Hiking an Active Volcano in Guatemala: Acatenango & Fuego Hike 

If there is one thing you shouldn’t miss in Antigua, it’s hiking the Acatenango volcano and admiring the explosions of the active volcano Fuego from close. We did this hike in 2021, and it was one of the most amazing experiences in our lives. Are you thinking about hiking the volcanos near Antigua as well? Check out this article and find out how was the whole experience!

Acatenango Volcano Hike in Guatemala

Acatenango is a dormant volcano close to Antigua, Guatemala. Together with visiting the Mayan capital Tikal and the turquoise pools in Semuc Champey, hiking the volcanos from Antigua is the must-do in Guatemala. It’s definitely a challenging hike, but doable if you have at least a basic fitness level.

Summiting Acatenango is an accomplishment by itself, but the main reason to go for most people is the possibility to view the explosions of the neighboring volcano Fuego. You can admire it from the summit, the base camp, or, if you want to challenge yourself even more, you can hike up to just a few hundred meters from the Fuego crater. Which is what we did.

Not in the mood to read? Check out our video!

Is Hiking Acatenango Safe?

Hiking Acatenango is fairly safe, but shit can happen. The first thing you should think of is the altitude sickness. The summit is at 3 976 masl., which is already pretty high and there is a certain risk of altitude sickness for very sensitive people. 

Therefore it’s important to stay in Antigua, which is already 1 545 masl. for a couple of days before the hike, walking around the city and getting used to the altitude. Also, even when you’re not feeling thirsty, try to stay hydrated before and during the hike as much as possible. We didn’t drink enough and we suffered from a mild headache and couldn’t sleep at all in the basecamp.

The second thing is the activity of the volcano. From time to time, Fuego gets angry and the eruptions are way stronger than usual. Then the villages on its slopes are affected, and it’s also not safe for tourists. The last really destructive eruption happened in 2018, during which at least 69 people died. 

The activity is observed closely and the authorities always close the area for tourists when the eruptions get bigger. But it’s nature, so you can never be sure it’s not gonna start to blow unexpectedly. At the same time, tours are going for the hike from Antigua daily with no big issues.

Can You Hike Fuego As Well?

Yes! You can hike Fuego as well, but not every company goes all the way there. It’s a bit more dangerous, so the guides really need to know what are they doing. Since the weather can change from one minute to another and it would be unsafe to go near the crater when it’s cloudy, the final decision if the hike there is safe or not is made in the base camp.

If you decide to go to Fuego, you’ll be only a couple of hundred meters from the crater. The closest we got was like 200 meters from the lava and it was incredible!

Is The Acatenango Hike Hard?

Hiking the volcano Acatenango is challenging but doable for anybody with a basic fitness level. You don’t even need to hike all the way to the summit to see the exploding Fuego, it’s visible from the base camp as well (at least with Wicho & Charlies – more about the company later), so if you don’t feel like going farther, it’s ok! 

  • Hiking from the starting point to the base camp can take anything between 3 and 5 hours
  • It takes another hour, hour and a half to reach the summit of Acatenango
  • Or about two hours to reach the highest point of Fuego you can get to.

Some of the tour companies have cabins, so you don’t need to carry the heavy tent and it’s possible to pay extra (sometimes it’s even included) to have the warm clothes carried up and only go with a light backpack.

active volcano fuego hike

Can You Hike Acatenango without a Tour?

Yes, it’s possible to hike Acatenango without a tour. The path is pretty straightforward to follow, so if you’re an experienced hiker and have all the equipment, you can do it on your own as well. 

Since we only had the basic things, like light sports clothes and shoes, we decided going with a tour made more sense this time. We also wanted to summit the Fuego as well, which is not advisable without a guide.

