Just over 30 miles (50 km) from Antigua, Pacaya Volcano makes for a perfect half-day trip. It’s a relatively strenuous 2-hour climb through cloud forests and volcanic sands, but you’ll be rewarded with incredible 360° vistas all the way to the ocean.
The drive from Antigua to Pacaya National Park usually takes around an hour from the city center. You can get there by joining an organized or private tour, taking a private car or taxi, or renting a car and driving yourself. There isn’t any public transport from Antigua to Pacaya.
Bear in mind, though, that whether you hire a private car and driver, take a taxi, or drive yourself, it is still compulsory to hike with a local guide for safety reasons. This can be organized on arrival, but the majority do not speak English, so if you are keen to learn more about the history of the volcano and Guatemalan culture then you will be better to join a private or group tour as they all have an English-speaking guide to accompany you along with the local guide.
A lot of Guatemalan tours include trips out to climb Pacaya, including this 10-day Highlights of Guatemala trip.
By Private or Group Tour
Duration: 4-6 hours (one hour drive each way)
The majority of visitors to Pacaya will choose to do a private or group tour to Pacaya. This usually includes pick-ups from the city center and transport out to the National Park, entrance fees, an English-speaking guide, and a local trekking guide.
The tours usually last around 4-6 hours, including an hour’s drive each way, two hours to hike to the top, and time to relax before making your way back down again. You can choose whether to do an early morning hike or a sunset hike—the evening option requires you to descend the volcano in the dark, perfect for catching a glimpse of lava and glowing embers.
You can also combine a trip to the volcano with an afternoon at a nearby hot spring before returning to Antigua. It is possible to do camping tours and stay overnight on Pacaya, although this isn't as popular as the camping trips to Acatenango, where you can often see Volcan de Fuego erupt at night and reach the summit of the volcano at sunrise.
If you are looking for a super adventurous trip then you might also want to consider this 8-Day Multi-Sport Tour which also includes a night camping on Volcan de Acatenango, or even this epic Guatemalan Volcano Trek adventure, which will take you to the summits of seven volcanoes!
By Private Transfer or Taxi
Duration: 1 hour drive each way plus waiting time
If you are not keen to join a tour but still want to get to Pacaya, you might want to procure the services of a driver or a taxi for the day/half-day. They will take you out to the National Park, where you will be able to find a local guide to lead the way up the volcano.
For safety reasons, it is compulsory to hike with a guide—veering off the trail here could mean your shoes melt on the hot rocks or worse—but it is also a great way to support the local guides who are out here no matter what the weather, sometimes climbing the volcano two or three times in a day!
By Rental Car
Duration: one hour drive each way plus hiking time
The last option to get out to Pacaya is by hiring a car and driving yourself. It is a beautiful drive and the roads are less hectic than the highway to Guatemala City, but getting out of Antigua can still be tricky depending on the time of day. As above, once you arrive at Pacaya National Park you will be able to find a local guide for your volcano trek.
As a general rule, we don’t recommend driving in Guatemala after dark, so if you’re intending to watch the sunset on the volcano then you would be better off joining a tour or hiring a car and a driver for the day. You will also need to have an international driver’s license to drive in Guatemala.