Hiking Acatenango Volcano in Antigua, Guatemala was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. Ever. But, IT’S A MUST DO hike in Antigua!!! Acatenango overnight hike is challenging for beginner hikers, but if you are an experienced hiker, you should be fine. I ended up climbing about 7 volcanos and mountains in Guatemala and Acatenango is by far the best hike in Guatemala.
I will share my story and a few tips to help you your Acatenango hike!
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Preparing For The Hike
To prepare for the volcano hike, I buy motivating snacks (snickers, M&Ms, Hershey’s bar, PB sandwiches…”if you hike 1 more hour, you get a snickers”) and liquids (5 liters of water plus 2 bottles of Gatorade). I pack my huge backpack with clothes, emergency items and all the food and water. I try on the bag. It’s heavy. I was excited for the challenge.
I signed up for the hike with my friend Fresh and his two friends Juan and Stephanie, an Argentinean couple. Fresh is an animal in the gym, so I’m fearful to do such an intense hike with him. Juan is mid thirties, looks like a young George Clooney. Skinny, blue eyed, Stephanie is straight out of a fashion magazine, probably the prettiest human I’ve seen in Guatemala so far. She looks ready for a workout photo shoot the morning of the hike. Out of us four, I’m the only one with hiking boots and have the best quality backpack. And later you will find out, the worst hiker of the group.
We wait at their hostel, get picked up by a van, then get dropped off at a gas station. We’re given mats to sleep on, sleeping bags, and our meals for 2 days (2 sandwiches, yogurt, fruit, ramen). More stuff to carry, perfect. We get on a bus. There are about 15 of us who will be doing the hike. We get to the start of the hike (about a 30-minute drive from Antigua) and we see hikers coming back from the trek: a pack of full-grown, in-shape men looking like they just got back from war. They warn us how hard it is. Great.
Note: the guide will pick you up at your hostel. All transportation is taken care of (which is nice).
Start of The Hike
We start the hike. I’m in the front with Fresh, Juan, and Stephanie. That lasts for about 30 seconds to a minute. I’m immediately huffing and puffing. It is a straight incline. FIVE more hours until the campsite. I let everyone pass me. There are a few stragglers at the back AKA my new best friends. We are five minutes into hiking and I’m realizing this may have been the worst decision I’ve ever made.
Why do humans purposely put themselves through these types of terrible things? Besides my new bestfriends, everyone seems to be doing fine. How are they not stopping? The French couple who look out of shape, chugging Cola-cola before the hike are fine. The guy in DRESS SHOES and JEANS is fine. The chick who works out everyday of her life, drinks apple cider vinegar, and eats kale–WHY AM I NOT FINE?
My BFFs: Sara, German girl who claims to not workout, Hatie, English girl whose been drinking everyday for the past month, and Spaniard, 37 year old who was out partying the previous night and smokes cigarettes. Oh, and Luis, the guide who is forced to stay at the back of line to make sure everyone is still alive. He’s 20 years old. He says he can do the 5 hour hike in 2 hours. Cool. He stays quiet the entire time. He never once says “hurry up” or anything. It was nice. I wondered If we were the slowest hikers he had ever hiked with. I was too afraid to ask.
The first two hours is completely uphill. I might as well have been on a rock-climbing wall. We take breaks every 3 steps then talk about how hard it is. We tell each other this is the better way to do a hike, you get to stop and see everything. Why is everyone in such a rush…?
We finally arrive at the lunch spot about an hour in. When my bestfriends and I arrive, it looks like everyone had been there for 15 minutes already. Everyone cheers us on as we arrive. Poor us. All ego goes out the door…just give me some food.
At lunch, I politely ask Fresh to carry my water. I realize my pack is way too heavy for me. I’ve never done a hike this hard before and there is about 50 pounds on my back. We trade my 5 liters of water for his sleeping bag. It made a HUGE difference.
There are two super humans in the group, a couple dressed in matching professional hiking gear. They looked straight out of the movie Hunger Games. I guessed they were Russian. The boyfriend never stopped, never looked out of breath, never breathed, because he is a robot.
