Guatemala Guides | Camping on Volcan Pacaya | A Guide to the Volcan Pacaya hike

Want to do the Volcan Pacaya hike in Guatemala? If you are planning a trip to Guatemala then don’t just settle for a day hike to Pacaya, why not do an overnight camping trip to Volcan Pacaya instead!

Guatemala has three active volcanos, two of which are in the Antigua area making them really accessible. It’s pretty hard to miss all the volcanoes in Guatemala, especially if you arrive by plane into Guatemala City. If you are interested in hiking Acatenango and Fuego take a read of this.

 

Camping on Volcan Pacaya - Why you should do an over night trip to Pacaya

In my humble opinion, you can’t visit Guatemala and NOT climb a volcano!  There are several to choose from of varying levels of difficulty.

The most popular of these hikes is the Volcan Pacaya hike. Volcan Pacaya rises to an elevation of 8,370ft. / 2,552m Payaya may be one of the smaller volcanoes but it is still active and although it hasn’t erupted since 2014, the night I was there I saw plenty of lava flowing and some small eruptions.

If climbing Acatenango isn’t your idea of fun and you prefer an easier hike, you have children with you, or you are on a mission to climb all the volcanoes that you can in Guatemala, here’s everything you need to know about the Volcan Pacaya hike.

Camping on Volcan Pacaya - Why you should do an over night trip to Pacaya

You have 3 options when booking a tour for the Volcan Pacaya hike:

  1. Daytime hike to Pacaya – leave early (6 hours)
  2. Daytime hike to Pacaya – leave in the afternoon (6 hours)
  3. Overnight camping trip to Pacaya – leave in the afternoon get back the following morning

Choosing a Tour Company for the Volcan Pacaya hike

When choosing a tour company I have compiled a whole article detailing what to look out for, read it here. What I would say is you get what you pay for. There are plenty of companies offering very cheap tours to Pacaya. I have heard many stories though about people paying the tour operator and then having to pay a fee to get onto the volcano. Whoever you go with check the entrance fee is included.

If you decide to do an overnight tour I would be even more careful about who I booked through as it can get very cold overnight at high altitude so you need to make sure the company has the correct equipment. I decided to do the overnight trip, mostly because I’m a sucker for a good sunset and sunrise photograph and on the overnight trip you get both, plus I love camping.

I took my trip with OX Expeditions based in Antigua. Leaving at 1 pm from their hostel Base Camp it’s a hours drive to the park entrance. Here you can get any last minute food and drink, use the bathroom and get yourself a walking stick for 5Q.

The Backpack

Camping on Volcan Pacaya - Why you should do an over night trip to Pacaya

As this is an overnight trip I had to carry a 50lt backpack with my gear, part of a tent, sleeping bag, 4 liters of water and my food, oh and some wine! It was a little on the heavy side but totally manageable (although I’m 5ft8 and like lifting heavy things).  If you know that you don’t want to carry your backpack, or you aren’t in good shape, you can also arrange a porter for your bag. In fact you can even get a horse to ride on to the camp. Its 100Q for a porter/ horse so it’s worth making sure you keep some extra money on you just in case.

The Hike to Volcan Pacaya

The hike itself took us about 45 minutes. The first 20 minutes was the worst for me.  It’s a really nice walk and Jose our guide stopped a few time on the way up to talk to us about the local area and the environment.

Camping on Volcan Pacaya - Why you should do an over night trip to Pacaya

The Camp on Volcan Pacaya

When we arrived at the camp on Volcan Pacaya we dropped our bags, Jose set up our camp and then we walked up to watch the sun setting. 

Camping on Volcan Pacaya - Why you should do an over night trip to PacayaWe were all pretty surprised to see lava flowing! It’s been years since this has happened so we were really lucky!

Camping on Volcan Pacaya - Why you should do an over night trip to PacayaWe then look a pretty easy walk down to the “hot spots” to roast marshmallows, and drink a few beers!

Once we arrived back at our camp Jose got to work cooking a hot dinner for us all, and the local guide Carlos started a fire. I’ve heard lots of mixed reviews on food from different people taking other tours saying there wasn’t enough food etc. I had a huge tub of rice and sauce which was delicious and way too much for me to eat…lucky for the dog who had been following us around though as she got to finish it! 

