On this 16-day active adventure trough Guatemala, you’ll conquer seven volcano summits located in the country’s highlands. The beginning of the trip is anchored in Antigua, where you’ll hike and camp near volcanos including Pacaya, Acatenango, and Fuego. Then, you’ll travel to Quetzaltenango to hike and explore Zunil and Santa Maria. You’ll also visit the Tajumulco and San Pedro volcanos before landing at Lake Atitlán, where you can relax by the water and explore the Iximché ruins on your way back to Antigua.

Highlights

  • Trek up Tajumulco Volcano, Central America`s highest peak
  • Hike Acatenango Volcano to catch views of Fuego Volcano erupting
  • Soak in the thermal hot springs of Fuentes Georginas
  • Visit the Iximché ruins, a Guatemalan National Monument
  • Explore Lake Atitlán and enjoy some relaxation along the water

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Guatemala and Travel to Antigua Antigua
Day 2 Antigua - Walking Tour and Cooking Class Antigua
Day 3 Antigua - Hike Pacaya Volcano Antigua
Day 4 Acatenango Volcano - Hike and Camp Overnight Acatenango Volcano
Day 5 Acatenango Volcano - Hike to Fuego Volcano Acatenango Volcano
Day 6 Return to Antigua Antigua
Day 7 Travel to Quetzaltenango Quetzaltenango
Day 8 Zunil Volcano - Hiking Day Zunil
Day 9 Zunil Volcano - Hiking, Hot Springs and Return to Quetzaltenango Quetzaltenango
Day 10 Quetzaltenango - Day Hike to Santa Maria Volcano Quetzaltenango
Day 11 Travel to Tuichan and Hike Tajumulco Volcano Tajumulco
Day 12 Descend Tajumulco and Travel to San Pedro San Pedro La Laguna
Day 13 San Pedro Volcano - Hiking Day San Pedro La Laguna
Day 14 Lake Atitlán - Free Day Lake Atitlán
Day 15 Visit Iximché Ruins and Travel to Antigua Antigua
Day 16 Depart From Guatemala City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Guatemala and travel to Antigua

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

Welcome to Guatemala! You’ll arrive in Guatemala City International Airport, where a driver and private shuttle will meet you outside. Then, you’ll transfer to Antigua, which is approximately a 1-hour drive, depending on traffic.

Once you arrive at your accommodations in Antigua, take some time to get acclimated. Enjoy the town, the rest of the day, and the evening at your leisure.

Day 2: Antigua - Walking tour and cooking class

View of Antigua and Volcan de Agua from Cerro de la Cruz
The view of Antigua and Agua Volcano from Cerro de la Cruz

In the morning, you’ll meet your knowledgeable local guide to explore the beautiful city of Antigua. This former capital boasts an impressive catalog of colonial relics in a magnificent setting. Streets are colored in pastels, with three volcanoes surrounding, which makes for some incredible views. Many old, religious, and civic structures have been renovated, while others retain their aged charm. On this tour, you will visit the City Hall Palace, Palace of the Captain’s General, the Cathedral, with its majestic ruins, as well as the best museums in town, at Paseo de los Museos

After the tour, you’ll have time to grab some lunch, relax, and enjoy Antigua a bit on your own. In the afternoon, a driver will pick you up and take you to a cooking class—that starts at 3 pm, and lasts about 3 hours, depending on the group—where you’ll have the chance to learn about Guatemalan food by preparing the local fare.

Guatemalan cuisine is an exotic mixture of traditional colonial Spanish and indigenous Mayan cooking that is both delicious and fun to prepare. Your cooking class will be taught by Guatemalan chefs—natives of Sacatepequez, who have specialized in the regional cuisine handed down from one generation to another. In addition to the main dish, you will also learn to prepare Guatemalan tortillas and a local dessert.  

At the end of the class, you will enjoy the meal with your fellow chefs. Then, the rest of the evening will be at your leisure.

Day 3: Antigua - Hike Pacaya Volcano

Lava fields of Pacaya Volcano
The lava fields of Pacaya Volcano

Today, you’ll adventure to Pacaya Volcano. You’ll meet at 8 am at a local Antigua shop to fill up your water bottles before heading off to climb the volcano. The drive to the trailhead is approximately 1.5 hours in private transport from Antigua to the park office. 

