1 1 Mt. Acatenango Volcano Hike - Guatemala | Live Whilst You're Alive
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Mt. Acatenango Volcano Hike – Guatemala

If you’re in and around Guatemala this is a MUST! Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard work, a 6-8 hour hike, majority of which is pretty steep, and at times you feel like you want to turn back, but the view you witness at the top is worth EVERYTHING! Not only do you get to camp above the clouds and witness the sunrise from the crater of a volcano, but the neighbouring volcano, Mt Fuego, erupts every 15 minutes, allowing you to see ACTUAL LAVA pouring down the sides – a sight very few people have the chance to experience.

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Before I describe this epic journey to the top of the world, I’d first like to make you aware that there are tons of tour groups who offer this experience, but for the best view of the active volcano, head to Hostel Tropicana.  They have their own personal tour group that have certain permissions, allowing them access to a private area, enabling you to see Fuego head on.  The trip costs around £40 and you are provided with food, English speaking guides, cooking equipment, sleeping bags and mats, coats and hats for when it gets cold and of course a tent!

The Journey

After departing Hostel Tropicana and making our way to the base, we were given our equipment, sleeping bags and hiking sticks.  As I mentioned, you are provided with some food such as a sandwich, a pot noodle and some fruit, but I would recommend taking as much as you can yourself and around 2 litres of water if possible.  In terms of difficulty, I’d say the first half an hour is the hardest while your body is adjusting to the physical nature of the trail, and I’m not going to lie, I wanted to quit after the first 10 minutes.  But persevere! It helps that you are constantly passing people on their way back down who keep you going by telling you how amazing it is at the top.  Overall, if you are of average to good fitness, this is a difficult, but doable hike.

And we’re off! All kitted out at the base.

The Zones

Not only is the view indescribable from the top, it’s consistently stunning from start to finish.  As you hike upwards, the land is split into four zones.

Zone 1 – Farmland

Zone 2 – Cloud Forest

Zone 3 – Alpine Environment

Zone 4 – Volcanic Ash.

I really enjoyed the authenticity of Zone 1.  Walking around the Farmland, you get a taste of the local culture, witnessing the residents farming and caring for their crops and livestock.  The peacefulness of Zone 1 makes it easy to forget you are at the base of a composite 13,000ft volcano!

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Zone 2 – Cloud Forest

As you leave the Farmland behind, the change in vegetation is apparent.  Huge old growth trees tower over the forest adding to the incredible floral biodiversity, the temperature dips as you enter the shade, clouds seeping through the conifers create an almost eerie fog, and the forest is bustling with the sounds of local birds and wildlife.  When we reached the half way point (somewhere in the midst of the cloud forest) we stopped for lunch and a much needed break.  It was at this point we began to notice that a lot of the leaves had a layer of ash on them from previous eruptions and acted as a reminder of the type of environment you were in.

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Stopping for lunch in Zone 2

Continuing our climb, we began to emerge from the clouds, feeling the sun on our skin once again.  Simultaneously, the vegetation and terrain began to adjust.  Trees became scarce and instead were replaced by shrubs and cacti.  The ground was dry and grass like, and leafless burnt out pine trees from previous fires had taken the place of the coniferous ones.  We were above the clouds and had entered Zone 3.

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Trekking through the Alpine Forest

For me this was probably one of the most enjoyable zones which is weird because it’s also the steepest and the longest.  I think my legs had just gave up fighting and my body had accepted its fate.  It’s also a very busy section where other tour groups who have taken different routes begin to merge and head in their desired camp spot direction.

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The Volcanic Zone

There’s not a more excited feeling than getting to the volcanic zone.  The ground is sand like as you walk over dunes of ash.  You begin to hear the thunder of Fuego erupting and after about 20-30 minutes of walking you finally get a glimpse of the smoke….

After around a total of 6 hours, we decided on a spot to camp and WHAT A VIEW.  The only time I’ve ever seen a volcano erupt is on the News, but here it was right in front of my eyes explosively ejecting gas, ash, glass, pumice and boulders thousands of feet in the air creating a tower of debris.

Mt.Fuego doing it’s thing!

As the sun sets under the clouds, tinging them a light pink, and twilight begins to creep in, the red glow of the lava becomes more visible, as pyroclastic flows pour down Fuego’s slopes.  Words can’t describe how magical it is.

We sat around the bonfire with soup and pot noodles, playing games, and watching the spectacular “magmatic” firework show Mt Fuego was putting on for us.  After a couple of hours, it was time for bed.  Do NOT underestimate how cold it gets.  I slept in my jumper, scarf, hat and gloves and was still freezing.  It’s also near impossible to get to sleep.  If the thunderous explosion of Fuego isn’t enough to wake you, the shaking and rumbling of the ground beneath you will.  Although pretty scary, it’s also super cool to experience.

