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We were picked up right on time at the hotel in Antigua by our driver and about 1 hour later we were introduced to our tour guide at the volcano's base. Kids swarm around us to sell/rent walking sticks and we were offered horse rides. After a quick stop at the basic restroom we started our walk followed closely by horses and their jockeys offering 'taxi for the lady' but after 15 min they went away. From that point we really enjoyed our excursion, our guide was from the area and shared a lot of information. We watch and hear! the nearby Fire volcano sending ashes into the sky from different look outs and made our way to the Lava Store in about 2 hours. A few meters from there we eat our marshmallows and walk the last hill to the last look out before going back to the car and come back to Antigua. We reached town around 1:30pm, so it's actually a HALF day trip rather than a Day trip from Antigua.
From the last lookout we saw people walking closer to the crater. The guide explained that this trail was closed and recently opened by authorities and that it was a different excursion. It looked more demanding but definitively that was the excursion I would liked to do to see the lava pool. In summary, we had an enjoyable morning and one day a would like to come back to see Pacaya closer.
The weather was quite chilly and visibility was very low so we couldn't see anything. Nevertheless, the massive lava flows were pretty cool and digging down to feel to still hot lava after a 2014 eruption was awesome! Low points: no water provided even though the paperwork says it is included. The guide in the bus gave us 5 minutes of his time to start the ride, then spent the rest of the trip there and back sleeping and talking to the driver. That was incredibly lazy. The hiking guide pushed us super hard to use horses which were a separate charge--from the locals. He made it clear we had a short time frame. They took us to a hokey little shop up the mountain and after the guy showed a group of ten plus people a video on his 2 camera screen then pleas for some money for artisans were quickly made with no proper explanation of how that would be done, and then the guy literally said We need you to leave because we have a new group coming. Alrighty then! I personally appreciate the idea of helping the local community as tourists but when booking a tour its more enjoyable to not be pressured at different points to cough up more money. Clearly renting the horses from the locals is a big part of the deal between the tour company and the aforementioned. Maybe the tour company would be better served by charging us more and taking care of the local horse owner's, etc., as part of the service. And don't rush it so much. I feel like it was all about sending me to your cousin Lenny so he could get some money out of me, and that the Volcano was just the cover.
Wonderful time. Not a tough hike overall, just a few steeper spots with loose, volcanic soil.
We requested a Bilingual guide. When our tour coordinator, Miguel, arrived he introduced us to his other guests, a nice couple from Costa Rica. We discussed our language abilities. I am at a basic conversation level of Spanish. I still require correction at times and don't always possess the succinct word for a concept. My wife comprehends well, but is shy about speaking. Our tour companions had less confidence in their English. So we all agreed that Spanish would be the common language. We learned much about the tour topics and had an unexpected opportunity of a language exchange. This made the trip more enjoyable for us!
We arranged with Viator for a driver and guide to take us from Antigua to Pacaya volcano, which entailed an hour drive. Our driver arrived punctually, was good natured, and spoke English well. He graciously introduced us to the local guide who would be taking us up the mountain, and he too was fluent in English, mostly knowledgeable about the flora and fauna we encountered, and in great shape. The hike up to the 6,000 foot viewing area was intensely steep, but well worth the effort - you do need to be in reasonably decent shape to make the hike. Bring along some food for the chucho's, the adorable and tame street dogs you'll encounter on the trail. Be careful of the caca from the horses - the locals employ them for lazy gringos who can't make it up the mountain on their own two legs. Note that you do not ascend all the way up to the summit of Pacaya - it's one of the most active volcanoes in the country and was venting thick white columns of steam and noxious gases while we were there. Our guide brought anjelitos - marshmallows - so that we could roast them on the still hot lava rocks found at a terminal moraine formed by the last eruption in 2014.
Hiking the Pacaya volcano was one of the main reasons we planned our trip to Guatemala. Booking through Guatemalan Adventures was easy and painless. We were met in the hotel lobby by our guide, Miguel, that morning running slightly late. That happens when you're traveling with a two year old, though. We got in the van, and then we were on our way to the volcano.
On the drive out, Miguel pointed out a lot of the local sites as we went by. He made sure to give us the history of some of the other volcanoes and point out two more on the drive to Pacaya. We even got a little bit of background information on Guatemala City. Miguel gave us an overview of what to expect when we got to the volcano as well as pointing out more natural sites on the way up.
When we arrived at the base of the volcano, there were several locals trying to sell us sticks or rent us horses. Best thing to do is just say No and keep walking if you don't want them. Miguel introduced us to another local guide making the climb with us, Luis. After a quick restroom break, we were on our way up.
The first little bit is a little steep and tough as it's almost rocky cobblestones. Once you're past that, it gets a bit easier. Luis and Miguel stopped several times to point out some of the local flora and fauna of interest, and we would stop several times for pictures overlooking some incredible views. The hike itself isn't strenuous if you're an active person, but I could see it being pretty tough for people that aren't used to physical exercise. Trekking poles would have definitely made the climb a bit easier, and we found ourselves wishing we had brought them a couple of times. Some of the spots get slippery in places, especially on the way down, but Luis and Miguel were always quick to point those areas out to us.
Once we got to the top or as close to the top as you can get without special permits, the view was well worth the work. It was simply stunning. We could see some steam rising out of Pacaya, and we had a great view of the Agua and Fuego volcanoes as well. Once we took in the view for a bit, we descended into a field of cooled lava rock. Well, most of it was cool. Stopping to roast marshmallows over a steam vent was one of the highlights of our trip. Dogs will follow you, but they're mostly just hoping you drop your marshmallows. Luis and Miguel had marshmallows with them, but if you have special dietary needs we're vegan, so the gelatin in normal marshmallows is a no-go for us, you can bring your own.
On the hike back down the mountain, the two year old traveling with us wanted to walk down rather than ride in my girlfriend's traveling pack she brought for him. Luis and Miguel helped him most of the way down the mountain, and he loved it! We left the volcano talking the whole way back about how the hike up and down was so amazing and incredible.
Once back at the hotel, I realized I might have left my cel phone in the van, so I emailed Guatemalan Adventures to ask about it. Miguel had my phone, turned around and drove 20 minutes back to our hotel just to bring my cel phone back to me. He was our guide the next day, so I was perfectly fine knowing my phone was safe, and I would have it tomorrow. I really appreciated the extra mile he went to get it back to me so quickly.
If you're planning a trip to Pacaya, I can't recommend Guatemalan Adventures enough. Book them knowing you'll be treated well, and if you get Miguel as your guide, know you're in for a first class experience.