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.

Disclaimer: This blog contains affiliate links meaning I earn a small percentage of every purchase at no cost to you.

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!

A 2-Week Itinerary Through Costa Rica

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This is a 2-week itinerary through Costa Rica, so, please use it as a guide to help you plan your perfect adventure. I spent time researching all the places I have visited and chose the final destinations based on your interests. This is something I would recommend you do too. Everyone is different therefore we all enjoy and see things differently. I hope this inspires you. If you don’t fancy going alone check out this tour!

Amazing Playas Del Coco – 2 Nights

A brown sand beach, a great stop on a 2-week itinerary through Coast Rica
Playas Del Coco

Wow, what can I say about this cute beach bay? It has gorgeous views. The bay is lined with lush green jungle. Therefore, I spent my time relaxing on the beach in the sun. This place has some really good scuba diving spots which my friend did. The first spot was local and the fish were plentiful. The next location was further out at a place called Bat Island where there were bull sharks among other sealife. If you are a keen scuba diver definitely stop by here!

Intense Liberia – 1 Night

This was a good spot just to rest our heads for the night. I wouldn’t really recommend the city as such. I didn’t feel completely safe after dark. The city looked run down but the church was very beautiful. It was only a quick stop for us so I cannot recommend any of the national parks around there as we didn’t visit any.

The Beautiful La Fortuna – 3 Nights

me and a fast flowing river with a small waterfall drop
River Rope Swing

This beautiful jungle area is home to the biggest volcano I have seen. Volcan Arenal. Therefore, I cannot recommend this as a stop for your backpacking adventures enough. It is also home to La Fortuna waterfall another place worth your time. For a bit of fun, there is a rope swing into the river and some free hot springs to relax in. Also, take a tour of the hanging bridges to see epic wildlife or a walk through the sloth park to spot the elusive sloths. There is plenty on offer in this town but these activities do come with a big price tag.

Lush Green Monteverde – 3 Nights

Santa Elena cloud forest showing its misting vibe in amongst the trees
Santa Elena Cloud Forest

Monteverde is a cloud forest and a very pretty one at that. I went for a jungle night walk which was on my list of things to here. I went with a company that my hostel works with. It was a great time and we spotted a lot of wildlife. The jungle really does come alive at night. I wanted to do the ziplines here but due to the cyclone rolling through everything was closed. I did manage to venture out in the rain and into Santa Elena cloud forest which was cool to see and cost US$16 with transport. So, it was slightly cheaper than the Monteverde cloud forest. The rest of the time was sat indoors hoping the weather would clear up a little.

The Breath-Taking Manuel Antonio National Park – 2 Nights

Spider monkey hiding up in a tree
A Spider Monkey

This national park was by far my favourite. We spend a day walking around it and the number of monkeys we saw was unreal. This place was truly beautiful. Not only is there a jungle it sits on the coastline too. The beaches were just as incredible as the jungle. The beaches were filled with golden sand and clear, blue water. Perfection. I would recommend adding a day here just to enjoy the beaches and maybe have a surf lesson! The entry was US$16 and it had to be brought online before arrival. The bus runs from Quepos (the nearest town) to Manuel Antonio regularly and for 350C each way.

Unique Uvita – 3 Nights

Waterfall falling over the rocks on a stop from a 2-week itinerary through Costa Rica
Nauyaca Waterfall

The last stop in the 2-week itinerary for Costa Rica was this beachside town: Uvita. However, this town is very spread out. There I would recommend choosing a hostel that is near the beach. Uvita is home to the whale tail bay which can only really be seen by air. Here, we caught a local bus to the Nauyaca Waterfall. This waterfall was amazing and worth the hike or visit. We choose to hike 6km each way to the waterfall and back. The hike was very up and down. Yet, the hard work was worth it because of the reward of the waterfall. The hiking cost US$10. There are options to ride a horse or take a 4×4. We got to the ticket office at the opening therefore when we arrived at the falls we had it to ourselves for a while. A great bonus.

Also, check out my other guides here!!

A 2-Week Adventure Through Guatemala

Disclaimer: This blog contains affiliate links meaning I earn a small percentage of every purchase at no cost to you.

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.

Vietnam – Exploring from the Amazing North to the South

Disclaimer: This blog contains affiliate links meaning I earn a small percentage of every purchase at no cost to you.

After Laos we entered Vietnam, two weeks travelling from SaPa to Ho Chi Minh in the south. For us UK Nationals we need a visa in advance. We had this. Yet, it didn’t stop us from making an error. We got to the airport to fly from Laos to Vietnam two days before our visa started. Luckily, for us, the airline spoke to the embassy and we were allowed in. It just meant we had to leave two days earlier. Result. As a traveller, you are always booking buses or flights so little errors like these will crop up.

Flying into Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi was a busy and stressful city which I don’t really enjoy on the whole. So, we found a ride out of the city on a sleeper bus. These are common in Asia. You get a little coffin-like bed for the night. Perfect if you are my friend’s height at 5 foot 2, you fit right in. I struggled at my height of 5 foot 5. So, any taller… I wish you luck. However, night buses are great as you save on accommodation. Perfect for the budget backpacker.

Hiking… The Reason We Are in Sapa, Vietnam

I was not expecting it to be so cold in SaPa. It was very cold. Also, foggy, you couldn’t see more than 15 feet in front of you. I was here to hike however my friend wasn’t down for this. Luckily I found another traveller who wanted to do the hike. So, the next day we set off. It was as if we set off into the abyss. The fog was still strong. The hike was an easy one but very slippery in places. It wasn’t long before we reached our first village where we had lunch. This village was home to The Black Hmong Tribe.

After a Tasty Lunch…

Rice Fields in SaPa, Vietnam, South East Asia
Rice Fields in SaPa

We visited a school on the way to our homestay. A homestay is staying at a local’s house for the night. We were staying with the Zai Tribe. The school was fun and all the children got distracted from learning and ran outside to greet us. Our homestay was basic but felt homely. The family were great hosts and very welcoming. Our dinner was cooked on an open fire and the little girl kept us entertained with a game of monsters and drawing.

The Second Day of the Hike

The conditions on the trail were a lot worse. As we made our way through the bamboo forest. It felt like we were basically skating on clay for three hours. It was an adventure but it did wear thin towards the end. Luckily for me, I didn’t fall. Although, there were many near misses. Even one with the guide catching me. The guide is from the local Zai Tribe and she was fantastic throughout the trip. This is a great experience with the locals to learn about the two tribes.

Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island

In the famous Halong Bay, again the weather impacted this experience as the fog was still out in force. Although, it gave off a magical feel as we went across the water to Cat Ba. An island where we rented a scooter and explored. The views throughout the day were breathtaking. I was always at the back, driving slower to be able to take in the surroundings more. We decided to hike to the peak of some mountain on the trip around the island. The hike up was a little tough in places but rewarding when we got the view at the top.

Te Back of the Cat Ba Ferry with views of Halong Bay in South East Asia
The Foggy Halong Bay

Also, here we had to do boring tasks such as laundry. However, this time around this was a major inconvenience because it meant all our warm clothes were sent for washing. Speak about bad timing. All your warm clothes in the wash when it’s cold. The joys of travelling with the bare minimum. You don’t get the luxury from a wardrobe but I don’t care. I kind of enjoy living out of a backpack. It feels like part of me at this stage.

The Town of Ninh Binh

We only had a day here. Basically, we caught a night bus in and caught another out the same day. During the day we rented a scooter to visit a national park. Renting scooters is the easiest way to explore around South East Asia. The trip today was about roughly a 45 km drive north. So maybe an hour but this is Vietnam. We found the national park we were looking for after 3 hours. It was a great park once there. Full of plush green forests which you can drive around… well some of it. So, we did. As we rode our scooter down the road, out of nowhere a dog appeared. This dog must have thought we were dinner because it chased us down the road relentlessly. Wow, this dog was so quick and had plenty of stamina. It was trying to bite my ankles so I had to use the selfie stick to keep it away. It followed for sometime before finally giving up. When I tell the story, I say it was a wolf. It’s way more dramatic.

Again, on the way home, we took a three-hour detour. Don’t ask how we did it but we did! Luckily, we came across a random place which had petrol or we wouldn’t have made it. This is the joy of travelling, finding your own path. Once we took our sunglasses and scarf off. It still looked like they were on as the rest of our faces were black. Oh well… another fun day out!

Another Night, Another Night Bus…

The Inside of the Phong Nha Caves on a River in Vietnam
Inside Phong Nha Caves

This time the bus was very late. However, we are used to this by now. Phong Nha was our choice of destination this time. This area had massive cool caves to explore by boat. So, we did just that and these caves were magnificent. Well worth a stop by. It was a good day exploring and we were finally back in the sun. That night… yep, you guessed it. Another night bus. However, this one was different. Different because instead of being late… it just didn’t turn up at all. After, finally getting our money back a group of us made different arrangements to get to Hoi An in the morning.

My Favourite Town in VietNam

We spent a good few days in Hoi An. It was super relaxing. We stayed at the Sunflower Hostel which included the best breakfast of all the hostels, ever. Here, we hired bicycles and slowly explored the beaches, old city, rice fields, and the Japanese bridge. It was nice to change the fast pace to a slow one. This town is famous for making clothes to order. So if you want to pick up a nice dress or suit made to your measurements this is the place to do so.

The Last City was the Capital of Ho Chi Minh

Firstly, we tackled the sombre side by visiting the war museum. This was an eye-opening experience to learn about what Vietnam had to go through with the Americans and the effect it still has on the Nation today. For me, I went on a day trip to Cu Chi Tunnels, again another eye-opening sombre experience. History is sometimes a challenging subject to learn because you can’t help but think about how can people be so cruel.

The Chinese New Year…

The streets lined with moped's ready for the Chinese new year fireworks in Ho Chi Minh, South East Asia
Blocking Traffic for The Fireworks

This was an amazing experience to be part of welcoming the Chinese New Year in Asia. Everyone filled the streets on foot or on their scooters. Traffic was at a complete standstill as roads were fully blocked. We were all waiting for the fireworks display over the river. Still to this day, I would say it’s the best fireworks display I’ve witnessed. The fireworks made shapes like smiling faces and love hearts! I had never seen them before and haven’t seen them since. What a way to end an incredible Vietnam backpacking trip.

Ayers Rock Tour – 3-Day Adventure in the Australian Outback

Disclaimer: This blog contains affiliate links meaning I earn a small percentage of every purchase at no cost to you.

This was the last tour of my 2015 backpacking adventure, The rock tour to Uluru. It was a three-day tour that started and finished in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, Australia. The company was very professional, prepared, and gave us as much food as we could eat. I find normally on tours you just get the one serving but here you could eat what you would like. We never ran out of food. There was plenty for everyone. If you are a budget backpacker like myself then you know to take full advantage of this.

If this doesn’t suit you then there are plenty of other ways to see Uluru, just like this three-day tour. Also, day trips are an option such as Field of light. You can even see it by air!!

Uluru Ayers Rock Tour – Day 1:

Off we set into the Australian outback. We had plenty of kilometres to cover before our first destination. Our guide for the trip was very friendly and full of jokes. His attitude and positivity lasted the whole trip. I was lucky again as the members of the group were all nice. Everyone was chatting (well later on). We did get on the bus before sunrise after all.

After, driving for hours we reached a camel farm. A welcome break to stretch your legs and use the facilities. You get a free ride on a camel… well included in the price of the trip. However, I have been on a camel before and it wasn’t pleasant. It is something, I can say I have done. Yet, I won’t do it again.

