Good. We will not lie, it is very difficult to find the words to tell you about one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. But it's also the goal of a blog, so I start. Today, I will tell you about my climb on the Acatenango Volcano to see El Fuego erupting in front of me. Yes, yes, we are talking about a volcano erupting there!
Do I have to tell you that this is a must during a trip to Guatemala? Repeat 10 times after me: I will climb this volcano. I will make the ascent of this volcano. I'm going to climb this volcano … Because, yes, I can only urge you to do it, this famous climb.
But before explaining everything to you in writing, I invite you to look at the summary of my great experience in video:
Even though I've done a lot of things in the video above, here's all the info you need to take into account for the ascension of your life (yes, sorry, I'm warming up on the words, but you're not are not ready for this experience!).
It all starts in Antigua
I'll start by giving you a little description of Antigua, the big city next to the Acatenango volcano. First because it is very pretty and historically interesting but also because it is the starting point of my adventure.
The old capital
Antigua was once the capital of Guatemala but after the great earthquakes of 1773 that devastated the city, local authorities decided to move power to Guatemala City and make it the new capital. Ironically, it was also hit by many earthquakes in the years that followed.
The city was built by the Spanish in the sixteenth century, which explains the colonial style of its buildings, and I think it is really the most beautiful of the whole country (in any case it is the one I prefer …and by far). The bright colors of the walls, the large churches, the parks and the cobbled streets give an undeniable character to its streets.
It is also very touristy, and if for example I had seen few expats and backpackers while traveling in Guatemala, I crossed a lot more in Antigua. And that has a definite impact on the economy of the city. It seems richer than the rest of the country and the number of cafes, concept stores and restaurants is also much higher than in the rest of Guatemala.
You understand, I was quickly seduced by the atmosphere of the city. I stayed several days to work and rest a little before the climb that was waiting for me … and God knows I was going to need it.
Here are some places that I particularly recommend in Antigua:
Cerro de la Cruz
This is clearly the best view of Antigua. From there you can observe the whole city with the volcano in the background. A pommel show that gives a glimpse of what awaits you during the ascent.
Mercado de Artesanias El Carmen
It is a pretty tourist market but I think the place and the atmosphere are still quite nice and so it deserves that you go there for a ride, see buy one or two memories for the family.
The Ark of Santa Catalina
The Santa Catalina Arch was built in the 17th century and is located in the center of the city. It is located in one of the most beautiful alleys, with La Merced Church on one side and the central square and its park on the other. Go there very early in the morning to avoid the crowd.
Where to stay in Antigua
During my stay in Antigua I slept atAdra hostelIt must have been one of the coolest hostels I've ever had on my travels. It is in the center, super clean and especially the place is beautiful. I advise you to go, even for just a drink and chill.
For those who want a little comfort, they offer dormitories or single rooms 🙂
What physical condition for the climb?
I am clearly not a sportsman. Just like 90% of the group I left with, I do sports only occasionally … And I did it without too much trouble. For this ascent, in my opinion, it is especially the mind that plays. Yes, it's long. Yes, it's hard (especially the beginning, the first two hours). But know that all people from my group of about 20 people arrived at the camp at 3,800 meters, which already offers a magnificent view of the volcano. So, if we could ALL do it, I'm sure you too.
I do not minimize the effort of PHEW what you will have to do, you will obviously be upset. But you will get there. And the pain of the climb will make you even more appreciative of the show on arrival … I wanted to clarify it from the start because I read a lot of too pessimistic articles on the web that were on the verge of being abandoned before even to have tried the adventure. You'll get there, I'm sure, I believe in you 🙂
Going with an agency to climb the Acatenango Volcano?
As I say in the video, I made the choice to leave with an agency to climb the volcano. Already for security reasons (perso, I would have struggled to find the way alone at times even if there are a lot of people who go hiking and can help) but also because the price / quality ratio seemed to me totally accessible. I chose the agency Wicho & Charlie's that I can only recommend (they are very pros, pay a portion of the profits to local associations, etc.), and for about 50 euros, you will have the right to:
- Several guides with your group which is very important because there is necessarily a difference of level when you leave to 20, and the guides can thus form subgroups.
- Several meals.
- The night is tenting at the camp.
- Additional equipment for free rental and paid rental.
