Volcan Santo Tomas, also known as Santo Tomas Volcano, Volcan Pecul and Cerro Pecul, is a brilliant volcano to hike near Quetzaltenango (Xela). At 3,542m, Volcan Santo Tomas isn’t the tallest volcano in Guatemala (that honour goes to Volcan Tajumulco), but the hike leading to the summit is adventurous and thrilling. Starting from Fuentes Georginas – one of the best hot springs in Xela, you’ll hike in between two volcanoes (Volcan Zunil and Volcan Santo Tomas), before summiting the latter volcano.
Best of all, hiking Volcan Santo Tomas in Guatemala is off the beaten track and rarely explored by tourists. So, expect to have the trail all to yourself during the week and maybe share it with a few locals on the weekend.
In this guide, we’ll talk about everything and anything to do with hiking the incredible Volcan Santo Tomas. We’ll tell you why it’s best to do Volcan Santo Tomas as a guided tour, but we’ll also cover how to visit independently.
Plus, we’ll answer all of your questions about the Fuentes Georginas thermal springs, discuss trail variations that include hiking to Volcan Zunil and show off some epic photos of the hike. Whilst we’re at it, we’ll dive into the other great hot springs in Guatemala, the best hotels in Xela and the Fuentes Georginas hotel option.
We hope you find this guide useful. For other fantastic Guatemala hikes, check out Volcan Santa Maria, Laguna de Chicabal, Indian Nose and Volcan Pacaya. Or, have a look at our 17 Best Hikes in Guatemala guide.
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Volcan Santo Tomas Hike: Tour or No Tour?
Generally speaking, Beck and I love hiking independently as that’s just what we’re used to, living in the UK. But for hiking Volcan Santo Tomas, a guided tour is by far the best option for many reasons, and honestly, is really the only option if you want to have enough time to spend at Fuentes Georginas after the hike. Let us explain!
Fuentes Georginas Opening Hours
Fuentes Georginas is open 9am–6pm. Given Fuentes Georginas is the trailhead for the Volcan Santo Tomas hike, the earliest you can start the hike is when the hot springs open.
The hike takes around 10 hours on average, and that’s if you’re a quick walker. Being speed hikers, we managed to finish the hike in 9 hours. Even then, hypothetically, if you started the hike at 9am, you’d finish around 6pm. This means you’ll miss out on swimming and soaking in the warm waters of Fuentes Georginas after the hike.
Speed hikers… what’s that? Beck and I are speed hiking obsessed. We get a real kick out of hiking fast and getting a solid workout.
By taking a tour with Monte Verde Tours, you’ll be picked up around 4am, which gets you to the trailhead at around 4:45am. This will give you plenty of time to do the hike before the hot springs close. After finishing the hike at around 3pm, we had a few hours to enjoy one of the best hot springs in Guatemala.
Volcan Santo Tomas Safety
Of course, if you hike Santo Tomas Volcano independently from Fuentes Georginas, you’ll miss out on swimming in the hot springs after you finish. Even if you don’t mind missing out on one of the best hot springs in Guatemala, we still wouldn’t recommend hiking the volcano independently due to its safety.
Admittedly, there are many volcano hikes in Guatemala that are very straightforward and easily navigatable. However, this is not the case for Volcan Santo Tomas. In many sections, the trail is steep, slippery and requires minor technical manoeuvres. Also, some parts of the trail are quite overgrown. We were glad our guide, Rudi, had a machete to help us proceed along the trail.
Also, a German woman attempted the trail solo a few years ago and got lost, requiring a huge rescue mission. That’s why the locals highly recommend tourists do this hike with a guide.
Hiking Volcan Santo Tomas Independently
Even if you ignore all of the conventional advice to take a guided tour, hiking independently is very tricky, logistically speaking.
If you’re on a tight budget and plan to use public transport to reach Fuentes Georginas, it can be time consuming. The earliest chicken bus from Quetzaltenango to Zunil (Q5) leaves at 6am, and takes around an hour to reach the nearest town of Zunil. But, chicken buses can be delayed and slow, so you might not arrive until 7:30am. You’ll then need to flag down a taxi/tuk-tuk to take you to the hot springs. You’re looking at around Q50 and the journey will take around half an hour.
Keep in mind, there’s also a huge gate that’s built into the rock walls, blocking vehicle access to Fuentes Georginas. The gate usually opens around 8am (sometimes earlier for workers). Surrounding the gate is a steep ravine, so there’s no getting around it. Fortunately, by choosing Monte Verde Tours, the owner, Josh, is able to call ahead, to ensure there is security personnel waiting for you near the gate when you arrive around 4:35am. So, the gate isn’t an issue if you do an organised tour.
But, even if the gate is open at 8am, as previously mentioned, you can’t actually start the hike until 9am when the hot springs open. There’s also the issue of the gate shutting when the hot springs close around 6pm, once you’ve finished the hike. Sure, there’ll likely be security to let you exit the gate, but there won’t be any vehicles waiting to take you back to Zunil, and/or onwards to Quetzaltenango. Unless, you use Uber, which is a relatively inexpensive way to get to and from the hot springs.
Alternate Trailhead For Volca Santo Tomas
There is an alternate trailhead for hiking Volcan Santo Tomas, but it would make the hike unnecessarily long, tedious, and practically laborious. The alternate starting point is Finca la Chingada and would bypass Fuentes Georginas.
But, to reach Finca la Chingada requires a very serious 4×4. Without a 4×4, there’s a little village called Tzumucabal which has paved access. You could potentially start there, but this would add maybe an hour of hiking to get to Finca La Chingada. You’d then need to hike from Finca La Chingada, an additional hour, to reach the main trail, that leads to the juncton for Volcan Santo Tomas and Volcan Zunil.
In total, that would make the hike a 14–18 hour return journey. Yeah, it’s absolutely a no-brainer to forget this option and take a tour.
Volcan Santo Tomas Guided Tour
By far, the easiest, most convenient, practically logical and enjoyable choice is a guided tour to Volcan Santo Tomas. We chose to go with Monte Verde Tours and absolutely loved it. For Q350, the guided tour includes roundtrip transport and the Fuentes Georginas entrance fee (Q60). Best of all, with Monte Verde Tours, you can do the hike on any day you like, as long as there are two people. So, if you’re travelling solo, you better buddy up with another traveller!
If you’re interested in going with Monte Verde Tours, simply contact them on Whatsapp (+502 5729-6279) or visit their office in town (13 Av. 8-34 Zona 1 Quetzaltenango) to book a tour. You’ll also find that many of the hotels and hostels in Quetzaltenango recommend Monte Verde Tours.
The other benefit of doing a guided tour is that you can leave your swimming gear and towel in the van as you do the hike. Anything to save on weight during the 5–6 hour gruelling ascent!
Volcan Santo Tomas Trail Preview
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 21.1km
- Time: 9–11 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 1,180m
- Difficulty: Hard
- Trailhead: Fuentes Georginas
Travel Made Me Do It have personally rated this trail
Volcan Santo Tomas Hiking Map
With a guided tour, you obviously won’t need any maps to help you navigate the trail. But, just so you know what you’re getting yourself into, check out a map of this hike here.
Volcan Santo Tomas Hike
With a 4am pick-up, the alarm was set at 3:40am for the Volcan Santo Thomas hike. From Xela, you’ll have a roughly 30 minute drive to Fuentas Georginas, where you’ll start and end the hike.
Let’s hope security isn’t too far away, when you arrive at the Fuentes Georginas gate at 4:30am. We only needed to wait 5 minutes or so, and then it was just another minute to arrive at the car park.
Similar to the Volcan Santa Maria hike, make sure to bring a head torch as you’ll be setting off in the dark at around 4:45am. You’ll walk through the Fuentes Georginas complex, passing the mist-inducing hot springs, before joining a steep forest trail.
Even in the dead of the night, you’ll be peeling off the layers almost immediately as you begin to work up a sweat. Expect to hear early morning fireworks in the distance if it’s a local’s birthday – this is a Guatemalan tradition! The initial route up is steep and slippery.
After stumbling over a few fallen trees, you’ll arrive on a flat section of forest. You’ll see an unofficial signpost signalling around 8.5km to the peak of Volcan Santo Tomas. After passing this sign, you’ll chuck a right and continue along an undulating trail.
At this point, you’ll actually be hiking in between two volcanoes – Santo Thomas and Zunil.
As the sun begins to emerge, you’ll see flashes of orange along the mountainous horizon through the dense forest.
Unfortunately, by the time you reach the first mirador, the best of the morning golden hour is over. But, your views from this first mirador are superb. You’ll enjoy a fantastic view of Volcan Santa Maria and the active Volcan Santiaguito.
After this first mirador, there is another viewpoint, heading in the direction of Volcan Santo Tomas, that is possibly even better than the first. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see a plethora of volcanoes including Volcan San Pedro, Volcan Acatenango and Fuego further in the distance. You’ll even see Lake Atitlan, where we’d hike to, from Xela, in a couple of days’ time!
Next, there is a third lookout platform, with similar views as the previous mirador. Take some time here to rest and enjoy the views, as the trail soon leads through overgrown sections. This makes the trail more challenging as you duck and weave through the jungle forest, and you won’t have much in the way of views for a while.
Halfway through the overgrown trail, there is a clearing, where you’ll have brilliant views of Volcan Santiaguito. After that, it’s back to the overgrown trail for another half an hour or so.
Volcan Santo Tomas Summit
Eventually, the trail opens up to a flat forested area, which signals your arrival at the base of Volcan Santo Tomas. This is where the final uphill battle begins! Unfortunately, as per the typical weather conditions in Quetzaltenango, clouds had started to cover our surroundings by 10am. So by the time we reached the summit, many of the surrounding mountains and ranges weren’t visible.
Thankfully, the clouds rolled in and out, so there were some views to enjoy from the top. Plus, we had experienced some mighty fine views from the previous miradors en route to the summit of Volcan Santo Tomas.
Even with obstructed views, you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment reaching the top. Although, we did find the Adhoc camping set up located at the peak of the volcano a little precarious. Essentially, there are a few small haphazard constructions made from wood and tarp.
Our guide told us that locals who make the journey up, only take blankets and that they use these shanty shelters instead of a tent. That, and loads of rubbish at the peak was a bit unsettling and offputting, to be honest.
Return Hike to Fuentes Georginas
With a fortunate clearing of some surrounding clouds, we enjoyed our final views from the summit and started the journey back to Fuentes Georginas. The return journey should take around 4 hours.
Fuentes Georginas in Guatemala
After finishing the long hike, it’s time to soak up some geothermal activity from Volcan Zunil. Although this volcano has been dormant for 84,000 years, it provides pleasantly heated water for Fuentes Georginas. Having taken a tour, we had plenty of time in the afternoon to enjoy one of the best hot springs in Guatemala.
First, we grabbed a coffee from the small restaurant, retrieved our swimmers from the van, and headed to the changing rooms. Take note, you’ll need to have a cold shower (eek!) before getting into the hot springs. Once showered, there are three pools to enjoy. Make sure to swim in the largest and head to the back, where the warm water trickles from the rocks.
Apparently, for whatever reason, the hot springs weren’t as warm as usual in early February 2022. Some sort of geological explanation me thinks! Regardless, we still managed to find fleeting hot spots in the springs. Exploring Fuentes Georginas was a relaxing way to finish the Volcan Santo Tomas hike.
The Fuentes Georginas Entrance Fee
As mentioned, Monte Verde Tours covered the price of entry. But, if you visit independently, the entrance fee is 60Q for tourists and 30Q for locals. There are also lockers to store your belongings, which will set you back around 25Q.
We really enjoyed hiking Volcan Santo Tomas. It’s a quiet trail, that’s off the beaten track and ready to be explored. Of course, the most logical choice is to hike Volcan Santo Tomas with a guided tour. By doing so, you’re guaranteed an excellent hiking experience!
Hiking Volcan Zunil
It’s also possible to hike Volcan Zunil from Fuentes Georginas. It’s a shorter and slightly easier hike compared with Volcan Santo Tomas, so this might be a better option if you arrive at Fuentes Georginas by mid-morning.
To reach Volcan Zunil, you’ll follow the same trail as Volcan Santo Tomas initially for about 8km. You’ll then arrive at a junction near the first mirador. For Volcan Zunil, you’ll turn left and follow the trail for around 2.5km to reach the summit. But, again, locals would advise against attempting Volcan Santo Tomas or Volcan Zunil independently.
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 16km
- Time: 8–10 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 1,290m
- Difficulty: Hard
- Trailhead: Fuentes Georginas
- Map: Wikiloc
Hiking Both Volcan Zunil and Volcan Santo Tomas
Another option is to hike both volcanoes, but this is best done over two days as it’s a whopping 31km and +2,000m elevation gain. Thankfully, Monte Verde Tours offer an overnight hike to Volcan Zunil and Volcan Santo Tomas for Q500/person. This guided tour includes roundtrip transportation, Fuentes Georginas entrance fee, three meals and all the necessary camping equipment.
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 31.1km
- Time: 2 days (around 13–15 hours of hiking)
- Accumulated elevation gain: 2,100m
- Difficulty: Hard
- Trailhead: Fuentes Georginas
- Map: Wikiloc
Camping at Volcan Santo Tomas
Monte Verde Tours also offer an overnight option for Volcan Santo Tomas. Similar to the Volcan Zunil/Santo Tomas overnight hike, this overnight hike to Volcan Santo Tomas alone, includes a guide, roundtrip transportation, Fuentes Georginas entrance fee, three meals and all camping equipment.
Other Hot Springs in Guatemala
Fuentes Georginas is considered one of the best hot springs in Guatemala. In Quetzaltenango, there are two other great hot springs called Los Vahos and Las Cumbres. These other hot springs are definitely worth a visit.
Of course, there are other fantastic hot springs in Guatemala. These include:
- Finca El Parasio near El Estor
- Aguas Caliente Park near Antigua
- Pacaya Volcano
- Posas de Agua Caliente in Lake Atitlan
Fuentes Georginas Hotel
If you like Fuentes Georginas so much that you don’t want to leave at closing time, it’s actually possible to stay there! For more information and to check availability, you’ll need to contact Fuentes Georginas Hotel in advance.
Hotels in Xela
Most people who hike Volcan Santo Tomas and visit Fuentes Georginas will stay in nearby Xela. This gorgeous Highlands town is a great base for volcano hiking.
We highly recommend staying at ‘Rio Rooms in City Centre‘, which is a great value for money guesthouse. You’ll have a private bathroom with a nice hot shower, comfortable bed, working space and shared kitchen facilities, including a fridge. We kept extending our stay as we enjoyed it so much!
Other hotel options in Xela that we heard good things about include:
Five Hiking Gear Essentials
These are our five hiking gear essentials for hiking Volcan Santo Tomas. For a more comprehensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Otherwise, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
- Best time of year to hike Volcan Santo Tomas: like most hikes in Guatemala, it’s best to do them in the dry season (November to April).
- Hike other volcanoes near Xela: We hiked other fantastic volcanoes near Xela such as Volcan Santa Maria and Volcan Chicabal. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to hike the less-explored Volcan Siete Orejas, but we hear it’s worth the visit.
- Pack breakfast, lunch, snacks and at least 2L of water: Volcan Santo Tomas is a long and demanding hike. Make sure to pack plenty of food and water
Are you currently travelling in or dreaming of visiting Central America? Check out our other Central America guides here.
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