Camping on Volcan Pacaya - Why you should do an over night trip to PacayaWe all sat around the campfire talking, drinking wine and watching the lava. Fuego the other active volcano in the area was also rather active that night so from where we were sat we could hear them both! Sorry, no pictures as the visibility weren’t good enough.

Sleeping on Volcan Pacaya

Turns out it’s pretty difficult to sleep on an active volcano. I was warm enough in my sleeping bag, but trying to sleep in between two noisy volcanos, without any earplugs, was never going to end well. Not that I’m complaining, it’s not every day I get kept awake by erupting volcanos after all! Payaya doesn’t have a camp toilet just to warn you. So unless you want to bring a luggable loo with you are going to have to get used to peeing in the bushes.

Hiking to the summit on the Volcan Pacaya hike

Wake up call was at 4:30, getting out of the nice warm tent to hike to the summit was pretty grim. For me, this was the most difficult part of the tour. It’s dark and you are hiking up the volcanic rock which is loose and it’s steep. It’s about an hour to the top, although halfway through it may not feel like it, it’s 100% worth it.

I must say that I probably made the hike more difficult by not checking the batteries in my head torch, so I had to keep shouting for someone to shine a light on me when I got to a tricky part, when we had almost reached the top I remembered I had my phone torch….sometimes I amaze myself.

Camping on Volcan Pacaya - Why you should do an over night trip to Pacaya

Despite the cold, early start and lack of headtorch the view from the summit was incredible! We sat there and watched Pacaya erupt for a good 20 minutes before I was time to head down a bit to see the sunrise. I didn’t realize at the time how lucky we were to see this. Sadly the clouds kept coming in and none of my pictures turned out…so if you want to see it you will just have to book a tour and see it for yourself.

I took a few ok images on the way back down, but to be honest there were so many clouds none of them were that wonderful. Although the clouds did make the mountains look like little islands in a sea of clouds. If you think it’s tricky hiking up the black stuff, wait until you come back down! I fell over so many times I had to put my gloves on to protect my hands. It was a lot of fun running down, though.

Breakfast

Once back at camp, it’s time for breakfast, and most importantly coffee. I normally have a 2 cup rule before I do anything in the morning, so the fact I submitted a volcano without any caffeine is an achievement in itself. Once we packed up camp it was time to head back down.

Camping on Volcan Pacaya - Why you should do an over night trip to Pacaya

Camping on Volcan Pacaya - Why you should do an over night trip to Pacaya

Here are my top reasons you should do an overnight tour to Volcan Pacaya:

  • If you are looking for a fun camping experience on a volcano that isn’t too physically challenging, this is the tour for you.
  • If you are with a group of friends and want a night away from partying in Antigua, but the thought of climbing Acatenango makes you reach for a bottle of tequila.
  • You really like marshmallows
  • You want to beat the crowds. Pacaya is the most popular volcano to hike because it’s the easiest. That means there are a lot of people hiking up and down every day. Doing the overnight tour we hardly saw anyone. So if you don’t like people in your pictures, or just in general, the best thing about the overnight tour is you are on your way up when everyone else is leaving. 
  • You’re a little bit bonkers and decide to do the OX Expeditions “Trident” tour. This is only to be attempted if you are in excellent physical condition. Basically, you hike and camp on Acatenango, hike to Fuego from Acatenango, come down and maybe grab a quick shower and then off you go hiking Pacaya and camp there for the night.

Final Thoughts

The only company I recommend for booking transport and tours in Guatemala (other than OX Expeditions) is GuateGo. They are a Guatemala owned company who have painstakingly brought together all of the transport and tour options in one easy to use website. You can book transport in Guatemala with them here and Guatemalan tours with them here.

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CAMPING ON VOLCAN PACAYA

Planning a Trip to Guatemala? You might be interested in these articles:

How to get from Guatemala City to Antigua

Is it safe to visit Guatemala? Safety Advice for Solo Female Travelers

The night I thought I was going to die in Guatemala

Things to know before visiting Antigua, Guatemala

11 things to know before visiting Guatemala

The Top 5 Tours in Guatemala | The Best Tours in Guatemala in Guatemala

 

Thank you to OX Expeditions for inviting me on this trip with them. The experiences and opinions are my own.

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18 Comments

  1. April 3, 2017 / 10:53 am

    Wow, I’ll have to remember to check the batteries in any light I have before embarking on a trip like this. That’s definitely something I wouldn’t remember. Good thing other people had their lights and you had your phone! Looked amazing.

