The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Acatenango Volcano in Guatemala
Are you planning to visit Antigua, Guatemala and looking to hike up the epic Acatenango Volcano to get a better view of fiery Fuego Volcano (which actually, literally, translates to Fire Volcano)? Then you have come to the right spot!
This in-depth adventure guide will outline everything you need to know before heading out on the popular Acatenango overnight hike yourself; including, whether it is worth it to add on the extra excursion to Fuego, what gear to bring with you to make sure you have a great time, and what the two-day adventure actually looks like from someone who has done it before (and absolutely loved it!).
But first, a bit more about the two volcanoes.
Acatenango, which is a stratovolcano, towers over the very touristy city of Antigua, Guatemala. It is actually made up of two summits: Pico Mayor (the higher peak) and Yepocapa. The highest point of Acatenango sits at just over 13,045 feet (which is way taller than I expected). Fuego Volcano (or Fire Volcano) is joined with Acatenango via an obvious saddle, and they collectively make up the volcano complex known as La Horqueta.
Unlike Acatenango, which is now dormant, Fuego is very active. In fact, you can expect small eruptions every 10–20 minutes. Usually these eruptions consist of large plumes of ash and smoke/gas and some flying rock debris (or pyroclastic flows). Some of the best views of Fuego and its fiery eruptions come from the side of Acatenango — hence the popularity of the hike.
Seriously, if you are looking for an epic adventure in Guatemala and in Central America in general, then make sure to add hiking Acatenango Volcano to your list. I have hiked a lot of mountains (and volcanoes) and this trip was definitely one of my favorites!
\\ What to Expect While Hiking Acatenango Volcano
Below is a brief outline of what you can expect while hiking Acatenango Volcano in Guatemala — especially if you do it with a guide:
| Get picked up in the center of Antigua or at your hostel between 9AM and 9:30AM.
| It is about an hour ride up to the trailhead. You may stop at a grocery store along the way for some last minute supplies and a bathroom break depending on your tour agency.
| Start hiking between 11AM and 11:30AM after a quick debrief with your group.
| Likely reach the lunch spot between 1:30PM and 2PM.
| Get to base camp around 4PM.
| Once at camp, you will have the option to head over to Fuego Volcano, which requires another 1.5 hours of hiking and a lot of elevation change.
| If you do the extra adventure to Fuego Volcano, then expect to be at the top of the ridge for an hour or so to watch the sunset and to get a more up-close view of Fuego’s many eruptions. Then you will hike back down to camp in the dark (so bring a headlamp!).
| Get to camp around 8PM, eat dinner, and then watch Fuego erupt some more (at night is when you see the most glowing lava).
| If you choose to summit Acatenango Volcano, then you will need to wake up between 4AM and 4:30AM.
| For the summit push, you will have to hike for 1 hour to reach the top.
| Watch the sunrise (it’s amaaaazing).
| Hike back down to camp, which should take ~30 minutes.
| Eat a lighter breakfast at base camp. Then pack your bags and clean up the camp (remember to take everything with you!).
| Start hiking down to the trailhead at around 8:30AM.
| It will likely take you 2–3 hours to make it down to the bottom depending on how fast you go (I got back to the trailhead around 11:20AM); there will also be a few breaks along the way.
| Once down at the bottom, you will have an hour ride back to Antigua (I ended up getting back to town around 1PM).
IS IT WORTH IT TO HIKE OVER TO FUEGO VOLCANO?
I had heard mixed reviews on this added adventure before venturing out on the trail myself, and I am sure you will too. Simply put, I would suggest adding on the extra hike to Fuego Volcano ONLY if it is clear out (meaning no clouds or fog). If you get lucky and find yourself up on Acatenango on a clear afternoon definitely do it! The views from the ridge are pretty spectacular — especially once the sun goes down and you can really see the glow from the volcano’s eruptions.
Do note that this is an extra adventure and therefore you will have to pay more to do it (between 200 and 250 quetzals or $25 and $30 USD). Also, it will require an extra 2–3 hours of hiking, so make sure to come prepared with an ample amount of water and snacks (you will eat dinner after getting back to camp). Likewise, the hike back down in the dark can be pretty slick and even treacherous in some parts, so make sure to bring a headlamp or your phone for light.
IS IT WORTH IT TO SUMMIT ACATENANGO IN THE MORNING?
Another adventure you can choose to do or not is to summit Acatenango Volcano on the morning of Day 2. This hike does NOT cost extra and is included with almost all standard bookings. Similar to Fuego, I would suggest only doing this extra hike — which will require another 1.5 hours of hiking (total), most of which will be in the dark — if it is clear. BUT, if you do have good conditions, then I also HIGHLY recommend hiking to the summit, for once at the top, you will be rewarded with incredible views of the sunrise and some extra time to see an erupting and glowing Fuego.
