Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala

Just outside Antigua, Pacaya is one of several active volcanos that make up the Central American Volcanic Arc.
Pacaya Volcano Tour Group at Summit
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Oddly enough, the side of an active volcano turns out not to be the safest place to live. The last major eruption of Pacaya Volcano, not far from Guatemala City and Antigua, caused considerable damage to nearby villages and reshaped the summit. It scattered volcanic ash over much of the nearby area, prompting school closings and emergency evacuations and cleared much of the vegetation near the top of the mountain. That May 2010 eruption, though, didn’t convince some of the local hardy souls to move away.

Only about an hour outside Antigua, and not much farther from Guatemala City, Pacaya Volcano is a popular hike for tourists. There are quite a few active volcanos in this neck of the woods; you can see two others from the streets of Antigua. Along with Pacaya, they’re all part of what’s known as the Central American Volcanic Arc.

The top of the mountain is constantly changing, with each episode of volcanic activity changing the shape and nature of the summit. There’s currently no classic crater to peer into, and the nearest you can get to the top is still a few hundred meters below the peak. The gravelly volcanic rock that covers everything up there is warm to the touch, and steam still steeps out steadily. When I went there was no flowing lava around, but it’s an active volcano and things can change quickly, so obviously keep a close eye on conditions and check with local guides before heading off.

Photos of Pacaya Volcano

Pacaya Volcano Solidified Lava Flow
Pacaya Volcano Mists and Clouds
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Pacaya Volcano Summit Terrain
[license topic=”pacaya volcano guatemala”] There’s not much vegetation up here, but there is at least some.
Pacaya Volcano Steam and Mists at Summit
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Pacaya Volcano Red Stones
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Pacaya Volcano Tour Group
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Pacaya Volcano Hills and Valleys
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Pacaya Volcano Guide and Hiker at Summit
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Pacaya Volcano Mist and Cloud
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Pacaya Volcano Tourists Posing for Photos
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Pacaya Volcano Volcanic Rock and Vegetation
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Pacaya Volcano Summit Steam and Clouds
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What to Know Before You Go

  • It’s a strenuous hike on uneven and steep trails. Wear good, closed walking shoes with good tread. Sandals or flip-flops will be no good–the fine volcanic gravel and sand will rub and the volcanic rock can be very sharp.
  • The weather at the summit can be quite different than further down the mountain, so be prepared for clouds or rain to roll in very suddenly and for it to be significantly cooler.
  • A flashlight is a good idea, just in case.
  • A walking stick will help–you can rent them from the kids at the trailhead for about 5 quetzals.
  • Take water with you–there’s none available at the summit.
  • Early morning is usually considered the best time to go.
  • Check in with local guides. Conditions can change quickly, and if things go bad they can go very bad.

Where to Next?



Travel Advice for Guatemala

You can find the latest U.S. Department of State travel advisories and information for Guatemala (such as entry visa requirements and vaccination requirements) here.

The British and Australian governments offer their own country-specific travel information for Guatemala . You can find the British Government's here and the Australian Government's here.

Health & Vaccinations

The CDC makes country-specific recommendations for vaccinations and health for travelers. You can find their latest information for Guatemala here.

Guidebooks for Guatemala

If you're looking for a guidebook to make the most of your visit, these are some of the most popular ones currently for Guatemala. Some are available in both paper and e-book formats.

Travel Insurance For Your Trip to Guatemala

I never travel without travel insurance, and I've run into several situations where I've had to make claims. I consider it essential.

But shopping for travel insurance can be a pain and confusing. Thankfully, there are some travel insurance comparison sites that show you a wide range of plans, make it easy to compare coverage, and can save you money at the same time. And the coverage can be much better tailored to your specific needs than the checkbox offering at travel booking sites or through your credit card.

These are some good places to shop for travel insurance for your next trip to Guatemala :

Hopefully, you won't need it, but if something goes wrong, you'll sure be glad you have it!

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