  2. June 15, 2017 / 11:51 am

    You have put an idea in my head now : hiking up all the volcanoes in Guatemala. I don’t know if I can ever manage sleeping over or near a volcano, I mean the thought that it can burst up any moment and I can die will disturb me more than the sounds. Duh I am such a chicken!

    • June 15, 2017 / 3:16 pm

      haha No I totally understand! They always camp far enough away so you are safe. But I can’t say I’ve ever gotten a good nights sleep on a volcano!

  3. June 15, 2017 / 12:06 pm

    This is absolutely beautiful! I love that there is actual lava flow coming off the volcano. I definitely feel your pain in not checking the batteries in your torch, that breaks me down every time… But do I always remember to check? Nope. Ha! Glad you still had a great time!

    • June 15, 2017 / 3:14 pm

      Haha I think after that I will never not check again. Especially if I know I’m going to be hiking at 4am up a volcano. But its easier said than done…

  4. June 15, 2017 / 3:33 pm

    I would definitely do the overnight trip. Is the volcano active? I have climbed a few volcanoes in Ecuador. Once I slept in a crater with water, it is called Quilotoa. Strongly recommend it. I would love to hike this volcano and thank you for giving me this useful info 😀

    • July 3, 2017 / 11:20 pm

      Yes Pacaya is very active! I’ve been really lucky both times I’ve camped up there. the first we saw a lot of lava flowing and the second there were a lot of eruptions. The group of children I was with were so excited! That volcano you are talking about sounds amazing! I’m going to add it to my list! Thank you 🙂

  5. June 15, 2017 / 8:07 pm

    I am definitely loving your hiking posts, the view from the top looks amazing. I am all up for camping overnight. I will have to come to you when I decide to do a volcano hike.

    • July 3, 2017 / 11:24 pm

      Thank you so much. I’m becoming a bit of a volcano hiking junky! I’m heading to Hawaii next month for a vacation…I’m planning on hiking at least one while I’m there!

  6. Samantha Elisabeth
    June 15, 2017 / 8:58 pm

    This sounds so fun (minus the cold wake-up). The last time I hiked a volcano, my guide had to hold my hand the whole time because he was (rightfully) afraid I was going to fall and then fall straight down on the line of people behind us. I’ve never looked into Guatemala before, so I didn’t even think about doing an overnight hike there, but it sounds like such an experience (and those views!). TMI question, so feel free to not answer, but my biggest concern with long hikes is always the bathroom situation. So what was it like (or at least finding somewhere private) on Pacaya?

    • July 3, 2017 / 11:28 pm

      Pacaya would be a great hike for you…no ledges! And they do have some bathrooms. Pacaya is one of the most visited volcanos in Central America so it’s got a pretty good set up with a lot of amenities. Acatenango, the other main volcano there doesn’t…it was a case of dig a hole! I had never thought about visiting Guatemala either. But I can;t seem to leave now. I’m so in love with it! It really is a wonderful country.

  7. June 16, 2017 / 5:01 am

    This must be such a memorable experience! By your description, it does sound like an easy hike and is worth considering for me (my husband and I are not hardcore hikers). I didn’t know that it could be so difficult to sleep on a volcano because of the noise – will definitely remember to bring earplugs!!

    • July 3, 2017 / 11:31 pm

      And sleeping pills haha. It’s also tricky with the altitude. But to be honest if the volcano is erupting you won’t want to sleep much anyway 🙂

  8. June 16, 2017 / 5:28 am

    I think I would be pretty terrified sleeping on an active volcano, your pictures are amazing though

    • July 3, 2017 / 11:32 pm

      Yes my friends think I’m crazy! But it’s pretty safe. I went up there with 3 families last time.

  9. Veronica P.
    June 16, 2017 / 6:34 am

    I also love sunsets and sunrises but camping is just not my thing. Although I understand that it might be absolutely worth it for one night. Did you carry your own backpack all the way?

    • July 3, 2017 / 11:33 pm

      Yes! And I had a lot of extra gear in it to help out. Not going to lie that was pretty hard. But you can get a porter to carry it. Camping isn;t for everyone. As Pacaya is just a short hike you can do a half day trip which I’ve also done and it’s great. You actually see more on the day trip as you go through the lava fields.

  10. June 16, 2017 / 8:52 am

    That definitely is a memorable experience. It is a nice way to beat the crowds as you sat. And the morning view is just amazing. Thanks for all those tips

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