Guatemala is located on the ‘ring of fire’, a region along the Pacific Ocean rim where many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur. Because of the country’s location along this ring of fire, Guatemala is home to several volcanoes, both active and dormant. Perhaps Guatemala ‘s most famous active volcano is Fuego Volcano (‘Volcán Fuego). Fuego is ALWAYS erupting and so hiking up another dormant volcano, Acatenango Volcano, is a popular overnight hike to view Fuego erupting throughout the night. In fact, hiking Acatenango Volcano is one of the best things to do in Antigua, Guatemala.
In this article, you will learn everything about what is needed to hike Acatenango volcano. We learned so much during the entire process, both the hike AND planning before, and we want to detail everything we learned.
Hiking Acatenango - Article Content
Hiking Acatenango - FAQ
How long does it take to hike Acatenango Volcano?
The time it takes to hike Acatenango volcano depends entirely on your abilities. But most people will be able to reach Acatenango’s basecamp area in 4-5 hours from the trailhead.
Is Volcano Acatenango active?
No, Acatenango volcano is a dormant and safe volcano to climb. Every day, hundreds of hikers are hiking and summiting Acatenango. But it is Acatenango’s sister, Fuego Volcano, that is still very active and continuously erupting.
When did Acatenango last eruption?
Acatenango last erupted in 1928, and has been dormant since. But Acatenango’s neighbor volcano, Fuego, is continuously erupting. The last major eruption was in 2018, killing hundreds of people who lived in the villages below.
What Is The Best Time To Hike Acatenango?
In Antigua, there is a 6-month dry season from November to April. After April, the rainy season arrives from May to October.
Because of the climate, the best time to hike is during Antigua’s dry season. But the climate on Acatenango can differ greatly than down in Antigua and there are no guarantees of great climbing weather no matter when you go.
For the best chance for hiking Acatenango in great weather, you can refer to this handy Acatenango Weather Forecast website. But even tour guides in Antigua will admit that the weather in Acatenango is difficult to predict.
Is It Safe To Hike Acatenango Volcano?
Though there is always a chance of a major eruption from Fuego Volcano, the chance is small and hundreds of hikers are hiking through Acatenango and Fuego daily.
However, there have been reports of theft at campsites when hikers leave their tents unattended to hike Acatenango’s summit. This is one of the major reasons why we suggest going with a tour group, as opposed to hiking Acatenango yourself. But we have also heard of many people hiking Acatenango safely by themselves.
How Much Does It Cost To Hike Acatenango
Entrance Fee: 50Q (~$6 US)
Camping Fee*: 60Q (~7)
Tour Guide Cost: 250-700Q ($33-$90)
Optional Hike To Fuego: ~200Q ($26)
*The camping fee is not always collected at basecamp. Sometimes the locals come and ask for payment. Sometimes they don’t. You are more likely to have to pay this camping fee on the weekend than during weekdays.
What Does Hiking Overnight To Acatenango Volcano Involve?
“Hiking Acatenango” usually involves 3 different sections. The first section is mandatory, the next two sections are optional.
1. Hiking To Acatenango Basecamp
All overnight hikes to Acatenango involve a 4-5 hour hike to Acatenango’s basecamp. This is the camping zone where all tours and individual campers set up their tents. In this camping zone, virtually all sites have a view to Fuego Volcano. So at night, you can camp and see Fuego bursting lava rocks all night long.
2. Hiking To Acatenango Summit
Once at the Acatenango basecamp, you may have the option to hike to the summit of Acatenango for sunset and/or sunrise. It is about a 1.5 hour hike from the basecamp. And if the weather is good, you can see several lakes (including Lake Atitlán), several far off volcanos, and even Guatemala’s pacific cost.
3. Hiking To Fuego Volcano
Onward hiking to Fuego Volcano, once you reach Acatenango’s basecamp, is popular. This is a 4 hour round trip strenuous hike and allows you to get up close and personal to Fuego volcano as she erupts. You get so close to Fuego that you can feel the earth shake below you during many of the larger eruptions
Hiking Acatenango: Day Trip vs Overnight Hike
The vast majority of travelers hiking Acatenango do so as an overnight hike. This allows you to witness Fuego volcano erupting at night. This is special because you can only see the red color lava stones at night. During the day, you won’t see any red color on Fuego.
