The Pacaya Volcano hike is a must-do half-day trip from Antigua in Guatemala. You might have heard about the incredible volcanic activity taking place at Pacaya Volcano (Volcan Pacaya) between 2020 and 2021. This meant the hike was best to do as a part of a sunrise or overnight Pacaya Volcano tour, to enjoy the eruptions and lava flows once it’s dark.
However, since late 2021, the volcanic activity and lava flows have settled. So, in 2022, Pacaya Volcano tour operators are not currently running tours for sunrise, and the overnight option isn’t anywhere near as popular.
Of course, hiking Pacaya Volcano is still an amazing experience without the eruptions and one of those bucket list things you should do when you travel to Guatemala. From the recent volcanic activity, incredible lava fields have been formed and are ready to be explored.
In 2022, you’re left with the early morning Pacaya Volcano tour (6am–12pm), sunset tour (2–8pm) or overnight options. You’ll miss sunrise with the early morning option and there isn’t any lava flow to enjoy from an overnight experience (unlike the Volcan Acatenango hike). So, we highly recommend doing the Pacaya Volcano hike at sunset for the best experience.
In this guide, we’ll go over what to expect from a Pacaya Volcano sunset tour. Plus, we’ll provide details of the Pacaya Volcano hike, show you some epic sunset photos and cover where to stay in Antigua, which should be your base for exploring this Guatemala volcano.
We hope you find this guide useful. For other fantastic Guatemala trails, check out Rostro Maya (Indian Nose), Xela to Lake Atitlan 3 Day Hike, Volcan Santo Tomas and Volcan Acetanango/Fuego. Otherwise, check out 17 Best Hikes in Guatemala.
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Pacaya Volcano Eruption 2020–2021
Pacaya Volcano is one of three active volcanoes in Guatemala (Volcan Fuego and Santiaguito are the other two). Since the 1960s, eruptions from Pacaya Volcano have come in waves. The latest eruptions in 2020 and 2021 saw mindblowing lava flow spread and cascade over the sides of this volcano. Sadly, due to the pandemic, not as many tourists got to experience this natural wonder.
During the latter half of 2021, the lava flow and eruptions settled down. In 2022, more tourists are travelling to Guatemala. Having heard of the recent epic volcanic activity, tourists are flocking to Antigua, hoping to catch sight of this. But, they are left disappointed when they hear the lava flow has ceased. Of course, Pacaya Volcano is an active volcano and could start spewing out lava again at any time. In which case, a Pacaya Volcano tour for sunrise should be back on the cards with tour companies. And, an overnight option would be a fantastic alternative experience.
But, for now, in 2022, there’s not much to gain from an overnight trip and not as much to gain from an early morning Pacaya Volcano hike. Instead, the sunset tour departing Antigua at 2pm is the best option as it encompasses golden hour during the return hike from the volcano. This adds an extraordinary atmosphere, which nicely complements your trip to the volcano.
Pacaya Volcano Hike Without a Guide
Before we get stuck into the details of the Pacaya Volcano sunset tour, you might be wondering if it’s possible to visit independently and do the hike without a guide. It’s possible to visit Pacaya National Park independently using collectivo’s. But, this can be really time-consuming! You might need to take up to four collectivo’s to reach the volcano, and this would take hours. Then, you’d have the same arduous journey to get back to Antigua.
Even if you managed to arrive at Pacaya National Park independently, you’re not able to hike Pacaya Volcano without a guide. To hire a local guide, that’ll set you back Q200 ($25USD). Yes, this could be split between a group of people to make it cheaper. But, there’s also the entrance fee, which is 50Q ($6USD) per person.
A Pacaya Volcano tour is usually only Q200 (excluding the 50Q entrance fee). If you’re travelling alone, a tour will work out slightly cheaper. Plus, with a tour, the private shuttle only takes 1.5 hours to get there. So, it’ll save you a bunch of time and effort in getting there.
Pacaya Volcano Hike from Antigua
The Pacaya Volcano hike, organised through a tour company in Antigua, is by far the easiest and cheapest option. It’s also possible to do a Pacaya Volcano tour from Guatemala City. But, Guatemala City is further away from Pacaya Volcano, than Antigua. So, a Pacaya Volcano tour from Guatemala City will be pricier, setting you back approx. Q400–500.
