Above the clouds – camping next to erupting volcano | GuatemalaReading Time: 5 minutes
Guatemala draws everyone’s attention by the breathtaking landscape of 33 volcanoes. With lots of different trials offering scenic views we found Volcano Acatenango to be the most exciting.To hike this giant became our dream after seeing pictures of it’s famous neighbour – Volcano de Fuego known as Volcano of Fire – one of the most active volcanoes in Central America erupting frequently.
There are lots of hiking tours from Antigua but we highly recommend to trek with Gilmer Soy Group. The price of 350Q (~34£) covers transportation both ways, entry fee for National park, 3 meals (vegetarian/vegan options available), tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat. The money from the tour will help local community with their projects for example funding a playground for kids in the village. Besides that you will trek with experienced and friendly tour guides.
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We were picked up from our Airbnb around 8 am and together with 10 more people went to grab snacks and meet our tour guides. Those who didn’t have warm clothes were offered to rent hats, scarfs, gloves and warm jackets. After little introduction we drove to our starting point (around 2000m). From there you can also rent a wooden trekking pole made by local ladies – it’s really worth to get one.
We knew it’s going to be a difficult hike but we didn’t expect it can be that tough. Walking through steep farmland we shortly run out of energy. Even though our camping gear and dinner was already set up at the base camp we still felt our backpacks heavy. The rest of the group disappeared in the tropical forest ahead and we stayed with one of our tour guides. They all have been so helpful and understanding all the way up. We weren’t rushed even once.
We had a couple of longer breaks along the trek for a snack and warm drink. On the certain level the temperature decreased and the thin altitude air was making us feel extremely tired. As we continued the trek the tropical heat changed into misty forest above the clouds level. With an extra time and multiple stops after 6 hours we made it to the base camp – 3360m.
In the meantime our tour guides set up a fire and heated up our dinner. Enjoying simple but tasty guatemalan dishes, talks with fellow travellers by the fire and hot cocoa drink we felt that we can finally rest and recharge. The views from the campsite were already out of this world. Before the sun went down we could see from time to time volcanic scenery between the clouds.
During the night we could hear de Fuego eruption few times. We managed to get out from our tent and watched red lava streams coming out of the crater. Looking at the sky full of stars and watching Fuego go off every few minutes made us forget all the drama along the way and reminded the stunning beauty of nature.
We woke up around 4:30 a.m. and started our hike to the summit. The idea of watching the sunrise from the top was really exciting until our tour guide mentioned the trek will take more than one hour. Because of the steep path filled with volcanic sand each step seemed like the biggest challenge! It was just 200 meters up but we felt it took ages and we almost missed the sunrise!
Having only 20 minutes to walk around we took lots of great shots and were lucky enough to watch de Fuego throw out the smoke again. Despite the wind, cold and exhaustion the view was just incredible. ‘Breathtaking’ is a bit of an overused word, but there are some moments in life that really do take your breath away.
Watching the sun come up in tranquility is pretty astounding at any time, but watching the sun break through the clouds from a viewpoint at 3,976 mts (13,044 ft), one of the highest points in Central America, is something truly special.
Afterwards we began to descend to the base camp and upon arrival were treated with a light breakfast and coffee. The way down to the village was much faster and took around 3 hours. Do yourself a favour and once you are back in Antigua treat yourself with an amazing dinner! Make sure you have time to recover cause your muscles will hurt, big time!
This was the most demanding hike we have ever done and moreover a great test of our physical and mental limits. Besides that we can honestly say that has been one of the biggest highlights of our trip to Central America.
We will urge everyone to take this trek really serious. With our little experience hiking volcanoes we still think this is really tough adventure.
What to bring, essentials:
- 3-4 litres of water,
- Warm clothes, jacket, two pairs of socks, gloves, hat, scarf,
- Waterproof clothes and rain cover for backpack,
- Good and comfortable hiking shoes,
- Pack of heat patches, wet wipes,
- Extra snacks, dried fruits, energy bars
- Flashlight, camera,