Acatenango Hike: Complete Guide to this Volcano Trek [2022]

If you’re looking for a truly special adventure activity in Central America, then look no further than this Acatenango hike. Most typically done as a two-day, one-night trek, you’ll climb to 3700 metres of elevation where you’ll watch the nearby Fuego Volcano erupt all night long. Then, after watching one of the best sunrises of your life over Guatemala’s volcanic landscape, you’ll make your way back down in disbelief at what you’ve seen.

Climbing Acatenango is a true bucket list activity and a must-do when in Antigua Guatemala. Intrigued? Keep reading for a complete guide to the volcano hike. Everything from accommodation, base camp toilets, meals, trek options, tour companies and a complete packing list.

Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a qualifying purchase.

FAQs
Weather & Conditions on Acatenango
The Three Volcanos
Overnight Hike

Day 1 | Day 2 | Eating & Drinking | Base Camp
Overnight Hike Tour Companies + Prices
Companies | Prices | Extra Costs
What to Bring
Hiking Acatenango in One Day
Climbing Acatenango Without a Guide
Review
Top Tips


Volcano Fuego erupting during day light. A large blume of smoke is growing out of the volcano crater against the clear blue sky

Acatenango FAQs

Where is Acatenango?

The peak of Acatenango is 16 km southwest of Antigua Guatemala in a straight line. On a clear day, you can see the top of the volcano from the city. More easily recognisable as the peak next to the Fuego. Which, regularly has a plume of smoke coming out the top. The driving route to the Acatenango trailhead takes around 1 hour from Antigua, covering a slightly longer distance of 30 km.

How long is the Acatenango Hike?

The great thing about this hike is that you can hike at your own pace. But generally, it takes around 5 hours from the trailhead to base camp. And then 3 hours on the way down. From base camp to the summit is around 60 to 90 minutes up and as quick as 10 minutes back down. To note, the climbs uphill take longer as you need and have more breaks (as well as stopping for lunch), whereas downhill you barely stop to catch your breath!

How hard is it to Hike Acatenango?

Very! I’d been warned about the Acatenango Hike difficulty and was expecting a hard climb. But, I was still unprepared mentally for how hard it is. Hiking Acatenango is by far the toughest physical activity I’ve ever done. That said, it is still doable for people of all ages and abilities. The key is just to keep putting one foot in front of the other and breathing, nothing else matters for those few hours.

The difficulty is compounded by the altitude. The higher you climb, the more tired you become, yet the more challenging the altitude is. The walk starts at around 2200 metres, with base camp at around 3700 metres and the summit at a soaring 4000 metres. Well, 3976 metres to be exact.

When is the Best Time to Hike Acatenango?

The best time is during the dry season months of November to April. The second best time is whenever you’re in Antigua and have 2 free days.

Climbing the volcano during the dry season increases the likelihood that you’ll have unobstructed views of Fuego erupting as well as not getting completely soaked in a rain shower on your way up. However, as is the way in the tropics, there is never any guarantee of good views, especially at 3700 metres. Unfortunately, there’s always a risk that you’ll climb all the way up only to be surrounded by clouds.

My second advice would be to climb Acatenango after you’ve spent at least 2 or 3 days in Antigua (or at a similar altitude). Sadly, I know of people who attempted Acatenango after travelling from the coast (sea level) the day before and had to turn back mid-hike due to altitude sickness. So, spend some time in Antigua. You can visit Pacaya Volcano or Hobbitenango, both are at slightly higher altitudes, in preparation.

Is Acatenango Safe?

Typically, this question is asked in three ways. Is the volcano safe to walk on? Am I going to get robbed/mugged/kidnapped on the volcano? And, is the hiking route safe?

So, is the volcano safe to walk on? Yes. Acatenango hasn’t erupted since 1972, and today volcanos are constantly monitored for any signs of activity. The nearby Fuego Volcano erupts as often as every 15 minutes. Yet, the prevailing winds blow the smoke, ash and debris in the opposite direction to Acatenango.

In regards to crime on the volcano, Acatenango is a safe place. Given that most people visit with guides from the local communities and do not carry many valuables, it’s unlikely the area would seem attractive to would-be criminals. Plus, climbing up the volcano is hard work, seriously hard work. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do it on the off-chance they might find some belongings laying around.