For a quicker commute and cheaper tour price, you should do a Pacaya tour from Antigua. But, if you’re based in Guatemala City and have no other option, you should definitely still visit Pacaya Volcano to do the hike. If you want to make life easier and book a tour in advance, GetYourGuide offers a great Pacaya Volcan Tour from Guatemala City.
Pacaya Volcano Hike Tour: The Best Pacaya Volcano Tour From Antigua
If you want to support the local community of Pacaya, but still enjoy the convenience of a tour from Antigua, we recommend A Viajar Guatemala (Travel to Guatemala). Many Antigua-based companies offering a Pacaya Volcano tour use their own guides from Antigua. One benefit is that these guides can sometimes speak English. But, using Antigua based guides doesn’t really help the community in Pacaya.
A Viajar Guatemala offers the same private shuttle and tour as the other Antigua-based companies but use a local guide from Pacaya. These local guides have a genuine passion for the volcano and are very knowledgeable. Our guide, Ruby, was fantastic. Even though her English, and our Spanish, was limited, she was able to teach us about Pacaya Volcano and lead the tour well.
To make a booking for the Pacaya Volcano sunset tour, head to the A Viajar Guatemala (Travel to Guatemala) office at 7a Avenida Norte No. 20 Antigua, Guatemala. The friendly owner, Alexander, speaks excellent English and can explain the tour in more detail. You can contact him on Whatsapp (+502 3005 7775 or +502 5454 6200), Facebook or check out information about the tour on their online catalogue. The tour costs Q200, and doesn’t include the Q50 Pacaya National Park entrance free.
We found Alexander very helpful and informative. He helped us book our incredible Volcan Acatenango hike with Expedicion Volcan Acatenango. He also helped organise our shuttle from Antigua to Santa Ana in El Salvador through Go Travel El Salvador. For other tours and shuttle services in Guatemala, don’t be afraid to use Alexander and A Viajar Guatemala.
Pacaya Volcano Hike Difficulty
Hiking Pacaya Volcano involves a steep climb, which is physically demanding; but, overall, the hike is fairly easy to navigate (albeit a bit slippery downhill on the way back). There are two trail options for the Pacaya Volcano hike. If you do a Pacaya Volcano tour, you’ll do the out and back hike from La Corona. If you visit independently, the collectivo will drop you off at San Francisco de Sales. So, this is where you’d start and finish your hike.
The trails are very similar, both involving a steady dusty climb to the base of Pacaya Volcano. Each trail leads you to the same point where you’ll explore the lava fields formed by the recent eruptions. There’s no real advantage or disadvantage in choosing one trail over the other.
If you’re in Antigua, we hope you plan on doing the incredible Volcan Acatenango hike. In comparison to that overnight adventure, the Pacaya Volcano is simple and easy. Perhaps, to help you acclimatise before the Volcan Acatenango overnight hike, you should do the Pacaya Volcano hike as a warm-up a day or two before. Otherwise, if you’ve already acclimatised, you might want to save your energy and do the Pacaya Volcano tour after summiting Volcan Acatenango.
Pacaya Volcano Hike Distance
Both the Pacaya Volcano hike from La Corona and San Francisco de Sales involves an approx. 5.5km out and back trail. Either way, the hike takes around 2.5 hours, which includes time to explore the lava fields and toast marshmallows!
Pacaya Volcano Hike Elevation Gain
Starting at around 1,825m, the elevation gain of the Pacaya Volcano hike is around 340 metres. This is what you’ll need to conquer if you do the hike with a tour company from La Corona. Doing the out and back trail from San Francisco de Sales involves a slightly higher gain of around 450 metres.
Pacaya Volcano Horseback Option
If you’re wanting to give your legs a rest and skip the half-day hike, it’s possible to follow the trail via horseback. This will cost Q300 per person ($40USD) and takes you most of the way up. Once you arrive at the lava fields, you can’t go any further with the horse.
