Hiking Acatenango Volcano is one of the best things to do in Antigua. Heck it’s one of the top things to do in Guatemala, correction, one of the top things to do in Central America because this Volcano Acatenango hike involves an overnight stay and the chance to see an active volcano erupt during the night.

In this article, I’ll go over everything you need to know to prepare for your overnight trek, what to expect on your Acatenango hike and give you my honest review.  At the end of the post, I’ll add any necessary tips that will aid you in your trip to Guatemala.

Hiking Acatenango Volcano

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Guatemala has 37 named volcanos and three of them are active – Pacaya, Fuego, and Santiaguito.  These volcanos attract travelers from all over the world to witness the shear power and beauty up close.

One of the best ways to do this is by hiking Acatenango Volcano on an overnight trek, spending the night on Acatenango Volcano which is adjacent to the active Fuego Volcano.

Fuego Volcano is extremely predictable with eruptions happening every half hour or so.  Therefore, travelers who can make the steep climb and brave the cold weather are almost guaranteed to see this volcano erupt in all its glory.

Since this is one of the best ways to view an active volcano, it also makes it one of the most popular things to do in Guatemala, therefore a little preplanning will only enhance your experience.  If you love adventure and don’t mind a little bit of physical activity, hiking Acatenango Volcano on an overnight trek will be right up your alley.

Hiking Acatenango Volcano
Volcanos in Guatemala

Acatenango Volcano Facts

Acatenango Volcano is one of the most iconic and imposing stratovolcanoes in Guatemala.  Here are some facts about Acatenango Volcano.

  • Location: Acatenango is part of the Central American Volcanic Arc and is located in the western part of Guatemala, near the city of Antigua.
  • Elevation: Acatenango Volcano is the third highest peak in Central America, standing at an impressive 13,045 feet (3,976 meters) above sea level.
  • Twin Volcanoes: Acatenango forms a twin volcano complex with Volcán de Fuego, an active stratovolcano.  The twin volcanoes are connected by a saddle known as La Horqueta.
  • Acatenango is a popular trekking destination, attracting adventurers who seek a challenging hike and breathtaking views of nearby Fuego Volcano.  The overnight Acatenango hike involves camping on the slopes of Acatenango.
  • Volcan Fuego: as it is called in Spanish, erupts often and quite frequently.
  • To witness these eruptions, you will have to hike up Acatenango, for front row views of Fuego.
  • While it is possible to hike Acatenango in a single day, spending the night is the most convenient and well-liked approach to see Fuego’s well-known eruptions.
  • Numerous tour companies provide overnight hikes to stay in their “base camp” on Acatenango, where you will enjoy breathtaking views of Fuego’s lava-spewing eruptions all night long.
  • Sunrise Views: One of the main attractions for hikers of Volcan Acatenango is the opportunity to witness a spectacular sunrise from the summit, with panoramic views of surrounding volcanoes and the distant landscapes of Guatemala.
Sunrise atop Acatenango watching Fuego erupt

Acatenango Volcano Hike Stats

Hiking Acatenango Volcano is a challenging and rewarding adventure that attracts outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.  Here are the stats.

  • Elevation Gain:  The Acatenango hike involves a substantial elevation gain.  Hikers typically start from an elevation of around 7,546 feet (2,300 meters) and ascend to the summit at 13,045 feet (3,976 meters).
  • Distance: The round-trip distance for the Acatenango hike is about 9 miles (not including hiking Fuego or to the summit for sunrise, I’ll explain more later on).
  • Duration: Hiking Acatenango Volcano is usually completed over a 2 day period.  The first day involves several hours of ascending to reach the high-altitude base camp, where hikers will spend the night (+ an optional hike to Fuego Volcano).  The second day includes an optional early mourning ascent to the summit for sunrise views, followed by the descent.
  • Type of Hike: Out and back
  • Difficulty:  Strenuous.  Participants should be in moderate/good physical condition.
  • Trail Terrain:  The trail is mainly volcanic dirt and rocks, with sections of loose gravel and volcanic rocks.  The trail includes steep and rocky sections, adding to the overall challenge.
  • Base Camp Altitude: The Acatenango base camp, sits at an elevation of around 11,800 feet or 3,600 meters.
  • Temperature: Due to high altitude, temptations on Acatenango can drop significantly, especially during the night.  Hikers should be prepared for cold conditions and possibly sub-zero temperatures at the summit.
  • Cost: 100Q entrance fee + the cost of your tour.
  • Views: Despite the challenging ascent, the panoramic views from Acatenango’s summit are breathtaking.  Hikers are rewarded with sweeping vistas of neighboring volcanoes, actively spewing Feugo and the surrounding landscapes of Guatemala.
Sunrise on Acatenango
Hiking Acatenango Volcano<br />

