Someone pass me my Indian Jones hat, I’m off to scale a live volcano today.
Antigua is surrounded in these bad boys, which is why the area is so beautiful. Climbing volcanoes in Antigua is the one thing you have to do when you’re visiting Guatemala’s expat hangout. There are a few options, 2 of which take priority. You can either climb one throughout the night, waiting for sunrise. This is pretty hardcore, takes about 8 hours or so of solid climbing up, in the dark, and the cold but you have a great chance of seeing lava and sunrise on top of a live volcano in Anitgua? Pretty special.
There is another ‘easier’ option though, which is what I did. You can day trip up a more gentle, but still live, volcano called Pacaya. Like all my awesome experiences in Guatemala I organized it directly with Guatemalan Adventures and cut out the middle man (screw you middle man muhahahaha).
Climbing Pacaya is a much less strenuous climb than the other volacanos. It’s about a 90 minute drive from Antigua, then a pretty chill 90 minute/2 hours hike up the volcano, and about 40 minutes down.
Pacaya last erupted in 2010, and it was a big one, shutting down Guatemalan airports for a week or so due to the huge ash cloud floating around the sky. Thanks to that epic eruption, there was active lava seeping from the Pacaya for years BUT unfortunately it’s just all dried up quite recently so while the hardened lava you experience there is still bloody hot, it’s not orange and flowing down the mountain anymore. Probably a lot safer to be honest, but not half as much fun.
The climb is fun, it’s certainly all uphill but it’s not too tough. You have a guide (compulsory since someone died at the last eruption, eeek) who explains all about the various flora and fauna on the way up the hill but the real reward is just as you reach the top point (you cant access the actual point due to the chance of another eruoption), all the flora falls away and suddenly you’re greeted with the most imposing site imaginable. A dark grey, ashy monster just staring you down. You can see where the lava had flowed, and there is nothing living anywhere near it. Really gorgeous.
From there you can climb down the side of the peak to actually experience the now-hardened lava. When you get down there the whole place is still roasting hot. So hot in fact that you can bring marshmallows and toast them on the side of the volcano, now tell me that is not cool?!
Naturally I hadn’t planned anything so I didn’t bring any, but some American university girls were feeling sorry for me and offered me up a feast of marshmallows and stick so I rightfully obliged. After filling me face with them, and melting part of my sneakers on the lava it was time to head back to Antigua.
Going down the mountain was a breeze, a quick drive back to Antigua with Guatemalan Adventure tour guides and time for a shower and a couple of beers in the expat hangouts. Perfect day.
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