Once you have your fill of the view (you will stay at the summit for about an hour or so) then it is a quick 30-minute hike back down to camp where you will receive breakfast and maybe some coffee.
HOW COLD DOES IT ACTUALLY GET?
If I am being honest, this was the one thing I was most nervous about since I know I get cold easily and then it can be really tough for me to warm back up (I also have bad circulation but that is a whole other problem).
I would say that the coldest part of the whole 2-day trip was on the summit of Acatenango on Day 2. And I am not gonna lie — it gets coooold up there (plus it’s really windy). But I think if you have plenty of layers — especially a windbreaker or something that protects against the wind — you should be fine. Similarly, you will likely only be at the summit for an hour, so even if you are cold, you don’t have to be for very long.
\\ Should You Hike Acatenango Volcano With a Guide?
While the trail is pretty easy to follow, if you choose to do the hike without a guide then you will need to bring all food, water, and camping gear with you. Likewise, you will also need to find your own transportation to the trailhead (I did see some local buses, but couldn’t find the specific routes).
Unless you have a lot of time to plan the hike and/or your own vehicle and gear, I would instead suggest just going with a guide.
FINDING A TOUR GUIDE IN ANTIGUA
Because hiking Acatenango is one of the most popular adventures in Antigua, you should have no problem finding a guiding service or tour agency that does the hike. Below are some of the most popular agencies that do the Acatenango hike, as well as what it costs per person for the 2-day adventure:
Tropicana: costs Q578 or $74 USD (this includes one extra breakfast and the Q100 park entrance fee)
OX Expeditions: costs Q695 or $89 USD (this includes an extra breakfast)
Soy Tours: costs Q450 or $58 USD (this includes the Q100 park entrance fee)
🌳SUSTAINABILITY: one really cool thing that OX Expeditions does is give hikers a free t-shirt if they carry down a bag of trash (there is a loooot of trash on the trail). That being said, do your part by leaving no trace and carrying out everything you bring with you (trash and TP included).
I ended up going through Selina (where I was staying) and I paid $55 USD for the adventure. This included three meals, pretty good quality gear (including a hat, gloves and a jacket), comfortable sleeping equipment, and two awesome guides.
WHAT DO THE TOUR GUIDES AND AGENCIES PROVIDE
Below is a list of what you can expect the tour guides and agencies to provide for the 2-day Acatenango Volcano hike. Do note that some of this might change a bit depending on what company you go through, but from what I heard from other travelers this is the basic list of items to expect when going with a group.
| Bedding (sleeping bag and pillow)
| A warm jacket
| Hat and thinner gloves
| On Day 1, lunch and dinner (and maybe some hot chocolate)
| On Day 2, a light breakfast (and maybe coffee)
| Transportation to the trailhead and back to Antigua
\\ The Best Time to Hike Acatenango Volcano
You can technically hike Acatenango Volcano year-round, but it is thought to be better during the dry season which runs from November to April. During this time of year, you are more likely to have sunny skies, very little chance of rain and fewer clouds — the latter of which is important since the whole reason you are hiking is to watch Fuego erupt.
I did the hike in late February and found the weather to be pretty much perfect: warm sunny days, clear nights that made viewing Fuego’s fiery eruptions easy and amazing, and brisk mornings. Do note that no matter the time of year you do the hike, you are very likely to experience a lot of wind at the summit of Acatenango and along the ridge of Fuego.
\\ What to Bring With You to Hike Acatenango Volcano
While you will likely be hiking up in nice sunny and warm temperatures, it definitely does get cold once the sun goes down and when you reach the higher elevations — especially on the summit of Acatenango (which sits at 13,045 feet or 3,976 meters), so make sure to pack both hot weather clothing to hike in as well as plenty of warm clothes to wear at night.
Below is what I brought on my hike up Acatenango Volcano:
| Long hiking or running tights (like these)
| Active shorts, even better if they have pockets to hold your phone and snacks in (this exact pair worked great)
| A breathable sports bra (if female)
| Long-sleeved sun shirt (best if it’s thinner and really wicking, for you will get sweaty on the hike up)
| Warm and cozy thermal jacket (I love my Mammut jacket, but really any fleece-like jacket should work)
| A light wicking t-shirt (perfect to change into once you get to camp or on the hike back down on Day 2)
| 2 pairs of socks (one for hiking up and one for the colder temperatures at the top)
| Shoes with really good tread (this is very important), these boots would be perfect!
