Tips to hike Acatenango volcano in Guatemala

If you are traveling to Guatemala, one of your top things to do in the country should be hiking a volcano.

In this post, I give you my essential tips to hike the Acatenango volcano, recommendations to choose the right tour operator and some advice from my own experience doing the overnight hike.

Guatemala has 37 volcanos, the highest number of volcanoes in the region.

Acatenango is one of the dormant volcanos located close to Antigua town. It is connected with Fuego, an active volcano that spills lava constantly.

Hiking Acatenango volcano is an incredible experience and one that you won’t regret doing (once you finish the hike, of course!).

Tips to hike Acatenango volcano in Guatemala | Travel blog

Choosing the right agency to hike with

If you are staying in Antigua, you already figure out that there are one million agencies offering tours all around Guatemala.

Is not doubt that Antigua is a great city to book tours. However, a volcano hiking tour is an activity where you want to be sure of the professionalism of the people who are getting you to the summit.

For me, the only option in Antigua is OX Expedition. I 100% guarantee they are professionals and take care of you.

In case you don’t trust me with going with OX, at least try to book in person while in Antigua with a reputable tour company. While in the office check the offered gear, meet your guide and ask all the questions and doubts you have about the hike.

Just a little fact about myself that maybe make you trust me about choosing OX Expeditions: Besides hiking all my life, I was a hiking guide in Nicaragua for more than a year, and I hike all the volcanos in that country leading overnight hikes. So at this point, I know a little bit about what a hike needs and what to offer to costumers to make it as epic as possible. I don’t consider myself an expert in the field, but I know quite a lot to suggest OX Expedition as the agency.

If you are hiking with OX you will have a meeting with your group the day before, perfect to ask questions, check the gear you need and meet your fellow hikers.

They will also cook you a satisfying breakfast in their office before leaving early in the morning.

Tips to hike Acatenango volcano in Guatemala | Travel blog
Tips to hike Acatenango volcano in Guatemala | Travel blog

Things to ask before your hike

  • Ensure the agency you book with can rent or borrow you all the gear you need.
    In this case a headlamp, a winter sleeping bag and a rain jacket if you don’t have them.
  • Check the gear beforehand, you don’t want to be at the top of the volcano with a broken summer sleeping bag, it’s nothing fun about that.
  • Dietary restrictions and food quantity. If you have any allergies or you are vegan, ask about the food provided in the hike.
    Most of the guides will adapt the menu since they are used to have vegetarian clients for example. Also, ask about the menu and what kind of food they are giving you during the trek, I know for a fact some companies consider a sandwich a full lunch.
  • Make sure your guides hike through the authorized paths. Some tour operators will tell you that they save you money on the entrance or going through “alternatives” trails, but it is not worthy or even legal. There are authorize paths for hikers that are also adapt and prepare, other paths can be dangerous or cross private land.
  • Ask how many people are in your hike, the smallest the better. During a hike like Acatenango, most people will need to stop to breathe, or they will be affected by altitude.
    If you are hiking with 30 people, imagine how many stops you will make to keep the group together? I was lucky to hike only with 8 people in my hike, 3 of them my friends and all of them super nice.
Tips to hike Acatenango volcano in Guatemala | Travel blog

Overnight vs. day hike

For me is not even a question, the overnight hike is the best one. Why?:

  1. I enjoyed sunset and sunrise on the top above the clouds
  2. I saw the volcano Fuego erupting all night.
  3. I had time to rest and breathe after the first day of ascending
  4. I didn’t need to hurry to go down.

The day hike has some benefits too. You won’t carry a heavy backpack since you won’t need the tents, sleeping bags and extra food.  The hike is much easy when you just have a small backpack.

Another benefit is that you can sleep in a nice bed at the end of the hike and not in a cold sleeping bag.

However, be aware that on the day trip you will start the hike early in the morning, around 4 or 5 am, to have time to get to the top and return before the trails become pitch black.

The day hike can also become more exhausting and difficult because you must summit and return on the same day. Even when you want to rest, the guide has to make sure you get to the top on time and hike back.

For all these reasons, it was not a single doubt that the overnight hike was the only choice for me. Although being a demanding trek, the reward of camping on the top and enjoying the view was incredible.

Tips to hike Acatenango volcano in Guatemala | Travel blog

A photographer dream view

Just in case I didn’t mention it fifty times already, the view on the top was stunning. I took 432 photos, most of them once I got to the top.