Juan and Stephanie, also secret superhumans. Stephanie weighs maybe 105/110 pounds and maintained 2nd place the entire way up. I do not understand.
Tip: The first two hours of the hike are the hardest. Keep this in mind and it will help you get there the hardest part! I recommend preparing music or a podcast to listen to push you through the hard parts. Or, be one with nature. Either way, you will get through it.
In the middle of the hike, I decide to blast music. Beyoncé herself and some others got me through the hike up. Also, after the first 2 hours, the path got a lot “easier.”
I stopped so many times in the hike, not just because I was tired, but because everything around me was breathtaking. I was overwhelmed so many times. I never stopped, because I realized how blessed I was during that hike. Not everyone gets to do these things and see what I’m able to see.
When my BFFs and I get to the camp site, all the tents are set up, the men making a fire– maybe it’s not so bad to be last? The view was absolutely gorgeous.
At night there was a full moon, an active volcano (Fuego) erupting, a view of Guatemala City, and a lightning storm. Complete magic.
Note: It’s worth it to do the overnight hike! I think one of the best parts is sleeping under the stars and watching Fuego erupt. It’s amazing.
The next morning we all woke up at FOUR in the morning to hike ANOTHER TWO HOURS UP. The hike in the morning tested me.
One person didn’t go, because she had been throwing up all night from the altitude. Within 10 minutes, one girl had to turn back. The altitude is a killer.
Hatie and I, power couple, made it up to the top together (about an hour after everyone else haha). One minute I’d say “If you want to turn back we can” and she’d say “No! We can do it” then later she’d say “I’m not sure if I can do this” and I’d encourage her. That went back and forth the entire way up.
We finally make it to the top. It was beautiful. I collapse into a “X” formation on the ground. What had I just done?
The way back down was too easy. My BFFs and I laughed about how many breaks we took on the way up and how completely miserable we were.We all decided we would have to be paid at least $2,000 to do the hike again.
The last 30 minutes, I transformed into half woman, half cheetah, sprinting for the finish line. I knew it was almost over.
Tip: don’t forget your headlamp for the morning hike! I know it may seem like at time it’s too much, POWER THROUGH! The top is the best part!!!!!
It Was Amazing. (Conclusion)
I am incredibly grateful I was able to finish the hike and that my body could endure that. It is an amazing feeling to push your body physically beyond what you think it is capable of.
After I was done with the hike, I promised myself I would do more things like this. I am already planning my next hike. I want to hike as many volcanoes as possible during my time in Guatemala. I know…. I’m a little crazy.
How Much is it to hike Acatenango Volcano?
Cost: 250Q/$33 (included tent, sleeping bag, mat rental, 2 guides, and food)
- Book your trip with a reputable company. You’ll want experienced and trustworthy guides! I think it’s worth the extra Q to go with a good company. Make sure the tour includes everything (tent, mat, food, etc.) — it’ll make your life so much easier!
- Train for the hike. The first two-hours are the hardest. I recommend cardio training or hiking Pacaya Volcano first.
- Do the overnight hike!!! (Don’t miss out on sleeping under the stars!) I know there are day-hikes, I recommend the overnight hike!!!!!
- You have to carry everything on your back. (water, tent, mat, food, etc.) Pack light.
- Bring enough water! Some people ran out of water. The guide had an emergency supply, but make sure to bring the recommended amount! (at least 2.5L or however much your guide recommends)
- Prepare for the altitude! Aspirin is helpful. Stay hydrated. I recommend being in Antigua for a few days before the hike to get acclimated.
Packing List for Acatenango Hike
Essential items to NOT forget!
- Water (and gatorade)
- snacks (granola bars, nuts, fruit)
- Hiking boots
- Hiking socks
- Portable charger for your camera or phone
- Water-proofing supplies (if you have electronics)
- Warm clothing (it’s freezing at night and in the early morning)
- Aspirin (or your go-tos to help with the altitude sickness)
- Camera or phone to take pictures (there are incredible views!!)
For a complete packing list and links to my favorite travel supplies, check out Female Backpacking Packing List!
Cheers to hiking and adventures! xoxo
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