Hiking Acatenango Volcano and completing the overnight expedition is one of the most thrilling and challenging adventures that Guatemala has to offer. After climbing to an elevation of 3976 m you will be rewarded with views of Volcano Fuego spitting fire as the sun rises in the horizon revealing a true volcanic experience.
Acatenango Volcano is about an hour outside the town of Antigua. Antigua is a popular backpackers town in central Guatemala that offers many delicious restaurants, a variety of accommodation, and plenty of exciting activities. Snuggled in between the Guatemala international airport and Lake Atitlan; many people visit Antigua because of its ideal location and its charm. Antigua is the perfect place to stay a night or two, choose a guiding company, organize your gear, and get some rest before the expedition begins!
Guatemala’s dry season is from November to April so this is the best chance to have clear views from the summit. The expedition does run all year round but the weather can pose a challenge at any time; especially during the wet season (May to October).
Planning to stay a few extra days in Antigua is a good idea in case of bad weather. This way your tour company may be able to shift the expedition if the weather is poor. The last thing you want to do is make it three quarters of the way up and have to turn around because of heavy wind or rain.
Choosing a Guide
As of Jan 2018, this hike can be completed without a guide. That decision up too you but we would not recommend attempting it on your own. The trail is very easy to follow in MOST places but it does divide into a few different routes on the way up. The trail from base camp to the peak is also very difficult to follow; especially in the dark.
We chose OX Expeditions for our trek. Ox expeditions offers decent equipment, excellent reviews, and they are the only company that has the option of climbing Fuego Volcano for a closer view (if it is safe to do so). We had a very knowledgeable guide who spoke English and had years of experience hiking and running ultra marathons on many volcanoes throughout Guatemala.
Clothing & Equipment
The temperature is going to vary from 20˚C at the beginning of the trek to -15˚C while your sitting at the top of Acatenango Volcano watching the sunrise. Its important to dress in layers while hiking to avoid sweating. Check out our Packing Guide for more information.
- Warm hat (Can be provided)
- Base layer
- Down coat (Can be provided)
- Wind/ rain coat
- Hiking pants
- (2) pairs hiking socks
- (2) pairs underwear
- Hiking boots or running shoes
- 40L backpack (Can be provided)
Food & Water
Although your tour company will provide breakfast, lunch, and dinners while you are hiking; some companies bring a lot more food than others. Ox Expeditions is known for bringing some of the best food; but make sure you still bring snacks! You’ll be burning so many calories on this expedition that its important to keep eating.
La Bodegona Supermarket is a large local market in downtown Antigua perfect for stalking up on healthy snacks. Each person needs to bring at least 4L of water and an extra litre if you plan on hiking up Fuego Volcano. Electro-light tablets are also an excellent idea to help keep you hydrated!
Hiking Acatenango Volcano
Even for experienced outdoor enthusiasts; hiking Acatenango Volcano will be extremely challenging! The hike is divided into three different environmental sections based on elevation. On the first day you will pass trough all three; beginning at the lowest level known as ‘Farmland’. You will begin your hike walking between small fields full of corn and different crops.. sounds easy right? Wrong. The trail consists of loose dirt and rocks and you will gain elevation quickly during this steep portion.
The next level is the ‘Cloud Forest’. This is the longest part of the first day and also the most enjoyable. The forest is lush and humid. During this section, the trail can get quite muddy and tree roots are abundant so watch your step! The final section is called ‘The Alpine’. The trail will flatten out here as you make your way around the north side of the Volcano to set up your base camp. The views are spectacular but this part of the trail is exposed so be prepared for high winds and blowing dust.
At this point you will potentially have the option to climb to a viewpoint on Mount Fuego (the active volcano attached to Acatenango). While this trek isn’t for the faint of heart.. we would highly recommend going if you have the energy! It about an extra 3 hours of hiking and the viewpoint can be windy and cold but the views are absolutely incredible. We actually enjoyed this part of the hike as much as summiting Acatenango. When you make it back to camp in the evening you will have dinner, watch Fuego`s explosions from your campfire and head to bed early.
3:45 AM will come quickly as you are woken to begin your trek to the summit. We highly recommend having a snack BEFORE you set out for some much needed energy; even if you don`t feel hungry. This portion of the trail is the most physically demanding part of the entire hike. Imagine a steep trail with no switchbacks and a foot of shale. Now imagine hiking on that for two hours in the cold and pitch black; racing the sun to the top. Once you arrive the views are absolutely phenomenal and worth everything it took to get there. You spend 30 minutes to 1 hour enjoying the scenery as the sun rises before heading back to pack up camp.