As a country with 37 volcanoes, Guatemala offers a very unique bucket list experience for its visitors involving 2 of these volcanoes. Hiking up an inactive volcano to admire the eruptions of the little (but definitely more impressive) neighboring sister, the Fuego Volcano – one of the main reasons people tend to make their way to this country in Central America. This blog post about the Acatenango Hike Difficulty covers all you must know for planning your trek with insider tips based on my own experience!
About the Acatenango Volcano
Acatenango is a volcano located close to the colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala. Ever since the Acatenango Volcano is open for trekking, it’s been a once-in-a-lifetime tour that no other place in the world can compete with.
Many tour operators offer the opportunity to hike up this volcano for one main reason, to see live eruptions from the Fuego volcano. It’s an overnight hike, making sure you can experience both sunset and sunrise views. Every tour operator has their own base camp somewhere on the Acatenango.
There isn’t a place in the world quite like Acatenango
Facts about the Acatenango Hike & Fuego Volcano
- Volcano Summit Height: 3976 meters (13.000 feet)
- Elevation gain: 1600 meters (5250 feet)
- Acatenango Volcano itself hasn’t erupted since 1972
- Acatenango Hike Difficulty: difficulty level 3/5
- Fuego Volcano erupts around every 15/20 minutes
Best Companies for Hiking
Each company differs in quality and price. The one has a more luxurious base camp while with the other you may need to share a hut with several people. It all depends on your budget. I recommend splurging a little more on a good quality company as it’s something you will probably do only once in your life.
I chose to go with Soy Tours as their quality and price relationship is really good! With years of experience, Soy Tours has knowledgeable local guides, windproof sleeping spots, and delicious food! They provide tents for 2 to 4 people – perfect if you’re traveling with a small group. These tents are covered by a huge cabin to protect them against the cold winds and keep warmth inside. It may sound a bit strange, but you will appreciate this once you’re up there, believe me.
If you are not sure of which company to choose or you questioning the Acatenango hike difficulty, I can highly recommend booking your overnight Acatenango Volcano hike with Soy Tours as their guides handle difficult situations along the way very well.
Other great companies are, Wicho & Charlie’s, CA Travelers, and OX Expeditions. I don’t have any experience with them myself, but I’ve heard great stories from friends!
Costs of the Acatenango Hike
The price of hiking the Acatenango Volcano on an overnight tour with Soy Tours is Q450 (€52) which includes all the meals during the tour, accommodation, park entrance, appropriate winter clothes, and transport from and to your accommodation in Antigua. Other companies’ prices may range up to €100, or higher if you prefer to have a private cabin.
What to expect on the tour
Ascent to basecamp
Your tour company will pick you up early in the morning around 7:30 AM to bring you to their office about an hour away from Antigua. There they will give you a briefing about the tour, you’ll meet your guides and they’ll provide you with the necessary winter clothes and meals.
And then around 10 AM, it’s finally time to start the ascent of the Acatenango Volcano, which will probably take up between 4 and 6 hours with regular stops every 30/45 minutes. You can take all the time you need as there’s always one guide in the front and the back to make sure everyone can hike at their own pace.
Depending on what time your company starts the hike up, you’ll arrive at base camp around 3/4 PM. Up there you can decide to relax at the campfire and watch the lava eruptions from basecamp or hike the additional Fuego hike.
- Acatenango Hike Difficulty Level 75% 75%
Additional hike to the Fuego Volcano
After reaching the base camp, you’re able to go on a second hike to the Fuego itself. This part of the tour is another Q200 and is not included in the price. Hiking to the Fuego is even tougher than the Acatenango Hike and definitely not for everyone. The hiking difficulty level for this one is extremely high!
Personally, I decided to skip the Fuego Hike already when I started the Acatenango hike. For me, the hike up to base camp was already pretty difficult and noticed I was already on my maximum. To be honest, I was really happy with my decision as I absolutely enjoyed my time watching the Fuego erupt from the camp with some beers at the campfire with incredible people.
- Acatenango Hike Difficulty Level 95% 95%
If you decide to hike the Fuego, do notice that you may arrive back at basecamp late at night as the hike to Fuego is 2,5 hours, and the hike back is similar to that. On top of that, it’s pitch dark and cold and there’s no clear path.
However, people who DID go on the additional Fuego hike came back with INSANE! stories, photos, and videos and told me it was the coolest thing they’ve done in their lives. The experience from this close to an active volcano is something you will never experience somewhere else. Hard choice to make 😉
Luckily you can decide to join the hike upon arrival at basecamp, so just see how you’ll feel once you arrive there!
