FAQ | Frequently Asked Questions
Conquering the top of Volcano Acatenango, is surely one of the first in the check list of any asiduos climber. Being the third highest volcano in Guatemala, Acatenango grants its adventurers with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes and its numerous and nearby volcanoes.
Even more impressive, those who conquer its summit will witness the constant and exciting eruptions of its twin to the south, the Fire Volcano, the most active volcano in Central America.
However, this exciting adventure will surely generate some questions, therefore we have listed the most habitual below so that you can start the adventure with all the necessary information.
Do I need training to hike Acatenango?
Training surely helps, but it is not strictly necessary, being in a basic physical form will be enough. If you can make some minimal preparations, you will ensure to enjoy the climb more.
When is the best time to hike Acatenango?
To avoid the rainy season and have the best views, the best time to do this thrilling hike is from late November to mid April, this is the dry season in Guatemala, therefore the best time to embark on this adventure.
When was the last Acatenango eruption?
Its last eruption was back in December of 1972. There is a record of eruptions in Acatenango before this one, that took place between 1924 and 1927, although it is also possible that earlier historical eruptions occurred.
How tall is Volcano Acatenango?
You must surely be prepared for the altitude because this volcano are at 3,976 meters – 13,044 feet –
If you’re not used to this kind of altitud, it is highly recommended to spend a couple of days before hiking Acatenango in Antigua which is located at 1,533 meters – 5,029 feet – this will help you acclimatize and appease the symptoms of altitude sickness.
Should I hire a guide for climbing Acatenango?
It is possible to climb Acatenango without a guide, but it is NOT recommended because the trails on the volcano are not marked, therefore it is very easy to get lost in the mountain. In addition, due to the varied microclimates across the hike, it is highly recommended to go with a local guide, they have exhaustive knowledge of the volcano, its trails and weather patterns. It is also a form of Responsible Tourism cooperating with the local economy.
Another advantage of hiring a professional guide is that the company takes care of the logistics for you, from the transportation from Antigua to the trailhead and back, as well as the provision of equipment, food, tents, etc. In this way you are free to enjoy the experience in a safe and comfortable way.
What type of Volcano is Acatenango?
It is a huge sleeping stratovolcano, composed of multiple layers of hardened lava alternating with layers of pyroclasts. It is located very close to the city of Antigua Guatemala and has two peaks: Pico Mayor “Highest Peak” and Yepocapa, also known as Tres Hermanas o Tres Marías, “Three Sisters or Three Marys”. It joins its neighbor, Volcano de Fuego and this unions is known as La Horqueta “The Fork”
How long does hiking Acatenango take?
The time it takes to hike to the top of the Volcano Acatenango will depend on your own pace, generally it takes 6 to 8 hours and the return takes only two to three hours.
The first part of the hike is done on the first day and lasts five or six hours until the base camp where dinner will be taken, we will enjoy the spectacular views of Volcano de Fuego and we’ll rest for the night. The next morning, the last section to the top is done, despite being a short section, it is the toughest part of the hike because it is straight up, we will be hiking on volcanic sand and in complete darkness. This section of the hike will begin very early in the morning to reach the top in time to enjoy the incredible views of the sunrise and the eruptions of Volcano de Fuego. After some time to enjoy the summit, we will begin the final phase of descent.
The total distance of the hike about 18 kilometres, is usually done in two days, although it can be done in one day hike for those brave and fit adventurers.
How do you get to Volcano Acatenango?
Once in Guatemala City, you need to head to the small town of Antigua Guatemala, very popular among travelers for its beautiful spanish colonial architecture and great views of the surrounding volcanoes. With favorable weather, you can even see the Volcano Acatenango from Antigua.
Antigua sits at an altitude of 1,533 meters, so spending a day or two in this beautiful city can help lessen the impact of the altitud when you hike Acatenango. The transfer to getting to Antigua from Guatemala’s International Airport is very simple, you can do it by taxi or bus and will take approximately one hour – depending on traffic -.
How hard is the Acatenango hike?
If you’re planning to live this adventure, you need to know that reaching the top of Volcano Acatenango is hard, both physically and mentally. Whether you are an inexperienced or an experienced hiker, its steep incline will put your skills to the test. The summit of Acatenango is about 3976 meters high, and the temperatures drop the higher you climb so you need to take in account that altitude sickness is a possibility.
The hike to this volcano is done on a fairly steep slope most of the time, and the higher you get, the tougher it becomes. Total elevation gain is 5150 feet – 1500 meters.
The last phase of the hike, which is the one that reaches the top, is the most difficult hour of the entire journey, because at this point the solid ground ends and we will begin to climb on volcanic sand, this terrain combined with the altitud, it’s strenuous.
Despite all that has been said above, you do not need to be an experienced hiker to undertake this hike, nor be especially fit. It is clear that a basic level of physical condition is recommended, some willpower and a lot of enthusiasm and you will surely be able to conquer the top of Acatenango. Just be prepared to be challenged.
How you will experience the Acatenango hike is very personal. For some, the most strenuous part is the final phase going up and for others, is the way down. Some could suffer headaches or troubles for the oxygen shortage with the altitud. But in general you should not worry, because you will be able to walk at your own pace, indeed the guides will encourage you to do that because the idea is that you enjoy the adventure, so you will not have any pressure to speed up your own step.
The average time of the walk up is five hours, so there will be intermittent breaks of five or ten minutes for the hikers to rest, in that way, you can reach the top without troubles.
Is hiking Volcano Acatenango dangerous?
Hiking Volcano Acatenango is famous for the incredible views of Volcano de Fuego that can be seen from the summit of Acatenango. But precisely because this hike will take hikers so close to an active volcano, it stands to reason that it will involve some risk.
Since 1524, around 60 major eruptions have been recorded, this number would be equivalent to one big eruption every 8 years or so. On the other hand, the large eruptions of Volcano de Fuego put at risk mainly the local communities that are settled on the slopes of the volcano.
Then the answer is yes, hiking near any active volcano involves risk, but in this case, the risk of a large eruption of Volcano de Fuego during a hike in Acatenango is quite low, because dangerous eruptions from this volcano are quite infrequent.
What is the average weather in Acatenango?
The temperature in Acatenango varies very little and is comfortable year round. Typically fluctuate from a daily average low of 52° to 78° fahrenheit high.
However you must take in account that the summit of Acatenango is cold, really cold, up there the temperatures plunge as soon as the sunset. Therefore it is a good idea to pack cold weather gear, especially if you’re planning an overnight camp.