January 8th I chose to do a day trip to the nearby active volcano Pacaya. Contrary to fx. Hawaii, the Guatemala government doesn’t protect you… So you can get up and close with the flowing lava… So close that you can touch it!
Reportedly a ½ day trip starting either early morning or 2pm – depending on the tour operator / seller… A 7 hour trip…
I chose the 2.00 pm (at 60 Qz ~ 7 USD) and was picked up at my hotel 2.40 pm. Hm. We are in central america… Anyway. An hour drive later we arrive at the base of the volcano. Here I paid additional 40 Qz ~ 5 USD as park fee.
I had already seen other peoples reviews on Tripadvisor.com and they basically said: Rent a horse, the 4 km. trek uphill is a killer – and especially the last 20 mins.
So I did rent a horse (100 quentzales ~ USD 12) uphill, and I could sit there and let the 600 kg. muscle bring me close to the top, while I saw fellow group members rent a horse after some time… However, approximately half the group (6 persons) did it without help! In my humble opinion, I could have done it without the horse. But this wasen’t a competition or he-man call for me, it was a mere day trip to see what I was cheated for in Hawaii: Liquid red-hot lava up close.
And boy oh boy did we come close… You know me, I am a perfectionist, so I wasen’t completely happy, for there was not a river of lava, only red hot lava and rocks tumbling down the volcano… But apart from this, it was a majestic view, fantastic to feel the warmth of the red hot lava (2000 degrees C), and be so close, that I had to move a couple of times, because of red hot lava rocks tumbling down to my position… WAAAU. This is a must do if you are in Antigua / Guatemala city. And it is worth the travel here also…
The tour operators do not give any indications of what you need, or that the trip could be streneous… Bring/wear:
- water, lots of it.
- Sun lotion
- Hat or cap
- Hiking shoes. You can use sneakers, but when you get to the lava rocks on the last bit they won’t cut it. Sharp and hard.
- a walking stick – most of the walk is in gravel / sand, so you sink in. A walking stick really help you propel forward. Can be bought on site for 5 Qz. ~ 1 USD
- Jacket – it’s cold at 2552 meter!
- Flashlight (headlight) if you do the sunset trip. It gets really dark at 6 pm, and you are still up there!
- a tripod for your camera (in the twilight / dark I needed 5-15 sec. shutter time to get sufficient light). forget the flash: Won’t work.
- Light gloves – the lava rock are sharp