Hiking Volcan Fuego in Guatemala

Week 8 – Antigua

This week’s journal entry is all about the 24 hours of experience hiking Volcan Fuego in Guatemala. This experience deserves its own blog. This has to be my highlight so far. I am not sure if my words can truly sum up the magical experience I had.

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Arriving at the Starting Point

From the city of Antigua which is stunning, cute, and filled with charm. We set off early to reach the starting point of the hike. The very bottom of Volcan Acatenango. This was where we had our safety briefing and picked up some warm clothes. We chose to go with one of the more expensive companies because after cutting costs on tours before; I really didn’t want to on this one. We chose Soy Tours.

What sold us on this one was the fact it was one of two that camped on the sunset side of the volcano plus the cooked pancakes in the morning. Yes, someone runs up the volcano in the morning with pancakes so they are waiting for you for when you return from sunrise.

Starting the Hike

Anyway, let’s not skip ahead. We have to talk about the hike. Oh wow, it was a hike. It was tough. There is no sugarcoating just how hard I found this. The altitude and the steep incline of the volcano really didn’t do me any favours. We hike all day through clouds upon clouds. The cloud forest we passed on our way up was misty and magical adding to the atmosphere. The clouds kept the temperature down which made the hike just a little bit more bearable. I couldn’t imagine making it to camp if that sun was blaring down on us too.

Volcan Fuego erupting at Dusk
Volcan Fuego Erupting at Dusk

We had regular breaks on our way up, the guides were great at setting a good pace for us all to follow. I do have to admit I did opt to pay extra for someone to carry my bag. Simply because we had to carry all our own water. This meant no backache. Plus, I was already unfit so the extra weight wouldn’t have worked out. When we all reached camp the clouds were still hanging about. Therefore, we all took a well-earnt rest.

When the Clouds Lifted

After, a little rested and only a little one because it wasn’t long before we could hear Volcan Fuego erupting. We were about to have the best luck because just like that the clouds that had been there all day started to slowly lift. Revealing Volcan Fuego in all its glory. Then, from that moment on the volcano didn’t disappoint. It kept going. It erupted as the sunset gave us a view for miles across the exposed valley. A valley lined with volcano after volcano. We were finally weeping the reward from my toughest hike to date.

Lava Flowing from Volcan Fuego at Nightime
Volcan Fuego at Night

Mother nature was showing off and I was all here for it as dusk turned to dark. Although, it was cold and I was happy. Hiking Volcan Fuego in Guatemala was amazing and I just sat there watching the volcano into the night just like it was a television. The night was clear and Fuego was giving us a show shooting lava up into the air, then watching it tickle down the sides. It didn’t seem real. This moment is definitely one of those surreal moments in life.

Hiking for Sunrise

Hiking up for sunrise was a difficult one, tired from yesterday and I had a lack of sleep. However, the lack of sleep was worth listening to the volcano erupting all night long. There were some very loud bangs ringing out around the valley. However, this part of the hike was more like scrambling over rocks than following a clear nicely craved-out trail. Yet, I made it up for sunrise (just) but I did miss the break of the day. Again, Volcan Fuego was performing spluttering ash cloud after ash cloud up into the sky.

Coming Back Down

Volcan Fuego Erupting at Sunrise
Sunrise Over Looking Volcan Fuego

You would think it was easier, it was in some ways but at this point, my legs were jelly so just trying to stay upright and not slip on the stones was the mission when coming back down. Also, this time the sun was out so we got to see all the views we missed out on, on the way up. Oh my… they were pretty! All in all what an incredible experience.

Summary of Hiking Volcan Fuego in Guatemala

Wow. What a truly raw experience something I didn’t think I would see in my lifetime. The company provided great guides, good food, and a perfect camp. I fully recommend using them. This is a unique experience camping on the side of one volcano whilst watching another erupt. There are no words, to sum up, the fierceness of mother nature.

Read about another exciting Central American adventure here!

Guatemalan Adventures

Week 7 – Flores Island to Lake Atitlan

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A ruin temple over 60 metres high
Temple at Tikal National Park

After a long journey from Caye Caulker, we finally arrived in Flores, Guatemala. It was time to start the Guatemalan adventures. On Flores, we only went and grabbed some food and settled in for the night.

The next day we explored the ruins of Tikal National Park. These ruins were amazing. They are situated in the middle of a jungle where these impressive Mayan ruins are scattered throughout acres upon acres of land.

As I am a budget traveller we opted to explore the ruins by ourselves. It was doable. However, we did nearly miss the famous Temple 5! Wondering through this magical jungle you were surrounded by wildlife. Birds filled the air with their tune and monkeys swung from tree to tree.

The monkeys howled loudly, they were everywhere. I feel I spent more time watching them than looking at the ruins. This experience of wandering ruins without information boards would have been better with the guide. This is so you understand the history of the ruins. Here, I would recommend getting the guide plus it wasn’t too much extra money anyway.

