The Pacaya volcano tour is one of those “must do’s” while in Antigua, Guatemala. Pacaya is one of the most active volcanoes in the world with it’s most recent eruption (as of June, 2014) in March, 2014. When you reach the top you can toast marshmallows over the (natural) steam vents.
The top is about 2 miles from where the hike begins. Fortunately, you can pick how you want to get to there – hike, horse taxi, or pickup truck. Before we went, Carrie and I read a review on TripAdvisor that is fitting to share, now that we survived!
Here’s the brutal truth… Pacaya kicked our butts. I made it about ¾ of 1 mile .. not even ½ way and gave up just before a massive coronary and/or aneurism kicked in. Within 200 yards I knew I’d never make it as the grade was brutal. At about ¼ mile I’m dizzy from breathing so hard, but I will myself on. My legs aren’t a problem.. It’s mostly my lungs. I pass a few red faced people with a look in their eyes that says.. “save yourself.. turn back..” I pass Lance Armstrong who looks beaten. A little further up, I see a couple of Maasai tribesman .. breathless. At about the ¾ mile mark I see a couple of Nigerian marathoners calling it quits. It’s THAT tough.
Knowing what we were in for we brought enough money to hire a “taxi,” if needed but, despite fair warning, we wanted to attempt the hike first. When we got off the shuttle and had paid our Q50 each park entrance fee the guide explained that we could either take a horse “taxi” for Q100 or he could drive us up in the back of a pickup for Q50 each. Clearly, we all looked incapable of tackling Pacaya. Fortunately, a member of our group spoke fairly fluent Spanish and was able to tell him we were walking whether he liked it or not. (She was also the only one who made it the whole way! Bravo, Olivia!) Five people chose to jump in the pickup and a few minutes later we four brave walkers were on our way. The horse taxis followed us like vultures waiting for a carcass to drop.
Carrie and I made it about 500 feet until we were begging the horse taxi boys to take our Q’s. The third walker made it about halfway. The displaced taxi boys and the guide gasping for air clung desperately to horse tails for help up.
The view on the way up was spectacular. And much more enjoyable via los caballos!
At the top is a little stand selling volcano souvenirs to raise money for the children of the hundreds of families whose homes were destroyed by the major eruption in 2010.
From this point on you walk through the lava rock fields until you come to the steam vents. The rocks are so hot they can melt your soles.
The reward for reaching the top? Toasting marshmallows!
We decided we weren’t complete marshmallows ourselves and walked down rather than taxi. As we hiked a noise startled us and there to our amazement was the plume of a volcanic eruption in the distance.
We were also rewarded with a view near sunset that was so gorgeous it even stopped the guide dog in his tracks.
All in all a great experience (except for the shuttle service. We do not recommend Maya’ch Expeditions. They were 30 minutes late to pick us up, got lost on the way there, drove like maniacs, tried to dump the whole shuttle full of us at one spot in Antigua – in the rain – and then, when we all refused to get out, got lost trying to find the right hotels (Antigua is really small!) That being said, the drivers were nice enough, just not experienced.)
Audrey and Carrie – two marshmallows who got our butts toasted by a volcano