Volcano trekking is the focus of this 15-day expedition in Guatemala, with breathtaking views at the summit of every climb. Start at the Spanish colonial city of Antigua and climb Pacaya Volcano and Volcán de Agua, then head to the shores of Lake Atitlan for a hike up Volcán Toliman. You'll be transferred to the Quiche Indian town of Quetzaltenango for Volcán Santa Maria, followed by Volcán Tajumulco—the highest point in Central America.

Highlights

  • Trek up Tajumulco, Central America`s highest peak
  • Hike Acatenango volcano with views of Volcan de Fuego's lava eruption
  • Visit the charming town of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Conquer seven volcano summits total in the Guatemalan highlands

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Antigua Antigua
Day 2 Hike Pacaya Volcano Antigua
Day 3 Climb Acatenango Volcano and Camp Overnight Acatenango Volcano
Day 4 Hike from Acatenango Volcano to Volcán de Fuego Acatenango Volcano
Day 5 Acatenango Volcano Hike and Antigua Antigua
Day 6 Antigua to Quetzaltenango  Quetzaltenango
Day 7 Climb Volcán de Zunil Volcán de Zunil
Day 8 Volcán Zunil Hike and Quetzaltenango Quetzaltenango
Day 9 Hike Volcán Santa Maria Quetzaltenango
Day 10 Quetzaltenango to Tuichan and Hike Volcán Tajumulco Volcán Tajumulco
Day 11 Tajumulco to San Pedro San Pedro
Day 12 Hike San Pedro Volcano San Pedro 
Day 13 Explore Lake Atitlan San Pedro
Day 14 Lake Atitlan to Antigua: Iximche Ruins Visit Antigua
Day 15 Antigua to Guatemala City   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Antigua

Antigua’s famous Santa Catalina Arch
Antigua’s famous Santa Catalina Arch

Welcome to Guatemala! Once you arrive at the La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City, find your driver and private shuttle who will meet you with your name card. You'll transfer to Antigua, which takes approximately a 1-hour drive (depending on traffic).

Day 2: Hike Pacaya Volcano

Lava fields of Pacaya Volcano
Lava fields of Pacaya Volcano

Meet at the local Antigua shop bright and early and fill up your water bottles before heading off to climb Pacaya Volcano. Expect the private transport from Antigua to the park office to be around 1.5 hours.

Pacaya may not be Guatemala’s highest peak, but at an elevation of 8,370 ft (2,552 m), its slopes and volcanic landscapes will give you some of the most impressive sights in Central America. While you make your way up the mountain trails, you'll notice Guatemala’s vistas open up right before you. Once at the base of the caldera, your guide will direct you through the rugged dried lava fields, recently reformed by a massive eruption in 2010. At the peak, you'll stop for a prepared picnic with views of three nearby volcanoes: Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango. There will be plenty of opportunities to explore geothermal hot-spots on the cooled lava formations, too.

Our hike down brings you across the remaining dried lava fields and through Pacaya’s forests and farmland. After the trek down to the trailhead, you'll return to Antigua by private transport and arrive in town around 4-5 pm.

Hike Details:

  • Est. hiking time: 3-4 hours
  • Distance: ~3.8 miles (6 km)
  • Ascent: ~ 400 m
  • High point: 2,288 m

Day 3: Climb Acatenango Volcano and Camp Overnight

Volcan de Fuego eruption seen from campsite
Volcán de Fuego eruption seen from the campsite

This morning you'll meet at the Old Town Outfitters Shop, where you can fill up your water bottles and purchase any additional gear you might need. Be sure to eat breakfast beforehand and pack a small snack for the road. The 1-hour drive will take you from Antigua to the mountain village of La Soledad, perched on the ridge of the Pacific slope of Volcán Acatenango that you'll be climbing.

You'll start with a 1-hour hike that will help you acclimatize and warm up the leg muscles. The trail up Acatenango has four distinct microclimates, each of which will take you about an hour to traverse. You'll walk up a steep path that is the same route used by local villagers each morning to access their corn, snow pea and lily fields. 

The second phase of the ascent passes through an old-growth tropical cloud forest. In this environmental zone, you'll see some of Acatenango’s oldest trees, witness biodiversity of flora and fauna, inhale fresh mountain air, and hear local birds and wildlife, like the famous Quetzal. After exiting the cloud forest, you'll see views of the other highland volcanoes (Atitlan, Toliman, San Pedro, Santa Maria, Santo Tomas, Tajumulco), along with glimpses of the Cuchumatanes mountain chain. A fresh picnic is prepared mid-day for the group to enjoy.

