Travels diaries

Guatemala: to see a volcano’s eruption

Who never dreamed to see an eruption of a volcano with his own eyes? To see magma flooding during the night? To hear the mountain being angry? When I saw the picture of the El Fuego volcano the first time, I immediately added this place to my list. I could have come to Guatemala only to see this place. So, of course, when I arrived in Guatemala, I immediately went to Antigua to see El Fuego.

Where?

First, you have to go to Antigua, it is around 1h bus from the capital, Guatemala City. Here, you have tons of travel agencies which offer this tour. The tour itself is on Acatenango volcano. It is just in front of the El Fuego volcano and offers the perfect view of the eruptions.

When, how, how much does it cost?

The agencies offer this tour every day. It is the most popular tour in Antigua and it’s really easy to find an agency to do the tour the next day. The prices are between 250 and 300 Quetzales depending on the agency and you have to pay 50 Quetzales to enter the volcano’s park.

Then, the agency takes care of everything: gears if needed (jacket, gloves, etc.), transportation, meals, tent, mattress, sleeping bag, etc. You just have to carry your own water and snacks.

The hike

Now let’s talk about the most interesting part: the two days hike. Whatever agency you chose and the price you paid, the organization of the two days will be the same.

Day 1

During this tour, we were a group of 7 persons plus the guide. After we gathered everyone, we started to hike at 11 am. According to the guide, we were supposed to arrive at the top of the volcano at 5 pm. We started immediately to climb and in the sun moreover. The trail was pretty steep but you stopped several times to rest and drink. During the hike, there were some vendors selling drinks and snacks. It was also a good opportunity to stop and rest because finally, the trail was steep until the camp. Fortunately, more than half of the trail was in the forest, in the shade! The end of the hike was endless for me. We arrived at the camp at 3.30pm, instead of 5 pm! We hiked 4h30 instead of 6h. No wonder why we were exhausted when we arrived. Unfortunately, it was so cloudy we couldn’t see the volcano or anything. Thus, we put our warm clothes (because yes it was very cold), we settled in the dorm/tent and slept. At 6 pm the guide woke us up: he prepared hot chocolate, light a fire and brought marshmallows! It was enough for us to go outside and seat around the fire with the hot chocolate and the grilled marshmallows. Just after, while we were eating dinner, the storm came! We ran under the tent, but we are so happy! Because, once the rain and storm will stop, we will be able to see the eruptions or El Fuego. Finally, we didn’t have to wait for the end of the storm, we saw the eruptions and the thunders at the same time! It was beautiful. We were on the tent, during the storm, in the cold, but it was one the most marvelous moment of my life. We saw the strength and beauty of nature at the same time.

Day 2

As you can guess, we didn’t sleep much. And yet, at 3 am, our guide woke us up to tell us… to stay in the tent and keep sleeping. Actually, we were supposed to leave at 4 am to see the sunrise, but it was too cloudy and we couldn’t see the sun. We just saw the city’s lights through the clouds sometimes.

At 6.30am, we really woke up, and a surprise was waiting for us: the sky war clear. We watched the sunrise on the valley, and for the first time, we saw El Fuego entirely. The perfect way to start the day! We ate our breakfast while we admired the view (we grilled bread with the fire camp!) and once we were ready, we left at 8.30am. If going up was hard, going down wasn’t easy neither. The trail seemed steep yesterday, seemed still steep today to get down. The knees were hurting and like the day before, we were glad to arrive at 11 am. We walked 2h30 and when we met the people who were going up, we wished them good luck!

The important details

  • Even if it’s possible to buy something to eat or to drink during the hike, I advise you to bring at least 3L of water per person and enough snacks. The prices go up as well as you during the trek.

  • The comfort in the camp is very basic: no water (so forget the shower, toilets, etc.), there is nothing to wash. Everything you have to do will be “in nature”. Forget also the electricity, there is absolutely nothing except your tent. Thus, I recommend you to bring a spare battery for your smartphone/camera, etc. if you need to charge it everyday.

  • It’s cold at the top of the volcano. Even if during the trek it’s quickly hot, once you’re at the top and stop hiking, you get cold quickly. Don’t forget to take warm clothes and spare clothes with you. However, during the night, you have as many sleeping bags as you want and you won’t be cold.

Now you know everything! Even if the hike wasn’t easy, I remember now only the joy and all the emotions I felt when I saw the volcano El Fuego in eruption. It is an experience indescribable and magic, terrifying and beautiful. And you, did you have already the chance to see an eruption, and if yes where? Or is it on your list?

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