Best Time to go Hiking Acatenango Volcano

The best time to go hiking Acatenango Volcano to witness the eruptions of neighboring Volcán de Fuego is generally during the dry season in Guatemala.  The dry season typically spans from late November to early April.

Within this period, the months of December to February are considered particularly favorable for hiking due to clearer skies and more stable weather conditions.  Hiking Acatenango during the dry season provides better visibility, enhancing the chances of witnessing the volcanic activity of Fuego.

It’s crucial to note that while the dry season is generally more favorable, weather conditions can vary and it’s essential to be prepared for cooler temperatures, especially at higher elevations.

Hiking Volcanos in Guatemala

Guided Tour or Go at it Independently

If you want to see Fuego erupt, it’s best to be seen at night as you can’t see the lava from Fuego during the day, only smoke.  Therefore you will want to join a guided tour to experience this.

It is possible to hike Acatenango independently but only up and back in one day.  Camping on Acatenango independently is only possible if you camp inside the cone of Acatenango itself but that does not give you views of Fuego erupting.  Each company has a dedicated base camps that give great views of Fuego so it’s best to go on a tour.

Hiking Acatenango Hike
Acatenango Hike in Guatemala

My Experience Hiking Acatenango Volcano

My experience hiking Acatenango Volcano wasn’t the most pleasant.  Don’t get me wrong, watching Fuego Volcano erupt all night long was truly magically but the experience on the tour wasn’t so great.

Unless of course you enjoy being shuffled up and down the mountain like cattle and stuffed in a tent with strangers like sardines.  Don’t worry, I’m here to let you know about my experience so you can avoid it and have the best time possible.

The tour we booked was from a local tour operator.  If you book through your hostel or hotel, most of the time this means they will place you in a tour group that has open spaces.  Or just put you on a tour regardless of the space.  This is what happened to us, therefore I would not recommend this.

The day did not start off on the most positive foot.  After waiting in the sun for almost an hour (yes they were apparently on Guatemalan time), we boarded the overcrowded bus at 9:36am.  They told us to be out front of our hotel at 8:45am.

We booked this tour the night before at around 430pm.  The man selling us the tour said that including us, there was only 10 people in the tour.  On the bus I counted 22.

Next, they stopped on a back street where a couple different men got on the bus and handed out beanies, jackets and bags if you needed them.  This of course cost extra. 

Joe and I were prepared with the gear so we did not have to rent any but others on the bus did and they didn’t seem to care about sizes or fit or anything.  The guy sitting next to me couldn’t even get his gloves onto his hand. – Red flag number 3.

overnight Acatenango Trek

They then proceeded to hand out our lunch & dinner.  The meals were packed in bulky, awkward tupperware containers which we are now suppose to carry.  They specifically told us when we booked that we did NOT have to carry our food, just our water. – Red flag number 4.

Next, they insisted that we pay.  Pay our entrance fee of 100Q and the extra 200Q to hike Feugo.  The entrance fee I was aware of.  The extra 200 for Feugo we were told that we could decide at the top of Acatenango and pay our guide then.

We ended up not paying right away as we wanted to make a decision at the top depending on visibility etc.  They did not seem very happy that we refused to pay then and there.

Might I add that, there was no office, no structure, everything was extremely disorganized and from my perspective it seemed like all they wanted was our money.

