At some point during my two weeks in Antigua, I got the feeling that I should “do tourism.” This guilt starts to plague me occasionally when it’s been a while since I saw a sight, signed up for an activity or did anything, really, outside my comfortable non-travel travel routine of working, working out, and “researching” restaurants with wifi.
So one morning, as I walked Antigua’s cobblestone streets from my breakfast café office to my lunch café office, I signed up for an afternoon hike of Antigua’s most popular volcano, Pacaya.
After a winding ninety minute drive outside Antigua — I’d later recall this as being the most physically testing portion of the trip — we arrived at the base of the volcano. There, I was surprised to hear our guide say it would be a mere 6 kilometers, or 3.7 miles, up and down (at first I thought he meant each way!) and it would only take us about ninety minutes of ascending to reach the summit.
Considering we’d doubled that mileage in our attempt to reach Hobbitenango on foot a few days before, I felt more than ready to conquer Pacaya.
We stopped frequently along the way, though I found it somewhat unnerving that a group of horse “taxis” followed behind us nearly the entire way, hoping that some in our group would be unable to make it to the summit with their own two legs.
In spite of the woman who announced as soon as we set off that she hated hiking and was prone to fainting spells, we went horseless, and it wasn’t long before we reached 7,368 feet in elevation.
I admit I did a double take when we got to the steaming summit and found a small jewelry boutique there. The unique pieces, handcrafted from pieces of lava, were smartly designed and beautifully displayed. A fluently English speaking volunteer explained that they were from an artists cooperative of local women living around the volcano, and after hearing his speech I decided it would simply be rude if I didn’t pick up a pair of tiny triangle stud earrings made of black volcanic rock!
Rude, I tell you!
After all that exhausting retail purchasing, I was pleased to break for a snack in the form of the macarons I’d brought from Metiz back in town. Jewelry purchasing, precious snack eating… this was really shaping up to be quite the glamorous volcano trek.
And then it was time for the highlight of any Pacaya trip: roasting marshmallows over a volcanic vent.
Was it gimmicky? Yes. Was it delicious and fun? Yes and yes, so that’s all that really matters. I only regret that I didn’t pack graham crackers and chocolates along with those macarons.
While technically billed as a “sunset hike” I wasn’t sad when we turned back prior to the big event. I was the only one with a torch, and it would have been a long walk back in the pitch black — not to mention the rapidly dropping temperatures.
Have I mentioned how shocked I was by Guatemala’s chilliness? If not, prepare for me to mention it one or twelve times. In fact, I swore off Antigua’s other popular and more strenuous two day volcano hike to Acatenango simply because I knew I’d be too cold to enjoy it.
Overall, this is a great excursion from Antigua — fun and scenic for only a modest investment of time, money, and effort. Overall I spent 75 quetzales (less than $10) for the hike, 50 quetzales (less than $7) for the park fee and 100 quetzales (about $13) for my earrings. We left at 2pm and were back by around 8pm (morning 9am departures are also available) and at 6km round trip, it was only moderately challenging.
But you did, at least, burn enough calories to deserve a marshmallow or two.
Have you hiked a volcano? Where?
This is guilt that I know as well, I can be so happy doing nothing that it’s hard for me to dismiss the guilt. I can usually find something that I have mild interest in.
What did you say Guatemala was like again? 🙂
Like I said, had great experiences, but didn’t feel the chemistry nonetheless (I assume that’s what you meant with your last question!)
My husband and I hiked Haleakala on Maui for sunrise. We were a little worried when we showed up and there were SO many tourists, but it ended up being a totally amazing experience. My tourist guilt isn’t always for not doing anything, because I’m perfectly happy to sit on the beach, but I don’t want to miss out on an amazing experience just because it’s touristy. Even if it means dodging selfie sticks and people taking pictures with their iPads.
Ha, I laughed that you mentioned people taking pictures with their iPads. For some reasons it’s my biggest pet peeve. I always rant about it!