Frankly, I think to redo this experience in a few years and I intend to go back through this agency. Go ahead with your eyes closed, they are anyway ultra recommended on the internet, I'm not the only one to advise them 🙂
Do not forget one thing, at the top it is (very) cold. So even if you have a hard time believing in Antigua that you will freeze once you get to the top, trust me: Take MORE clothes than you need. As said above, the agency can rent you stuff and clothes, so do not deprive yourself, even if it can cost a few euros. Assume it will be about 0 degrees up at night and in the morning … So we avoid having a simple shorts and tee shirt 😉
Also, take a lot of water (at least 4.5 liters), and what to nibble (even if you are going to have to eat by the agency, I assume that it is better to have too much than not enough when you leave for a physical effort).
For photo lovers who want to do long poses, not necessarily need to take a tripod because the agency provides one at the top, but double check the info the day of your departure!
In summary: A lot of clothes, a lot of water, and something to nibble.
Let's talk about ascension (yes, it's still the most important)
Let's talk about the subject who is angry: The climb on the volcano Acatenango. From what I heard, depending on your level, it will take between 5 and 7 hours to reach the summit. There are three main parts to the hike, the first being CLEARLY The hardest. This is where you do not have to grill, do not go headlong. In addition to that, you will eat dust all right, so take a protective mask in Antigua to go hiking. At first, the other people in the group were making fun of me and my mask … But I can tell you that they really dreamed to have one too after 20 minutes of walking 😉
It will take at least 1H30-2H to arrive at the forest that will announce the end of the hardest, and the beginning of the kiff. Because this passage is clearly more fun. There will be some shade, (a little) less dust, and it will climb less overall. Before arriving on the third part, which will be the most pleasant. We start to see the volcano, the path is nice, and above all we motivate 200% because we know that the end is close 🙂
There you go. After several hours of walking, you have finally arrived at the camp. Then you will have three options:
- Stay in the camp, put yourself in PLS and wait for the sunset and the night to enjoy the view that will be offered to you.
- Climb for the sunset if the weather allows and if the guides offer (do not hesitate to ask anyway, you never know …).
- Go to the base of the Fuego if you took this option (I could not do it, the weather conditions did not allow it).
I chose option 2. And so it's time for me to talk about the most DIFFICULT (yes, I put it in bold this word) the hike …
Go from the base camp to the top of the Acatenango
Good. I confess immediately, I will not go through four paths: you will shit on that part.
An hour of suffering, an hour to climb a meter and to go down two because of the gravel of the Volcano. An hour to say to oneself but what am I crazy shit shit“. Yes, you are going to have trouble. But for pity's sake, do not stop. For pity, go after this effort and you will live one of the most beautiful moments of your life.
Because, one thing is certain, when you will be at 3996 meters high, when the Fuego Volcano will be offered to you, when you will be hardly 10 to be able to appreciate this spectacle … At that moment, your legs will recover all their forces your breath will be cut only by the beauty of what will be in front of you.
And that's the most important thing eventually.
After weeping 2-3 times in front of the beauty of the landscape, and in front of the volcanic eruptions that illuminate the sky more and more over the night, I went down to the base camp to eat with the rest of the group that was not mounted. And I took advantage of the second spectacular show that Fuego and nature offered me: volcanic eruptions every ten minutes, in front of me, and an open sky filled with stars that sparkled like never before. Hard to want to sleep when you have such a show in front of you …
This is a long exposure: I put down my camera (all my photo and video material while traveling is listed here for info) on a tripod and I took a picture of 30 seconds without the camera moving + aperture f4 to infinity + 1600 ISO.
In the end, I slept 3 hours … Because I wanted to go back to the sunrise. I will not lie to you, it was a little suicidal because the fatigue was really present, and we were only 4 out of 20 to try the expedition.
Obviously, we struggled, but obviously, we arrived there for the second time. It was really powerful, but maybe a little less, because there were other groups of other agencies that were also present. Attention, we were not 500 either, but that does not prevent that it made the moment a hair less important in my opinion. Probably because I also went the day before the first time 🙂
After sunrise, it was time to leave. The gravels that were enemies to climb the Acatenango are allies to go down: in ski mode, we slide, we laugh and we go down at full speed. It took me about 3 hours to get back to the base point, then to Antigua, then to the fabulous accommodation Adra Hostel which was the perfect place where it all started, and where everything ended up right.
This article is part of a series of articles I write about Guatemala, you can find them here:
- What to visit in Guatemala: Flores
- What to visit in Guatemala: Tikal and Yaxha
- Semuc Champey & Chichicastenango (coming soon)
- Lake Atitlan (coming soon)
In the end, I had a crazy experience, an experience that I forced you to do if you go to Guatemala (which would be a good idea, you understand it). Do not hesitate if you have questions, comments under the article are there for that 🙂
This article What to visit in Guatemala: The Acatenango and Fuego Volcano appeared first on Your World Tour – Travel Blog, and more!.