Finally, the path to base camp is well-trodden and easy to follow. The route is mostly a dirt path with some steps in places. The route from base camp to the summit is much more slippery as it’s made from fine, loose volcanic rock. Though, that’s also the reason you can come down in 10 minutes or so, as you just slide down! The biggest risk to climbing Acatenango is cold exposure. Make sure to pack appropriate clothing, rent or use additional supplies from your tour agency and check in advance what kit is provided for sleeping.

Do you Need a Guide For The Acatenango Volcano Hike?

It is not mandatory to hike Acatenango Volcano with a guide. However, unless you know the route and are very experienced with the altitude and camping in these conditions (and have the necessary kit), I’d recommend going with a guide. Private and group tours are available, so you’ll be able to find something that suits your travel preferences.

What makes climbing Acatenango so special?

So many reasons! But, I’ll keep it brief… Firstly, the fact that the climb is HARD, you get such a special sense of satisfaction once you make it to the top. Then, there’s the fact you get to camp on top of a volcano. Base camp is the perfect vantage point to watch Fuego erupt long into the night as well as watch the sunset and rise. All of this whilst being above the clouds, feeling 1000 miles away from normal life below!

Volcano Agua and Volcano Pacaya above the clouds. Tops of the hills below are just visible above the hazy clouds

Weather & Conditions on Acatenango

The higher up Acatenango you climb, the more predictable the weather becomes. At the beginning of the trail, you can experience all sorts of weather from fog, heavy downpours, drizzle and bright, unrelenting sunshine, with temperatures varying widely too. By the time you reach the top of the volcano, you’ll either be in the clouds or above them, but either way, it will be cold.

Climbing Acatenango in the dry season reduces the chance of experiencing all-day showers, though bad weather is still possible year-round. But, with fewer rain clouds, there’s an increased likelihood of climbing on a sunny day, where the heat won’t be your friend as you walk for 5 hours uphill. In the wetter, rainy season months of May to October, rain can really add misery to an already hard climb. And, there’s an increased chance of being in the clouds at base camp, meaning, you’ll have no view of Fuego – or of anything, really.

For about the first three-quarters of the trek, you’ll be walking through wooded areas. Here, the air can be really humid, which causes two problems. Firstly, it’ll leave your clothes soaked and in turn, as soon as you stop walking you’ll get cold very quickly due to the wet clothes. And secondly, in really humid conditions it becomes really hard for your body to cool itself down as sweat produced doesn’t evaporate from the skin to create the cooling effect. I’d definitely recommend bringing a spare t-shirt and packing it somewhere easily and quickly available along with a warmer layer for when you take a break.

I did this Acatenango hike tour on the last day of October and the weather was perfect. It was overcast during the ascent but the clouds were low and as a result, I had clear views of Fuego, Agua and across Guatemala. I’d consider the shoulder seasons a great time to hike Acatenango.

The silhouette of Volcan Agua as the sun starts to rise. The sky is orange and clouds cover the ground below.

The Three Volcanos: Acatenango, FuEGo & Agua

In short, you hike Volcan Acatenango, watch Fuego erupt and see the sunrise over Agua.

Acatenango is the volcano you climb on this hike. The summit is almost 4000 metres above sea level and the volcano hasn’t erupted in 50 years. From base camp at around 3700 metres, you can see Fuego, Agua and (if it’s clear) Pacaya in the background behind Agua.

Volcan Fuego is the star of the show, the main attraction, the main reason you’ve dragged yourself up the side of a volcano. The volcano erupts very regularly, like every 15 to 30 minutes. And, once the sun sets, you’ll be able to the bright orange lava spewing out into the sky. You have to make sure you’re watching though, as the slower speed of sound means that by the time you hear the eruption, the best bit has passed.

Agua Volcano is the one that the sunrises behind. This is also the volcano that you’ll see from just about everywhere in Antigua, as it’s much closer to the city. The tops of Fuego & Agua Volcanos are only a few metres higher than Acatenango’s base camp area (all around 3700 metres), so you’ll have the most incredible view of both!

As a bonus fourth volcano, Pacaya is also visible at times behind Agua from the base camp area. You can see it poking its top out of the cloud in the photo above.

