Guest post by Lourdes Diaz
One of the main reasons why anyone should hike in Guatemala is for is natural beauty.
But you may find yourself with so many options that it isn’t easy to decide which hike to do. I’m Guatemalan and have been hiking for over a year and a half and still haven’t managed to see all of the natural attractions.
I also find that there isn’t always time to go out and spend two or three days hiking and camping. This is especially true if you are a tourist in Guatemala and find yourself with limited time. Here are 5 of the best day hikes that you can do, that take you to some amazing places in Guatemala!
What Makes Pacaya Volcano such a special hike: You get to walk on top of lava rivers that have solidified. You may also find holes where you can see lava flows or gases coming out. You are also allowed a few meters away from the active crater. Bring marshmallows and roast them over the lava flows!
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate. Pacaya Volcano stands 2,500 meters at its highest point. The town San Vicente Pacaya from where hikes start is at 1,680 metres. In total the hike takes from three to three and a half hours, two going up and one going down.
How to do this hike: The road is pretty well marked but because you’re hiking an active volcano, it’s better to have a guide. You can book your tour here. It makes it super easy for you as it includes ground transportation and the admission fee. Both mobile and paper vouchers are accepted.
Food: There are a few stores selling snacks but not proper food so bring yours in the town located right where the trail starts. Water can be bought at those stores too.
Best time of year: November to March – when it’s dry.
What makes Acatenango Volcano such a special hike: This is the best lookout point to it active neighbour, Fuego Volcano (which happens to be the volcano that Laurel named her cat after). On a good day, from its highest point, you also get views of Pacaya Volcano, Agua Volcano, and all of the volcanoes around Atitlan Lake, and parts of the lake too. The vegetation is also gorgeous. Acatenango is my favourite Guatemalan volcano to hike so far.
Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult. Acatenango is the third highest volcano in Guatemala. When you hike it, try to start as early as possible, before 8 am. Getting up to the crater can take ~5 hours and the walk down 3 hours or more. By starting early, you get to take your time and actually enjoy the place before the sun goes down.
How to do this hike: You need a guide for this one. There is a main touristic route, but it is connected to several older and much harder routes. It’s easy to get lost. Plus the highest parts can be extremely dangerous when the weather is bad and visibility reduced. You can hire a guide from a Guatemalan mountain guiding service that I use for all my guided hikes. If you’re feeling really ambitious you can do the Trilogy – a 3-volcano hike, or inquire about just doing Acatenango.
Food: There are small stores in the town of La Soledad, where the hike starts. But again, they don’t sell much more than water and chips. So be prepared by bringing your food.
Best time of year: November to January. This is when you get some of the best views.
NOTE: Bring warm and waterproof clothes. The weather is unpredictable, and if it happens to be bad, temperatures can drop as low as -2C°.
Ipala Volcano and Lagoon
What makes Ipala Volcano Such a special hike: When you finally get up to the crater you find a gorgeous lagoon. It’s a great place to have a picnic and be sure to cool down with a swim in the pool.
Difficulty: Easy.Ipala is a tiny, tiny volcano at just 1650 meters. Thee hike up to the crater only takes about two hours.
How to do this hike: The trail is well marked and the walk is short so you don’t need a guide. If you’re unsure, you can always hire one to be safe.
Food: Just as for the other hikes, bring your food unless you want to spend the day eating chips. Water is available where the walk starts.
Best time of year: November to March, when it’s dry.
What makes Tajumulco Volcano such a special hike: You can’t be a hiking enthusiast, exploring Guatemala and not come here! The trail takes you along forests, prairies and rocky terrains. Once you get to the crater, when the weather allows it, you can see Mexico on one side and El Salvador on the other. If you look closely on a clear day, you may even see the Pacific coast.
Difficulty: Moderate. Despite it being the highest among volcanoes in Central America, it’s close to a small town called Sibinal. It only takes ~4 hours to get to the summit.
How to do this hike: Because the weather can be so unpredictable and trails aren’t well marked you need a guide.
Food: I feel like a broken record at this point, but I need to say this again. Come prepared with enough food. Stores only provide snacks and uncooked stuff. You can buy water and soda at those stores.
Best time of year: November to March, when it’s dry.
Los Amates Waterfall
What makes Los Amates such a special hike: This waterfall is formed by a river that falls from a 35-meter tall rock wall. Aside from enjoying the gorgeous views, you get to swim in the pools so bring your bathing suit.
Difficulty: Moderate. To reach the waterfalls takes ~3 hours across small rivers. Start the hike early in the morning so you have some time to spend at the waterfall.
How to do this hike: You need a guide for this. It can be easy to get lost along the trails. Lots of local tourist agencies that offer this trip also include the equipment for you to do some rappelling in the waterfall!
Food: Once more, come ready with your food. You can always buy some extra water before you start.
Best time of year: November to March when it’s dry.
NOTE: Wear fresh clothes and bring more water than normal. The weather here is scorching.
There you have it, the five best day hikes in Guatemala.
If you only had time for one, then I’d recommend hiking Acatenango Volcano, but hopefully, you enjoy Guatemala so much that you’ll be able to fit in at least a couple of these incredible hikes!
Lourdes is a soon to be lawyer from Guatemala with the mission to explore each corner of the country. Her favourite activity is hiking along with exploring mountains, forests, caves, volcanoes and all that the region has to offer. Her goal is to reach as many summits around the world as she can. You can also find her on facebook, twitter and instagram.