Hiking Acatenango as a day trip is only for people who are on a time crunch, tight budget, or who very much dislike camping.
If you are interested in hiking Acatenango, and your budget allows, we highly recommend visiting Acatenango overnight and camping at basecamp.
Can You Hike Acatenango Without A Tour Guide?
Yes, it is absolutely possible to hike Acatenango without a tour guide and by yourself. First you’ll need to decide if you want to hike Acatenango as a day hike or as an overnight hike.
Acatenango Day Hike
There is a ‘chicken bus’ stop right at the Acatenango trail head. All the official tour groups stop at this same stop. Simply find the right bus that passes through Acatenango and get off at the stop. The trail to the summit of Acatenango is straightforward and well-worn. But using the offline Maps.me app can help you find the right path. The hike from the trailhead to the summit should take 6-8 hours.
Acatenango Overnight Hike
To do the Acatenango overnight hike without a guide, you will need a tent, winter sleeping bag (it can feel -5 to -15 degrees C after windchill), food, and 4-5 liters of water. Once you get to the camping zone, you will see that most of the flat areas are reserved for tour groups. Many of these sites have permanent camping structures already set up. But walk enough around the camping zone and you will see a number of empty spots where you can pitch your tent. If you are an experienced hiker and tent camper, doing the Acatenango overnight hike is very possible.
Acatenango Tour - Choosing The Right Tour Company
Though it is possible to hike Acatenango without a guide for experienced campers, the vast majority of visitors choose to go with a tour company. However, choosing the right Acatenango tour is tricky and confusing. But we learned a lot about the process.
In this section, we break down everything you need to know about how to choose the right Acatenango tour company for you.
Benefits Of Going With A Tour To Acatenango Volcano
Although you pay more money to hike the same volcano and have the same views, going with a tour company offers several key benefits:
- Tent & Sleeping Gear | Many reputable tour companies will have their campsite already set up so you don’t need to carry your own tent and sleeping bag up to Acatenango base camp.
- Clothing & Hiking Gear | If you don’t have the proper cold weather clothing and hiking gear, it’s no problem. Tour companies often provide essential gear complimentary or for a small additional fee.
- Food and Cooking | All the meals you will need will be bought and prepared for you. You may have to carry your own food, but they will provide the food for you and will prepare your hot meals at the campsite.
- Convenient Transportation | Comfortable shuttle buses are provided from Antigua to the trailhead and back to Antigua.
- Social Atmosphere | Depending on the day you go, your hiking group might be anywhere from 5-20 people. We’ve found that bigger groups aren’t necessarily a bad thing as this allows you to socialize and bond with others over the hiking experience.
- Support Local Economy | Tour groups almost always hire ONLY locals, who grew up in the surrounding villages. They will be your tour guides, your driver, and porters. By choosing a tour company, you are helping to support these people who live on the very land that you are hiking through.
The Confusion When Choosing The ‘Best’ Acatenango Tour Company
There are so many tour companies in Antigua that want to take you to Acatenango. And they all claim that they are ‘the best’. The best views, the best food, the best social atmosphere, and only supporting local economies.
So it can be confusing as to which tour company is the best for you.
In reality, the experience of hiking Acatenango is roughly 90% the same, no matter which tour company you choose. You will be hiking the same trail and witnessing the same gorgeous eruptions of Fuego Volcano.
But the last 10% can really make or break your experience. We discuss what you should look out for when visiting the different Acatenango tour companies in Antigua.
What To Look For When Choosing The Best Acatenango Guide
- Sleeping Arrangement | Some tour companies provide tents to sleep in. Other companies provide proper shelters. Some companies provide private tents and shelters. With other tours, you will need to squeeze into tents and shelters with other hikers. In our tour, we were provided sturdy A-frame, sheet metal shelters that fit 8 people. These shelters really helped protect against the wind and rain and preferred instead of sleeping in tents. You should ask the agency what their sleeping arrangement is.
- Food Quality | To save money, some tour groups provide cheap meals (think rice & unseasoned boiled vegetables). Other tour companies are more generous and provide more nutritious hiking food (chicken and lentils). Our tour provided vegan meals, but each of our meals was high quality and calorie dense. We were never hungry during our time on Acatenango. Ask each of the tour agencies for pictures of the meals they provide to their clients.