At 8,370 feet, it may not be Guatemala’s highest peak, however, its slopes and unique scenery are some of the most impressive volcanic landscapes in all of Central America. Set in its own national park, Pacaya has a continuous plume of smoke drifting from its summit and a massive dried lava field that forms the valley at the base of its caldera.

As your group moves up the myriad of trails on the mountain, take in the vistas opening up before you. As you reach the base of the caldera, your guide will direct the group through the rugged, dried lava fields, recently reformed by a massive eruption in 2010. No matter what conditions you encounter on the mountain, your group will have the opportunity to traverse unique volcanic rock landscapes as you ascend toward the peak. Here, the group will stop for a freshly prepared picnic to enjoy, along with views of nearby volcanoes including Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango. There will be plenty of opportunities to explore geothermal hotspots on the cooled lava formations, as well.

The hike down brings you across the remaining dried lava fields before you begin your descent through Pacaya’s lush and lesser-known forests and farmland.

After your hike down to the trailhead, you’ll return to Antigua by private transport to arrive in town between 4-5 pm. The rest of the evening will be at your leisure.

Day 4: Acatenango Volcano - Hike and camp overnight

Fuego Volcano
Fuego Volcano erupting at night

Today, you’ll embark on a two-day, one-night hike that brings you up the slopes of Volcano Acatenango to your private campsite, which is bench-cut into the side of this towering mountain. From here, enjoy camp meals, incredible views, and plenty of room to stretch out. At the camp, you’ll have ample time to appreciate the sights and sounds of nearby Fuego Volcano’s amazing eruptions, too.

In the morning, you’ll meet at the Old Town Outfitters Shop at 8 am, 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. A one-hour drive takes you from Antigua to the mountain village of La Soledad, which is perched on the ridge of the Pacific slope of Acatenango Volcano. The trail up Acatenango Volcano has four, distinct microclimates, each of which will take you about an hour to traverse. You’ll begin by walking up a steep trail through local farm fields—the same trail used by local villagers each morning to access their corn, snow pea, and lily fields. The first hour of hiking will help you acclimate and warm up your leg muscles for the day’s hike.

The second phase of the ascent passes through an old-growth tropical cloud forest. In this environmental zone, you’ll find some of Acatenango’s oldest trees, the sounds and sights of the biodiverse flora and fauna, and the fresh mountain air. This type of high-alpine cloud forest is found on the upper slopes of many of Guatemala’s tallest volcanoes and mountains and is home to the famous Quetzal.

After exiting the cloud forest, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views of the other highland volcanoes (Atitlan, Toliman, San Pedro, Santa Maria, Santo Tomas, and Tajamulco), along with glimpses of the Cuchumatanes mountain chain. Then, you’ll enjoy a freshly prepared midday picnic for lunch.

In terms of climate, both the temperate coniferous forest and tropical dry forest characterize the third phase of your ascent, which will lead you to the tree line of the volcano. Your campsite is perched just below the tree line, with sweeping views of the Antigua valley and Fuego Volcano.

After setting up camp, you’ll be free to rest, relax and enjoy your surroundings, while your guide prepares a fresh camp dinner, along with hot tea and coffee, at approximately 12,300 feet.

Day 5: Acatenango Volcano - Hike to Fuego Volcano

Hike from Acatenango to Fuego
Hike from Acatenango to Fuego

In the morning, your group will enjoy a hearty breakfast after a stunning sunrise from above the cloud line, bringing your next objective, Fuego Volcano, into sight. With expansive views south, toward the tropical Pacific Coast of Guatemala, and east, across the Antigua valley toward towering Agua Volcano, you’ll begin your 1-hour descent to the saddle, between Acatenango Volcano and Fuego Volcano.

After a short rest, you’ll wind your way up the 1.5-hour push to the ridge of Fuego Volcano. At a responsible distance from the active summit of Fuego, between the highland valleys and the Pacific slope, the group will rest and eat lunch, while awaiting the chance to witness a live eruption from a close range.

Then, you’ll spend the afternoon hiking back to the campsite, where you’ll have plenty of time to rest and relax. Prepare for another beautiful night on the mountain, along with dinner cooked by your guide, followed by some much-needed rest.

Day 6: Return to Antigua

Acatenango's crater
Acatenango's crater

Pending weather conditions, your group will rise early and embark on an approximate 1-hour ascent to the summit on a sand-and-gravel scree trail dotted with dwarf pine trees and high alpine mosses. The trail up to the summit will be the steepest thus far, and leads to the rocky summit exposed to the gusty and cold winds, which constantly pass over Acatenango’s peak.