Volcan Fuego by day from the Acatenengo base camp

Acatenango Overnight Hike

The two-day, one-night is the most popular Acatenango hike option. Here’s what you should expect…

Day 1

Pick Up Supplies & Travel to Acatenango

Each company does this part slightly. Some may have a pre-departure briefing, some may issue you kit and equipment in Antigua. Alternatively, you may first drive to their storage and office location where you’ll be issued with everything they’re providing. Ultimately, how this part is done does not matter too much. And, most groups arrive at the trailhead around 11am ready to start walking.

The drive from Antigua to the start of the Acatenango trek takes around 1 hour depending on traffic, police checkpoints and animals in the road, etc. You’ll spend the time getting to know more about your tour company, the volcano and the people hiking with you.

Hike to Base Camp

It sounds so simple typed out as 4 words, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. From the time you set off from the roadside, it will take around 5 hours to reach base camp. But, not all of this is walking. This time also includes lunch and snack breaks, as well as any breaks you take yourself on the climb. In total, you’ll be walking for around 2.5 to 3 hours.

Everyone told me the first 2 hours are the most difficult and then the route gets easier. But, after 2 hours I was still left wondering when it was going to get easier because it felt like it never did! So, yes, the first 2 hours are really tough. But, so is everything other than the last 45 minutes or so when you’re walking on the flat section.

You’ll first stop after about 20 minutes when you reach the wooden huts selling snacks and drinks. And then you’ll stop again at the park entrance where you’ll need to fill in a form and pay the entry fee if it wasn’t included in your tour price. At the park entrance, there are one or two people selling drinks and this is your last chance to buy one until you pass on the way down tomorrow.

After this, you’ll stop for lunch around 2 hours into the hike and then press on all the way to base camp. The route flattens out towards the end as you walk up one side of the volcano and then have to walk around it to get to base camp on the other side that’s facing Fuego.

Optional Fuego Climb

Once you reach Acatenango’s base camp, you’ll have the option to add on an additional hike towards Fuego. Luckily, you don’t have to decide straight away, as this often happens after dinner. The guides have to first decide whether the weather conditions are good enough for the hike and then you can decide.

Typically, the Fuego hike has an additional cost of around 200Q and this can be paid to the agency once you finish the trek. The land between the base camp and Fuego is in a V-shape. And, hiking towards Fuego involves descending from base camp and then walking back uphill towards the viewpoint – the closest point you can get to the crater. It also involves another 2 hours or so of walking, finishing with a long uphill climb back to base camp.

No one in my group decided to do the Fuego trek, instead, we happily watched another group do it from above. Seeing the small flashes of light from a line of head torches easily in the darkness.

Day 2

Summit Climb for Sunrise

The guides wake up around 3.30am and check the weather. If it’s good for a summit push, you’ll be woken up at 4am to start climbing so you don’t miss the sunrise.

The climb to the summit can take up to 90 minutes. Not because it is far, in fact, it’s only 300 metres in elevation above base camp. But rather because the terrain is all fine, loose volcanic rock that is very slippery. Luckily though, this material makes it easy to slide straight back down to base camp in 10 minutes!

You’ll want to be wearing pretty much all the clothes you have with you, as the summit is bitterly cold at this time of day. Bring your mug and teabag too for a summit brew.

The ascent to the summit is optional and you can just as easily and awesomely watch the sunrise from base camp. In our group only about 50% of people climbed to the summit, the rest of us (including me) watched from base camp. In fact, it may have been even more blissful as we were the only people around as most were on top of Acatenango!

To note, first light is around 5am, so skipping the summit doesn’t mean you get a lay in! And trust me, you don’t want to miss a second of this sunrise.

Return to Camp

After watching the sunrise, it’s time for breakfast and packing up your things. Remember, anything you brought up the volcano needs to go back down with you. Even food waste as it doesn’t degrade well in cold temperatures and high altitude.

Take in the last views of Fuego and Agua from above before starting the descent.

Hike down Acatenango

Even though it took 5 hours and a whole lot of pain to get up the volcano, I was still surprised that it took 3 hours to get down. Honestly, I didn’t even recognise half the route on the way down, I must have been in a zone of self-loathing and blocked it all out!

The first 45 minutes is flat before you steeply start heading down the volcano. Here, it really helps to have sturdy shoes as the terrain is loose and unstable. Some people like to run down, but since I don’t run, ever, I instead opted for cautious steps.