A few people opted for the horseback option in our tour group. Admittedly, Beck and I didn’t enjoy all of the dust created by the horses. Plus, it was a bit off-putting to have a horse up your backside when hiking. So, if you’re able to walk, you definitely should. You’ll experience a great workout and feel a greater sense of triumph reaching the foot of the volcano this way. If you are able to walk and want to make it a bit easier for yourself, you can hire a wooden stick at the national park entrance for Q5 ($0.70USD).
But, we appreciate that getting to the base of the volcano via horseback is a necessary option for those who may not be able to walk the trail. With this in mind, the horseback option would be an excellent way to experience and enjoy Volcan Pacaya.
Pacaya Volcano Trail
Although you won’t need GPS directions for a guided hike, we hope this interactive map of the Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala gives you an idea of what to expect.
Pacaya Volcano Hiking Details
If you opt for a Pacaya Volcano tour, you’ll be picked up from your accommodation in Antigua around 2–3pm. After the approx. 1.5 hour drive to Pacaya, you’ll be dropped off at La Corona. We recommend using the bathroom before the Pacaya Volcano hike begins. We were met by our lovely guide, Ruby, who walked us over to the Pacaya National Park entrance. This is where you’ll cough up the Q50 entrance fee.
From here, the wide dusty trail ascends, zig-zagging and winding its way up towards Pacaya Volcano. After finishing the Volcan Acatenango hike the day before, Beck and I were a bit slow to get going. Being in a group, we didn’t mind the slower speed.
As you ascend, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the volcanoes around Antigua including Volcan Agua, with Volcan Acatenango and Fuego beyond. Personally, we encountered widespread cloud cover and haze. So, our views weren’t quite as far-reaching.
Pacaya Volcano Lava Fields
After a fairly steep climb, you’ll arrive at the base of Volcan Pacaya and the vast lava fields. Surprisingly, you’ll pass Pacaya Pizza – a very interestingly placed pizzeria! You’ll soon swap the dusty trail for the solidified lava track, which is very rocky and uneven. Marked by white paint, a path leads you around the foot of the volcano to an area of ongoing volcanic activity.
Although there isn’t any red-raw lava to gawk at in 2022, there are still steaming fumaroles to explore. Steam rises from these rocks, and creates a warm environment, warm enough to toast some marshmallows! A big shout to Ruby for giving me seconds!
Around the base of Pacaya Volcano, there are exquisite red rocks, many still emitting heat. Without too many clouds, you may also get to witness ash escaping the peak of Pacaya Volcan. Although it isn’t as spectacularly active as Volcan Fuego or Santiaguito, this volcano is still an incredible landform to explore.
Sunset on the Return Hike
After an hour or so of exploring the base of Pacaya Volcano, you’ll make the much easier return hike back to the trailhead. A gradual descent gently guides you, as you wind and twist your way back through Pacaya National Park. The golden hour starts to light up the sky and horizon with majestic orange hues. Even though we experienced lots of cloud cover, this did make for quite the spectacle in the sky.
There are many viewpoints to enjoy the sunset from during the return hike. With the group well spread out, it seemed that Beck and I enjoyed many beautiful spots for sunset, all by ourselves. Perhaps this is another good reason to visit for the sunset tour. Most of the crowds doing the early morning tour would have well and truly left by that time. After soaking in sunset on a quiet trail, you’ll soon arrive back at the trailhead with darkness setting in. It’s time for the 1.5 journey back to Antigua!
In 2022, we highly recommend doing the Pacaya Volcano hike at sunset for the best experience. Sure, a Pacaya Volcano tour isn’t quite as epic compared with the sunrise and overnight tours in 2020 and 2021 during the explosive eruptions. And, there’s always a chance that these eruptions will start up again sometime soon. So, the sunrise and overnight tours will be back on the cards. But, for now, the sunset option is still a fantastic way to experience Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala.
Best Place To Stay in Antigua Guatemala
Antigua is the best place to base yourself for hiking Pacaya Volcano. To help you plan your trip to Antigua Guatemala, we’ve handpicked the best hostels and hotels to suit any budget. And, to help plan your other adventures in Antigua, check out this Best Things to Do in Antigua guide.