- Exact Location of Campsite For View of Fuego | Even though you are hiking up Acatenango, the real sight is Fuego Volcano as it erupts red lava stones at night. And though all campsites will have views of Fuego, some campsites have a less obstructed and better viewing angle of Fuego volcano. Ask each of the tour agencies for pictures of Fuego from their campsites.
- Additional Side Hikes Offered? | All tour groups will get you to Acatenango’s base camp and to Acatenango’s summit for sunrise, often for an additional fee. But not all tours will offer side hikes to Fuego Volcano or to Acatenango’s summit for sunset. We talk more about these side hikes further below in this article, but we think these side hikes are worth it! It’s good to ask the tour agencies if they provide these side hikes.
- Group Size | Some of the cheaper tours will try to pack as many people as they can into each group. We’ve heard of group sizes as large as 40. Other agencies will try to limit their group sizes to 10 or 15. Although you won’t know the exact number of people in your group until you show up the morning of the hike, it’s good to ask each agency what their maximum group size is.
So, with the above 5 things to look for when choosing an Acatenango tour group, which tour groups do we recommend? Below we discuss 4 different Acatenango tour groups and list their advantages and disadvantages.
Top 4 Acatenango Tour Companies
Wicho & Charlie’s - Acatenango Tour
We went with Wicho & Charlie’s for our overnight Acatenango hike and had an amazing experience. We would recommend this tour group without hesitation.
- Delicious meals (all meals are vegan, but high quality and nutrient dense)
- English speaking guides who clearly love their job
- Sleeping in sturdy A-frame, sheet metal shelters. High quality sleeping bags.
- Optional hikes to Fuego and Acatenango’s summit for sunset.
- Sheltered dining room area.
- A little pricier than most other tour companies. We paid 450Q per person.
- We had great views of Fuego from our campsite, but we think other campsites have better angles.
- For the price of the tour, we were disappointed to see that they rent 40-liter backpacks for 50Q. We think backpacks should be included if you need them.
For more information on our Wicho & Charlie’s experience, skip down to our Hiking Itinerary section.
CA Travelers - Acatenango Tour
We visited the CA Travels tour agency and came away impressed. We had close friends who chose CA Travels and enjoyed their tour experience.
- Delicious meals: BBQ chicken & rice for lunch, spaghetti bolognese for dinner. They even have gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options.
- Tents are already set up at the campsite. They are 3-person tents, but are for 2 people. So if you go as a couple, you get a private tent.
- Good quality sleeping bags
- Great value. Our friends paid 350Q per person.
- No optional side hikes to Fuego Volcano or Acatenango summit for sunset.
- Sleeping in tents instead of sturdier shelters.
This is the premier Acatenango tour agency in Antigua. OX Expeditions is the oldest company to provide tours to Acatenango and was started by foreign trekking enthusiasts. They are the most expensive tour group, but always have the most up-to-date gear.
- Great guide service
- Optional hikes included to Fuego Volcano
- Great quality equipment
- Good viewing angle of Fuego Volcano at campsite.
- The most expensive tour group, $89 US per person. Questionable value for money.
- You need to carry all your tent and camping equipment with you to the basecamp. When we were hiking down, we saw the OX Expedition group carrying their own camping gear up the volcano. Unless you’re seeking an ‘authentic’ trekking experience, why?!
Tropicana Tours are tied to Tropicana Hostel in Antigua. This should already tell you what kind of tours they provide.
- Cheapest ‘good-quality’ tour. 300Q per person.
- The best views of Fuego Volcano from campsite.
- Social atmosphere with the hostel crowd.
- Travellers are squeezed into tents
- No optional side-hike to Fuego Volcano
- Large group (if large groups aren’t your thing)
- No hiking gear is included for free. Everything, from hats to gloves, to sweaters, to hiking shoes is rented for a price.
Which Acatenango Tour We Chose
We chose to go with the popular tour company Wicho & Charlies. We felt that for the price we paid (450Q per person), we got great value for our experience.
