This 8,373-foot (2,552-meter) smoking peak is one of Guatemala’s most accessible active volcanoes. Its upper reaches feature lava formations formed by recent flows, as well as vents that puff up steaming hot air, while its summit affords spectacular views of nearby volcanoes including Agua, Acatenango, and Fuego.
Hike from the base of Pacaya to the lofty shelf just below the smoking cinder cone. The ascent takes about 1.5 hours, and coming down is usually faster. Visitors must hire a guide to accompany them on the climb.
Most hikers go as part of an organized tour; these generally include round-trip transportation from Antigua or Guatemala City, as well as a guide to accompany them during the volcano hike. Full-day tours typically begin with a morning ascent up the volcano followed by lunch and a relaxing afternoon at nearby hot springs. You also can complete part of the ascent on horseback, disembarking for the final walk across the solidified lava fields beneath the cone.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Bring cash to pay your entrance fee to Pacaya National Park.
- Wooden sticks that serve as hiking aids can be bought at the base.
- Wear shoes with good grip, as volcanic scree (loose rock fragments) can be slippery.
- While glowing red lava flow used to be commonplace, it is now a rare sight on Pacaya.
How to Get There
Pacaya is about 15 miles (25 kilometers) southeast of Antigua. Driving from Antigua takes about 60–75 minutes. Getting there by public transportation requires transfers, so if you don’t have access to a car, it’s best to go as part of an organized tour.
When to Get There
Pacaya is best hiked during the dry season, from November to April. Start your hike in the early morning or later in the afternoon to avoid trekking during the hottest part of the day. During the rainy season, time your hike for morning when skies are typically clearer.
The lower part of the trail leads past coffee plantations and through forests, with trees on either side providing welcoming shade. The further up you go, the more barren the landscape becomes, with large parts of the upper slopes carpeted in loose rock fragments ejected during previous eruptions. While these lava fragments have cooled and solidified, small gaps still emit enough heat to cook food or roast a marshmallow.