The third phase of your ascent is characterized by temperate coniferous and tropical dry forest, leading you to the storm-beaten tree-line of the volcano. Our campsite is perched just below the tree-line with sweeping views of the Antigua valley and Volcán Fuego. After setting up camp, you are free to relax and enjoy the surroundings while your guide prepares a fresh camp dinner at ~3750 m with hot tea and coffee.

Hike Details:

  • Est. hiking time: 5-6 hours
  • Distance: ~ 5 miles (8 km)
  • Ascent: ~ 1100 m
  • High point: 3,500 m

Day 4: Hike from Acatenango Volcano to Volcán de Fuego

Hike from Acatenango to Fuego
Hike from Acatenango to Fuego

Eat breakfast while watching the sunrise from above the cloud-line that brings the next objective, Volcán Fuego, into sight. You will begin a 1-hour descent to the saddle between Volcán Acatenango and Volcán Fuego. After a short rest, you'll make the 1.5-hour push to the ridge of Fuego. At a responsible distance from the active summit, you will stop to eat lunch and wait for a chance to witness an eruption at close range.

You will spend the afternoon hiking back to our campsite, where we will have plenty of time to rest and relax. In the evening, you'll have dinner prepared by your guide. 

Day 5: Acatenango Volcano Hike and Antigua

Acatenango's crater
Acatenango's crater

You'll rise early and embark on a 1-hour and 45-minute ascent to Volcán Acatenango's summit on a scree trail dotted with dwarf pine trees and high alpine mosses. The trail up to the summit is the steepest you will have experienced at this point, which leads to the rocky summit of Acatenango. 

Upon reaching the summit, you'll rest and enjoy 360-degree views of the Guatemalan highlands that go to the border of Mexico. After enjoying the views at the top, you will return to camp for breakfast before beginning the 2.5-3 hour descent back to La Soledad. You'll have the opportunity to descend through an alternate route down Volcán Acatenango, experiencing a variety of microclimates and beautiful trail.

From La Soledad, you will be transported directly to back to Antigua for a free afternoon to relax and enjoy town. 

Day 6: Antigua to Quetzaltenango

Parque Central, Quetzaltenango
Parque Central, Quetzaltenango

Today you'll make a scenic transfer across the high sierra to Quetzaltenango, also known by its Mayan name of Xela. While traveling along the Pan-American Highway, you'll pass the high sierra's highest point known locally as “Alaska.”

After a roadside lunch, you'll arrive in Quetzaltenango by mid-afternoon. At an altitude of 2335 m, Quetzaltenango is Guatemala’s second-largest city and the center of the Quiche Mayan people. You'll check into your hotel and have the rest of the day to explore.

Day 7: Climb Volcán de Zunil

Morning views from Zunil campsite
Morning views from Volcán Zunil campsite

After breakfast at the hotel, you have a short drive to the trailhead in the village of Xecam. From here, you'll embark on a 2-hour hike up to “Alaska” full of sheep and goat herders and dotted with resettlement villages (from Hurricane Stan in 2005) as well as isolated groves of forest. You'll come across Xela’s famous “Siete Cruces” (7 Crosses) ridge trail and have lunch in one of the many open grass pitches. Enter a forest of rare Pinebete trees, an endangered species of pine tree endemic to Guatemala, as you begin to wind along the rolling ridgeline of Volcán Zunil and its neighbor Volcán Santo Tomas.

You'll stop for the night at a campsite about an hour short of “Pico Zunil.” Take in the sensational views on both sides of the camping grounds: Atitlan and Panchoy Valley Volcanoes (San Pedro, Acatenango and Fuego) to the east, and your next objectives, Santa Maria, Santiaguito (active) and Tajamulco (Guatemala's highest), to the west.

Day 8: Volcán Zunil Hike and Quetzaltenango

Zunil campsite
Volcán Zunil campsite

After an early camp breakfast, you'll continue to follow the “Siete Cruces” trail, climbing up the ridge to reach the summit of Volcán Zunil (3542 m). The descent takes you through the cloud and bamboo forests of the Zunil Valley to the hot springs of “Fuentes Georginas.” 