Sleeping | A slept in a group A-frame, sheet metal shelter that fit a people. A 6” air-mattress was provided and a high-quality sleeping bag and pillow. We’ve heard of others being too cold to sleep when in their tents, but we were never cold all night long.
Food | All our food was vegan, and as meat eaters, we thought the food was great! Food was delicious, well prepared, and nutrient dense. We were also given a snack back filled with fruits, peanuts, and granola bars. We were never hungry at any point during our hike.
Guides | All our local guides could speak great English and really loved interacting with all the hikers in our group. They were knowledgeable of the terrain and shared some of that knowledge during the hike. They all really seemed to love their work and took pride in the quality of their service.
Optional Hike To Fuego Volcano | For 200Q per person more, we were given the option of hiking with a guide to Fuego Volcano. That hike was tough! But we got incredibly close to Fuego right at sunset. Absolutely worth the trek if you want to get up close and personal to Fuego Volcano.
Hiking Acatenango - Our Hiking Itinerary
Day 1 - Morning
On the day of our departure for Acatenango, we met at the Wicho & Charlie’s office in Antigua, Guatemala at 8am. Once there, we were briefed about our overnight hike to Acatenango and were advised what clothes to bring and how much water we should put in our backpacks.
The most basic clothes, such as jackets, fleece sweaters, hats, gloves. and head lamps were free to rent. Other less essential items, like trekking poles, hiking boots, and socks could be rented for a fee. Backpacks were also available for rent, which we thought should be provided for free.
Our shuttle bus then picked us up at 9:30 and it was an hour to get to the Acatenango trilhead.
Once we alighted our shuttle, we were introduced to our 3 trail guides and promptly began the hike at 10:45am.
During the first hour we hiked through steep farmland at the volcano’s base. Many farmers here take advantage of the nurtrient rich volcanic soil to grow everything from corn to beans to avocados.
It wasn’t until the second hour of our hike that we entered the the Acatenango regional park and had to pay our entrance fee of 50Q (~$6 US). Once we were in the park, we were immediately surrounded by a lush tropical forest. It was a drastic change in landscape from the farmland that we were hiking earlier.
Within 2 hours of starting our hike, we finally sat in a small clearing to eat lunch. At Wicho & Charlie’s, lunch was a bowl of mixed rice and beans with artificial mined meat (made from dehydrated soy) and guacamole. It might not look like much in the photo, but it was delicious!
Day 1 - Afternoon - Continuing To Acatenango Basecamp
After lunch, we continued to hike through the forest. Eventually the trees became less dense as we climbed higher and higher in altitude. But we made plenty of rest breaks along the way, roughly every 20-30 minutes.
By 3:30pm, we arrived at basecamp and got our sleeping arrangement sorted out. At Wicho & Charlie’s, they have chairs already set up by a campfire so you can rest your feet while looking over at Fuego Volcano.
By 4:15pm, those that wanted to hike over to Fuego Volcano had to depart now so that we could arrive by sunset. It was an additional 200Q (~$26 US) per person and an arduously steep hike, but absolutely worth the effort.
Day 1 - Evening - Sunset Hike To Fuego Volcano
We arrived at the viewing point ridge close to Fuego just before sunset at 6:15pm. From this point we could see both the sunset to the west and Fuego right next to us! It was cold and windy on the ridge and we stayed for about an hour snapping pictures of Fuego until it was time to leave.
It was a long 2 hour hike back to basecamp and we arrived just after 9pm. Gratefully, a hot meal of lentil curry over rice was waiting for us. After dinner we enjoyed a hot cup of hot chocolate and went to sleep. We were extremely grateful for the sturdy A-frame shelters, which did a great job protecting us from the wind and rain that night.
Day 2 - Morning - Sunrise At Acatenango Volcano
We woke up just before 4am with the intention to climb up to Acatenango’s summit for sunrise. The view of Fuego Volcano was clear, but because of the thick cloud cover just below Fuego, our guide admitted that we wouldn’t get the far reaching views of Guatemala today.
So we opted to skip the sunrise hike and simply take more nighttime photos of Fuego just before the sun came up. There is a great sunrise viewpoint just 3 minutes from our basecamp, which we went to, to watch the sun rise.
After sunrise, we ate our breakfast of instant oatmeal and more hot chocolate.