Every time the clouds changed, or the wind blew I had to take another pic. I know, I overreacted a little bit, but it was gorgeous.

It is not guaranteeing a spectacular view from the summit, it depends on the season, the unpredictable mother nature and luck.

I was lucky to have a clear sunset and saw the volcano Fuego erupting, I also had a lot of fog and a little bit of rain.

Volcano Fuego is really active, and its eruptions occur every 15 or 20 minutes, the coolest moments are at night when the red lava is clearly glowing while going down the volcano edges.

Tips to hike Acatenango volcano in Guatemala | Travel blog

Tips to hike Acatenango volcano in Guatemala | Travel blog
Tips to hike Acatenango volcano in Guatemala | Travel blog

My friend Alex was on the hike, he is a great photographer and he took some cool shots of me. Check him out here

What to know before hiking Acatenango?

  1. The highest point of Acatenango is 3976 meters (13041 feet).
  2. Most of the hikes start in a town called La Soledad which is located at 2400 meters. There is an entrance fee of 50Q that you have to pay here.
  3. There are latrines or toilets during the ascent, even one 5 minutes from where you camp, obviously don’t expect anything fancy, but they do the work. If you decided to do your thing in nature leave zero traces. All the guides should carry a “shit kit” with a small shovel, toilet paper and sanitizer, verify that your guide has one before leaving the office. It’s simple, you dig a hole, do your thing and cover it. Whatever you decided to do be respectful and make sure the volcano doesn’t know you were there.
  4. Maybe you already know that carrying the big backpack is too much for you or maybe you have a small injury. There are porters available to carry your bags at the beginning of the hike, they charge around Q200 ($25). It’s nothing to be ashamed of!

Tips to hike Acatenango volcano in Guatemala | Travel blog

Tips to hike Acatenango volcano

1. The temperature and the weather during the trek can vary considerably.
You can be hiking on a t-shirt on the way up and experience below 0 degrees at night. Acatenango’s elevation is almost 4000 m, on the top is cold all year round.
Pack warm clothes that you can wear in layers, pack a hat and gloves, and an extra pair of socks, you don’t want wet socks in any circumstances.
Also, don’t forget a rain jacket, good for the rain and for the wind.

2. Stay in Antigua for at least two days to adapt to the altitude.
Antigua is beautiful, charming, with great cafes, endless cobbled streets and has an elevation of 1580 meters. Altitude sickness is not fun, take your time to acclimatize before the hike. Also, water is your best friend for adaptation, drink even if you don’t feel thirsty.

3. Packing hiking boots or at least good shoes sounds obvious, but you won’t believe how many people think converse are good for hiking. If you don’t travel in hard shoes, ask if you can borrow from the agency. Don’t you dare climbing with sandals or daily shoes, you won’t finish the hike.

4. Most of the people are able to hike Acatenango, don’t be discouraged.
Choose the best option for you, either is the one day-hike, hiring a porter or doing the overnight trek.
But this is not a walk in the park and the elevation is also a hard factor. I one hundred percent think this hike is a must, just make sure you know it will be hard in some spots. No pain no gain, right?

5. The Acatenango valley is a designated coffee-producing region.
Halfway up is a stand where you can buy some local cup of coffee and some food to energize you for the climb. Bring some quetzales with you if you want to purchase some. They made the coffee with water collected from the fog surrounding the trails.

6. Don’t pack unnecessary items, easy as that.
You will be back in less than 48 hours, as long as you pack what your guide told you, you are good to go.

7. I already talk about choosing the right guide. But I cannot stress enough how important it is to hike with authorize and expertise guides. Don’t trek alone.

8. The majority of the guides bring the necessary supplies to not leave any garbage or traces.
However, it is even better if you are also conscious about it. You are in a volcano’s home, be polite with the environment, it’s not the volcano’s fault that we are hiking it.

Tips to hike Acatenango volcano in Guatemala | Travel blog

Tips to hike Acatenango volcano in Guatemala | Travel blog

Hiking Acatenango was one of the most breathtaking experiences I will be lucky to have.

I saw a million colors in the sky during the sunset and sunrise, I watched clouds under me and huge mountains that were tiny from the top.

If you are traveling to Guatemala a guided overnight hike on the volcano is 100 % worth it.


Have you hiked the Acatenango volcano? Which one did you do? Do you have more questions or even better, more tips? Leave a comment


Did you like this post? Pin it:

Tips to hike Acatenango volcano in Guatemala | Travel blog
Tips to hike Acatenango volcano in Guatemala | Travel blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.