At the summit, rest and enjoy unparalleled 360° views of the entirety of the Guatemalan highlands—all the way to the border of Mexico. After enjoying the views at the top (time will depend on the weather conditions and other scheduling considerations), the group will return to camp for breakfast. After eating and breaking down the camp, you’ll begin the 2.5-3-hour descent back to La Soledad. You’ll have the opportunity to descend through an alternate route down Acatenango Volcano, experiencing a variety of microclimates and scenic trails along the way.

From La Soledad, you’ll transport back to Antigua, arriving in the afternoon with plenty of time to explore the old Spanish colonial capital. You'll have the afternoon free for time to buy souvenirs, or to simply enjoy the town before tomorrow's departure. 

Day 7: Travel to Quetzaltenango

Parque Central, Quetzaltenango
Parque Central in Quetzaltenango

Today, you’ll make the scenic, 6-hour transfer across the High Sierra to Quetzaltenango, also known by its Mayan name, “Xela.” Travelling along the Pan-American Highway, you’ll pass the highest point at a place known locally as “Alaska.”

After a lunch stop at a roadside restaurant, you’ll arrive in Quetzaltenango in the mid-afternoon. At an altitude of 7,660 feet, this is Guatemala’s second-largest city and the center of the Quiche Mayan people.

You’ll check into your hotel close to the central Parque Centroamerica. The rest of the day and the evening will be at your leisure.

Day 8: Zunil Volcano - Hiking day

Morning views from Zunil campsite
Morning views from the Zunil campsite

After breakfast at the hotel, you’ll have a short drive to your trailhead in the village of Xecam. From here, you’ll hike for 2 hours (approximately a 3,281-foot ascent) up to the altiplano plateau of the “Alaska” grassland. You’ll traverse plains full of sheepherders and goatherders, dotted with resettlement villages (due to the aftermath of Hurricane Stan in 2005) and isolated groves of forest, before meeting up with Xela’s famous Siete Cruces (Seven Crosses) ridge trail. Here, you’ll enter a forest full of rare pinabete trees—an endangered species of pine tree endemic to Guatemala—as you begin to wind along the rolling ridgeline (approximately an 821-foot ascent) of Zunil Volcano and its neighbor, Santo Tomas Volcano.

You’ll then break to have lunch in one of the many open-grass areas along today’s ridge trail, and stop for the night just an hour short of Pico Zunil, in a beautiful campsite (10,171 feet high) with scenic views on both sides, east to the Atitlan and Panchoy Valley volcanoes, and west to your next objectives—Santa Maria Volcano, Santiaguito Volcano (an active volcano), and Guatemala’s highest, Tajamulco Volcano.

Day 9: Zunil Volcano - Hiking, hot springs and return to Quetzaltenango

Zunil campsite
Your 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 Zunil Volcano, which sits at 11,621 feet. 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, you’ll have a choice of two routes. One is very steep, and leads directly to the springs, while the other is less direct, and ends with a short transfer to the pools. Your guide will make the decision on the best route, according to the weather and the group.

By midday, you’ll arrive at the hot springs for an opportunity to rest and soak in these thermally heated waters, nestled in a gorge on the lower slopes of the Zunil Volcano. You’ll enjoy lunch at the springs, and then meet up with your transport back to the hotel in Xela, where you’ll arrive in the late afternoon.

You’ll have the evening at your leisure, and will stay overnight at the hotel in Quetzaltenango.

Day 10: Quetzaltenango - Day hike to Santa Maria Volcano

Views from Santa Maria
Views from Santa Maria

Today, you’ll adventure to Santa Maria Volcano, which stands at 12,369 feet. Prepare to depart early in the morning from your hotel, and drive for around 45 minutes, mostly on dirt roads, to the starting point at the village of Llanos del Pinal (8,202 feet).

The trek starts with an easy climb through the fields to the base of the cone. Then, it becomes very steep, up on a dirt trail. The trail is muddy and slippery in places—especially after it rains. It will take 4-5 hours to reach the summit, where you’ll gain access to spectacular views of the active Santiaguito Volcano. Santiaguito, connected to Santa Maria by a saddle, is lower than its sister, and you’ll have a bird’s-eye view into its fiery crater with a hopefully well-timed eruption.

After enjoying lunch at the summit, you’ll return down the trail to Xela for another overnight in Quetzaltenango.