❔GOOD TO KNOW: depending on the tour agency you go with, they will likely provide you with a thick jacket, a beanie and some gloves. Make sure to confirm this before heading out for it gets quite cold at the top.
| A good-sized backpack to hold all of your gear in (this one would be perfect)
| 3.5–4 liters of water (see note on this below)
| A bottle of electrolytes (you can buy electrolyte drinks in most stores or tiendas in Antigua), this is especially helpful if you are prone to altitude sickness
| Some extra snacks (I brought tortilla chips, a pastry, 3 granola bars, and a bag of gummy candy)
| Medicine (especially some painkillers in case you get a headache from the altitude)
| Sunscreen and ChapStick (with SPF), these two items are both veeeery important
| A lightweight sun hat
| Sunglasses (and case so they don’t get scratched or smashed)
| Kindle (definitely not necessary, but maybe a nice to have)
| GoPro 9 (again, definitely not necessary, but nice to have)
| Headlamp (didn’t technically bring — I used my phone — but wish I had)
EXTRA GOOD-TO-HAVES: wipes or a towel to use to wipe the dirt off of your face after the dusty hike up, hand sanitizer, some toilet paper, and a buff to protect your mouth from all of the dust (it gets really dusty on the hike up).
**Extra cash is always a good idea. In the case of this hike, possible things you may need to spend money on include: the Fuego Volcano hike costs around Q250 extra, more food and water, a walking stick (this costs Q5), and tipping your guides (they only make $20 a day).
WATER AND FOOD
If there is one thing you need to make sure you bring with you when hiking Acatenango it is water. While I was originally told 3 liters would be enough, I ended up playing it safe and bringing closer to 4 (including one bottle of electrolytes)… and I still ran out.
Now, there were a few different things in play here that led to me having pretty much no water for the hike back down. To start, a few people in my group didn’t bring nearly enough water with them and they paid the price for it after the Fuego hike. So I ended up giving away a fair amount of my liquids — including my whole bottle of electrolytes. Likewise, you will need to give 1 liter of your water to the guides so they can use it to cook dinner or breakfast.
So instead of 3 liters of water, I would instead highly recommend at least 4 liters (and maybe even 5 just to be safe). This is especially true if you have a history of getting altitude sickness or if you are maybe not in as good of shape. The hike up to camp is tough and mostly in the sun, so you will be needing more water than usual. Make sure to plan ahead and come prepared.
As for food, while the agencies provide 3 meals (lunch, dinner and breakfast) the portions are not huge. I ended up bringing a bag of tortilla chips, some gummy candies, 3 granola bars and a pastry, and I ate almost all of it (I did end up giving one granola bar to a very cute dog along the way). If you have the space in your bag, definitely pack a few extra snacks just in case you get hungry along the trail. Plus, it is a good way to make friends (no one turns down candy)!
HIKING ACATENANGO VOLCANO | THE ADVENTURE BREAKDOWN
Below you will find an in-depth outline of the hike itself, plus extra useful tips to help you know exactly what to expect while out on the trail.
TOTAL DISTANCE: 8.5 miles round trip (with the Acatenango summit but no Fuego add on)
TRAIL DIFFICULTY: challenging, especially in the first half
ELEVATION PROFILE: 5,308 feet gained
TIME NEEDED: 2 days
TRAIL CONDITIONS: easy to follow trail, definitely slick and sandy in places
The Acatenango Volcano trailhead is right along a busy road where you will likely see many types of buses and a few shops selling last minute gear and snacks. If you are going with a tour guide, there will be a debrief ere before starting the hike (this is usually when you get your extra warm gear).
💬INSIDER TIP: there will also be the chance to rent a walking stick, which costs around Q5 ($0.65). I didn’t use a walking stick because I like having both hands free, but I definitely understand why they rent them: the trail is sliiiiick. If you have bad shoes or aren’t used to hiking up sandy hillsides, then definitely rent one before starting out.
1 | Right from the start, the trail is pretty steep and sandy. Luckily, it is wide enough that you can walk two-wide or pass people. But be aware that due to timing, you will likely have to maneuver around people hiking down the mountain. After about 20 minutes or so of hiking (depending on your speed) you will make it to Miratenango, which is a sizeable restaurant that has bathrooms (Q5), a few shops selling food and drinks, and a couple of shaded benches.
2 | After Miratenango, you will start the hardest and steepest part of the hike. Between the restaurant and the park entrance station, you will climb nearly 1,000 feet in about half a mile. Luckily, a fair bit of this is done via steps, but definitely prepare yourself for a bit of sliding.
3 | The park entrance station offers bathroom facilities, a small concession stand and the opportunity to check out a map of the area (and learn more about the volcanoes themselves). This is also the start of the forest section — meaning a lot less sun and slightly cooler temperatures.
4 | Once in the forest, the trail is less steep and definitely more shaded. You will walk for another hour or so before reaching the lunch spot — which is made up of a large clearing with a few benches, a “bathroom” and another small concession stand.
5 | After the lunch spot — where you will likely have your longest rest yet (my group hung out there for about 30 minutes) — you will hike a bit more on single track before popping out on a wide dirt road. This is the route up if you choose to go ultra-lux and hire a 4x4 to get you most of the way up Acatenango.