By 7:45 we began hiking down. It only took about 2.5 hours to get back to the trailhead and that is where we met our shuttle bus to take us back to Antigua.
Top Tips For Hiking Acatenango Volcano
1. Bring Hiking Poles For Hiking Acatenango
The path up to Acatenango’s basecamp is steep and sandy. So having a pair of hiking poles can really help you. If you don’t have hiking poles, or the tour company doesn’t provide/rent them, you can rent fair quality wood sticks for 5Q each. These hiking poles/sticks are even more invaluable if you plan to hike to Fuego Volcano and/or to Acatenango’s summit. Those paths are extremely steep and sandy.
2. Check The Weather App When Before Booking Tour Date
Check the Acatenango Weather before finalizing and booking your tour date. Many tours are non-refundable and you will hike rain or shine. On this weather website, look for clear nights, clear mornings, low wind, and NO RAIN.
However, as with all weather websites, take these predictions with caution. The weather always changes and is unpredictable, especially on mountains. But this website can help you make the best guess at the time.
3. Don’t Be Afraid Of Larger Groups
In general, we like to visit places with less tourists, outside peak visitor hours, or, if we have to join a group, join a smaller, more private group. The size of our Wicho & Charlie’s group to Acatenango was 15. Originally we would have shied away from a group that size, but it turns out we really enjoyed meeting and talking with everyone in our group. It was fascinating to meet others from different countries and cultures and experience the same arduous hike together.
4. Avoid The Weekends, Especially Saturday, If Possible
Having mentioned in Tip #3 not to fret about being part of a larger group, we really advise not hiking up Acatenango on the weekends, especially Saturday. Tour sizes that go on the weekends can be massive with potentially over 1,000 hikers on Acatenango at once. Not only do Guatemala’s domestic tourists hike Acatenango on the weekends, but many foreigners in Antigua will be taking Spanish classes during the weekdays and will opt to hike Acatenango on the weekend. If you can hike Acatenango anytime between Monday-Thursday, the volcano will be considerably quieter when you’re there.
5. Perseverance & Determination Is The Most Important
The hike up Acatenango is strenuous. The path is steep, sandy, and hot. People will say you need to be fit, that you need to train weeks ahead of time, and that you even need proper hiking gear to make it. All these things are important, but not necessary. The most important thing to have is perseverance and determination to get to the end.
We’ve seen hikers wearing city sneakers successfully hike Acatenango volcano. And we’ve seen people with little to no hiking experience successfully hike Acatenango. You just need to be able to put one foot in front of the other, no matter how tired you are, and you’ll make it to your basecamp well before sunset. Just remember to take plenty of breaks and drink lots of water, which brings us to our last tip…
6. Bring Plenty Of Water
To make it to Acatenango’s basecamp and back down, you’ll need a MINIMUM of 3 liters of water. If you intend to hike to Acatenango’s summit or to Fuego Volcano, you will need, at a minimum, 4 liters.
Between the two of us, we brought a total of 12 liters of water (6 liters for each of us). Our tour guides took 2 liters from us (and each hiker) to make dinner and breakfast. We also hiked to Fuego Volcano for sunset. By the time we made it back down to the trailhead the next day, we only had 1.5 liters of water left.
Drinking lots of water also helps to prevent altitude sickness. So keep drinking!
Optional Hike 1: Hiking To Fuego Volcano - Is It Worth It?
On the day we arrived to Acatenango’s basecamp, we were given the option to hike onwards to Fuego Volcano for sunset. This was an arduous 4-hour round trip hike that gets you dangerously close to Fuego for some incredible eruptions. But this hike is HARD. For us, it was harder than the hike to get to basecamp. Not only is the hike to Fuego steeper and sandier than to Acatenango’s basecamp, but we were already pretty tired when we started. So, did we think the hike to Fuego was worth it?
The answer is…IT DEPENDS! It depends on what you want to get out of your hike to Fuego Volcano.
If the reason for the hike is to get up and close to Fuego and to really feel the earth shake with every large eruption, then you absolutely need to hike Fuego. From the final viewpoint, you can actually see rocks flying into the sky and landing only several kilometers in front of you.
