Pacaya Volcano Sunset Hike

Pacaya Volcano - a hike to see one of the best sunsets in Guatemala

Pacaya, an incredible volcano, only one hours drive from Antigua. Not as famous as nearby Acatenango, but Pacaya has the bonus that it can be climbed in just a few hours. Perfect if you’re short on time and want to squeeze in at least one volcano trekking experience whilst in Guatemala.
Here we’ll tell you about Pacaya volcano, how to visit and the essential items you’ll need for the trip.
Pacaya can only be visited as part of a tour. The shuttles depart Antigua at either 6AM or 2PM. Online, the consensus seems to be that you should go at 6AM. Noone seems to know why or offer any reason for this. We assumed it’s because clouds may block your view by mid afternoon. The owner of our hostel said any time is good for Pacaya, but watching the sun go down is a great experience. We therefore decided to go at 2PM. It was going to be a very clear and sunny day, so clouds were unlikely to be a problem.
(Worth noting, if you leave at 6AM the sun will have already risen, so don’t expect sun rise as part of the early trek).
Volcano trek path
The terrain up to Pacaya’s summit
Acatenango is classed as a hard trek. Pacaya is said to be easy. We’ll break the bad news now. Pacaya is far from easy. Entering the park you start a steep ascent through the forest. There’s no steady flat ground and the path is stone and volcanic ash.
You’ll rapidly be approached by men on horses asking if you want a taxi, i.e. to hire their horse. They get quite annoying as they follow groups for most of the two hour ascent. “Taxi natural”. “Uber” they shout. It’s quite amusing at first, but tires very quickly as the horses kick up volcanic ash and cloud your path. The owners are like vultures. Swarming around the group, waiting for someone to drop with exhaustion.
Horses trekking up a volcano
These guys on horses will annoy the hell out of you!
No-one was giving in, so onward we trekked. After half an hour we had our first break and to look out over the view point. Ah! It was a little cloudy. We should have been looking at Antigua, but it wasn’t visible. Maybe this is why it’s better to go in the morning.
View of Antigua. from a volcano
A slightly misty view from the first view point
Onward we trekked. More steep paths and hills cut in to the rocks. Catching your breath and not losing your footing is all part of the fun! (If you like that sort of thing).
View point two was beckoning and we climbed up for a view. Only there were no views. Just clouds!!
Rose and I looked at each other. Her face red with exhaustion and sweat dripping from her brow. Neither of us said it out loud, but we both thought it. “This trip sucks. It’s exhausting, the views are obscured and we might pass out. Why did we sign up for this?”
Obscured cloudy view of volcanoes
When we saw this, we were gutted!
The guide looked disappointed. “The views are usually very good, but things can change any time of day”. The weather can’t be controlled and we understood. You just think “should I have come earlier”.
“We go up now” the guide announced, pointing to the peak. Deep breaths and off we went thorough the sparse forest.
At this stage, it was best to take it steady. The path zig-zags and it’s hard to believe you’re anywhere near the top of a volcano. It’s just forest everywhere you look.
The trees suddenly cleared and it looked like an end might be in sight. We could see the brow of a hill. As we ascended it all became clear why we had come in the afternoon. The sun was still high in the sky and we saw it illuminate this horse and it’s owner. It had all been worth it.
Man and horse sunset
A man and his horse on top of Pacaya Volcano in the sunset
Upon reaching the brim of Pacaya, other volcanoes are visible. Acatenango, Fuego, Agua. They are are all seen with immense clarity. This had suddenly turned into one of the most incredible trips ever.
After absorbing the views, we trekked down into the caldera of volcanic rocks. Openings in the warm ground allow you to take a stick and toast marshmallows.
Toasting marshmallows on Pacay volcano
Our guide checks to see if the toasted marshmallows are ready
Rose tries out the volcanic marshmallows
Just as we thought it was time to head back, there’s one final stage to go.
Heading out of the caldera, a steep ascent leads up to the perfect view point. From here, you’re looking at the sun above the clouds. The golden hue is magical as it sets.
Volcano sunset hiking
Hiking in the sunset on Pacaya Volcano
There’s now 40 minutes until it gets dark, so it’s important to head back down. The descent is much easier than going up, but be careful now the light is fading. A head torch can really help!
Pacaya was an incredible experience and one we’ll never forget. Although we haven’t experienced the morning hike, We’re confident the afternoon will give you memories for a lifetime.
Volcano lava
You can see lava roll down Pacaya just after sunset

How to get to Pacaya Volcano

It’s not possible to enter the park without a guide, so you’ll need to book a tour. We paid Q75 ($10 USD) for this at our hostel. It includes a pick up from your accommodation, return transport (one hour each way) and the guide. There are no end of travel agents in Antigua, so you can shop around for prices. Q70 – Q85 ($10 – $11 USD) seems to be the going rate.

How much does the Pacaya Volcano hike cost?

In addition to the price of transport and a guide, you have to pay a Pacaya National Park entrance fee of Q50 ($6.50 USD).

How long does it take to trek to the summit of Pacaya Volcano?

The whole experience from pick up, to hiking, to drop off is around six hours. Although it’s half a day, those with weary legs may want to rest and shower off the dust after.

The equipment you'll need for the trek

  • Hiking pole (these can be hired from children at the start of the trek. It’s a tough wooden staff and they rent it to you for Q5 – $o.65 USD).
  • Walking boots
  • Gators for your walking boots
  • You can wear shorts and a t-shirt.
  • A light jacket or sweeter if there for sunset

Where to stay in Antigua before and after the Pacaya trek

Mary’s Place is absolutely fantastic. Great location, super price, clean and an amazingly helpful owner. They will arrange tours and onward transport too.


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