You won’t take any big breaks on the way down and the group will come back together on the roadside as you wait for the bus to pick you up. In the later stages, you’ll pass the people heading up Acatenango, they’ll look fresh and you’ll look dishevelled. But at least you’ll be in a shower and bed in a couple of hours and they’ll still be climbing!

Return to Antigua

Whether you head directly back to Antigua or via your tour company’s equipment hub, it won’t be long before you’re enjoying a warm shower and a comfortable bed. Spend the hour’s drive back to Antigua reconnecting with the world as your phone connects to the internet for the first time in almost 24 hours.

The first refreshment stop on the Acatenango Hike Trail

Eating & Drinking on Acatenango

Most tour companies will provide you with 3 full meals and a range of snacks. You’ll get lunch and dinner on Day 1 and breakfast on Day 2. The quality of the food does seem to vary quite a lot between companies and you will need nutritious meals to get you the hike.

As an example, here’s what I had from CA Travellers:

  • Lunch: Chicken with rice and salad
  • Dinner: Spaghetti Bolognese with garlic bread
  • Breakfast: Toast, cereal and tea
  • Snacks: Apple, snack bar
  • Extra: Hot chocolate on arrival to base camp. Marshmallows at the campfire and wine after dinner on Day 1 and a fruit smoothie when returning their kit after the hike on Day 2

You can also bring your own snacks, ideally something that doesn’t melt or get crushed easily! Nuts, cereal bars, sweets, etc are all good options. Additionally, you can buy a selection of snacks on the volcano around 15 to 20 minutes into the hike. Prices are higher than you’d usually expect and you’ll need to pay in cash, but if you’re stuck wondering whether you should have brought something extra, here’s your chance to pick something up.

Make sure you have enough water for both days of the hike. Check to see how much, if any, your tour company is providing and how much they expect you to bring. You can buy drinks at the first snack stop and then again at the park entrance, but these are the only two places. There is no running water elsewhere on the volcano, so you won’t be able to top up any water bottles either.

Camping on Acatenango, open your tent door to the most impressive view of Fuego

Acatenango Base Camp Facilities

Most companies have tents set up at base camp. At least one company has cabins, but naturally, these come at a price premium. The tents, along with the sleeping kit inside of them, are designed for cold weather. Though, that is not me saying that you will be warm in them. I literally slept in all the clothes I brought including the buff up to my mouth and my hat down over my eyes to keep as much of my face warm as possible. It did take me about 2 hours to get to sleep as I was so cold, but once I was asleep, all was well.

Most camps also have a campfire and an area to sit and eat dinner/breakfast. Don’t expect anything fancy, this is more tree trunks than benches. So, you’ll probably have a numb bum quite quickly! I would have loved a proper chair at base camp, especially after the long walk. But, everything that is at base camp has been carried up the volcano, so I can understand why there are no chairs.

The toilets are basic at base camp, but they’re not as horrific as I was warned about. If you’ve been to a nightclub toilet near the end of the night, then these will still probably be nicer.

And, of course, there is no electricity, no showers and no WiFi at base camp. The lack of showers really isn’t a problem since it’s so cold you won’t even want to take your coat off, let alone the rest of your clothes! Plus, you’ll be too busy watching Fuego erupt to even think about checking social media.

Golden hour shining down on Fuego. If it's clear, this will be one of the best sunrises of your life

Acatenango Overnight Hike: Tour Companies & Prices

Volcano Acatenango Tour Companies

Since hiking Acatenango is one of the most popular activities in Antigua, it’s no surprise that there are many different companies offering tours. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from doing the hike and meeting lots of other people who have done it too, it’s that all the companies offer pretty much the same thing.

Each of the companies seem to like to claim they are the best for supporting their workers or providing quality accommodation or good food. Yet, they seem to all do this. Of course, there are minor differences. But ultimately, you’re not going to have that much of a different experience based just on which company you go with.

I went with CA Travellers and I really recommend them. Everything felt well organised, there was good communication and the food was good. Plus, at base camp, there have about 10 2-person tents and if you come alone, you don’t have to share with a stranger. The only people sharing were couples, friends and families.