Day 11: Travel to Tuichan and hike Tajumulco Volcano

Tajamulco
Tajumulco

Today, you’ll have an early start to the 3-hour drive to Tuichan Volcano, which is approximately 9,941 feet high. The volcano is close to the border of Mexico and is the starting point for your climb on Tajumulco, the highest of Guatemala’s volcanoes.

The trekking today is not difficult, but prepare for a 7-8-hour excursion. You’ll begin by traversing beautiful forest trails, and then a pine-studded ridge to your campsite (at around 13,123 feet). After about 3 hours, you’ll take a break to rest. You’ll then continue to a shoulder below the final summit cone, which can be reached within 30 minutes from the campsite. From here, it is a steep climb of 20 to 30 minutes to the lowest point of the crater rim, followed by a short scramble to the highest point in Central America, at 13,842 feet. Take in the summit views over the surrounding countryside, and eastward along the volcanic chain.

You’ll then descend to your sheltered campsite with great views, and relax and retire for the evening.

Day 12: Descend Tajumulco and travel to San Pedro

Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlán

In the morning, you’ll complete your descent from Tajamulco and begin the 5-hour drive back to Lake Atitlán, stopping for lunch along the way. From Panajachel, you’ll take a short boat ride across the lake to San Pedro. You’ll arrive at the town, with its namesake volcano towering over, and then check into your waterfront hotel.

The rest of the day is yours to relax and enjoy the surrounding scenery. You can head into town to explore, or alternatively, you can simply swing in a hammock and enjoy the views over sparkling blue Lake Atitlán. The evening is at your leisure, as well.

Day 13: San Pedro Volcano - Hiking day

San Pedro Volcano
San Pedro Volcano

Enjoy breakfast and coffee at 8 am. Then, your group will depart in a private boat taxi to the lakeside village of San Pedro Atitlán. A local pickup will bring you up to the San Pedro Volcano trailhead, and you’ll begin a full-day hike to the peak of San Pedro Volcano (9,908 feet). After the 3.5-hour ascent through the cloud forest, you’ll arrive at a rocky outcropping, which is the summit of San Pedro.

Indulge a fresh picnic lunch provided for your group, which you can enjoy with views of the entire Atitlan highlands and neighboring peaks—Toliman and Atitlan—across the Bay of Santiago.

Your descent back down to the lakeside will take you through the afternoon, arriving back to your hotel in Jaibalito in the late afternoon. After a cool, refreshing dip in the lake, you’ll have the evening to rest and enjoy the views and local fare.  

Day 14: Lake Atitlán - Free day

Lake Atitlan
Enjoy a free day on Lake Atitlán

Today is your free day to explore and enjoy Lake Atitlán. You can choose to relax on the grounds of the hotel or get out to explore some of the other villages surrounding the lake. 

Your hotel offers kayaks, swimming, and other water sports. Public boats can take you around the lake as well; ask your guide for recommendations. Specific tours can also be coordinated—kayaking trips, ziplining excursions, weaving co-ops, village tours, etc. Simply let your guide know your preference.

Day 15: Visit Iximché ruins and travel to Antigua

Iximche Ruins
The Iximché ruins

Today, you’ll explore Iximché, an archaeological site in the western highlands of Guatemala. You will leave Lake Atitlan in the morning, via boat, and then take a private shuttle to the Iximché ruins. After a short drive through the highlands, you’ll reach Iximché, where a guided tour through the ruins will allow you to discover their incredible history. 

The architecture of the site includes a number of pyramid temples, palaces, and two Mesoamerican ballcourts. The ruins of Iximché were declared a Guatemalan National Monument in the 1960s. 

After visiting the ruins, you’ll stop for a quick lunch on the road toward Antigua, our destination for the evening. Once you arrive in Antiqua, enjoy your final night in Guatemala.

Day 16: Depart from Guatemala City

Departure flight
Adios, Guatemala!

Enjoy breakfast in Antigua—depending on your departure schedule—and then a private driver will take you back to Guatemala City for your departure flight. Arriving 3 hours prior to your flight is recommended, which means leaving Antigua 5 hours prior to your flight time, at minimum. Safe Travels!

Map

Map of Guatemalan Volcano Trek: Pacaya, Fuego, Zunil, Tajumulco, & More - 16 Days
Map of Guatemalan Volcano Trek: Pacaya, Fuego, Zunil, Tajumulco, & More - 16 Days