Key information: Volcan Pacaya
- A classic active volcano. More magnificent and brooding than beautiful, but it is fascinating and has great views.
- Not a long walk, so a useful acclimatizer for the higher and tougher volcanoes.
- Walkopedia rating85.5
- Natural interest18
- Human interest8
- Negative points2
- Total rating85.5
- Note: Neg: Dusty and slightly dull track.
- Length: Variable
- Maximum Altitude: 2,522m
- Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
2,552m Pacaya is a classic active volcano, often with an intriguing plume of smoke rising from its summit (upper flank when Walko was there). It has to be said, it is more magnificent and brooding than beautiful, all grey lava and ash.
Depending on the activity of the volcano (an eruption in 2011 killed many), you are likely to get as far as 2,100m+, where you will nose around deep vents and lava spikes on the huge flow below the cone, and perhaps recoil at still-hot stones (it is said you can cook marshmellows in some vents) and admire a gorgeous view across to beautiful Agua volcano. People have not been able to climb the peak for a number of years.
You follow a dusty track from 1,830m, steeply at first but easing off a bit as it climbs steadily through scrub and fields and an unlovely collection of radio masts, reaching the shoulder between a minor peak and the main cone, which is a sea of broken hostile lava. A final steeper slog, when you can safely do it, will get you up the grand, Mordor-like, new rock and ash of the crater rim, which is of bright and strange rock, although this may not remain thus.
Some suggest camping on the upper slopes to gain some acclimitisation if you are climbing Pacaya as a starter walk, although it can be dusty and lacking a certain charm. This is best done as an afternoon walk.
7-10km, 3+hrs return to the summit, more like 1+hr up to the shoulder – a useful acclimatizer for the higher and tougher volcanoes.
It has to be said that, while Pacaya is a useful starter walk and is good for those who don’t want a long slog or significant altitude (it is the country’s most popular climb), there are many better volcano walks.
This is strenuous-ish walking on a high mountain with (at times) unpredictable weather Take it steadily and come prepared.
1.5hrs drive from Antigua, although the drive is interesting, with fine views of Acatenango and Fuego.
Much Better Adventures do an excellent (but challenging) 5 volcano challenge. Very good value as of 2022.
For more information and photos, including detailed practical information and some warnings, see our Guatemala’s Volcanoes page.
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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
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