Other popular agencies include Tropicana Hostel, Charlie & Wicho and OX Expeditions. Plus, there are lots of smaller tour companies in Antigua that you’ll easily find in small shops in the cobbled streets of the town.

What’s the Price of the 2-day Acatenango Trek

The price varies between companies based on what they include and don’t. For example, some companies include the park entrance fee and camping fee in their upfront cost whilst others require you to bring cash to pay it on the day. For the most accurate and up-to-date pricing, contact the companies you are interested in hiking with.

What’s included in the Price of The Acatenango Volcano Hike?

Not all tour companies include or exclude the same things, so it’s very important to check in advance. But, generally speaking, the base price will include:

  • Transport: pick up from your hostel and drop off at your hostel
  • Meals: Lunch, dinner, breakfast, extra snacks and (possibly) some water
  • Accommodation: Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, blanket, mattress, pillow
  • Clothing essentials: Headlamp, gloves, jacket/coat, buff or scarf, hat (some companies do not include this)

Other costs to climb Acatenango

  • National Park entrance fee and camping fee (this is included in some companies’ prices)
  • Wooden trekking poles. These can be hired when you get off the bus at the trailhead and I’d highly recommend using one. The cost is 10Q each.
  • Use of a porter. For 150Q per day, you can hire a porter to carry your bag to base camp and back. If paying for both up and down, the cost will be 300Q. The price does rise if your bag weighs over a certain amount.
  • Tips for your guides. An optional gratuity at the end for your guide if you feel they are deserving.

Important to note, since the end of 2021 the use of animals like horses and mules to transport people and cargo is now prohibited on Acatenango.

Zoe stood in front of Volcan Agua just as the sun peaks over the horizon

What to Bring to Hike Acatenango

Once you book your tour, it’s important to check with the agency what they provide and what you’ll need to bring. Each company is slightly different with different mandatory items and suggested items. But, generally speaking, this is what you’ll need and what I recommend.

Clothing

  • Trainers or walking shoes. Trainers are fine for the hike and terrain, but walking shoes are better if you have them. It’s best to walk in shoes that you’ve already worn to avoid blisters.
  • Clothes to wear on day 1: t-shirt, shorts or leggings or trousers, a thin jumper (and underwear, obviously). A hat if you have one is useful, but not essential.
  • Spare clothes for base camp and day 2: A second t-shirt, a thick jumper, leggings or trousers or tracksuit bottoms, change of underwear (including socks and bra), thermal layers (such as a long-sleeved t-shirt or base layers).
  • Sunglasses. Polarised ones are the best and I wouldn’t use any others now. I guess, once you go polarised, you don’t go back. Highly recommend these Polaroid unisex glasses.

Other Essentials

  • 40-litre rucksack. This is the minimum size you’ll need to fit in your personal belongings and the items issued by your tour company. Honestly, I thought a 40-litre bag would be way too big. But, also having to fit a big winter coat and three meals inside took up a lot of room quickly. So, unpack your big backpack, leave most of your stuff in a storage area in your hostel and bring your 40-plus litre rucksack.
  • Water and extra snacks. Most companies will provide some water and require you to bring a certain other amount. As such, it’s important to check this in advance. There’s no water source at base camp and the only other place to get a drink on the volcano is at the park entrance. Bring any extra snacks you might want such as chocolate bars, nuts, cereal bars.
  • Toilet roll. Self-explanatory. The quality of the toilets varies between companies at the base camp. But, speaking from my limited experience, this was a tiny cabin (with a lockable door) and a hole (with a seat). Was it horrific? No. And, to be honest, with the level of dehydration I reached from climbing the volcano, I only needed to use it once. Though, once was enough. To note, there aren’t any other toilets on the volcano other than at base camp. So at all other times, you’ll be going in nature.
  • Electronics: Camera, phone, GoPro, battery pack and/or headphones. Pick of these what you have and will use. Headphones are good if you want to put on music or a podcast and power up the path to Acatenango. A battery pack is necessary as there are no power sources at base camp and you don’t want to miss out on sunrise photos because your phone ran out of battery!
  • Toiletries: Glasses and contact lenses (if appropriate), any medication, toothbrush and toothpaste, sun cream. Pretty sure I brought a hairbrush with me but didn’t use it and walked down the volcano with my hair still in plaits from the day before. Don’t overpack.
  • Face mask. You don’t need to walk in one and no one wore them on the bus either. But it’s good to have for when the bus inevitably gets stopped at one of the many police checkpoints between Antigua and the trailhead.
  • Cash. A small amount to cover any costs not included in the tour cost you’ve already paid such as park entry and camping fee. Plus, enough for a tip for your guide, the porters (if you’re using one) and any drinks or snacks you want to buy on the volcano.
The park entrance for Volcan de Acatenango, here you pay the park entrance fee

