Sunday, February 8, 2009

Volcan Pacaya / Acatenango / de Fuego, Guatemala

Volcan Pacaya is an active volcano which is probably the largest tourist attraction around Antigua, Guatemala. As it is on the other side of Volcan Agua, it is not viewable from Antigua. Almost all tourist agencies in Antigua will provide transportation round-trip leaving at 6am or 2/2:30pm for as low as $5 USD, or 40Q as of Feb 2009. This is exclusive of a 40Q entrance fee payable at the park. After a 1 ½ hour drive, it is a 3.5km hike to the top for which there are multiple trails depending on the guide’s mood. A walking stick, sneakers, marshmallows for s’mores, and water is recommended, and for the night hikes a flashlight may be a good idea. At 2200m, depending on the volcano’s mood you may see tumbling rocks or slow-flowing lava. However, at the time of writing the park guides were not climbing to the 2551m active crater. The whole tour takes 6-6 ½ hours.

Volcan Acatenango (3971m) is an extinct volcano which sits next to Volcan de Fuego, a highly active volcano. On a clear day, one can commonly see smoke coming off of the top of Volcan de Fuego. At the time of writing, it was possible to climb Acatenango and to climb parts of Fuego, however very few companies in Antigua sponsor these activities for less than $49 USD/day or $79 USD/2 days. It is possible to do it sans guided tour, and logistically it is not difficult. From an employee of one of the guided tours, one can find the Acatenango trailhead in La Soldad (upon paying a villager a 10Q “entrance fee” for doing so), and follow it directly to the top. Start before sunrise and retreat if fog settles in, especially in the crater. However, the horror stories of groups of twenty Guatemaltecos being robbed at gunpoint and of recent armed robberies (the guide indicated the last robbery only occurred two months ago, a lifetime for the mountain) make this a very dangerous trip without security. Check the security situation before proceeding.

Volcan Pacaya close-up

Lava on Volcan Pacaya

No comments: