The Acatenango volcano hike is one of the most popular hikes in Guatemala. Located about an hour from Antigua, this overnight hike is a must on your Guatemala itinerary. Acatenango is the third tallest volcano in Guatemala. It’s dormant, but it’s directly across from the active Volcan Fuego. One of the most special parts of hiking Acatenango is watching Fuego erupt every thirty minutes or so. (Especially at night when you can see the glowing red lava!)
It’s also possible to continue on to Fuego during your overnight hike, before returning to Acatenango base camp to sleep and wake up in time to reach the summit of Acatenango at sunrise. The best time to do the Acatenango volcano hike (and to visit Guatemala in general) is during the dry season from November to April. While it doesn’t guarantee good weather, it’s more likely you’ll have clear and pleasant conditions compared to the rainy season from May to October.
No matter what time of year you visit, prepare for cold temperatures at the top of the volcano! The temperature can plunge down to 30 degrees at night, so bundle up. It’s possible to do Acatenango in a single day, but the most popular option is the overnight hike. This is because you get to see Fuego erupting at night, and you can watch the sunrise from the summit of Acatenango. It also breaks things up so you aren’t hiking so much in one day.
However, if you’re short on time, it’s possible to do it in a single day. Not that if you want to do Fuego in addition to Acatenango, you will definitely need to do an overnight hike. (More details on that below!) For the overnight hike, you will typically hike for four to five hours to reach Acatenango base camp, and then the next morning you will wake up and hike another hour and a half to reach the summit. The descent takes about two hours.
The Acatenango volcano hike is quite difficult. If you are in moderately good shape, you should be able to do it (but know you’ll be sore for a few days afterwards!) I consider myself to be a very out of shape person. As in, I have never been able to run a mile and I do not exercise. For me, this was the most physically challenging activity I have ever done. This was the general consensus from many other people who I talked to as well. However, for some people in my hiking group, Acatenango was a cakewalk. (And they weren’t even avid hikers.) So it really depends. If you fall on the spectrum between out of shape to moderately fit, this hike will probably be extremely challenging but doable for you. If you are in good shape, exercise a lot, hike a lot, etc. then you probably won’t struggle as much. The hike is steadily uphill (sometimes very steep) with little to no flat parts. To reach base camp, you will be hiking from four to five hours depending on your group’s pace, with a stop for lunch and breaks to rest along the way. On day two, you’ll hike to the summit for another hour and a half in the pitch dark to see the sunrise. Finally, the descent is much quicker, taking about two hours, but it’s still challenging due to how steep and slippery it is.