Hiking Acatenango with Wicho & Charlies

When choosing the agency to go with for the Acatenango hike, we were focused on three things:

  • Vegetarian food options
  • Sustainable and fair approach
  • Possibility to hike Fuego as well

Wicho and Charlies hit all of the above. There was not only a possibility of vegetarian food, they actually served plant-based food only. It’s one of their measurements to be more sustainable. Thanks to that, the food is nutritious and full of taste! (We read some reviews from other agencies, where you get very little and not filling food as a vegetarian and people were hungry the whole trip).

They also pay living wages to their employees, help the guides to learn a second language and get a guiding certification and training in first aid,  support local animal shelter, avoid single-use plastic, and more. They are really focused on giving back to the community.

Also, every company goes to the base camp, most of them go to the Acatenango summit, but not all of them go to Fuego as well. Wicho & Charlies does when the conditions allow, and you can also decide during the hike if you have the strength to go or not. 

2024 update: We paid 200 GTQ extra for these 4 extra hours of hike. Now they have a new price list and you don’t pay extra for the Fuego hike anymore.

fuego from acatenango sunset

What Gear Do You Need to Hike the Acatenango?

If you go with a tour company, you don’t need much since you can borrow everything. We only had some sports clothes and got the rest from Wicho & Charlies. 

The basic equipment (eg. the cabin/tent, sleeping bag, as many jackets as you need, water bottles, beanie, buff, scarf, and -5 °C gloves) is included in the price. You can also rent other things, like warmer gloves, pants, socks, backpacks, boots, trekking poles, or thermal base layer, for a reasonable price.

Packing List for Acatenango

What to bring for the hike depends on your needs. This is what we had (the things we borrowed from the agency are marked with a *)

  • Sports T-shirt
  • Merino long sleeve T-shirt
  • Leggings
  • Hiking pants*
  • Light windproof running jacket
  • Fleece jacket*
  • Winter jacket*
  • Two pairs of socks (Merino and running)
  • Trail running shoes
  • Two buffs (one borrowed*)
  • -5 °C gloves*
  • Beanie*
  • Headlamp*
  • Trekking poles*
  • Three 1,5 liter water bottles
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Dry fruit and nuts as a snack (we used them to improve the morning oatmeal)
  • Big backpack

This is Lea’s list, but Filip’s was almost the same. The only difference was that he had his hiking pants, so he borrowed the base layer and he also got a lighter jacket. 

The setup was great for us since we could change the layers any time we got too cold/warm and were always comfy, even when some clothes got wet from the rain.

Also, we paid 130 GTQ for all the extra things we rented for the two of us (those that were not included in the package). Maybe you noticed there is no tent or sleeping bag on the list, that is because Wicho & Charlies has a permanent camp with shared/private cabins, so you don’t need to carry the tent and break the camp after arriving.

If you found this guide helpful and want to thank us, there is nothing easier than buying us a coffee. You can support us with as little as €1, but even mention on your social media, follow, or comment as feedback is most appreciated! 🖤

The Cost of Acatenango and Fuego Hike

The cost of the hike depends on the company you choose. With Wicho & Charlies, we appreciated the good balance between the cost and what you get. We did the hike in 2021 and the prices changed a bit since that though. W&CH went more towards the luxury hiking experience, ensuring everybody can enjoy the hike – now they even offer a car ride for 80 % of the hike. It’s not really our style, but you do you. 

The costs of Acatenango hike in 2021 were:

Tour to Acatenango with the basic equipment in a shared 8-bed cabin450 Q
Fuego Hike Surcharge200 Q
Weekday Entrance Fee50 Q
Extra Equipment75 Q
Total per person775 Q (€92.8)

In 2024, the entrance fee is the same on weekdays and weekends – 110 GTQ. Also, since 2023 the cheapest version of the tour in a shared 8-bed cabin from Wicho & Charlies costs $119. The entrance fee is already included, you also get a foam mattress to sleep on, the possibility to have your backpack carried for 80 % of the way, and an upgraded base camp with a dining cabin with a fire oven (which we see as a downgrade honestly, the fire pit outside was a topnotch).

sunrise acatenango

Hiking Acatenango and Fuego: Our Experience

We enjoyed this hike a lot, but it was also a pretty challenging thing to do. There were two reasons for that – first, we hadn’t done any hikes for a longer time before, so we were pretty out of shape. But we also didn’t have any previous experience with high-altitude hiking (the tallest mountain in Czechia is only 1602 masl. and the most we did in the Alps was just under 3000). 