As morning approaches, you have a tight two hour deadline to make the final ascent to the peak.  For me this was the least enjoyable.  It’s very cold, its pitch black, it’s all up hill, and the terrain is incredibly steep and rocky.  Some people chose to sit this part out and kept themselves warm by the bonfire, however if you are fit enough and willing enough, I would recommend going all the way.  Not only do you get to see an actual volcanic crater (don’t worry, this one is dormant), but you get to see the sun rise above the clouds and a view like no other.

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Our Campsite

As the sun comes up, the temperature closely follows, and the glow of the lava begins to fade back into smoke.  It’s time to head back down after an incredible journey.

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Sunrise at the peak

For more info on tours, follow this link: Tropicana Hostel Volcano Hike

 

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26 Comments

  • Reply
    madeinnigeria89
    October 3, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    Looks like it was a great time! The pictures look amazing

  • Reply
    Karla Cruzado | The Wise Lark
    October 3, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    Wow I love those photos of the errupting volcano. Wasn’t that scary?

  • Reply
    growinggreatkidsblog
    October 3, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    Wow!!! What an incredible experience!

  • Reply
    shannanpanganiban
    October 4, 2017 at 2:10 am

    WOW that is absolutely amazing

  • Reply
    thealfablog
    October 4, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    This is AMAZING!!!!!!! I’m so jealous!! Looks absolutely incredible!

  • Reply
    Stephanie Vazquez
    October 5, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    This is now on my bucket list! Loved it! Thank you for also posting what Hostel to stay at!

    • Reply
      Ashley
      October 5, 2017 at 1:27 pm

      Thanks – Let me know how it goes when you get around to doing it!

  • Reply
    Olivia
    October 9, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Just Amazing!!

  • Reply
    wonderseekersblog
    October 9, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Looks amazing xx

  • Reply
    The Crumby Vegan
    October 9, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    Wow this looks like such a fantastic experience and although it looks super safe, you are so brave to want to try this sort of thing. Definitely gives me ideas for where I want to go next! 💚

  • Reply
    Yeshi
    October 14, 2017 at 7:27 pm

    Such an amazingly dangerous experience! Your pictures are beautiful but make me anxious at the same time!

  • Reply
    bye:myself
    October 14, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    Your trip looks really nice – challenging yet fun – am I right? The last picture in the sunrise is just amazing! Happy travels – feliz viajes – Renata

  • Reply
    Eli
    October 14, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    This looks and sounds INCREDIBLE 😍💙
    Guatemala is so high on my bucket list!!
    I can only imagine how image the ‘fireworks’ must’ve looked in real life!

  • Reply
    Mia Monroe | www.formomslike.me
    October 15, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    This looks so exciting! I’ve been to Guatemala and seen this volcano from the distance. Love it.

  • Reply
    findworldsbeauty
    October 15, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    Wow this looks fantastic! Went to Costa Rica this summer and Guatemala is probably next, would love to visit this volcano, thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    The Peaks & The Valleys
    October 19, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    This looks like so much fun! I had a similar experience where I climbed Volcan Concepíon in Nicaragua last April. It was incredible. I have a deep love for Central America!

  • Reply
    Liebster Award 2017 – Live whilst you're alive
    October 26, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    […] in Guatemala and witnessed lava erupting from its crater which was insane.  Check it out here: Volcano Hike.   I also zip lined upside down through the Costa Rican jungle which I guess is quite daring!  […]

  • Reply
    Mama Doc
    November 2, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Wow!! Beautiful pics and what an awesome adventure!!

  • Reply
    Selma Yilmaz Vega
    November 2, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    that was a great psot. sucke me right into it )

  • Reply
    simplyoneden
    November 2, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    Dream vaca for us! Oh look at those pictures! I’ve added this to our must do’s when we go!

  • Reply
    More Than Greens
    November 2, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Wow, this looks amazing! Sounds pretty tough but that sunrise at the end? Wow.

    Added to my bucket list! 😉

  • Reply
    Vibeke Foss
    November 2, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    What a wonderful place. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Lisa
    November 2, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Wow, we have climbed a few volcanos but none of them were active, it would be amazing and a wee bit nerve-wracking to see the lava flowing.

  • Reply
    shesbeaming
    November 2, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    Beautiful photos! Looks like a fun trip and you had a great time

  • Reply
    klolszewski
    November 7, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    I’m a sucker for stories like this. I haven’t had the privilege to travel all that much, but I’ve always wanted to. When I was growing up, we went hiking all the time and I know I would love this hike. I love the gorgeous photos you took. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  • Reply
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