Hiking to the summit of Volcán Acatenango in Antigua was hands-down the highlight of my trip to Guatemala and it is definitely not to be missed on anyone’s itinerary! The Acatenango hike is an epic 2-days and 1-night adventure which isn’t an easy feat but it’s 110% worth it.
Not only will you be rewarded with an incredible 360-degree view at the summit (which, by the way, sits at 3,976 meters above sea level) but you will also get to experience a close encounter with the neighboring and very active Volcán de Fuego.
I have put together this complete guide including an overview of the trek, where to book, what to expect, and things to know before you go!
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Day One is approximately a 5 – 6 hour hike from the starting point to base camp, on Day Two it’s a further 1-hour hike to the summit for sunrise and followed by a 3 – 4 hour hike back down again.
These hiking times vary depending on your level of fitness and previous hiking experience. In saying that, the Acatenango hike is suitable for the common traveler with a sense of adventure and a love for the outdoors. I even saw people walking their dogs along the trail, so you’ve honestly got nothing to worry about!
Before I go into more detail, see below for a brief overview of the hike:
- 8:00 am / Free breakfast and warm clothes rental at Tropicana Hostel
- 9:00 am / 1-hour shuttle transfer to the trailhead
- 10:30 am / The hike begins with rest breaks every 15-minutes
- 1:00 pm / 30-minute stop for lunch
- 4:00 pm / Arrive at base camp and high-fives all around
- 4:30 – 7:00 pm / Sit around the campfire and marvel at Volcano Fuego
- 7:00 pm / Dinner is served followed by wine, hot chocolate, and marshmallows
- 9:00 pm / Time to get some rest in the 14-bed cabin
- 4:00 am / Early rise for the final 1-hour hike to Acatenango summit
- 5:00 am / Enjoy the sunrise and sweeping views at 3,976 meters
- 6:00 am / Back to base camp for breakfast
- 8:00 am / Begin the hike back down to the bottom
- 11:00 am / Hike complete and shuttle back to Antigua
- 12:00 pm / Arrive back at Tropicana Hostel for a hot shower
Sunset on the volcano
WHERE TO BOOK YOUR ACATENANGO HIKE
There are countless tour agencies and hostels in Antigua that offer overnight tours to Acatenango, though it can be quite overwhelming trying to decide where to book.
I personally organized my hike with Tropicana Hostel and I highly recommend booking the tour with them. I am not getting paid to write this, I just genuinely had a great experience and can’t fault their tour in any way.
The cost of hiking Acatenango is 450 Quetzal ($60 USD) which is very affordable and great value for money!
The Acatenango tour includes the following:
- All meals including 2x breakfasts, lunch, dinner (vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options available)
- Experienced tour guides
- Free rental of warm clothes and hiking gear of up to 3 pieces
- Private campsite and toilet
- Camping bed, sleeping bag, blanket, and pillow inside the 14-bed cabin
What you will need to bring:
- Medium-sized backpack to carry personal items, lunch box, and water
- 4 liters of drinking water (1 liter goes to the guides for cooking)
- Extra snacks, sunscreen, toilet paper, and flashlight
- Warm clothes and comfortable hiking shoes
Book Now → Acatenango Tour
The squad at the summit
WHAT TO EXPECT AT VOLCAN ACATENANGO
As I mentioned earlier, hiking Acatenango was the highlight of my trip to Guatemala and unlike any other adventure I have been on. Camping on the side of a volcano, overlooking another volcano that frequently erupts is something you don’t get to experience every day!
Volcan de Acatenango is an impressive mountain in itself, though the main attraction on this hike is being able to get up close and personal with the nearby Volcan de Fuego.
Witnessing a volcano spewing lava, rocks, and smoke from its vent is a very unique experience that I am sure you will never forget. So pack your bags and get ready to hike!
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Base camp overlooking Volcan de Fuego
THE MORNING OF THE HIKE
A hearty breakfast is served at Tropicana Hostel on the morning of the Acatenango hike which consists of maple syrup pancakes, boiled egg, orange juice, and hot coffee. If you have any dietary restrictions just notify the staff and they will be more than happy to prepare something for you.