How fun! That scenery is beautiful. My hubs and I hiked to and down inside of Thrihnukagigur volcano in Iceland. No marshmallows though. I now realize that trip was sorely lacking in the s’mores department.
Next time, just BYOM 🙂
I’ve told you how much I love your pictures at least a hundred times, but you know what really impresses me? How you always manage to have perfect nails while holding up stuff in front of the camera 😉
Sounds like a great day!
Ha! I do love giving myself manicures — that being one of the major motivations! I can’t stand unpainted nails in my photos for some reason…
I did the Acatenango hike and it was certainly more of a physical challenge than it sounds like Pacaya was – and yes, it was colder too! There were, sadly, no marshmallows. All worth it for a stunning sunrise at the summit and great views of a number of Guatemala’s biggest volcanoes.
All the photos I saw from fellow travelers were gorgeous and did make me doubt my decision. But in the end I know myself well enough to know that I’m miserable when I’m chilly — and it sounded downright freezing! I was REALLY over being cold by the time I left Guatemala.
Wow, roasting marshmallows over a thermal vent sounds very cool, have to try that once! 🙂
I’ve been on Etna in Italy and I also bought a piece of jewellery (a ring in my case) made of a volcanic rock. And recently, I’ve been to Tongariro NP in New Zealand, a one-day track through volcanic country, considered one of the top 10 one-day hikes in the world. You might take a look at my post about Tongariro if interested 🙂 https://thejourneyjournal.com/hiking-in-mordor-tongariro-alpine-crossing/
Tongariro is on my hiking bucket list, Patricia! Awesome job checking it off for yourself 🙂
Yep! I have hiled a volcano but sadly, there were no boutiques or marshmellows involved which would have made my aching legs and creaky knees, so much better! I hiked up a live volcano. Live! In Bali last summer. To say that it was a challenge is to say the very least. A great adventure though.
Thzanks for sharing your hike. 🙂
Sorry, I meant to say “hiked”…..
Here’s the link if it’s OK. If not, please feel free to delete it: https://thebritishberliner.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/the-beginners-guide-to-going-up-a-volcano-because-going-up-a-volcano-isnt-for-everyone/
Bali is a beautiful place for volcanoes. I used to love watching the sun set behind them in Gili Trawangan… ah, memories! And you can always share relevant links, thank you for asking!
Oh, this looks incredible! I love hiking, but have yet to climb ANY volcanoes. I’ll take it, gimmicks and all!
PS. Your photos, as always, are gorgeous!
Thank you so much Beth! Sounds like it’s time to add a volcano to your peak list 🙂
It is definitely an easy hike but it is kinda cool to toast marshmallows on a volcano! I also loved the views of the surrounding volcanos and we had a cute dog follow us the whole way up then down again
We met some cute dogs along the way too — one of which pictured here! Love when random pups join me for my workouts…
You did better than I did, Alex. I didn’t make it to any volcanoes when I was in Antigua! I just remember somehow finding the coolest room in a hostel ever, complete with what would turn out to be a private roof deck. And that was where I spent my days. Talk about tourist guilt! I do remember having many discussions about going to Pacaya…I should have gone!
Ha, I spent the vast majority of my time in PITTaya, my favorite salad place…. but Pacaya was a nice break 🙂 Where was this magical hostel room!?
I wish I could remember the name! I was there in 2009 and randomly stumbled into that hostel. The hostel was full so they shoved us into a lone room on the roof. We were the only ones up there…it was so cool. We had a great volcano view. So technically I did see some volcanoes 😉
Eating macarons and stumbling across a jewelry shop on top of a mountain? Sounds like a hike that I want to take part in! 😉 I also can’t get over the vibrant color of that macaron – what flavor was it? 🙂
I hiked Mt. Batur in Bali before and while it was fun, it was still easily one of the most touristy things I did in Bali. Now I would love to follow in your footsteps one day and hike Mt. Rinjani! 🙂
Passionfruit flavor! Ah, Rinjani. What a beautiful hike that was…
Wauw, this sounds awesome! And not expensive at all 🙂 I am now really longing for marshmallows though…
It’s a pretty darn good deal for an afternoon’s entertainment, I think!