The outback is so vast you can just see flat land for miles upon miles. We eventfully saw Uluru for the first time. The rock appears in different shades of red/orange throughout the day. Firstly, we drove around the perimeter. Next, we hiked 8 km around it on foot. The walk was flat so no achy muscles or shortness of breath. Also, you can opt to climb up to the top when I was there in 2015. I am not sure if this is still the case. However, I chose not to. It is a sacred site for the aboriginals.

Sunset over Ayers Rock, Uluru

Sunset over Ayers Rock on the Ayers Rock Tour, Northern Territory, Australia
The Ever Changing Colour of Ayers Rock

As the sunset over the rock, the colour changed. The group and I sipped champagne as the sun faded behind Uluru. What a great start to the three-day tour. Under the darkness of the stars, we set up our swags for the night around the campfire. Our home for the night was directly under the stars. There was no light pollution around us. The stars were out in full force. The brightest I have ever seen them. Also, the southern cross was clear as day.

Uluru Ayers Rock Tour – Day 2:

The day started before sunrise (again). Normally I would not awake before sunrise. Yet, I couldn’t wait to start the day. It was a fresh, cold morning so we all made hot chocolate to warm us up. Before setting off we had to make lunch and pack up camp. The first stop of the day was to watch the sunrise over Uluru. This was extremely pretty. Yet another colour change to the rock. Who doesn’t love the sun rising or setting?


Me at Kata Tjuta known as the valley of the wind hike on the Ayers Rock Tour in Uluru
The Valley of The Winds

We went to the Kata Tjuta (this means many heads). We completed an 8 km walk across rocky terrain and down into the valley of the wind. The uniqueness of the rock here was so pretty. You can see where the wind is so strong and the erosion happens. The walk in the valley was incredible.

After using all my energy, it was time to try the camel burgers for lunch. They were very tasty. The second half of the day was a long drive around 300 km. Yes, 300 km. After that long drive, we arrived at King’s Canyon. Well, a campsite near it at least.

Our Final Dinnertime…

The food the whole trip had been incredible and this was no exception. Kangaroo steaks, potatoes, and bush bread. Bush bread contains beer instead of milk and is cooked over an open fire. During the tour, we were split into two groups to complete chores each evening. As the evening drew to a close, we enjoyed stargazing and roasting marshmallows.

Me roasting marshmallows over on open fire at the King's Canyon campground on the Ayers Rock Tour in Uluru
Roasting Marshmallows on an Open Fire

The stars tonight were even more impressive than last night if that’s even possible. It was a treat to sleep under them for a second night. However, I was more scared this night… why? You are just sleeping out in the open. Yes, that’s right the open where a dingo had just passed through, right before bed.


Uluru Ayers Rock Tour – Day 3:

Finally, our last awakening before sunrise. Again, a chilly morning. However, everybody was safe and no one was taken by a dingo.

The King's Canyon Rim Hike at King's Canyon in the outback of Australia
The Sandstone Erosion by The Strong Winds

Okay… so we all knew the routine by now and quickly we were on the road. We were heading straight to King’s Canyon. On today’s agenda was: hiking. The hike started with a straight steep hill before walking around the rim of the valley. The steep hill is nicknamed ‘heart attack hill’. I feel that is the right nickname as it was no easy task.

Especially, as you could start to feel the heat from the rising sun. King’s Canyon can reach temperatures where it is deemed unsafe to walk around the canyon. The views were gorgeous, no matter which way you looked. You couldn’t go wrong. There was a slight wind however this was a blessing as it slightly cools you. The sun glares down on you the whole way, there is no shade to take refuge in. And just like that, the four-hour hike was over. All that was left on this tour was…

The Final Drive…

The final afternoon was a lot of driving as we made our way back to Alice Springs. We arrived safely and all in one piece. I guess very tired after all the sunrise missions. The whole tour was great and I would definitely recommend doing one as a solo traveller. You get to meet fellow travellers and hear their stories. As well as making connections with new people from across the globe. What a worry-free tour!!

Australia has plenty of group tours available all over the country. Read about my trip to Fraser Island.