Finally at 10:37 the bus started driving.  We arrived at the Acatenango trailhead at 11:23.  We didn’t start hiking til 11:45.  By this time there were about 40 or more people hiking together in our group.

Acatenango Volcano

What I’d do Differently

In theory, all of the tours will provide the same basic necessities – shelter, sleeping gear, food, cold weather gear for rent and a guide.  The quality of those necessities is what will set the tours apart from one another.

If I were to do this again, I of course would book a tour with a reputable tour company that caters to smaller groups and has a bilingual guide.  This will give you a better connection with your guide and your trek mates.

Honestly, I’m kind of embarrassed that I didn’t do a tad more research, aka read more blogs about hiking Acatenango Volcano on an overnight hike.  If I would have read a blog like this one, I could have avoided some unpleasantries.

Learn from my mistakes and book one of the tour companies below.  You can thank me in the comments 🙂.

Acatenango and Fuego at Sunset

Volcan Acatenango Tour Companies Recommendations

After our Acatenango adventure, I did some digging and asking around.  These are the companies that I would recommend booking with.

Wicho & Charlies – Organized, professional and patient.  Bilingual guides.  Accommodations are huts not tents, and you’ll get a pillow and blanket.  You can even book a private hut and/or rent a porter if you need help carrying your bag.

OX Expeditions – They pride themselves on being the most professional tour operator in Antigua, Guatemala.  They also give back to the community and are eco-friendly.

Trek Guatemala – Can book a private tour if desired.  Food is better than most.

Old Town Outfitters – One of the oldest tour operators in the country.

The strenuous hike up Acatenango
Hiking up Acatenango Volcano

What to Expect when Hiking Acatenango Volcano

Is it Difficult?

An overly dramatic yes!  I love to hike and I’m no stranger to intense hikes, the Acatenango hike was very, very difficult.  Don’t let this deter you though, anyone in average shape and the desire to adventure will be able to complete this hike.

Hiking to Base Camp

Hiking up to base camp was a doozy.  It’s 4.5 miles with an elevation gain of about 3,500 feet to base camp.  Without exaggeration, the first 3 hours of the hike were straight uphill.  No flat land to decompress on or catch your breath.  Three hours of straight up with heavy packs. ← More on this later.

The trail begins on fertile agricultural fields, where local farmers are actively at work.  About a mile up, theres even a restaurant where you can buy sandwiches, smoothies and what not.

Next you’ll enter an old-growth tropical cloud forest.  Think lots of flora and fauna as well as shade.  The slope is also pretty steep but there are a few places to stop and buy a drink (even beer) along the way.

About two hours in you will break for lunch.  Then you’ll enter a high-alpine forest which quickly opens up to views of neighboring volcanos.  This is where you start to really get excited, just try not to think of the pain.

At last, you’ll make the final push of the day to base camp and climb above the tree line.  This is where the wind will pick up and the terrain will feel more like a volcano.

Now, you can give yourself a pat on the back because you hiked a hell of a day.  Basecamp sits at about 12,000 feet, you earned that hot chocolate.  It’s not over yet though.

Fuego Volcano Erupting at Night

Hike to Volcan Fuego

Once you’ve had a rest, there’s an optional hike along la horqueta to Volcan Fuego.  This gets you up close and personal with the fiery beauty.  The hike to get closer to Fuego is 1.5 hours down and 2.5 hours back to basecamp.

You’ll be hiking in the dark so a headlamp is a must.  Hiking Fuego is an additional cost of 200Q (about $25).

I personally did not go on this hike.  Since we had such a large group it took 5 and a half hours to make it to base camp.  We arrived just at sunset and thankfully basecamp offered sweeping views of the Antigua Valley and Volcan Fuego.

Others in our group that did go on the additional Fuego hike didn’t get back to base camp til after 10pm, which meant that they didn’t get to eat dinner until 10:30pm.  I was happy with my choice of not going.  That being said, I’m sure the closer views of Fuego were absolutely amazing!  Dress warm!