Hiking Acatenango in One Day

There are two types of one-day tour. Firstly, a single day option where you set off early in the morning, climb up and down Acatenango and get back to Antigua in time to have dinner. Secondly, there are the one-night tours, where you leave Antigua around 11pm, climb through the night, watch the sunrise from the summit of Acatenango and then hot-foot it back down the volcano and return to Antigua all within 12 hours. Let’s discuss both options for hiking Acatenango in one day in more detail…

Daytime Volcano Hike

This is the trek to do if you’re really short on time. The tours generally leave Antigua around 5am and return to Antigua around 5pm. Hiking Acatenango in one day by climbing from 2200 metres to 4000 metres of elevation and back will be tough. What’s more, you’ll only get around 30 minutes to enjoy the views from the summit (and eat lunch at this time too).

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this tour unless you absolutely can’t spare two days from your itinerary. For me, the best part of this trek is getting to watch Fuego erupt at night and then watching the sunrise. And, on the daytime trek, you’ll get to see neither of those. It’s also not that much cheaper for all the things you miss out on.

If you’re interested in this option, check out OX Expeditions or Tropicana Hostel.

Acatenango Night Hike

Trekking through the night doesn’t really save you any time but it does mean you don’t need to camp on the volcano. So, if you’re not one for a cold night’s sleep in a tent, this may be the option for you.

For a night hike, tours typically leave around 11pm from Antigua and you’ll start hiking at around 1am. This does create a time pressure to get all the way to the top in time for sunrise. So, if you know you’re a slow hiker, lacking fitness or just someone who doesn’t cope well with exercise at altitude, this probably isn’t the trek for you. After spending around 30 to 45 minutes at the summit watching the sunrise (and hopefully seeing Fuego erupt), you’ll climb straight back down and get back to Antigua by 11am.

Ultimately, this trek doesn’t save you time as you’ll need to prepare for and make up for lost sleep by doing little the day before and sleeping most of the day after. The last thing you’re going to want to do after no sleep and hiking for around 8 hours is to be awake all day, do another activity or get on a bus somewhere else. Take the day to relax in your hotel or hostel!

Tropicana Hostel run an Acatenango Volcano overnight trek, so check with them if you’re interested.

Hiking Acatenango Without a Guide

While it is possible to hike Acatenango without a guide, I would only recommend this option if you are extremely experienced in hiking at altitude, navigating on the volcano and camping in high-altitude weather conditions. If you’re only interested in this option because you prefer not to join group tours, then this isn’t for you.

The guides are all experienced and qualified in managing altitude sickness and keeping safe in different weather conditions. In addition, the tour companies provide weather-appropriate camping gear to keep you safe in cold weather. This is essential given that exposure is one of the biggest risks to climbers on Acatenango. Sadly, just a few years ago in 2017, 6 people died of hypothermia on the volcano. Deaths that were entirely preventable if not for the lack of correct equipment and knowledge on dealing with the weather.

Without a guide or tour company, you’ll need to source your own transport to and from the volcano, clothing & accessories, camping gear, first aid kit, a plan for your route, food, water, a fire and a camping spot.

Volcano Fuego erupting at night, you can see the rocks and lava so clearly from Acatenango base camp

Honest Review of Climbing Acatenango…

The Acatenango Volcano hike was the best thing I did in the whole of Central America. But, it was also the hardest thing I did, well, ever.

Physically, this is as demanding as it gets. Heat, altitude, humidity, walking distance, weight to carry. It’s tough. But equally so, this is mentally demanding. When you’re gasping for breath and taking two steps before having another break wondering if you’ll ever get to the top, you just have to keep going. One foot in front of the other, again and again and again. My advice would be to go at your own pace and have as many breaks as you need. That, and keep breathing and keep drinking. The most important thing is to get to base camp safely, how long that takes is irrelevant.