Guatemalan Adventures to Lanquin

Waterfall Pools lined with lush green forest during the Guatemalan adventures
Waterfall Pools at Semuc Champey

After, exploring the ruins, the next day we took a tourist bus to Semuc Champey. Semuc Champey was quite the trek to get to. It included a 12-hour bus ride through very windy mountain passes multiple times. Therefore due to the nature of the journey this ride was hell. I couldn’t tell you how many mountain passes we crossed to get there but it was unpleasant. The windy roads seemed to last forever and worse was knowing that we would be doing it all over again to get to Lake Atitlan.

Semuc Champey in my opinion was not worth the torturous journey to get there. I had seen it online with a lot of hype yet for me, it really didn’t live up to it. Normally, I am not disappointed with nature but I felt that I had seen better. The hike was a tough one and long to get to the viewing platform that overlooks the natural limestone bridge. All in all this leg of the journey could be skipped. Also, It was not cheap getting to and from Lanquin nor do hostels have cooking facilities. Therefore, for a traveller on a strict budget, this trip really starts to add up.

Exploring Lake Atitlan

green trees filling th ebackdrop with a natural pool of green and blue water
Semuc Champey

Last up for this week was exploring the many small villages that sit along Lake Atitlan. Arriving after dark was scary. The ‘ferry’ port is in a very random, dark street. Plus, that skipper was very reckless and sped across the dark lake. We made it but those bumps were something else. The small villages each offer a different feeling and are worth checking out each of them.

It was nice to kick back and relax for 4 nights. At this point, we have moved so quickly through Guatemala that it was a welcomed break to be in one place. We even finally managed to do our laundry which at this point was everything that I had in my suitcase.

The next chapter is all about continuing the Guatemalan adventures with a unique experience in Antigua, Guatemala.

A 2-Week Adventure Through Guatemala

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This is the route I took through Guatemala. I stuck to the ‘touristy’ areas which were all completely safe. Also, we travelled around on tourist shuttles which were heavily advised to do. It was more expensive but a lot safer than the chicken buses. Again, have a read of where I went and choose a route that suits your interests.

Flores Island – 2 Nights

me with the ruin temple towering over me
Tikal National Park

This small island sits on a lake and is so small you can walk around it within an hour. The island itself is cute and worth stopping by to catch a good sunset and maybe have some fun over on the rope swing. I was here to visit Tikal National Park. This place was amazing. The entrance fee is Q150, the tourist bus there and back Q15 or Q100 with a guide. I opted for no guide but I would recommend going with the guide. This way you won’t get lost and you will be provided with information about the ruins you are looking at. The wildlife here is insane so don’t forget to look out for monkeys!!

Lanquin – 2 Nights

Waterfall Pools lined with lush green forest
Semuc Champey Pools

Getting to Lanquin is a bit of a nightmare. It is a very long bus ride around 10-12 hours. Also, it isn’t a very pleasant journey. The road winds around mountain range after mountain range. Also, there is another long journey to leave for the next destination too. So, if you are pressed for time maybe this stop is not worth it for you.

Semuc Champey is beautiful and enchanting; however, in my opinion, I am not sure the long journey is worth it. I have seen better. The entrance is only Q50 just for the hike and access to the pools. There is also a tour option that includes tubing and exploring caves by candlelight. This costs around Q170. You get from your accommodation in Lanquin to the pools in a pick-up ride for Q20 each way. This again is a rough 4×4 journey up narrow bumpy roads stood in the back of the truck. So I would give it some thought to see if it is worth it for you!

Lake Atitlan – 4 Nights

A view over looking small villages along Lake Atitlan

This massive lake is not to be missed. It is a common backpacker stop with each lake-side village offering something different from one another. I stayed in the party village of San Pedro but it is easy to visit each village by boat. The journeys cost between Q5-Q20 depending on how far you are going. I visited the hippie village of San Martin and the cool San Juan.

Also, the other activity here is to hike the Indian Nose at sunrise. You have to book this through a tour as it makes it safer. The tour can cost between Q85-Q100 depending on how much of a hard bargain you can drive.

Antigua – 5 Nights

Homemade chocolate in the moulds
Chocolate Making

This town has a great charm and I really enjoyed spending a bit of time here. There is a cool viewpoint that has a volcano as a backdrop so make sure before you climb there is no cloud in the sky that could possibly ruin the view.

In Antigua, I did a chocolate-making class which I recommend as well as staying at Somos Hostel. The chocolate class was with Ek Chumel for Q100 or Q90 if you stay at Somos. This town is just simply nice to walk around and see all the different buildings.

Volcan Fuego Erupting at Sunrise
Volcan Fuego at Sunrise

The main attraction for backpackers is the Volcan Ancatengo Hike. This is a 24-hour hike straight up a volcano to see the neighbouring Volcan Fuego erupting long into the night. I went with Soy Tours which cost Q450 for the trip. Optional extras were a bag carrier Q200 (which I would recommend as you have to carry all your water) and Q200 to hike extra to Volcan Fuego. Soy Tours is one of the two companies that camp on the sunset side. Ultimately this is what helped me make my decision on who to go with because of the better camping spot.

If you enjoyed this blog itinerary you should check out my ultimate month in Mexico.