Summit Sunrise hike
To me, the most challenging hours of my life. Hiking up the summit before sunrise is a tough but short hike of only 1 hour with difficult terrain. Take your time and if necessary stop every 30 seconds if that’s what it takes to get you up to the summit.
It’s only an elevation gain of 300 meters, but it hits you way harder than hiking up to Basecamp. The Acatenango hike difficulty level was its highest for me at this point as I was already struggling after 5 minutes with difficulty breathing, barely any sleep, and the strong dusty winds.
- Acatenango Hike Difficulty Level 80% 80%
Most importantly, make sure to bring water (something I didn’t and was the stupidest thing I could’ve done) and drink enough during the hike. Head to the preparations part to read more on how to prepare yourself well for the entire hike! You can leave all your stuff at base camp as you still come back afterward.
You’ll have some time left at the summit before sunset, so take a seat and enjoy the incredible views. After about 30 minutes on the summit, you make your way back to Basecamp for breakfast to later descend.
Descent of the Acatenango Volcano
At the end of the tour, you’ll start the descent of the Acatenango Volcano. This will take up another 2/3 hours and make sure to watch your step carefully as I saw many people slip down due to loose sand or going down too fast. Some people are literally running back down as they want to be back down asap, but I do recommend being very careful!
- Acatenango Hike Difficulty Level 50% 50%
Prepare yourself well for the elevation gain as you want to avoid getting altitude sickness. To do so, stay at least a few days in Antigua to adjust to the elevation first before hiking up the Acatenango Volcano.
Stay another night in Antigua
Book an extra night in Antigua after hiking the Acatenango Volcano as you want to rest and take a shower before traveling further.
There’s a tiny shop along the hike up where you can buy some drinks and soup.
Bring a sports drink with electrolytes, like Gatorade to keep your levels up while hiking/sweating.
Get yourself walking sticks or one of those wooden ones. They’re super helpful for extra support in your knees on the way down. I felt like an old lady with my knees hurting but I guess they’re not used to all the hikes I did on my trip including the 4-day trek through the jungle in Colombia 😉
Put on Music/Podcast
If you’re hiking solo like me, bring some headphones and put on a podcast or music to keep yourself distracted. Don’t forget to download these beforehand!
Bring enough cash
You need to pay the full Acatenango hike in cash (including the additional Fuego hike), therefore make sure you bring enough.
What to bring with you on the Acatenango Hike
Packing light is key during this tour. Remind that everything you bring with you, you have to carry up on the volcano. Bring only the necessities!
- 45 lt Backpack (possible to rent with the company)
- 4 lt water
- Hiking shoes
- 2 pair of socks
- Enough snacks for the hike
- Long leggings
- Short leggings – if you prefer to hike in those
- Long sleeve shirt
- 2 T-shirts (preferably sportswear)
- Thermal clothes – if you have any
- Headlight or flashlight (possible to rent with the company)
- Raincoat – according to season
- Sunglasses (optional)
- Toothbrush + Toothpaste
- Toilet paper/tissues
- Walking sticks (possible to rent with the company)
- Camera (optional)
Included with Tour Company
- Winter jacket
- Windproof pants
- Hat & Gloves
- Warm socks
- 3 meals – lunch + dinner on day 1 and breakfast on day 2 (vegetarian/vegan available)
This is based on the overnight tour with Soy Tours!
Bring some cash to tip your guides afterwards.
Acatenango Hike Difficulty
So how difficult is it? Personally, this was the most difficult thing I’ve done in my life but it’s a relatively short hike so doable for most people.
Especially the combination of the elevation gain, the changing temperatures, and the constantly steep hike up, make the Acatenango Volcano hike incredibly hard. For people of age, with breathing problems or underlying health issues, this may be too much and I don’t recommend it.
You have to get through the beginning of the hike before you come into a flow where you just keep putting one foot in front of the other. So yes, the Acatenango hike is difficult, very difficult – but doable for people with average fitness. I’ve even seen people making it to the top who weren’t in the best shape.
