Volcan de Acatenango is a stratovolcano with the latest eruption recorded in the 1970s. However, this volcano itself is not the real attraction of an Acatenango volcano hike but another volcano named volcano de Fuego. The Acatenango hike will only take you up the volcano so you can enjoy the view of Fuego and its almost hourly eruptions, as well as beautiful sunrises and sunsets from its summit. If you are interested in taking this adventure, here’s our guide which you can refer to when planning your trip.
Acatenango Hike: A Brief Glance
An Acatenango hike generally starts at the trailhead and moves up through a steep slope. The path is well-marked, but the loose pebbles make walking somewhat difficult.
After that, the trail goes through an enchanting forest, still with inclines but not as steep as the earlier section of the trail. Once you exit the forest, be prepared for more steep climbs going up to the base camp.
Once there, you can start to relax and enjoy the scenic views around you. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see Fuego with its low-level eruptions right away. If the weather is good, you can continue hiking way up to the summit where you can enjoy a nice view of the sunset. You can do the same early in the morning of the next day to watch the sunrise before you start your hike back to town.
Food and Water
For a short Acatenango volcano hike day trip, a few snacks to last you for half a day at least should be enough. For overnight trips though, brings as much food that will last you from lunch to dinner and breakfast of the following day (given that you already had breakfast before you start the hike).
If you’re going on guided tours, you don’t have to worry about food because that’s already included in the package. The amount and type of food though will depend on how much you paid the tour operator. In any case, all meals will be provided for but don’t get your hopes too high. That said, you’ll still want to bring plenty of snacks in case you still feel hungry after the meal.
As for water, there are no water sources along the trail so be sure to bring lots of it whether you go solo or with a group. Tour operators will ask you to bring at least four liters of water, three of which will be for your consumption and the others you’ll contribute to the chef or guide for cooking.
Camping and Accommodations
There are designated campsites up in the trail where you can pitch your tent and camp for the night. Some tour companies have set up permanent shelters (along with sleeping bags) where their clients can stay. The shelters are pretty cozy and offer better protection against the cold weather up there.
When to Go
As with any hiking adventures, you’ll want to go when the weather is at its best, and here that would be the dry season which runs from November to April. During these months the trails will be dry and much easier to walk on, and the views are much better with fewer clouds and clear views all around. Still, the weather can be pretty cold at night even during these months so be sure to dress appropriately.
The rainy season in Guatemala usually starts in May and finishes around October. Although there are hikers who still go up the volcano during these months and still get to enjoy the views and their experience (the sun does shine from time to time even during the rainy months), it is advised to avoid doing so if possible. The trails will be wet and muddy most of the time and you’ll have a hard time climbing the slopes. Plus, camping in the rain with strong winds around you isn’t a lot of fun. Besides, the clouds and fog will prevent you from enjoying the views, especially the sight of Fuego exploding (which is the highlight of the trip).
What to Wear
Hiking in high altitudes will usually mean near-freezing temperatures and lots of moisture, so be sure to wear the right hiking outfit to ensure that you remain warm, dry, and comfortable. That said, here’s what your outfit should be composed of:
- Hiking Pants
- Hiking Jackets
- Base Layers and Mid Layers
- Hiking Socks
- Hiking Boots/Hiking Shoes
- Hiking Hat/Beanie
- Hiking Gloves
What to Bring
What to bring on your Acatenango hike will depend on the type of trip you plan to make. Thus, we divided this section into two: short day trips and overnight backpacking trips.
For Short Day Trips
- Hiking Daypack
- Calorie-dense snacks
- Lots of water
- Trekking Poles
- Hiking Camera
For Overnight Backpacking Trips
- Backpacking Tent
- Sleeping Bag
- Flashlight or Headlamp
- Spare clothes to change into before sleeping
- Backpacking Stove
- Cooking and Eating Utensils
- Toilet paper
If you are going on an overnight guided Acatenango volcano hike, your tour operator will generally provide most of these things, from shelter to food and others (except personal necessities of course). However, not all tour operators will offer these in good condition (be sure to read reviews regarding the equipment). So when in doubt, consider bringing your supplies.
Guided Tours vs. Hiking Solo
Although it is possible to go on an Acatenango hike independently, note that this is not an easy trail and will require a certain level of fitness to accomplish. You’ll be carrying all your gear by yourself, and although they may not be much they can still weigh pretty heavy when you’re going up inclines and slopes.
Guided tours are often the best option for this particular hike because everything is already planned out for you. Some tour companies will even offer to pick you up from your hotel and provide breakfast before starting. Plus, you won’t need to bring that many supplies because everything will be provided for, including accommodations up in the base camp. Plus, you will feel much safer when you’re in a group, and you have someone to assist or help you should the need arise.
Acatenango Hiking Safety Tips
Safety is of paramount importance when hiking near or around volcanoes. Thus, here are some tips to help ensure your safety while doing the Acatenango volcano hike.
Volcanic Eruptions. Volcan de Fuego last erupted back in 2018 and caused the death of more than 150 people. Although the volcano remains quiet for the most part, you’ll still want to keep an eye out for local news reports to ensure that it’s safe for your scheduled climb.
Local Bandits. There were reported incidents of trail robberies in the past, though there haven’t been any in the past years. Still, it is recommended that you be wary of these things and take every precaution you can. This is one reason why guided tours are encouraged because bandits don’t attack groups and seem to know local guides (and avoid attacking them and their guests).
High-altitude Sickness. If you haven’t tried hiking in high altitudes before, then you’ll want to acclimatize to condition your body for the adventure. Ideally, you’ll want to spend at least 24 hours in Antigua to allow your body to ease into the altitude.
Hypothermia. The weather can get really cold up there especially at night times and hypothermia is a real concern in these areas. Back in 2017, six people were reported to have frozen to death up in the trail.
Q: How long is the Acatenango hike?
Several trails are going up and down the volcano, each with varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. However, the most traversed route is about 6-7 kilometers long.
Q: How tall is Acatenango?
Acatenango is Guatemala’s third highest peak and reaches a height of 3976 meters.
Q: Can you hike up a volcano?
Yes, hiking up a volcano (dormant or inactive of course) is possible and is done by many hikers all over the world. The activity is generally safe, though certain precautions need to be taken considering the terrains.
Q: What does Acatenango mean?
Accordingly, the name is of Náhuatl origin which means “wall of reeds”.
Globo Surf Overview
An Acatenango volcano hike is one of the most interesting hiking trips you can make in Guatemala. However, it can be quite challenging even for the experienced hiker and backpacker. If you are planning an Acatenango hike, be sure to keep the tips above in mind. Doing so will help to ensure the safety and overall success of your expedition.
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