The best view comes after the hardest climb.


Choosing a tour provider starting from Antigua

There are plenty of tour providers in Antigua which offer hiking Acatenango. I stayed in the Tropicana Hostel, which heads off to Acatenango every day with up to 30 people. However, this hostel provides the “standard” tour which the majority of young backpackers join. I don’t consider myself as fit as the average backpacker.

While strolling through San Pedro La Laguna, some travelers recommended me to go with V-hiking, since they take less people per tour and are not as known among young backpackers. This implies that there might be other people with not the best physical condition, similar to me. I went with V-hiking, which was a good choice, we were a group of 12 people and two guides.

Necessary gear

Hiking Acatenango in order to watch the lava of El Fuego during dark hours implements sleeping at above 3000 m. Obviously, it is quite chilly at such altitude, and possibly windy if your tour provider has a good spot which is not located in the shade of trees. With V-hiking, we slept in tents with wooden groundsheet. Mattresses and sleeping mats were provided at 3600 m.

It is recommended to dress in layers, as it is quite hot when you start hiking at ~2000 m cooling down the higher up you get. For the night, a beanie, gloves, warm socks, and multi-layer warm fleece / jackets etc. are highly recommended. All good tour providers should offer you to rent such things, as many travelers of Central America are only prepared for warm/hot weather.

Evaluating the additional services

I heard so many stories about how hard the hike is, so I was not sure if I would be able to do it, considering my disability. There were options of hiring a porter (one way or return) or going up and/or down on a horse. I considered myself fit enough to climb, without a horse, but was worried about the steep stairs many travelers have told me about. So I decided to pay for a porter for the way up.

Looking back, this was an excellent decision. With the help of the porter, I didn’t have to focus on keeping balance with my backpack on, so I had the chance to even focus on the amazingly beautiful landscape surrounding me. Enjoying the view on the way up was sufficient, I carried my backpack on my own when descending. Like this, I have been part of the “fast group” both ways. If you don’t consider yourself as fit, I suggest to rather pay for a porter than for a horse, then you still have the hiking experience.


Hiking Acatenango

The most challenging part of the hike is indeed the first third of it. Quite steep, wooden stairs without any handrail, and a mix of sandy and solid soil. After the challenging part, the path crosses a type of rain-forest. At that height, it’s likely to walk through clouds. Obviously, it’s much colder at that height and within clouds.

After the steep part, the path flattens out. I tried to start the hike in a slow pace, but keep the same pace all the way up. This worked out pretty well, I didn’t feel exhausted. On the second day, after the way down, I felt like needing new knees, though, as it was very steep for 2 hours.


The volcano experience

The hike belongs to the whole experience, however, not many would hike up there if the view is less stunning. After lunch, we grabbed chairs next to our tents and settled at a good viewing spot of the volcano. With daylight, you only hear the bumps and see brown-grayish smoke. The glowing lava is too weak compared to sunlight.

It is also possible to hike on El Fuego. Another 1.5 hours from the camp spot away, you will be standing on El Fuego and directly looking at the lava. However, this return hike takes 3hrs, with minimum 1.5 hours in the dark. It’s not useful to wait for the lava during daylight, as you won’t see it glowing. This hike usually costs extra. I didn’t do it since I don’t like hiking in the dark. I need to concentrate enough on every next step even in daylight, so I stayed at the camp spot instead.

Just watch my photos, I apparently didn’t miss out on much!



Sunrise hike

The camp spots (of tours) are not at the summit, so they typically offer a summit hike for sunrise starting at ~3am. I didn’t join this hike for two reasons. Firstly, I would have had to climb up the mountain in the dark again (with a torch). Secondly, I felt cozy and warm in my sleeping bag at that time. So, after a few hours of heating up the air inside the sleeping bag, I preferred to stay in the warm spot and watch the sunrise from the tent.

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