Like our guides kept telling me – it’s difficult, but not impossible! 😉
To make the hike easier for yourself, you can opt for a porter to bring your backpack to the top. This costs Q200 and is a great extra income for the guides. However, I saw some of them struggling quite hard with insane big and heavy bags, so not sure if I think the extra money is worth it for their health. Yes, the backpack with 4 liters of water is hard when hiking up however, it makes it more rewarding once you made it to the top doing it all by yourself. 🙂
Looking for an easier day-trip volcano hike in Antigua, Guatemala? Check out Pacaya Volcano
Safety of the Acatenango Hike
Acantenango Volcano hasn’t erupted since 1972 and is considered sleepy and inactive. Ever since it’s open for hiking, there haven’t been any deaths or seriously injured due to the Acatenango itself.
However, the last huge eruption of the Fuego in 2018 caused many deaths, especially in the villages at the bottom of the Fuego Volcano.
There have been a few evacuations since due to large eruptions of the Fuego but as far as I know, they went smoothly without any injured or problems.
And of course, hiking this close to an active volcano always comes with risks and is never 100% safe. Besides that, hiking the Fuego volcano on the additional hike adds another risk as you’re super close to the eruptions. So if you want to be extra careful, you could skip this one.
Please be aware that it’s something you can’t control and it doesn’t happen often. Keep up to date with the government’s updates on the volcanoes and keep in touch with your tour company in case of doubt. Hiking the Acatenango Volcano is 100% worth it and a bucket list experience, you won’t ever forget!
Beside the eruptions, you may face another (more likely) problem which is altitude sickness. Most side effects occur after reaching an altitude of 2500 meters and Antigua itself is already 1500 meters. So like I said before, get used to that altitude first if you’re arriving from a country with a lower altitude.
The only thing you can do for yourself to prevent it during the Acatenango hike is to drink enough water, ascent slowly, and listen to your body – if you don’t feel well, take a break! With those precautions, you will most likely won’t have any problems with altitude sickness. And besides that, you can’t predict whether you get altitude sickness or not.
What to do when you get symptoms?
If you get any symptoms like dizziness, shortness of breath, or tiredness, stop ascending. Luckily you have experienced guides with you that are trained for this and will notice the symptoms but you do have to tell them if you feel any of the above-mentioned!
Best time of year for the Acatenango Hike
Hiking up the Acatenango Volcano is best done during the dry season, which is from November to April. There’s less chance of rain and clouds which creates better views of the volcano.
But to be honest, as you’re high up on a mountain with an average temperature of 0 degrees, the weather is pretty unpredictable any time of year.
I hiked Acatenango in January and had some cloudy days during the week I decided to hike. Some people during this week barely had any views of the Fuego Volcano, due to clouds. Gladly when our group arrived at base camp the clouds disappeared, so we could admire the lava eruptions throughout the whole night.
FAQS about Acatenango Volcano Hike Difficulty
Are Drones Allowed?
As for now (2023) you’re allowed to fly your drone on the Acatenango Volcano. If you have a light-weighted one with you and you’re sure to use it, I would recommend bringing it with you as the views are absolutely insane! Do make sure to keep enough distance from the Fuego Volcano as you probably won’t see your drone back again. 😉
Is hiking Acatenango possible on a day tour?
Yes, it is possible to hike Acatenango Volcano on a day trip. However, do notice that you have to hike up and down on the same day with barely any time on the volcano itself to enjoy the views. So yes, it’s possible but I won’t recommend it.
How is the hike as Solo Female Traveler?
Like myself, I did the hike as a Solo Female Traveler but I did join the group with another girl I’d met on an early trek in Colombia. Even though I joined her, I hiked mostly solo as her pace was way faster than mine. In the end, it all depends on the group and if you’re able to hype up yourself when needed.
My honest opinion & experience
Even before Guatemala was on my list, hiking the Acatenango Volcano Tour was already on my radar for quite some time. Something like this is unique and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
But being on a freaking volcano, watching lava eruptions, roasting marshmallows at a campfire with beautiful strangers, and exchanging travel stories is a core memory.
The hike itself was incredibly hard for me, either mentally or physically, but also one of the highlights of a 3-month solo backpacking trip through Latin America. If you find yourself doubting the Acatenango volcano difficulty, understandable, but.
All the struggle will be worth it and leave you with only good memories and insane stories to tell!
Summary of the Acatenango Hike Difficulty
- Acatenango Volcano Tour is an overnight tour with views of lava eruptions of the active Fuego Volcano in Guatemala
- A must-do for adventure lovers traveling Central America.
- Recommended Tour Company: Soy Tours (€52)
- The Acatenango Hike Difficulty level is high but doable, even for people with not a very good fitness level.
- Hiking the volcano is relatively safe.
- The best time to hike is from November to April.
- It will be the best thing you do in Guatemala!!