Pacaya Volcano Hike, Guatemala – An unforgettable hike to toast a marshmallow in a volcano

Pacaya Volcano Hike, Guatemala – An unforgettable hike to toast a marshmallow in a volcano

Before I visited Guatemala, it didn’t even cross my mind that toasting a marshmallow in a volcano was actually a ‘thing’. I’m glad to tell you it absolutely is a ‘thing’ and 100% needs to be on your Guatemala bucket list. And it’s on the Pacaya volcano hike where you make this thing a reality.

To hike Pacaya volcano, you need to be the stunning UNESCO city of Antigua. The ancient capital of Guatemala is surrounded by volcanoes, a number of them are still active and Pacaya (aka Volcan de Pacaya) is one of them. There are quite a few options to do the volcano Pacaya hike; including a Sunrise tour or the Sunset tour.

Whichever Pacaya volcano hike you choose you’ll have outstanding views of the surrounding valley and to experience the epicness of actually walking across the lava field of an active volcano. However, it’s not the natural wonders that captivate people here, who knew the humble marshmallow would steal the show.

Walk into any of the adventure tour outlets in Antigua and ask to do the affectionately named ‘Marshmallow Hike’, they’ll know straight away you’re interested in hiking the Pacaya volcano. 

So, what are you waiting for? Grab yourself a brew and let’s find out more about the Pacaya volcano hike.

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Ever wondered if you can toast a marshmallow with some rocks? If you do the Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala you can do just that on a crazy trek up a volcano. For one helluva crazy experience, go on the Pacaya Volcano Hike just outside of Antigua. The active volcano is still warm underground so you can toast a marshmallow in the heat of it. This is certainly something you need to add to your Guatemala itinerary. #Volcano #BucketList #Guatemala #CentralAmerica
Ever wondered if you can toast a marshmallow with some rocks? If you do the Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala you can do just that on a crazy trek up a volcano. For one helluva crazy experience, go on the Pacaya Volcano Hike just outside of Antigua. The active volcano is still warm underground so you can toast a marshmallow in the heat of it. This is certainly something you need to add to your Guatemala itinerary. #Volcano #BucketList #Guatemala #CentralAmerica
Ever wondered if you can toast a marshmallow with some rocks? If you do the Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala you can do just that on a crazy trek up a volcano. For one helluva crazy experience, go on the Pacaya Volcano Hike just outside of Antigua. The active volcano is still warm underground so you can toast a marshmallow in the heat of it. This is certainly something you need to add to your Guatemala itinerary. #Volcano #BucketList #Guatemala #CentralAmerica

THE PACAYA VOLCANO HIKE, GUATEMALA
- USEFUL INFO

Before you travel to Guatemala, have you remembered to book your travel insurance? Get a quote from True Traveller.

The very much active Volcan de Pacaya is situated approximately 45km from Antigua. Frequent small eruptions happen around every 5 years, the last major eruption happening in June 2010. On the day I visited, it was clear enough to see up to the crater and see a faint glow and boulders being spewed out of the top.

Taking part in the Pacya volcano hike is classed as an adventure activity, just make sure you have suitable travel insurance which covers you if you were to have an accident (I know the chances of that happening are slim, but it’s better to be safe than sorry).

Because this volcano is so active, it’s this which keeps the surrounding boulder field warm. Granted, it’s not hot on the surface (in fact, when you’re out of the sun, the breeze makes it quite chilly up here). However, under the surface, the rocks are still warm enough to toast a marshmallow.

 

Ever wondered if you can toast a marshmallow with some rocks? If you do the Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala you can do just that on a crazy trek up a volcano. For one helluva crazy experience, go on the Pacaya Volcano Hike just outside of Antigua. The active volcano is still warm underground so you can toast a marshmallow in the heat of it. This is certainly something you need to add to your Guatemala itinerary. #Volcano #BucketList #Guatemala #CentralAmerica
I did the hike in the late afternoon, so we had a stunning sunset to view on the way back down

What to wear on the Pacaya volcano hike

      • Wear layers! regardless of the time of the year, if you are doing the Pacaya volcano hike, you’ll need them. The wind at the top can be quite cool so take some sort of windproof jacket.
      • I get cold hands easily, so I always take my thin running gloves just as a lightweight layer of protection against the wind. I was certainly the envy of the others who didn’t have gloves.
      • You can not drink the water straight from the taps in Guatemala, so make sure you pack your water purification water bottle which means you can fill up from the taps without getting sick.

Best time to hike Pacaya volcano

Hiking the Pacaya volcano happens all year round but the best season to do the Pacaya Volcano Hike is from November to January, which is just before the dry season. During this time there will still be plenty of greenery about as well as flowers which makes the walk a bit more picturesque.