Over breakfast, You’ll get to meet the other keen trekkers who will be joining you which is the perfect time to introduce yourself and get to know each other before embarking on the 2-day trek.
If you’re unprepared in terms of not having enough warm clothes and hiking boots, which is most people haha, Tropicana Hostel has more than enough equipment to go around. Do note that during the night and at the summit, temperatures can reach below freezing so you will want to make sure you are well equipped with warm clothing.
Alas, the adventure begins by piling into a minivan to make the 1-hour drive to the trailhead, stopping for a few minutes at a convenience store on the way. This is where you can buy the necessary 4 liters of drinking water and any additional snacks you may want. Remember the less weight you have in your backpack, the less strenuous the hike will be, so don’t go buying up the whole store haha!
Before the hike begins, the guides will give everyone a quick briefing on the itinerary and what to expect along the way. There is also a local woman at the entrance selling lightweight walking sticks for 10 Quetzal which comes in handy on the steep trail, especially on the way back down.
Our guides Don Juan and Isaias
The hike begins!
THE ACATENANGO TRAIL
The trail consists mainly of dirt, gravel, and make-shift stairs cut into the mountainside. If you have a decent pair of walking shoes or boots with good grip you shouldn’t have any slip-ups. For the most part, the trail is shaded, though during the last 1 hour of trekking you’ll be exposed to the sun when traversing across the backside of the volcano to reach base camp.
There is no easing into the Acatenango hike, the trail is steep right from the get-go so make sure to have a little stretch beforehand. The first 20 minutes of the hike runs alongside some cornfields where you can say hello to the local harvesters and enjoy sweeping views of the region. Shortly after, you’ll be completely immersed under a canopy of lush forest.
Every 500 meters or so the guides will stop the group for a short break to catch your breath and rehydrate. There are also several sheltered huts on the way up to plonk your butt and give your legs a rest. Believe me, anywhere you can sit down for a minute and take your backpack off you should use this opportunity to do so.
At 1:00 pm everyone stops for around 30 minutes to have lunch which is a delicious vegetarian burrito, chocolate brownie, and a piece of fruit. Again, if you have any dietary restrictions you will be catered for.
Also along the trail are a few epic viewpoints that are worthy of stopping at for a quick photo. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled to spot Lake Atitlan and its surrounding volcanoes which can be seen off in the distance on a clear day.
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Isaias leading the way
A well-needed rest stop along the trail
Trent and Chelci tucking into some lunch
Traversing across the volcano
One of the viewpoints
4 hours into the Acatenango trek
Volcano Atitlan poking through the clouds
ACATENANGO BASE CAMP
At around 4:00 – 4:30 pm you’ll finally arrive at base camp and catch the first glimpse of the erupting Volcan de Feugo which seems just a stone’s throw away. Apart from marveling at this incredible mountain from across the valley, you can hear its loud groans and feel its powerful energy through the earth beneath your feet. It is truly something else!
You can set your belongings down inside the cabin and roam around the area to capture some photos of the erupting Fuego Volcano or simply sit around the campfire, waiting for the sun to set.
The guides will ask everyone to hand over 1 liter of water which they will use to cook dinner and breakfast the following morning. Although you may not want to part with your precious drinking water, on the plus side, it means your backpack will be 1kg lighter.
The base camp sits high above the clouds boasting the most incredible volcano views and watching the sunset on this day was one that I will not soon forget!
Dinner is served around 7:00 pm consisting of rice with lentils, chickpeas, veggies, noodle soup, corn tortillas with cheese, and red wine. And, to top it off, a bag of marshmallows to roast on the campfire.
Our guides said that between 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm is when Volcan de Fuego is most active and they weren’t wrong! Every 5-minutes or so, Fuego would erupt throwing spurts of blazing hot lava high into the air before landing on the slope, flowing down the mountainside. I’ll say it again, it’s definitely not something you get to see every day!
We all stayed up as a group watching these eruptions in awe while sitting around the campfire. The darker the night sky got, the brighter the flames of Fuego became.
It wasn’t until around 9:30 pm that everyone tucked into bed inside the warm cabin, ready to wake again at 4:00 am for the final 1-hour push to reach the summit. Don’t forget to set your alarm!