As soon as you reach base camp, the pain of the last 5 hours will vanish and you’ll be mesmerised by the incredible view of the volcanos. Don’t panic if it’s cloudy when you arrive. Nighttime and mornings tend to be clearer here and that’s when you most need a view from base camp. But, holy moly, I could have sat on top of Acatenango for days watching the world go by and Fuego erupt.

I’m not sure there’s another experience in the world that brings you as up close and personal with an erupting volcano as this Acatenango hike does. The rumble of the eruption and the bright orange lava metres in the sky are astounding enough. But then, when you lay in your tent to go to sleep, you’ll feel the earth shake with the next big eruption. One, that you can watch through your tent door. This is special.

I can’t recommend Acatenango enough, it’s bucket list special. And, it really is accessible to people of all ages, varying levels of fitness, different budgets and travel preferences. If you do one thing in Guatemala, make it this.

Top Tips For Climbing Acatenango

  • Make sure you have a good hotel or hostel booked for the night before and the night after climbing Acatenango. You’ll want to get a good night’s sleep beforehand and you’ll want to be somewhere comfortable when you return. I recommend Somos Hostel in Antigua. I stayed here for 8 nights in total and their hot tub is perfect for soothing your sore muscles post-hike!
  • Get a good night’s sleep and a wholesome breakfast before you set off for Day 1 of the hike.
  • Walk at your own pace, take as many breaks as you need and don’t feel pressure from your group to do the Fuego or summit hikes if you don’t want to.
  • Make use of the porters. It’s not cheating and no one is ever going to discredit your achievement of getting to the top if someone else carried your bag for you. If it makes your life easier and makes it easier for you to reach the top, go for it. Plus, you’re supporting local people making a living.
  • Be prepared for the difficulty but don’t let it put you off. Those incredible volcano views are waiting for you at the top!

If you have any questions or want any more information, drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

Information is correct as of March 2022 but is subject to change in future.


More Central America Travel Guides…

GUATEMALA: Hobbitenango (Antigua): Worth Every Penny! [Complete Guide]

GUATEMALA: El Paredon: Ultimate Travel Guide

EL SALVADOR: Hiking Santa Ana Volcano (Complete Guide)

BELIZE: Caye Caulker Snorkeling: An Underwater Paradise (Need to Know)

BELIZE: Koko King Caye Caulker (Beach Club Guide + Review)

HONDURAS: Pulhapanzak Waterfalls, Honduras: Complete Guide To Visiting


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4 thoughts on “Acatenango Hike: Complete Guide to this Volcano Trek [2022]”

  1. Great blog đź‘Ś very detailed and fun to read, thank you.
    I wondered if a 12/13 years child can make it, have you seen kids there?
    My daughter want to join me on that adventure i would love it if she can be there with me.
    Thanks

    1. Glad you found it useful. I’ve heard of children as young as 5 completing the climb successfully to base camp. To the summit is a bit trickier as it’s loose rock all the way up so there’s a lot of sliding around, but you don’t have to do that and can watch sunrise from base camp (I did that and don’t regret not getting to the very top). Of course, you know your child the best and whether you think they’d be capable of it both physically and also mentally to keep walking for about 5 hours. I’d recommend reaching out to a few companies to make sure they accept children and if they have any advice/special recommendations too. Enjoy your trip!

  2. Very informative article! Do you know if the ban on horses has been reversed? The company I spoke with ahead of an upcoming trip said that we can hire them, but now I am skeptical.

    1. I haven’t heard that it is, although it may be the case that the use of mules and horses is continuing unofficially. The last I saw was this statement about the ban in December 2021, https://www.instagram.com/p/CXKdBNcOWTB/ on one of the agency’s instagram accounts. I would suggest to reach out to a couple of other companies asking about whether horses are available during their hikes and you’ll probably get a better idea based on their responses.

      When I did do the hike, I didn’t see many horses to be honest. There were a few around the start but I didn’t see any after that, so I’m not sure you’d just be able to ask for one half way up for example. I think it would be better to pay a porter to carry your bags & lighten your load, then you can just focus on getting yourself to the top. I used a porter for both the way up and down and think it was definitely worth the money, plus you get to support a local make a living.

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