Reflecting on my Acatenango adventure still makes me speechless. I don’t think I’ve ever had an experience quite so breathtaking and surreal. The spectacular views and surroundings on top are hard to put into words.
While I can’t deny that the Acatenango hike was exhausting, all the sweat, sore muscles, and freezing night are so worth it. They’re quickly forgotten once you’ve reached the summit, admiring the beauty of this beautiful earth.
Among Guatemala’s numerous volcanoes, the Acatenango Volcano hike is definitely the most popular. When you’re up there, you can see exactly why. After a challenging 4-5 hours climb to the basecamp, you’re rewarded with an incredible view of the surrounding volcanoes.
The most spectacular sight by far is El Fuego, Acatenango’s active neighbour. Every few minutes, you can watch smoke bursting out of the crater and lava flying high into the sky, while you hear a loud roar.
You should plan to spend at least 2-3 days in Guatemala’s old capital Antigua before starting the hike. That’s recommended because your body needs to get used to the altitude. If you do the hike without giving your body the time to adjust you’ll regret it, believe me. Even the starting point of the hike is at over 1600 meters altitude.
Besides choosing your tour guide, you can also use the time in Antigua to explore this gorgeous town. If you’d like to know the best things to do in Antigua, check out this post with travel tips for Guatemala.
You also have to know that you definitely shouldn’t do the Acatenango hike by yourself. That’s not just because it’s a demanding experience for your body and there’s no proper signposting. At some point, everything looks similar at a certain height, and it’s not difficult to get lost up there. But also, the weather changes quickly in these highlands, and I’m sure you’re not keen on getting lost at an altitude with zero degrees at night. That’s not to mention that some hikers have been robbed in this area.
In Antigua, you can find many tour companies with experienced guides. But take a closer look, because they differ a lot in terms of equipment quality, food, kinds of shelters, and their focus on sustainability.
I recommend choosing a tour company that has a basecamp with proper shelters instead of only tents. You won’t regret this, as it’s extremely cold at night. Also, be wise and rent hiking poles, as they’ll be a lifesaver on the sandy ground on the way up. These are the two factors I was most glad to have on my hike.
Start the climb
After a good breakfast and check-in with your guides, they take you to the hike’s starting point. It’s tough going right from the start, since the first part of the Acatenango Volcano hike is the steepest. After the first 1-2 hours, you’ll be happy to hear it gets easier.
But it’s so worth it, as there are so many spectacular views on the way up. You pass through incredibly diverse landscapes during the 4-5 hour Acatenango hike. From mossy forests to dry, dusty paths. And believe me, this is one of the many moments in which you’ll be glad that you’ve rented the hiking poles.
A short rest at the basecamp
Even though, you have many breaks during the Acatenango hike, reaching the base camp is the moment you’ve been longing for! We were welcomed by the loud roar of neighbouring El Fuego Volcano, just when we reached our base camp. What an impression! The view and the atmosphere up here are really special. Enjoy the stunning panorama while you calm down a bit by the campfire.
But don’t get too comfortable, as there’s one more part ahead of you. You can decide if you want to continue climbing up to the summit for sunset or enjoy it from the base camp. The same applies to sunrise. While you may not believe it at first, the view from the summit is even more breathtaking than from the base camp. So don’t miss it.
Onward to the summit
Get ready for one more hour up towards the sky. It’s only one more hour but, because of the dusty path, it may be the most exhausting part of your Acatenango hike.
Once you reach the summit and its 360° panorama, you’ll immediately forget all the soreness. It’s like floating on top of the clouds over here.
Especially after sunset or before sunrise, the view of El Fuego Volcano view is surreal. You can actually see the glowing, red junks of lava flying into the sky.
Sleeping at basecamp
Back at basecamp, a nice warm dinner will be waiting for you. Finally, it’s time to rest and enjoy the campfire flair.
Eventually, the night in the base camp is another adventure. Even though you’re so close to blazing lava, the temperature gets down to freezing point at night.
But sometimes, when Acatenango’s neighbour El Fuego Volcano erupted, were able to feel the ground shaking.
What an adventure! Even though our legs were tired and our minds overwhelmed with all the impressions, I already knew on our way down that the Acatenango hike was a very special adventure.
Time to cheer on the hikers that are just starting their ascent.
Need to Know
Length: 14 km
Time: 8 – 10 hrs hiking in total spread over 2 days (day 1 ascent: 4 – 6 hrs / day 2 descent: 2.5 – 3.5 hrs)
Region: Chimaltenango, Guatemala
Closest Town: Antigua
Path Taken: Official starting point – Wicho & Charlie’s basecamp – climb to the summit – Wicho & Charlie’s basecamp (overnight stay) – back to starting point
Nearby: If you’re really fit and adventurous, you can add a hike to El Fuego volcano to your Acatenango hike. This brings you even closer to the glowing lava.
Further Info: Acatenango should only be climbed with an experienced guide. For tours, check out TripAdvisor, Viator Travel or GetYourGuide.
Have you hiked the Acatenango Volcano in Guatemala? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.