If your reason to hike to Fuego Volcano is simply to ‘get a better picture of Fuego’, then the answer, to us, isn’t so clear. The problem with this reason is that you spend 4 hours hiking to Fuego and back. We were only actually looking straight at Fuego for 45 minutes. That’s 4 hours of lost time not admiring and photographing Fuego from basecamp. And with a proper zoom lens, you can still get fantastic photos of Fuego from basecamp.
To get that perfect photo of Fuego, you need to wait for a big eruption, which doesn’t come along that often. Small and medium eruptions are much more frequent. But to get that really good shot, you need to sit and wait for it. So if that big eruption doesn’t happen during the 1 hour that you are standing close to Fuego, then you are out of luck and have to head back to basecamp before it gets too cold and late.
Optional Hike 2: Hiking To The Summit Of Acatenango Volcano - Is It Worth It?
Hiking to the summit of Acatenango for either sunset or sunrise (or both!) is another optional hike from basecamp. Just like with the hike to Fuego Volcano, it is a very strenuous 1.5-hour hike to Acatenango’s summit. But once you are there, you are met with amazing 360-degree views all across Guatemala.
So, is it worth it to hike to the summit of Acatenango Volcano?
The answer is…again…IT DEPENDS! And the biggest factor is the weather. If the weather is foggy, cloudy, or rainy, you won’t see much when you get to Acatenango’s summit. All that hard work to hike to the top for minimal views.
BUT if the weather is clear, or even semi-clear, hiking to Acatenango’s summit is the quintessential thing to do when hiking Acatenango. From the summit, you can clearly see many of Guatemala’s volcanoes in the distance, Lake Atitlán, and even the pacific coast!
And you even get some really gorgeous views and photos of Fuego from up there.
What To Wear & Pack When Hiking Acatenango
Remember, even at Acatenango’s basecamp, you will be above 3,600m in altitude. Though temperatures are quite comfortable during the day, temperatures drop quickly once the sun starts to set. Temperatures at night can get to around 0° C, but with windchill, it can feel closer to -5 to -15° C.
That being said, it’s important to layer up at night. When you’re hiking, you might only be hiking in your t-shirt. But by sunset, you’ll definitely be wearing every single layer you brought with you. It’s cold at basecamp and even colder and windier at Fuego and at Acatenango’s summit!
What To Wear To Acatenango
Lots of Acatenango tour agencies also provide for free (or for rent) the clothes needed to spend the night at basecamp.
What To Bring To Acatenango
Assuming you join a tour that already provides sleeping arrangements at basecamp (tent/shelter + sleeping bag) you will need to bring these additional items:
Final Thoughts: Hiking Acatenango Volcano
Supporting Acatenango’s Local Communities
For everyone that joins an official Acatenango hiking tour, they are directly supporting the local people who live in the villages surrounding Acatenango Volcano.
When we were hiking, I got to speak a little bit with our local tour guides about working as hiking guides. A lot of them started hiking Acatenango as early as 11 years of age and earning money as simple porters carrying bags for hikers up and down the volcano.
Gradually as they gained hiking and English language experience, they can become guides. Some of them have hiked up and down Acatenango literally thousands of times over the years.
At the end of our tour, our guides made sure we knew that they really appreciated our business that directly helped to support their livelihood.
The Power Of Mother Earth
We love hiking in nature, but there is something about witnessing an active volcano up close that is so powerful and thought provoking; that there is something much greater than ourselves. From the stars, to the mountain tops, to endless ocean views, and to actively erupting volcanoes, mother earth is so incredibly beautiful, dynamic, and dominant. It makes us feel so small and insignificant, but part of a greater force in the universe.
Hiking Acatenango Is Not Easy.... But Certainly Doable!
When you arrive at Acatenango’s basecamp, it’s a huge accomplishment! All the planning before the hike and the hard work during the hike has finally paid off when you finally get to your campsite.
And when I saw our entire group get to our site, I realized just how doable it is to hike Acatenango! No matter your hiking experience or athletic abilities, everyone can do this trek. As we mentioned before, all you need is determination and perseverance to keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will make it!
And once you arrive, kick off your shoes, grab a seat and enjoy the views across Guatemala and of Fuego Volcano. Relax, you made it! Unless you want to scramble up to Acatenango’s summit for a stunning sunset, that is 🙂