PACAYA VOLCANO HIKE IN ANTIGUA, GUATEMALA
I’ve stayed in a ton of hostels, some great some terrible. However, in Antigua, I managed to pick a winner. Wicho&Charlies is a new hostel (not a sponsored post, just a lucky choice) I found on booking.com and took a risk as per usual. Great beds, huge lockers, and warm water were enough to make me happy. However, Jorge the owner invited me to join a trip with him and two volunteers from the hostel for a sunrise mission on the Pacaya Volcano hike.
At 3 am in the morning, Jorge brewed us a pot of coffee to take to the summit of the Pacaya Volcano as we waited beside his car on the empty street. I have no pants or a jacket as I am usually in tropical locations so I shivered waiting to get into the backseat before we headed off for the Pacaya Volcano hike.
We drove for almost 1.5 hours through neighborhoods and along highways. Jorge set a few records and we even went airborne on one occasion, catapulted by a hidden speed-bump.
We arrived at the parking lot in darkness, the moon our only guidance. That was until the ever-prepared Jorge mounted his headlamp.
I managed to snap one photo of the lava but it was still in complete darkness and this is the best I could manage in an incredibly low light situation without a tripod.
Pacaya Volcano is active. Real active. After sleeping quietly for more than a century, it violently blew its lid in 1965. The Pacaya Volcano last erupted in 2010 and erupts roughly every 4-6 years. The remnants of the last eruption are spread far and wide. As you reach the base during the Pacaya Volcano hike, you are walking on lava rock. During the eruptions, this was a river of lava flowing into the valley at the foot of the volcano.
We kept a good pace as we clambered up the soft trail, which wound around the mountain next to Pacaya Volcano. You can trek up Pacaya Volcano but Jorge said it would be a stupid move and most people just hike the opposite peak and observe the volcano from that safe point.
After thirty minutes of hiking, we reached a clearing. It was still relatively dark, but I could tell we were walking over a valley of lava rock. When the volcano erupts every six years or so it creates a river of lava that leaves behind a field of black lava rock. It was pretty crazy to think we were standing in an area that was a river of lava.
One last incline before we reached the views we had come for. Back where we had come from we could look out over the entire lava river valley. We could also watch the red lava spitting from the volcano before the sun rose. I highly suggest doing the Pacaya Volcano hike for sunrise. It would still be great during the day before sunrise you get to see the fiery lava, which isn’t visible once the sun is out.
To the other side of the peak, several other volcanoes loomed in the distance. However, it was the blanket clouds, slowly rolling over the hills, which caught my attention. The clouds seemed to shape around the hills, mimicking their formation as they blew through the valley beneath us.
Finally, it was time for a cup of coffee. We had each shared turns carrying up a big ceramic pot and know got to enjoy the fruits of our labor. A warm cup of coffee as the sun rose over the mountains, finally gave us some warmth as we marveled at Pacaya Volcano.
Normally the walk down from a hike is a bit of a pain but the descent took us only 8 minutes. Jorge knew a shortcut that had us sliding and leaping our way down the winding gravel trail. It was definitely the most fun I have had descending a hike other than maybe the day we went tropical skiing down Mt Olympus on Oahu.
At the bottom, the ticket-office had just opened and unfortunately, we had to pay 50 Quetzales which is equal to about $7 Usd. No worries, the hike was well worth it and we had been lucky enough to have Jorge drive us and guide us. This expedition was nothing to do with the hostel, it was just Jorge being an incredibly generous host and a volcano enthusiast. It isn’t often the hostel owner is the type of person who makes you feel not only welcome at their accommodation, but makes you feel like one of his long-time friends even though he knows you will be in town for two days.
So if you are in Antigua, make sure to check out at least one volcano from the many options (Pacaya Volcano hike is the simplest) and if you are looking for a hostel with good vibes check out Wicho & Charlies.
I paid 75 Quetzales ($10) per night and randomly found the hostel on booking.com, which is a competitive price in the Antigua area.