An erupting Volcan de Fuego
Taking a selfie with Fuego
Above the clouds
Volcan de Fuego
Our cozy little cabin
Views for days
HIKING TO THE SUMMIT
At around 4:00 am the last leg of the journey begins to reach the summit of Volcán Acatenango in time for sunrise. Again, the trail doesn’t ease you in at all, it’s very steep right from the get-go and it’s very cold in the morning so be sure to rug up.
It’s recommended to have a flashlight or head torch to aid you in the dark for the final scramble to the top. This section of the hike consists of loose rocks and it’s quite narrow in some areas.
Our group beat record time hiking from base camp to the summit in just 1-hour! For other groups behind us, it took them around 1-hour and 15-minutes.
Reaching the highest point at 3, 976 meters was a huge accomplishment for all of us and it was high fives all around. The air is thin and it’s freezing cold at the top but the spectacular 360-degree views of the region, complemented by the sun rising above the horizon is most rewarding!
We spent around 30-minutes at the very summit of Volcan Acatenango, taking photos and marveling at the phenomenal landscape that laid before our eyes. I could have spent hours up there if the temperature wasn’t below freezing!
The hike back down to base camp takes around 45-minutes and you’ll get to chill for about an hour around the campfire whilst having breakfast, tea and coffee.
Related Article → 2 Week Guatemala Itinerary
Early morning on the hike
Volcan de Fuego doing its thing
3, 976 meters above sea level
Hiking back down
Fuego Volcano between the pine trees
THE HOME STRETCH
After a hearty breakfast, it’s time to make the home stretch back to the starting point of the Acatenango trek. Even though it’s all downhill, you will be surprised how much your legs will get a workout on the descent. It’s a real leg-burner!
The way down is along the exact same trail you came up on and it takes around 3 hours with rest stops. The temperatures will start to rise the lower you get on the mountain so feel free to stop at any time to de-layer out of your warm clothing.
Before you know it the trek will come to an end and a refreshing lemon drink will be waiting on arrival to quench your thirst. Tipping your guides at the end of the trek is not necessary but a small amount will go a long way. From here a minivan will transport the group back to Tropicana Hostel in Antigua.
Back at the hostel, you’ll have to return any gear that you rented and everyone is welcome to have a hot shower to freshen up!
On the way back down
Don Juan leading the group down
Thirst-quenching lemonade awaits
All in all, hiking Acatenango is not easy due to its steep trails, though it’s one of the most rewarding adventures to be had in Guatemala!
In my experience embarking on this trek with Tropicana Hostel, I can’t recommend booking through them enough. The service was flawless, the guides were fantastic, it was great value for money and I think I can speak for our entire group here and say that we all felt completely satisfied!
If you’re looking for the ultimate adventure, look no further than a 2-day and 1-night trek to the summit of Acatengango Guatemala. I guarantee you won’t regret it!
WHERE TO STAY IN ANTIGUA
Antigua has hundreds of accommodations to choose from so I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay in Antigua to suit the needs of luxury travelers and budget backpackers. See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend:
Luxury: El Convento Boutique Hotel
Mid Range: Selina Antigua
Budget: Hotel Casa El Calvario
FOR ALL OTHER PLACES TO STAY IN ANTIGUA, SEARCH ON AGODA OR SEARCH ON BOOKING.COM
Another option for accommodation in Antigua is to stay in an Airbnb, which generally has some great deals!
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ACATENANGO VOLCANO MAP
LONELY PLANET GUATEMALA
One of the best books to take on your trip is the Lonely Planet Guatemala Guide!
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MORE CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA TRAVEL GUIDES
If you are planning a trip to Central and South America, be sure to check out my other travel guides below that you might find useful while crafting together your itinerary:
- Mexico: 4 Week Mexico Itinerary
- Guatemala: 2 Week Guatemala Itinerary
- Cuba: 10 Day Cuba Itinerary
- Peru: Backpacking Peru – 3 Week Itinerary
- Bolivia: Things To Do In Bolivia
- Brazil: 2 Day Rio De Janeiro Itinerary
- Argentina: Things To Do In Argentina
- Chile: Things To Do In Chile
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