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An Afternoon on Volcán Pacaya

Antigua, Guatemala“Quieres stick? Es necesario! Es necesario!” These were the first words I heard upon arrival of Volcán Pacaya. Stepping out of the van I was swarmed by a herd of local village children shoving sticks in my face. “No, yo no quiero. No quiero.” I responded and promptly shoved my way past them with [...]

Antigua, Guatemala

“Quieres stick? Es necesario! Es necesario!”

These were the first words I heard upon arrival of Volcán Pacaya. Stepping out of the van I was swarmed by a herd of local village children shoving sticks in my face.

“No, yo no quiero. No quiero.” I responded and promptly shoved my way past them with one hand on my bag only to be enveloped by men yelling “Taxi! Taxi!” on top of horses. No, I didn’t want a ‘taxi’ to the top of Pacaya either.

Voclan Pacaya is the one volcano in Guatemala that just about every tourist climbs. The major draw of Pacaya is that it’s an easy climb and it’s active. The last major eruption was in May and it showered down ash in Guatemala City and Antigua. I was curious what an active volcano would look like close up so I took the trip. It’s considered a ‘climb for everyone’ and if you don’t think you can make the climb don’t worry because there are the horse taxi’s waiting to take you on up. Also, don’t worry if you give out half way up the volcano. Those same horses will be following you up the volcano until the half way point.

It’s an easy climb and only takes about an hour and a half to walk up the volcano to the lava fields with another hour for the descent. You don’t actually go up to the crater of the volcano (although I’m sure it’s possible) but just to the base of the cone where you are surrounded by a barren field of black, volcanic rocks. Since the eruption in May I think this volcano is far less impressive than it would have been eight months ago. From the pictures shown at all around Antigua it looks as if you can actually see lava flows from the volcano. After the eruption it seems like Pacaya has settled down and the lava flows have disappeared. There were a couple crags where you could see some rocks glowing a faint red color but nothing that would turn out in a picture. These spots were good for giving you some heat to take the bite out of the wind, or for roasting marshmallows if you bought them from the guy standing next to the stick-selling children and the horse-taxis.

From Antigua 2010-11
The barren wasteland of Volcán Pacaya

The best part of the trip was the view of Volcán de Agua, Acatenango and watching Volcán de Fuego erupting in the distance with the sun setting. The descent was in the dark but I knew that ahead of time and brought a flashlight. Once back down the volcano the same group of small children once again bombarded me except this time they were screaming, “Quiero tu flashlight!”

From Antigua 2010-11
From left: Volcán de Fuego erupting, Volcán Acatenango and Volcán de Agua

Once again, “No!” You can’t have my flashlight, or a quetzal and no I don’t have any marshmallows. Overall, it was a good afternoon hike but after the eruption I think this trip is now completely over-hyped.

More pictures of Pacaya have been added to the Antigua Album.

Filed under: Cubicle Ditcher, Guatemala

About the Author:

Sam Langley left a comfortable and profitable job with an insurance company in the USA to travel the world. He has been going for years, and has not stopped yet. Keep up with his travels on his blog at Cubicle Ditcher. has written 147 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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  • Kate November 12, 2010, 2:28 pm

    How much do sticks cost? More or less than jaguar noise makers?

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  • Anonymous November 13, 2010, 12:08 am

    Sam,

    Good to hear you´re making the most of your time in Antigua! Beautiful pictures, too.

    I´m here in Xela and will start class on Monday with Educacion para Todos. Could you possibly send me the contact info of the young woman you mentioned who hired a private tutor? Also, what school did you study with?

    Thanks a ton.

    Sarah
    sarahehailey@gmail.com

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