Sunrise on Acatenango
Im Jess Traveling in front of Fuego Volcano

Hiking to the Summit of Acatenango for Sunrise

Another additional hike will start early in the morning about 4am.  This will take you to the summit of Acatenango, which is the third highest volcano in Central America.

The climb is much steeper than climber Volcan Fuego and only takes 45 minutes to summit.  At the summit you will have 360-degree views of the sunset and surrounding Guatemalan highlands.

This additional Acatenango hike has no additional cost.  Sunset from basecamp was pretty rad too.  Joe and I opted out of this hike as well and instead made ourselves some hot chocolate and huddled outside on some chairs with our sleeping bags to watch Fuego work her magic.

I’m glad we stayed at camp and posted up outside as we got some of our best shots just before and during sunrise.  People in my group who hiked for sunset said it was very, very cold and thought that it would have been comparable to staying at camp.

Food on the Acatenango Hike

Food on the Volcano Acatenango Hike

The food on the Volcano Acatenango hike was nothing to write home about.  I’m not going to lie, I was rather annoyed that we had to carry our own food up only because we were told that we would not need to carry our food.

The food was packed in awkward tupperware that our bags couldn’t really fit.  If we would have known beforehand that we would have to do this, then we would have packed a bit differently to accommodate the bulky items.

Okay, rant over.  Lunch consisted of a chicken salad, rice and a small roll.  Dinner was spaghetti noodles.  We also got a package of hot chocolate mix which I enjoyed very much in the wee hours of the morning.

Bringing extra snacks is always a good idea.  We packed some snicker bars and a few pastries that we were stoked to have at various points throughout our adventure.

Accommodations on the Acatenango Hike in Guatemala

Accommodations on the Acatenango Volcano Overnight Hike

Most if not all of the campsites will look directly over Fuego Volcano.  I know this because we flew the drone at sunrise and saw dozens of camps above and below us.

Our campsite composed of tents that had 6 sleeping bags inside each tent on top of a cushion.  Unless you’re hiking with 5 of your fellow friends, you’ll be sharing your accommodations with strangers you just met on the hike.

And quarters are tight.  Thankfully, Joe and I were able to hop in a tent that only had 5 sleeping bags so we had more room than most.

Either way, sleeping isn’t really the priority on this adventure.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend your evening and night gasping at volcanic eruptions and staring up at a sky full of stars.  It’s truly an unforgettable experience.

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    Acatenango Trek Itinerary

    Day 1:

    Below I’ll list the itinerary that was sold to us although that was not the time frame of my trek.  We didn’t start hiking til about 11:45 and didn’t arrive to basecamp til a little after 5pm.  Larger groups = longer wait times for everyone to catch up.

    • 9am pick up from your hotel in Antigua.
    • 1.5 hour bus ride (windy, bumpy roads) to the start of the hike at La Soledad
    • 11am begin Volcano Acatenango hike
    • 1pm lunch break
    • 3pm arrive at base camp
    • 4pm start hike to Fuego
    • 730-8ish return to base camp, dinner and hot chocolate by the fire.

    Day 2:

    • 4am wake up call for Acatenango summit sunrise hike
    • 5:45am sunrise
    • 6:30am light breakfast at base camp & pack up your things
    • 7:30am start decent to La Soledad
    • 12pm arrive back in Antigua
    Hiking Acatenango Volcano
    At basecamp of Acatenango

    What to Wear for Hiking Acatenango Volcano

    You’ll want to pack warm layers for hiking Acatenango Volcano.  It gets very cold at the summit especially once the sun goes down.  I hiked Volcan Acatenango during December which is one of the coldest months in Guatemala.

    I hiked in pants, tank top and lighter long sleeve top for most of the hike.  During every break, I’d have to put on my jacket but once we started making our way up again the layers would come off.

    I would definitely bring another warm top, extra socks, gloves, beanie and puffy jacket for hanging around base camp.  Don’t worry, if you don’t have any of these items you can rent most of the gear with your tour operator.

    Sturdy shoes are a must.  I travel with my Danner 600 Hiking Boots and I love them.  I saw a lot of people hiking in trainers though, it will be tougher going down than going up.