As a preparation, we stayed in Antigua for a few weeks before, hiked the Pacaya volcano, and did regular yoga, workouts, and runs around the town, which was for sure helpful. However, we were still kind of surprised by the effect of the altitude on our bodies.

At the same time, we were able to push ourselves to do the full thing with both summits. Going only to the base camp (or even the Acatenango sunrise summit) would be much much easier and still super nice! So don’t be scared and go for it!

sunrise acatenango overnight hike

Day 1: From Antigua to The Base Camp and Acatenango Summit

We already had to come to the office a couple of days ahead for a hiking briefing. That’s where you get all the important information and can ask all the questions you might have. 

Therefore, on the day of the hike, we already knew everything and just arrived at the office at the agreed time, at 8 AM, chose our equipment, and had breakfast.

After everybody chose what they needed, refilled water bottles, and enjoyed breakfast, we got into a car and headed to the starting point, which is about 1,5 hours drive. You can buy some plastic rain covers over there, soft drinks, and also local rum. It’s quite disgusting but we were still happy to have it for the evening.

Around 10:30 we started the hike up! The path to the base camp can be divided into three parts: The first part to the entrance is not long, but it’s very steep. The second part is already easier and the last one is the easiest. It all took us around 4,5 or 5 hours with lunch and lots of shorter breaks. 

We went up through clouds the whole time, hoping we were going to get above them. Since we had two guides, everybody could decide how fast they wanted to go and if they wanted to stay in the base camp the first night, go to the summit, or go to Fuego. 

We wanted to reach Fuego with one more guy from Austria, but even after over an hour of waiting in the base camp, the sky was so cloudy, that it wasn’t safe. In the end, we decided to at least try Acatenango rather than just sitting in the base camp.

The sky cleared up after about 30 minutes, so we had a much better mood for the last (pretty demanding) hour of the hike to the Acatenango summit. The summit was breathtaking (literally and figuratively) and we enjoyed the fire show of Fuego for quite some time there. Don’t forget the extra layers, it got coooold up there!

When we got back to the camp, we had dinner with the rest of the group and enjoyed a couple more hours of watching the eruptions since it was already visible from the camp as well.

hiking acatenango

Day 2: From the Base Camp to Fuego

The three of us haven’t given up yet and we agreed with the guide that if the conditions will be better in the morning, we’ll go to Fuego. We set our alarm to 2:45 AM and after we woke up, we found out it was good to go!

I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t want to get up! I was super tired, from the hike the day before and the lack of sleep (we barely slept due to the altitude). At the same time, we both knew we were not gonna get any more sleep and we should at least try!

So we started the journey to Fuego. The worst part is that you have to descend about 400 m first, then hike 400 up, and repeat the same on the way back before you can go down to Antigua. But we made it!

As a reward, we first enjoyed watching the volcano in the night, when the lava was clearly visible. After that, there was the most beautiful sunrise and we stayed for a couple more explosions. We actually went even closer and were only about 200 meters from the crater in the end. There was one larger eruption, so we had to run away from the rocks. Nothing happened, but we recommend to be very careful if you decide to go to Fuego and always listen to your guide!

After this show, we went back to the camp, had our breakfast, packed our backpacks, and finally went back to Antigua. In the meantime, the rest of the group enjoyed the sunrise from the camp or Acatenango summit and everybody was super happy!

Hopefully, we covered all the important information. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments section, or via our social media! We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Love,
Lea

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