Travel in Guatemala: Overnight Hike on Volcán Acatenago

Volcán de Fuego (Volcano of Fire) is one of Central America’s most active volcanoes, and is famous for consistently spewing smoke, ash, and even lava from its core! 😮

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Fuego, viewed from our campsite on Acatenago

Next to it is Volcán Acatenago, a dormant stratovolcano, which is a popular volcano to hike, since it offers spectacular views of neighboring Volcán Fuego.

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hiking Volcan Acatenago

From the summit of Volcán Acatenago, elevation 3,976 m, hikers have spectacular views of not only Volcán Fuego, but also some other peaks of Guatemala’s 30+ volcanoes!

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Volcán Agua and Volcán Pacaya from the summit of Acatenago

I chose to do this overnight hike with OX Expeditions, an outdoor company, which came highly recommended. 😀

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at the summit with our guide, Miguel, from OX Expeditions

This company is very organized and professional. The day before the hike, our group met for a short briefing, where we would discuss the specifics of the hike, and rent winter gear.

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our guide, Miguel, discussing the various sections of the hike

The summit of Acatenago is very cold, so OX also lets their hikers borrow winter coats, pants, and accessories for the trip. Some of the gear was quite comical. For example, I told the British guy in our group that his coat made him look like Macklemore from Thrift Shop. 😛

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Macklemore’s doppelganger

Hey, Macklemore! Can we go thrift shopping?

macklemore---thrift-shop-1-1360060702-view-1Anyway, the next morning we met at OX at 6 AM, to pack our bags, and prepare for the journey to Acatenago. The company had a serious system, with each individual’s gear and food laid out, all ready to be packed away.

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sleeping bags, tent gear, and rolled mats laid out
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lunch sandwiches, spaghetti dinner, and breakfast bagels laid out for our meals

By far one of the hardest parts of the trek is carrying all the gear. Personally, I had to carry my warm clothes, camera gear, 1 gallon of water (4 liters), food, sleeping bag, roll mat, and part of the tent.DSC_2333

From there we headed to nearby cafe in Antigua, to grab coffee and muffins, a chat with our fellow hikers. Personally, I got to know one girl in my group from Colorado, who had previously worked in Guatemala City, and was now back to reunite with old friends and take on a few challenging hikes like this one. 🙂DSC_2335

From Antigua we drove 45 minutes to the entrance of the trail, where we began our steep descent up Acatenago.Much of the terrain is volcanic sand and loose gravel, which makes the uphill hike incredibly strenuous and slippery.DSC_2346Our guide was sure to give us breaks every 20-30 minutes, so that we could catch our breath and take in the beautiful scenery. 🙂DSC_2513What’s fascinating about Acatenago is that it’s actually comprised of three separate biospheres: oak forest, cloud forest, and pine forest.

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pine forest
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cloud forest

I also wasn’t expecting to see so much plant life on a volcano.DSC_2473DSC_2472The vibrant greenery looked absolutely stunning in contrast to the black sand. ❤DSC_2476Anyway, after about 1.5 hours, we took our first long break, where the locals had soda, snacks, and beer for sale.

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beer = breakfast of champions? 😛
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couple from Paris, France in our group

This is also when some stray dogs started to join us on the hike. I think they like to camp with the visitors, so they can eat their leftovers.DSC_2493How can you say no to that face? 🙂DSC_2491Anyway, by about noon we had reached the halfway point and lunch spot. OX packed us sandwiches, but encouraged us to bring other snacks as well.DSC_2332

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the Colorado native brought mango and plantain chips to share 🙂

Unfortunately, at this point, a thunderstorm rolled in and our hike became rather soggy.DSC_2382I didn’t have a poncho, but I did had a stylish purple umbrella to match my coat. Everyone said I must have planned that! 😉

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travel rule #1: always dress to impress 🙂

Anyway, after 6 hours of hiking, we finally reached our camp site and set up the tents. DSC_2396There were two tents, with four per tent. My tent mates included the American girl, a Russian guy, who is on holiday after an internship in California, and a German girl, who is currently studying Spanish in Guatemala.DSC_2399Anyway, I was super impressed with the camp site OX had reserved. We were literally right next to Fuego!DSC_2403As well, in the evening, this volcano started to live up to its reputation, with rumbling blows of smoke, ash, and lava erupting out the top! 😮

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lava spewing from Fuego, as seen from our camp site, in the evening

It was the perfect entertainment as our guide cooked us up some spaghetti on his mini stove, and boiled us water for chai spiced tea, while we roasted our buns by the fire.

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Miguel heating up tomato sauce

In the morning, we left at 4 AM to reach the summit. The air was bitter cold, and I couldn’t feel my feet, but I was raised in Wisconsin, so this was nothing compared to our winters there. 😛b7144d63585ae090320f475d10588dc9Overall, the hardest part was the lack of light for navigating (many hikers had headlamps) and again, the steep, sandy ascent. To put things in perspective, the hike would take over 1.5 hours to get up, but only 20 minutes to get down, due to its sharp incline! 😮

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the steep incline of Acatenago, taken on the walk down Side note: many people were running down the volcano, but I was going at a turtle-like pace and managed to find two cell phones on my walk down. Maybe running isn’t the best idea! 😮

Anyway, on the way up, I was able to spot stunning views of Volcán Agua and the active volcano, Pacaya, in the distance.

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Pacaya in the back right (shooting out a cloud of smoke and ash)

It was so cool seeing life above the clouds.DSC_2510

At the summit, we were able to walk around the rim of the crater, where we caught gorgeous views of the sunrise.DSC_2442The crater is absolutely massive, and I even saw the volcanic monitoring equipment they have in the core.

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This is the Acatenago volcano crater, with white monitoring equipment in the center. The people walking around the crater look like ants. Wow! 😮

Anyway, after finishing up at the summit, we walked back down to camp, where we packed up and had a light breakfast of coffee, banana bread, bagels, and assorted spreads. DSC_2495This is also when Volcán Fuego gave us a epic show before our final descent! 😮
DSC_2505 The volcano started with a few small eruptions every 20 minutes. This evolved into 2-3 major blasts, with giant clouds of ash, smoke, and rock shooting high into the air. 😮DSC_2511Of course I had to take a few volcano selfies, and I made a short video for you to enjoy. 🙂G0805977_1494165027545_high

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laughing in the face of danger 😉

Overall, the hike was an incredible experience, and highly recommended for anyone visiting Guatemala. 🙂

Cost: 89 USD, which includes transportation, gear rental, three meals, and a bilingual guide.

Up next, I’ll be sharing with you my experiences in the colonial city of Antigua. Stay tuned to hear all about it. Until then. 🙂

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7 thoughts on “Travel in Guatemala: Overnight Hike on Volcán Acatenago

  1. Oh wonderful views indeed. So close indeed. That pink umbrella would have been a good one to use when Fuego went off! LOL. But did you find lots of farming around the volcano like they have in Indonesia? The soil must be very fertile!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw quite a few farm fields at the bottom of the volcano. They produce mainly corn, but also coffee and other vegetables. The soil looked very fertile, and the trees were very green from all the rain. Glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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