It can be chilly all year round depending on the wind at the top.

From January onwards (the dry season), it will be substantially hotter, dustier and dryer.

Ever wondered if you can toast a marshmallow with some rocks? If you do the Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala you can do just that on a crazy trek up a volcano. For one helluva crazy experience, go on the Pacaya Volcano Hike just outside of Antigua. The active volcano is still warm underground so you can toast a marshmallow in the heat of it. This is certainly something you need to add to your Guatemala itinerary. #Volcano #BucketList #Guatemala #CentralAmerica
Your guide will point out each of the volcanoes which ou can see in the distance

Pacaya volcano hike difficulty

The Pacaya volcano hike is classed as an altitude hike so you’d want a reasonable level of fitness to be comfortable on this hike. If you have lower levels of fitness or respiratory problems, take this into account. 

The city of Antigua is at an elevation of 5,0oo ft (1.5km) above sea level. So if you’ve just arrived in the region, altitude sickness might be a problem. Spend a few days acclimatising before going on a hike.

The elevation gain during the Pacaya volcano hike is around 1500ft (approx 1/2 a kilometre) however, this will take you up to around about 7700ft (approx 2.3km) above sea level in total. The total height of Pacaya volcano is 8373 ft (approx 2.5km), don’t worry, you’re not going all the way to the top!

There is a sign at the entrance which states it’s medium to difficult hike, although I have done much tougher hikes than this before. My personal view, it was a moderate challenge.

If you need them, walking poles are available to rent at the start of the hike as well as horses to ride up, or to take the return journey on.

How long does it take to hike Pacaya volcano?

Naturally, this will depend on the speed you’re walking at. Typically allow between 90minutes – 2 hours to reach the top and much less for the journey down.

Our group had a mix of ages and fitness levels in and at no point did anyone feel pressurised to keep up. We just went at a comfortable level with plenty of breaks. Regardless of your fitness level, you’ll want to keep stopping anyway to look at the view while you’re doing the Pacaya volcano hike. It’s stunning!

THE VOLCANO PACAYA HIKE - WHAT TO EXPECT

You could organise your own Pacaya volcano hike if you had your own transportation to get from Antigua to the start of the trail (it’s about 45km away, although it takes about 1hr 20 along the bumpy road) and were a confident hiker.

There is a car park at the foot of the trail. The route up was also very clearly defined until you got to the boulder field, then it was a bit of a free for all to wander about. Despite this, it’s always sensible to tell your accommodation that you are going to do the Pacaya volcano hike in case you have any problems.

If you don’t have your own transportation or are not accustomed to hiking, then I highly recommend booking one of the tours. Check out some of these options for Pacaya volcano hike excursions. One of them even includes a relaxing visit to a thermal spa after the hike!

Prebook now: Guided Pacaya hike

Prebook now: Pacaya Hike with lunch and Thermal Spa

Most of the tours will start in Antigua followed by a 1hr 20minute drive in a minivan with dubious suspension, to the car parking area at the start of Pacaya trail.

The parking spot at San Francisco de Sales, is also where you’ll find your last ‘decent’ (I use that word in its loosest sense) toilet stop. There’s also a small shop selling some overpriced bottles of water and snacks – word to the wise – take your own!

As soon as you step out of the van you’ll be bombarded by a hoard of children (cuteness sells!) trying to either rent you a horse or a walking pole. Cute as they are, pester power is the name of the game here.

Ever wondered if you can toast a marshmallow with some rocks? If you do the Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala you can do just that on a crazy trek up a volcano. For one helluva crazy experience, go on the Pacaya Volcano Hike just outside of Antigua. The active volcano is still warm underground so you can toast a marshmallow in the heat of it. This is certainly something you need to add to your Guatemala itinerary. #Volcano #BucketList #Guatemala #CentralAmerica
The entry to the trail up is signposted
Ever wondered if you can toast a marshmallow with some rocks? If you do the Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala you can do just that on a crazy trek up a volcano. For one helluva crazy experience, go on the Pacaya Volcano Hike just outside of Antigua. The active volcano is still warm underground so you can toast a marshmallow in the heat of it. This is certainly something you need to add to your Guatemala itinerary. #Volcano #BucketList #Guatemala #CentralAmerica
The local boys follow you up 'incase' you want to rent a horse

You’ll start to make your way up the dusty trail, followed by your entourage of kids (and their respective adults) who follow you up the volcano a little way behind, frequently offering you a horse or pole if it looks like your struggling. You certainly can’t knock them for perseverance – it didn’t feel like we were being harassed either, they did keep their distance…until you stopped.

I talked about wearing layers of clothing earlier in this article, well you’ll be thankful for them now. The heat of the sun twinned with walking means when you’re not in the wind, you get quite warm. Don’t forget to take regular stops to rehydrate (at my time of visiting it was incredibly dry) and take in the stunning panoramic views.

Usually, there are vendors along the route, there is certainly evidence of them, however on the day I did the hike, we only saw their vacant stalls.

Ever wondered if you can toast a marshmallow with some rocks? If you do the Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala you can do just that on a crazy trek up a volcano. For one helluva crazy experience, go on the Pacaya Volcano Hike just outside of Antigua. The active volcano is still warm underground so you can toast a marshmallow in the heat of it. This is certainly something you need to add to your Guatemala itinerary. #Volcano #BucketList #Guatemala #CentralAmerica
The Lava Store near the top of Pacaya, unfortunately, it was closed

The guide will give you plenty of information and stories along the way as well as pointing out surrounding volcanos, some of them smoking away in the distance.

Remember the Volcano Fuego eruption from 2018 which left at least 190 people dead and a further 256 missing? well, you can see her in the distance whilst you’re doing the Pacaya volcano hike.

Eventually, you’ll reach the lava field. In my head, this is exactly what the surface of The Moon would look like. The dark reddish-grey rocks and boulders here are sharp, jagged and pitted with holes. It’s a good idea to wear something that covers your ankles to save them from getting scratched up. Those wearing thin-soled Tennis shoes certainly felt it on their feet too!

Ever wondered if you can toast a marshmallow with some rocks? If you do the Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala you can do just that on a crazy trek up a volcano. For one helluva crazy experience, go on the Pacaya Volcano Hike just outside of Antigua. The active volcano is still warm underground so you can toast a marshmallow in the heat of it. This is certainly something you need to add to your Guatemala itinerary. #Volcano #BucketList #Guatemala #CentralAmerica
So, apparently, I visited the Moon

This is the highest part of the hike. You can see the crater of Pacaya volcano, but you can not go up. I all honesty, you wouldn’t want to either, we could see it churning out lumps of rock which were being spewn in all directions.

You’ll get to spend a decent amount of time up in the lava field. Depending on the time of day you do the Pacaya volcano hike you might find it either in the shade of the volcano or the breeze whipping about. Again, refer back to my comment about layers of clothing.

Your guide will lead you over to a little hole dug out of the rocks, the hole is about 1m deep. To prove that the rocks were still warm, we were handed one which was taken from inside the hole. These are natures answer to a hot water bottle, although I’m not convinced I’d be in any hurry to curl up with this sharp rock in my bed!

So you know how I obsessed about the marshmallow toasting being a thing. Here’s where it happens and for many me the highlight of the Pacaya mountain hike.

You get given a stick and a marshmallow before gathering around one of the holes to hover it into, where you sit and wait.

Ever wondered if you can toast a marshmallow with some rocks? If you do the Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala you can do just that on a crazy trek up a volcano. For one helluva crazy experience, go on the Pacaya Volcano Hike just outside of Antigua. The active volcano is still warm underground so you can toast a marshmallow in the heat of it. This is certainly something you need to add to your Guatemala itinerary. #Volcano #BucketList #Guatemala #CentralAmerica
Me with my marshmallow on a stick, ready to toast
Ever wondered if you can toast a marshmallow with some rocks? If you do the Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala you can do just that on a crazy trek up a volcano. For one helluva crazy experience, go on the Pacaya Volcano Hike just outside of Antigua. The active volcano is still warm underground so you can toast a marshmallow in the heat of it. This is certainly something you need to add to your Guatemala itinerary. #Volcano #BucketList #Guatemala #CentralAmerica
Toasting marshmallows is very serious business

In all honesty, it is gimmicky, but it’s not pretending to be anything else. I never thought I’d toast a marshmallow in a volcano, as I said at the start, I didn’t even realise it was a ‘thing’. So as novel as it is, not many people can say they’ve done this, it’s certainly one I added to and ticked off my bucket list!

When you’re finished with the marshmallow toasting, you’ll begin the journey down. Because our tour went later in the day, the sun was beginning to set. This created an orange haze in the ash that was being kicked up by our steps. This made for some super cool, ethereal looking photos of silhouettes against the sun.

You’ll probably find that the ash gets into EVERY orifice it can find – up your nose, in your pockets and down your shoes. I hadn’t banked on getting my feet exfoliated while doing the Pacaya volcano hike. Even if you do stop to empty your shoes, within a few minutes walking, they are full up with ash again.

Eventually leaving the ashy trail behind, you’ll get back to the minivan for the journey back to Antigua, where you’ll spend the rest of the day dislodging the dust and ask from every orifice imaginable. Overall the Pacaya volcano hike is a fantastic experience which I’d highly recommend doing. When are you next going to get the opportunity to toast a marshmallow in a volcano?