If you are just going the adventurous hiking route, then you will also follow this road for another hour or so before you get to the end of the road and reach another singletrack trail. This part of the hike is also pretty sunny and slick — especially on the steep turns where it can get really sandy.
6 | The end of the road means you are quite close to camp. Plus, pretty much from this point on there is very little elevation gain (only a short steep section right before camp). This is another common break spot.
7 | You will follow the singletrack trail for another 20–30 minutes before passing a second park booth (we didn’t stop here, but we did see a few park rangers). This section is in and out of trees and quite flat. Once past the booth, you will just have one short, steep climb left before reaching your campsite.
💬INSIDER TIP: along this section of the trail is also when you will likely get your first real view of Fuego Volcano — especially if it is a clear day. To the left of the trail you will also have an awesome view of Agua Volcano, a now dormant volcano that towers over Antigua, Guatemala.
8 | Once you make it to camp (my group made it at 4PM or 4.5 hours after starting the hike), you will be rewarded with amazing views of the surrounding volcanoes — including Fuego (which usually erupts every 10–15 minutes). My base camp included two metal and glass “tents” (where I slept), two dome tents and a cooking tent (where the guides will also stay), and a small firepit with benches. There was also a small bathroom available nearby.
9 | If you choose to add on the hike over to Fuego (see above for details on this), then you will likely leave straight from camp. Make sure to pack some water and snacks with you as well as your warmest clothes.
10 | The hike over to Fuego includes a fair amount of elevation change: first you will have to hike down a steep trail, then across a small saddle and then up to the ridgeline. In total, this should take between 1 hour and 1.5 hours depending on your group size and speed.
💬INSIDER TIP: if you have a mask or buff with you, definitely use it here for it can get really dusty. Also, because you will be hiking back to camp in the dark, make sure to bring your headlamp or phone for light.
11 | Once at the top of the ridgeline — which is the closest you can get to the highly active Fuego — you will have the opportunity to see a stunning sunset over the nearby mountains and volcanoes, and also get a more up-close view of Fuego’s fiery eruptions (some can be super loud). You’ll likely stay atop the ridge for about an hour (until it gets totally dark) and then start the hike back down to camp.
12 | The hike back down (and then back up) to camp can be quite treacherous (this was when the most people slipped in my group) for the trail down the mountain is really loose and sandy. If you have a light source (either a headlamp or a phone) definitely use it, and focus on taking your time on the really steep sections.
❔GOOD TO KNOW: once again, this part of the trail can be pretty congested with other hikers. It is quite likely that as you hike down you will encounter other groups hiking up. When possible, let the uphill hikers pass you. Also, remember to be a good hiker and DON’T shine your light in other people’s faces (this can be super blinding and disorienting, and therefore dangerous).
13 | Once back at camp, you will receive a tasty dinner (unless you got it earlier) and the chance to sit next to a fire and watch Fuego erupt some more.
14 | On the morning of Day 2, you have the opportunity to summit Acatenango, which reaches an elevation of 13,045 feet or 3,976 meters. My group left camp at 4:30AM and made it up to the summit at 5:40AM. Once at the top, we hunkered down from the strong, cold wind and watched as the sky slowly started to lighten and turn many shades of pink, purple and orange.
15 | The hike back down to camp should take only about 20–30 minutes depending on whether you run down the super sandy trail (honestly it seems to be easier and safer to run).
Once back at camp, you will get a lighter breakfast (we were given coffee and banana bread) and then it is time to pack up your bags and clean the camping area (make sure to do your part by NOT leaving any trash behind).
16 | Most groups start hiking back down the mountain between 8AM and 8:30AM. The hike down can often be just as technical as the way up — especially on the super steep and slick sections. Take your time, watch where you are putting your feet and try to not run into the hikers making their way up.
17 | A few hours later you will make it back to the trailhead (woo!). It took my group about 3 hours to make it all the way down — though this included an extra long break at the lunch spot. If you are really moving you could easily make it down in 2 hours.
Once at the trailhead, make sure to return the warm gear to your guides and the walking stick (if you rented one). Then grab a victory drink (beer and sodas are sold nearby) and hop in the van or bus and start the hour journey back to Antigua.
Congrats, you just hiked up Acatenango Volcano!
Hiking Acatenango Volcano is definitely one of the best adventures in Antigua, and maybe all of Guatemala. If you have any interest in seeing a fiery volcano erupt up close, or if you just want to get out and see some of the unique landscapes that this Central American country has to offer, then I cannot recommend hiking Acatenango enough.
Hopefully, this in-depth adventure guide helps when planning your own epic Acatenango Volcano hike. But as usual, if you have any questions or comments about this trip, or about traveling in Guatemala in general, then please feel free to leave them below or reach out to me at www.backroadpackers.com.