Climbing Acatenango Volcano in 2 days

 
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Climbing Acatenango was the highlight of my trip to Guatemala. Acatenango is a stratovolcano (volcano built up by many layers of hardened lava, tephra, pumice and ash) close to the city of Antigua. Acatenango is joined with Volcán de Fuego and collectively the volcano complex is known as La Horqueta.

The view over Volcán de Fuego is one of the reasons people attempt this climb. Fuego is also a stratovolcano but it is active. Fuego is famous for its small gas and ash eruptions that occur every 10 to 15 minutes. Its eruptions are beautiful and more visible by night.

View over Fuego from Acatenango Day
View over Fuego from Acatenango during the day

Route and timeline

Experienced hikers can do it over a day but it is worth staying longer to admire the spectacle during the evening. Many local tours offer lodging options in a refuge or a tent at the base camp to stay overnight. Not without mentioning the wine and marshmallows around the campfire.

We started the hike around 2,550 m. Two small camps were available along the way where you can get drinks, snacks and fruits from locals. Most people reach base camp at 3,660 m during the mid-afternoon. Guides usually start cooking and cut some wood for the campfire at 3pm. Dinner is served at 6pm. During sunset, the eruptions begin to become spectacular! The sound delay of every eruption will indicate how far you are from the volcano. Only 3 little seconds so 3 kms away. Not bad knowing that hot gas and volcanic matter can move at around 100 km/h and lava at 60 km/h!

For the complete route, the GPX file can be downloaded on ViewRanger.

On the next day we woke up early at 4am to begin the final ascent to the top to reach the 3,976 m. It took about one hour. We waited patiently in the cold and windy summit for a few minutes. Just the time to realise where we were standing: on a moonlike surface inside the volcanic crater. The sun came out really quick and released the first sunbeams over all the volcanoes surrounding us.

Acatenango Summit
Acatenango Summit

Getting ready

Be among the people who are prepared and aware of the challenge. It is a though hike and good hiking gear will make the difference during this adventure. 4 layers are recommended as the temperature can get below 0°C at the summit when there is wind. We were close to -15°C. Good shoes, headlamp, hiking poles (they rent sticks at the entrance) and a good backpack are necessary. You will have to carry 4L of water as per the park entrance instructions. Guides use 1L at the top to cook for you.

Tour companies

A few companies in Antigua offer this tour but we decided to go with Tropicana Tour for all the good reviews they have. It turns out they have one of the best located campsite with a perfect view on Fuego. Daniel and Osbaldo, our guides, were fantastic and told us many stories about the volcanoes. Spanish speakers will definitely get a better experience with most of the guides. Some companies propose to hike the Fuego on the first day to get really close to the eruptions but we decided to not take more risks.