Ha! I would totally roast marshmallows over a volcano. In fact I think its now on my list of to dos 🙂
Sounds like we need to take a group up a volcano for some s’mores 🙂
We went on that hike when we were in Antigua and wow, we had the hardest time just getting ourselves up the volcano! The view was so worth it though. Great pics in this post! 🙂
Thank you! And congrats on making it to the top!
I feel like something of a braggart, but we’ve climbed (If I recall correctly) 4 volcanoes, including Pacaya (hey, we’re not really trekkers okay)!
Toasted is the only way I’ll eat marshmallows, but I agree it was god damn tacky fun!
No jewellery lady when we were there, but there were 3 from our group on those horses within the 1st ten minutes… incredibly they were still the last ones up & down! 😉
There was one woman in our group strongly considering it — I was pretty puzzled by her desire to be on the tour when she announced she hated hiking, but whatever — but we all went by foot in the end. Sounds like we made the right call!
I really wanted to post something insightful and write a meaningful comment but you distracted me with marshmallows and now i can’t concentrate haha xo
Who knew I had so many marshmallow fans up in here? Love it!
Very cool! My latest post is all about my fear of winding roads, so I agree that the windy drive could easily have been the most strenuous part. Gorgeous views from the top! The only volcano I’ve ever hiked was Diamond Head on Oahu. Loved it! No marshmallows though :/
Pretty insane views though! I’ve done that one too 🙂
Sounds like someone needs to set up a shop selling graham crackers and chocolate squares next to the jewelry shop!! I volunteer as tribute! 😉
I really hope I find you up there next time, Shelly 🙂
90 minutes? That sounds like my type of climb. Just completed a charity climb where I had to climb three mountains in 24 hours. Sadly there weren’t any marshmallows, but on one of the mountain summits they sold beer. Equally good. 🙂
I tried to summit two volcanoes so far (Cotopaxi in Ecuador and Misti in Peru), but I got altitude sickness both times, so sadly didn’t get to the top.
I’m sorry to hear that, Tammy! Having seen my fellow hikers go through altitude sickness on the Inca Trail, I have an idea of what it entails. Doesn’t look fun 🙁
Haven’t hiked up a volcano, but beside one. And not any volcano, but Mount Doom from LotR 😀
The Tongariro Alpine hike in New Zealand was amazing, and a perfectly long day hike 🙂
Sounds like Hobbitengo is the place for you! (Those confused by that statement should check out my Antigua post 🙂 )
u must have felt energised with the scenery. on another note, the name sounds very close to pattaya. i am sure u have not visited there? trust me, any bloke who choses pattaya as his holiday destination is a total turn off for me. ha, i think i’d generally take that as a red flag.
Nope, never been to Pattaya and no desire to go!
Sounds like the perfect mix of exercise, adventure, and indulgence to me! I’ve climbed Batur in Bali and Fuji in Japan, both at night so as to get to the top for sunrise. Challenging but amazing experiences!
Batur is definitely on the list for me next time I’m in Bali! Speaking of which, I really need to get back there…
Doing a volcano hike is one of those things I need to do, but haven’t yet. Thanks for the motivation!
You’re so welcome Ian! This was a really cool one.
Stunning pictures!!!! Plus, call it gimmicky all you want, but apparently roasting marshmallows over a volcano vent is something I never knew I always wanted to do. I love that this hike actually sounds doable!
The altitude of the starting point does give it a little extra kick, but overall it’s a surprisingly manageable excursion!
I dragged one of my friends (who’s most definitely not a hiker!) up a Volcano on Santorini, promising that the views from the top would make the hike (in temperatures of nearly 40 degrees) completely worthwhile. I was busy marvelling at the amazing views from the peak whilst she collapsed on the floor guzzling water like it was going out of fashion, and cursing me for ever talking her into the whole idea! 😉
Ha ha, well she sounds like a good sport for tagging along. Good for her 🙂