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Pacaya Volcano Tour: Hike Volcan Pacaya Guatemala

Are you traveling to Guatemala and interested in hiking Volcan Pacaya, an active volcano in Antigua, Guatemala? Don’t settle for a day hike to Pacaya—take an overnight trip to Volcano Pacaya.

Pacaya isn’t the only volcano in Antigua but is one of the most accessible. It’s pretty hard to miss all the volcanoes in Guatemala, especially if you arrive by plane in Guatemala City. If you are interested in hiking Acatenango and Fuego, read this.

You can’t visit Guatemala and NOT climb a volcano! There are several to choose from with varying levels of difficulty. The most famous volcano hike in Guatemala is Pacaya Volcano Antigua.

Volcan Pacaya Guatemala has an elevation of 8,370ft (2,552m). Pacaya may be one of the smaller volcanoes in Guatemala, but it’s still active. While it hasn’t erupted since 2014, I saw lava and some small eruptions when I visited.

Suppose climbing Acatenango isn’t your idea of fun, and you prefer an easier trail, you have children, or you’re on a mission to climb all the Guatemala volcanoes. Here’s everything to know about the Volcano Pacaya hike!

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single-trip cover, annual multi-trip cover, and long-term travel cover. Safety Wing is great value, with monthly coverage starting at $39. It’s super easy to use, and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here, where I go into detail about all companies. 

Pacaya Volcano Tour Options

  1. Hike in the morning (six hours roundtrip)
  2. Hike in the afternoon (six hours roundtrip)
  3. Overnight camping trip (12-24 hours roundtrip: leave in the afternoon and return the following morning)

Which Pacaya Guatemala Experience to Choose

I have an article detailing what to look for when booking a tour company, which you can read here. You get what you pay for. Plenty of companies offer cheap tours of the Pacaya Volcano in Antigua. I’ve heard stories of people paying the tour operator and then being forced to pay a fee to access the volcano. Regardless of which company you choose, check customer reviews in advance.

There are two companies I recommend hiking Pacaya with: Heart of Travel (click here to learn more) and OX Expeditions.

If you decide to do an overnight Pacaya hike, I’d be extra cautious about who you booked through. It can get freezing overnight at high altitudes, so you must ensure the company has the correct equipment. I decided to make the overnight trip, mostly because I’m a sucker for sunset and sunrise photography. On the overnight trip, you get both—plus, I love camping.

I took my trip with OX Expeditions, based in Antigua. We left at 1:00 p.m. from the Base Camp hostel and headed for the park entrance. Here, you can get last-minute food and drink, use the bathroom, and purchase a walking stick for 5Q.

Quick Tip: Book accommodation, tours, and transport ahead of time online to save money and stress. 
est Antigua ToursClick here to check out the top Antigua tours
Best Antigua Accommodation: Click here to check out the best accommodation in Antigua
Best Antigua Transport: Click here to book a bus, ferry, or train in Antigua

Backpack Tips for the Pacaya Volcano Hike

As this is an overnight Pacaya Volcano tour, I had to carry a 50-liter backpack with my gear, part of a tent, a sleeping bag, four liters of water, my food, and wine! It was a little heavy but manageable—although I’m 5’8″ and enjoy lifting heavy things.  

If you don’t want to carry your backpack or aren’t in good shape, you can also arrange a bag porter. You can ride a horse to the camp. It’s 100Q for a porter or a horse, so keep extra money on you if you decide to book one.

Quick Tip: View my full Guatemala packing guide here including a downloadable checklist. And check out my Guatemala Essentials shopping list here.

Hiking Volcan Pacaya Guatemala

The hike took about 45 minutes—the first 20 minutes were the worst for me. It’s a nice walk, and Jose, our guide, stopped several times on the way up to tell us about the local area and the environment.

Camping on Pacaya Volcano

When we arrived at the camp on Volcan Pacaya, we dropped our bags, Jose set up our camp, and we walked up to watch the sunset. We were all surprised to see lava flowing—it’s been years since this has happened, so we were fortunate!

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

We 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 mixed reviews about the food provided by people who took different volcano tours. I had a massive tub of rice and sauce, which was delicious and too much for me to eat—lucky for the dog who had been following us around as she got to finish it.

We sat around the campfire, talking, drinking wine, and watching the lava. Fuego, the other local volcano in Antigua, was also somewhat active that night. From where we were sat, we could hear both volcanoes!

Turns out it’s not easy to sleep on an active volcano. I was warm enough in my sleeping bag, but trying to sleep between two noisy volcanos without earplugs never ends well. Not that I’m complaining—it’s not every day I get kept awake by erupting volcanoes, after all!

Warning: Pacaya doesn’t have a camp toilet. Unless you want to bring a luggable loo, get comfortable peeing in the bushes.

Summiting Pacaya Volcano Antigua

The wake-up call was at 4:30, and getting out of the nice warm tent to hike to the summit was pretty grim. For me, this was the most challenging 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, and although halfway through it may not feel like it, it’s 100% worth it.

I must say that I probably made hiking Pacaya Volcano more difficult by not checking the batteries in my head torch. 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.

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

I took a few okay images on the way back down, but to be honest, there were so many clouds, and 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 hiking up the black stuff is tricky, 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.

Reasons to Do an Overnight Tour

  • This is the tour for a fun camping experience on a volcano that isn’t too physically challenging.
  • 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. The Volcano Pacaya hike is the most popular because it’s the easiest. That means many people are hiking up and down every day. During 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 bit bonkers and decide to do the OX Expeditions Trident Tour. This is only to be attempted if you are in excellent physical condition. 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.

Pacaya Volcano Hike: Final Thoughts

The only companies I recommend for booking transport and tours in Guatemala (other than OX Expeditions) are Heart of Travel and GuateGo. GuateGo is a Guatemalan-owned company that has combined all the transportation and tour options in one easy-to-use website. You can book travel and Guatemalan tours with them here.

If you want to learn more about Heart of Travel, click here.

Looking for Accommodations in Antigua?

I recommend several places for a hostel, including Selina and Yellow House Hostel. I recommend Hotel Mesón de María and Barbara’s Boutique Hostel for hotels. I’ve gathered all the best places to eat in Antigua if you need recommendations.

Antigua Travel Guide Planning

🧳 Any recommendations on what I should pack for Antigua?

Yes! I have created a whole packing guide to Antigua which you can read here and you can also check out my packing list for Antigua on Amazon here.

🚗 Where can I book bus or private transportation while I’m in Antigua?

I strongly recommend using GottoGo. You can book almost all transport in the major tourist destinations through them online. They don’t just cover buses they also cover shuttles, ferries, and private drivers.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours in Antigua?

I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide. They have a lot of options!

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance.

I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go-to flight searching platforms.

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using eitherAirhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are Booking.comHotels.com, and Expedia They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack. 

Camping on Volcan Pacaya

Ami

Friday 16th of June 2017

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

Anne

Friday 16th of June 2017

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

Claire Summers

Monday 3rd of July 2017

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

Veronica P.

Friday 16th of June 2017

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?

Claire Summers

Monday 3rd of July 2017

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.

Cat

Friday 16th of June 2017

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!!

Claire Summers

Monday 3rd of July 2017

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 :-)

Samantha Elisabeth

Thursday 15th of June 2017

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?

Claire Summers

Monday 3rd of July 2017

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.