some tours seem to offer more food than others. Our tour didn’t have a ton of food but it was a decent amount. We got a plastic bag at the start which contained: a small bottle of water, packaged dinner of a piece of chicken with rice and salad and a piece of bread, a ham sandwich, a cup of instant noodles, a banana, a cup of yogurt, some powered milk, a very small portion of cereal, and a packet of hot chocolate mix. Sounds like a decent amount of food for one and half day’s right? Wrong! When you are hiking at this altitude you get very hungry.
We ate almost all of the food on the first day and then had next to nothing left on the second day. Remember, although you return back to Antigua at lunch time, you have a 4am start so it will feel like lunch time around 10am. My advice, bring extra snacks. You will crave chocolate and salt. Our favorite hiking snack is a Snickers bar, we brought a couple of them, a few cookies, and some nuts and we were fine with that. It is always best to bring more food than you think you will need as at base camp there is nowhere to buy anything.
What to Pack
The one thing you will need to clarify with your tour company is if you need to carry your own tent and sleeping bag to the top. Many tour companies are leaving everything set up at base camp but some companies are not. If you need to carry a sleeping bag and tent then make sure you bring your big backpack (50L or bigger) to be able to fit everything. However, if not, maybe consider just bringing a small backpack. If you are also worried about the difficulty of the hike I recommend going with a company that carries equipment for you.
Here is a packing list:
-extra change of warm clothing (a couple extra pairs of socks is always a good idea)
-rain cover for backpack
-Money for the entrance fee (50Q) and tip for the guides
-Gloves and a beanie
-4 liters of water
-some alcohol (if you think you will want a drink while watching the amazing show Fuego puts on in the evening)
-camera and tripod for the night shots!
-marshmallow’s (for roasting around the fire, you will thank me!)
-a walking stick (also available for rent at the base of Acatenango for less than $1 USD)
-Do get a walking stick and remember to bring it on the hike the second day to the summit. The hike can be steep and slippery and the stick helped me out a ton!
-Mentally prepare yourself for two amazing, but challenging, days. I honestly did not think the hike was as hard as some people we saying, but I also expected the worst.
-Book yourself a comfortable bed in Antigua before and after the hike. Get lots of rest before you go and allow yourself time to rest when you get back. We recommend staying at the Terrace Hostel which has an amazing terrace (go figure) where you can actually see Fuego erupting. It is also located close to everything and has hot showers and the friendliest vibe in town.
-Budget for an awesome meal when you get back from the hike. Antigua has all of the western comfort food including Little Cesar’s pizza, Wendy’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Taco Bell and more. You will want nothing more than the greasiest food when you get back to Antigua, and you just hiked for two days so you deserve it!
-Don’t forget to tip your guides. Their wages are not high enough for what they do and if everyone give them a couple of dollars it helps them out a lot.
That sums up our guide to the Acatenango Volcano hike, we hope you enjoyed this post and most of all, enjoy the hike! Please let us know in the comments if you found this post helpful.