As my next big trip just started I was thinking about what actually was my favourite location on my last one. Obviously that is really hard to say, but Guatemala came to my mind. And the most special thing I have done there was the 2-day Acatenango hike. This is a volcano very close to the beautiful city of Antigua. 2 other volcanos are also located in that region. Volcano de Agua y volcano de Fuego – that means fire and its name definetly is the program!
Actually the first time when I was in Antigua, I didn’t do the tour. Because I wasn’t there for long and thought spending all the time on a 2-day trip is not really worth it. But if anyone is thinking about doing that really hard hike or not… I can just recommend to do it – it was the most amazing hike I have done in my life. And the most spectacular view I have seen.
Preperation for Acatenango
However all starts in Antigua – there are many hostels or travel agencies that offer this trip – it is 2 days on the Volcano Acatenango and costs only about 25$ which is really cheap as it includes your tent and sleeping bag, some food (but definitely bring more!), the transportation and the guide. Of course you have to carry up your equipment by yourself. Don’t forget to bring enough water for 2 days and the most important – bring a lot of clothes to wear at night! Gloves, winterjacket (or many many layers) and a hat is also a must! Keep that in mind cause some people literally died up there already because of the cold! Thats also why I definitely recommend to go with a tour and not by yourself! But don’t worry too much – the guides will make a fire so worst case just go and warm yourself there.
Itinerary of the tour
You will get picked up really early, around 5-6am from your Hostel or in front of the travel agency. On the way you pick up your sleeping bag and the tents that you will share with the others. Then there is a bit more time to sleep in the car until you arrive at the bottom of the volcano Acatenango. There is one last chance to buy a hat, gloves, water or walking sticks. And before the hike starts your tourguide will split the big tents on your backpacks and hand you your sleepingbag! This needs a lot of space so make sure you have your big backpack with you and still some space in there!
Finally, when the backpacks are all heavy enough.. the hike starts. It is about 6-7 hours pretty much straight up! So make sure you still have some profile on your shoes. It is really steep and with the luggage you have to carry up also one of the hardest hikes I have done in my life. But already on your way the scenery is amazing… it changes from desert like to jungle to trees to stones to ashes and it feels like you are walking through different climatic zones. It is an experience by itself but the most impressive part is still waiting.
Even before reaching the basecamp somewhere below 4000m you can hear it! The volcano Fuego errupting. It sounds like a big explosion and gets louder and louder as you keep walking. And as you reach the camp you can see the volcano right in front of you! As there is still light the smoke is rising up in the air and looks already impressive enough. Nevertheless… the more dark it gets the more spectacular the view is! As at night there’s no smoke anymore to see, but instead the lava coming out of the volcano. And that to be honest is the most impressive thing I have seen in my whole life. That’s a night I will never forget. The show was there for us the whole night – what meant nobody of us could really sleep.
Still they woke us up at 4 am to walk up all the way to the peak for the sunrise (2 hours more to around 4000m). Even though it is not that long anymore and without luggage, it is still exhausting cause the ground is so soft consisting of ashes. Also the first day and the non sleeping is something you can feel in your legs. But as you made it up that far… really go all the way for the peak – it doesn’t make a difference anymore. If you are lucky the volcano is still errupting and with the morning sun in the background another amazing view is guaranteed. It is f…… cold up there so bring your warmest clothes that you can stand it there for the whole sunrise. By going down to the camp there are paths where you can literally run through the ashes so youll get warm again. Also it is a lot of fun!
After packing the equipment you’ll have to go back down the same way – but downwards it is way faster and of course not that exhausting. Actually I was nearly running the whole way, as it is easier and better for the feet when you don’t have to stop all the time. When everyone arrived at the bottom the shuttle brings you back to the Hostel sometime in the early afternoon. Still… don’t expect that you’ll have energy to do that much more on that day! Anyway… as I said it was the best thing I have done so far. Just go for it and enjoy Guatemala!