Best Hotels in Antigua Guatemala
For those travellers who aren’t afraid to pay a little extra for a nice and comfortable stay, we recommend these hotels in Antigua.
Hotel Posada Santa Teresita
During our time in Antigua, Beck and I stayed at Hotel Posada Santa Teresita. Gilda was a very generous, nice and accommodating host. Our private room was very spacious and the outdoor courtyard had a lovely garden. Part of the courtyard near the reception desk is undercover and provided a lovely workspace and place to eat. The wifi was phenomenal!
Admittedly, the shower was rarely warm and we didn’t use the kitchen much as there were a few insects about. But, we were happy with our extended stay here because the location was excellent. It’s just on the outskirts of the main centre, so you’re only a five minute walk from the town centre but are away from all of the noise. Plus, it’s a great place to stay for visiting Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala.
Case Elena is a lovely colonial-style building offering superb accommodation in Antigua. The rooms are cosy and comfortable, with either a patio or a balcony. There’s also a lovely garden and terrace. Wifi is good and the breakfast is rated really highly. The owners are friendly, so you feel right at home at Casa Elena.
San Rafael Hotel
One of the most highly-rated hotels in Antigua is San Rafael Hotel. It’s another classy colonial-style building that has a beautifully decorated garden interior. Best of all, the rooms are elegant and spacious with wooden furniture, a fireplace, a small seating area and a nice private bathroom.
Best Hostels in Antigua Guatemala
For the budget backpackers, these three hostel options in Antigua will more than cater to your needs. These places are all great options for visiting Volcan Pacaya in Guatemala.
Barbara’s Boutique Hostel
From your first impression, you’d expect Barbara’s Boutique Hostel to be a lavish five-star hotel. With gorgeous decor and modern facilities, this hostel goes above and beyond your average hostel. But, it’s not just about the looks. With glorious hot showers, decent Wifi and a lovely shared kitchen, there’s a lot to admire about the hostel’s facilities. It’s also a great atmosphere to meet other travellers with many social spaces.
Yellow House Hostel B&B
Another stylish hostel in Antigua is the Yellow House Hostel B&B. You’ll be met by friendly reception staff, who offer modern rooms with good WiFi and a lovely garden and terrace to relax in. A continental breakfast is provided, which is always a bonus when booking a hostel!
Adra Hostel has good reason to be one of the highest-rated hostels in Antigua. The hostel has a comfortable lounge, and a nice terrace and bar, so it’s easy to relax and meet other travellers. Continental breakfast, good WiFi and general good vibes mean you won’t be disappointed with staying at Adra Hostel.
Five Hiking Essentials For the Pacaya Volcano Hike
- 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.
Make sure to also pack 2L of water, sunglasses, a fleece jacket and a hat.
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.
Pacaya Volcano Guatemala FAQs
We hope our guide has answered most, if not all of your questions about hiking Pacaya Volcano. But, here are some other common questions we’ve been asked about the hike.
How High is Pacaya Volcano?
The summit of Pacaya Volcano is 2,552 metres. Given it’s an active volcano, you obviously won’t be hiking to the summit. The highest point of the hike reaches 2,157m.
Where is the Pacaya Volcano Located?
The Pacaya Volcano is located in, you guessed it, Pacaya! Sitting in the Escuintla Department of Guatemala, it’s about 30km southwest of Guatemala City.
How Far is Pacaya Volcano From Antigua?
Pacaya Volcano is around 25km southeast of Antigua. With the private shuttle provided by tour companies, it takes around 1.25–1.5 hours to get to the volcano from Antigua.
When is the Best Time to Visit?
Like most hikes in Guatemala and Central America, you should do them during the dry season (November to April).
- Stay at the front of the pack: to avoid the dust kicked up by other hikers and horses, try to stay at the front of your tour group during the Volcan Pacaya hike.
- Use trekking poles: this will make the walk up much easier on your knees. Even the cheap wooden sticks are better than nothing.
- Hike during the week: Being close to highly populated cities such as Antigua and Guatemala City, Pacaya Volcano can get very busy on the weekends. Hike Pacaya Volcano during the week to avoid the crowds.