    If you plan on wearing trainers, then hiking poles would be necessary.  You can more than likely rent poles with your tour operator or from a rental shop in Antigua.  You can also rent a stick for 10Q at the base of the hike where the collectivos drop you off.

    Fuego Volcano erupting at sunset

    What to Pack for the Acatenango Volcano Overnight Hike

    You’ll have to carry all your supplies, including water.  It is recommend to carry 5L of water, 4L to drink and 1L to donate for making dinner and hot chocolates.  I personally didn’t need all of that water and we ended up donating 4L of water which I would have enjoyed not carrying half of that up the mountain.

    Here’s a list of what I recommend to bring:

    Acatenango Volcano Guide

    Cost of Hiking Acatenango Volcano on an Overnight Trek

    You definitely get what you pay for.  Hiking Acatenango Volcano on an overnight trek will cost anywhere from $75 for the bare minimum to $250 for a private tour and digs.

    Obviously, nicer the amenities the more expensive it will be.  Here are some other costs to consider.

    • Park entrance fee: Q100 ($14 USD)
    • Rental equipment: Depending on what you need, you’ll have to pay extra for rental equipment that isn’t covered in the cost of the tour. Each piece of equipment, from gloves, beanies, trekking bags, hiking poles, jackets etc, will cost around Q10 and up.
    • Porters: Hiring a porter for the hike up costs Q200, or Q250 if you have a heavy bag.
    • Food: Food was included but you’ll want to bring extra snacks.  We paid $2 per snicker bar (4 bars total) and it was worth every penny.
    • Extra Fuego hike: 200Q extra to hike to Volcan Fuego.

    Tips for Hiking Acatenango Volcano

    • You may experience altitude sickness.  Try to spend a few days in Antigua before attempting this hike to acclimate.
    • Pack light!
    • It is possible to hire a porter to carry your bag up the mountain, check with your tour company before hand.
    • If you get hurt or can’t imagine hiking back down the volcano you can pay $150 per person to get down the mountain by truck.
    • Bring extra quetzal for the entrance fee, Fuego hike and snacks along the way.
    • Get an eSIM for your phone to stay connected with a local high-speed data network while you travel.
    • Don’t forget to BYOTP – Bring your own toilet paper.

    Hiking Acatenango Volcano Vlog

    Would you rather see for yourself what an adventure up Acatenango Volcano looks like?  We filmed a vlog of our experience hiking Acatenango Volcano on an overnight trek to see Fuego erupting.

    Check it out after you read this post and please subscribe or give us a thumbs up.  It doesn’t cost you anything and really helps us be able to continue creating free content for you to enjoy 🙂.

    Hiking boots on Acatenango Trail

    Other Noteworthy Hikes to Add to Your Bucket List

    Looking for more worldwide trekking adventures?  I have only just started to properly document all of my hiking/trekking excursions.  Below are a few hikes that stand out from the rest.

    Salkantay Trek – 46 miles in completion that takes you through rugged mountain terrain and connects Cusco to Machu Picchu.  The maximum elevation of this trek is at 15,090 feet at the Salkantay Pass.

    Colca Canyon – Offers trekkers a chance to spot soaring condors, stay in an oasis on the canyon floor, witness some of Peru’s most beautiful landscapes, bathe in thermal hot springs and hike through desert scenery.

    Valbona to Theth Trek – An adventure through the Albanian Alps hiking connecting Valbona and Theth National Park.

    Haleakala Volcano – Hiking into the world’s largest dormant volcano on Maui, staying the night in a cabin and hiking out another route.

    Rysy Peak – Hiking to Poland’s highest peak starting in Slovakia.

    Things to do in Guatemala

    Final Thoughts on Hiking Acatenango Volcano

    Lastly, if there’s anything I missed that you think would be beneficial to future hikers, let me know in the comments below.  I try to keep my guides as up-to-date as possible, so share your experiences and any useful information that could help out your fellow travelers. 

    If you are planning your trip to Guatemala, I spent 7 weeks traveling around this beautiful country so check out the travel guides below 👇.

     More Guatemala Travel Guides ↓

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