Depending on the weather and the condition of the group, your guide will choose between two routes: one that's steep and leads directly to the springs, the other that is less direct and ends with a short transfer to the pools. You will arrive at the hot springs by mid-day to rest and soak in the thermally heated waters, nestled in a gorge on the lower slopes of Volcan Zunil. You'll enjoy lunch at the springs and meet your transport back to Quetzaltenango.

Day 9: Hike Volcán Santa Maria

Views from Santa Maria
Views from Volcán Santa Maria 

Your next objective is Volcán Santa Maria (3770 m). You'll leave early in the morning from the hotel and take a 45-minute drive to the start point at the village of “Llanos del Pinal” (2500 m).

The trek starts with a climb to the base of the cone and leads to a steep dirt trail, which is slippery in places (especially after it rains). It will take 4-5 hours to reach the summit, where you'll spot the active Volcan Santiaguito and hope to view an eruption. After enjoying lunch at the summit, we return down the trail for an overnight in Quetzaltenango.

Hike Details:

  • Est. hiking time: 6-7 hours
  • Distance: ~ 6 miles (10 km)
  • Ascent: ~ 1200 m
  • High point: 3,770 m

Day 10: Quetzaltenango to Tuichan and Hike Volcán Tajumulco

Views of Volcán Tajumulco in the distance

You'll make an early start for the 3-hour drive to Tuichan (3030 m), which lies close to the border of Mexico and is the starting point for climbing Tajumulco, the highest volcano in Guatemala.

You'll begin traversing forest trails and a pine-studded ridge before reaching our campsite (around 4000 m) in 3 hours. After taking a break, you'll continue for another 30 minutes before reaching a shoulder below the final summit cone. From here, it's a steep 20 to 30-minute climb to the lowest point of the crater rim, followed by a short scramble to the highest point in Central America at 4219 m. The summit views over the surrounding countryside and eastwards along the volcanic chain are quite breathtaking. After taking in the countryside and volcanic views, you'll descend to the campsite.

Hike Details:

  • Est. hiking time: 5-6 hours
  • Distance: ~ 5 miles (8 km)
  • Ascent: ~ 1100 m
  • High point: 4,219 m

Day 11: Tajumulco to San Pedro (Lake Atitlan)

Boats on Lake Atitlan

You'll complete the morning descent from Tajamulco and begin the 5-hour drive back to Lake Atitlan, stopping for lunch en route. From Panajachel, we take a short boat ride across the lake to San Pedro

After checking into the hotel, the rest of the day is yours. You can head into town or enjoy the views over Lago de Atitlan on a hammock. 

Hike Details:

  • Est. hiking time: 2-3 hours
  • Distance: ~ 3 miles (5 kms)
  • Ascent: ~ 20 m
  • High point: 3,970 m

Day 12: Hike Volcán San Pedro

San Pedro Volcano
San Pedro Volcano

After breakfast and coffee, you will depart in a private boat taxi to the lakeside village of San Pedro La Laguna. A local pickup will bring you to the Volcán San Pedro trailhead, where you'll begin our full-day hike to the volcano's peak(3020 meters). After a 3.5-hour ascent through cloud-forest, you'll arrive at the summit and enjoy a picnic lunch, where you can take in views of the Atitlan highlands and neighboring peaks Toliman and Atitlan across the Bay of Santiago.

You'll descent back down to the lakeside and arrive back to the hotel in San Pedro in the late afternoon. 

Day 13: Lake Atitlan 

Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan

You have the day to see the surrounding area of Lake Atitlan, whether you choose to relax on the grounds of the hotel or explore some of the other villages. Additionally, the hotel offers kayaks, swimming, and other water sports, and the public boats can take you around the lake.

Day 14: Lake Atitlan to Antigua: Iximche Ruins Visit

Iximche Ruins
Iximche Ruins

You will leave Lake Atitlan in the morning via boat and then private shuttle to the Iximché. Located in the western highlands of Guatemala, Iximché is an archaeological site that has pyramid temples, palaces, and Mesoamerican ballcourts. You'll get a guided tour of the ruins that were declared a Guatemalan National Monument in the 1960s. 

After the ruins, you'll head back to Antigua for the evening, stopping along the way for a quick lunch.

Day 15: Antigua to Guatemala City 

Departure flight
Departure flight

Enjoy breakfast in Antigua and then transfer back to Guatemala City for your departing flight.

Map

Map of Guatemala Volcano Trekking Adventure - 15 Days
Map of Guatemala Volcano Trekking Adventure - 15 Days