Ever wondered if you can toast a marshmallow with some rocks? If you do the Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala you can do just that on a crazy trek up a volcano. For one helluva crazy experience, go on the Pacaya Volcano Hike just outside of Antigua. The active volcano is still warm underground so you can toast a marshmallow in the heat of it. This is certainly something you need to add to your Guatemala itinerary. #Volcano #BucketList #Guatemala #CentralAmerica
The reddish glow of the dust against the late afternoon sun

Where to stay in Antigua

    • On a budget: The Purpose Hostel is centrally located in one of the large old colonial houses. It offers private and dorm rooms. The roof terrace overlooking Antigua and surrounding volcanoes are filled with loads of seating, either for relaxing in the sunshine or chilling in the evenings. Considering the price, the rooms are massive.
    • Mid-Budget: Meson Panza Verde gives you luxury at an affordable price. Centrally located yet surrounded with lush gardens, the hotel also boasts an onsite art gallery as well as a swimming pool and a rooftop terrace for panoramic views.
    • Blow the Budget: Hotel Museo Spa Casa Santo Domingo isn’t just an exquisite boutique hotel with outdoor pools and a gym, or a stunning spa but it’s also a museum (in the loosest sense). The grounds of the hotel are filled with ruins which you can either wander at your own leisure or have a guided tour around.  

Pin it for later

I hope after reading this article you’re as excited about going on the Pacaya volcano hike to toast a marshmallow as much as I was. If you loved this post, or know someone that will, then please like and share.

If you’re planning a trip to Guatemala or Central America, then why not pin it for future reference so you can add it to your Guatemala itinerary

Ever wondered if you can toast a marshmallow with some rocks? If you do the Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala you can do just that on a crazy trek up a volcano. For one helluva crazy experience, go on the Pacaya Volcano Hike just outside of Antigua. The active volcano is still warm underground so you can toast a marshmallow in the heat of it. This is certainly something you need to add to your Guatemala itinerary. #Volcano #BucketList #Guatemala #CentralAmerica
Ever wondered if you can toast a marshmallow with some rocks? If you do the Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala you can do just that on a crazy trek up a volcano. For one helluva crazy experience, go on the Pacaya Volcano Hike just outside of Antigua. The active volcano is still warm underground so you can toast a marshmallow in the heat of it. This is certainly something you need to add to your Guatemala itinerary. #Volcano #BucketList #Guatemala #CentralAmerica
Ever wondered if you can toast a marshmallow with some rocks? If you do the Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala you can do just that on a crazy trek up a volcano. For one helluva crazy experience, go on the Pacaya Volcano Hike just outside of Antigua. The active volcano is still warm underground so you can toast a marshmallow in the heat of it. This is certainly something you need to add to your Guatemala itinerary. #Volcano #BucketList #Guatemala #CentralAmerica

Pacaya Volcano Hike, Guatemala - An unforgettable hike to toast a marshmallow in a volcano 4

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Becki from Meet Me In Departures

Adventure travel blogger with a big addiction to the World. An ex-rat-racer who was fed up with sleep-work-eat-repeat materialistic mentality that plagues modern living. I love anything to do with off-beat travel, abandoned places, temples & ruins, street art, wildlife in its natural habitat, adventure sport.....basically anything but the 9-5!

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. I love horses so much so I probably would’ve taken the horse anyway, haha. Were the horses looked after properly because sometimes overseas they are super skinny?

    1. I’m no horse expert :/ but they seemed to be walking fine, no limping. They didn’t seem overly skinny either (you can see that in the pictues) 🙂

  2. Have you hike the Acatenango? We did it and it was an incredible experience, so magical. If you have time check out our post blog. Nice to read this post because in the end we couldn’t visit the Pacaya

    1. I would have loved to do Acatenango, but I didn’t bring any decent hiking stuff with me. I did Pacaya in a pair of tennis shoes! If go back to Guatemala I’m an instant, so I’ll be sure to take appropriate clothing and do it then. I heard great things about it.

  3. I never knew that the ancient capital of Guatemala is surrounded by Volcanoes and there are some of them still active. I would love to take two options for tours – the Sunrise and the Sunset tour. You are standing on Lava which is really interesting.

  4. I’ve never been to Guatemala but it’s on my list & this experience sounds right up my street. Although gimmicky, toasting a marshmallow in a volcano is a pretty unique experience. Volcanos are a constant source of fear & fascination for me. Thanks for sharing, certainly moved Guatemala a little further up the list now!

    1. It’s a phenomenal country with something to offer every type of traveller. I’m glad it’s moved a little bit up on your list 🙂 and yes, sometimes gimmicky things are great fun.

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