MUST DO | Sleeping on the Pacaya volcano in Guatemala
Climbing a volcano is a special experience, but sleeping on a volcano takes this experience to a whole new level. The Pacaya volcano is located in Antigua, Guatemala in the Pacaya national park and is about 2552 m high. The volcano is still active and there is a good chance that there will be a small eruption while climbing. Here you will find a description of the tour, the surroundings, tips and a packing list. Why the Pacaya volcano?
There are several volcanoes that you can climb in Guatemala. Well known volcanoes are the Fuego and the Acatenango and the Agua. It is useful to think in advance which volcano you want to climb depending on the duration and your stamina. The Pacaya volcano is often described as the easiest climbable volcano of all, but for the Pacaya you still need a good endurance to get up. When you choose to climb the Pacaya volcano, you have the choice to do a daytime track or stay overnight on the volcano. I chose the overnight stay and I booked this trip through OX Expeditions. This overnight Hike is about $79 with a deposit of $39 when booking. This tour operator is not only experienced, but also uses the income to support English lessons for children in the neighborhood. In addition, OX is environmentally friendly as they only use recyclable products and minimize the use of plastic.
What happens once you booked the overnight trip On the day of booking you are expected to arrive at OX expeditions in Antigua around 2.00 pm. A short explanation is given by your provided tour guide about important matters and then everyone gets some time to select and fit the gear provided by OX. It is important that you bring your own backpack, as OX does not provide you with one. Everyone gets a sleeping bag, mat and 2L of water. (These bottles are cleaned and re-used every trip and are filled with filtered water). Everyone gets a part of the tent, cutlery and food in their backpack and you have to be ready at 3.30 pm.
You will then be picked up by a van and you will drive for about an hour to the foot of the mountain where the volcano is located. Upon arrival, there is a small village where you will be provided with a stick to support you with walking (which is also highly recommended), or with your horse or porter if you have chosen this. The horse brings you on its back to the base camp and the porter walks with you and carries your backpack for you. You have to pay about $ 20 per trip for these services. In this village you will also meet the children who are trained as a tour guides and the large pack of dogs that welcome you with a lot of love. Some of these dogs will also accompany you during this climb.
After that, you are ready to start hiking. You start walking along farmland, but that quickly turns into a cloudy forest. There are several viewpoints along the way, where you can sometimes even see the Agua volcano on a clear day. Depending on the size of the group, it will take about 1 to 2 hours to arrive at the base camp.
When you arrive at the base camp, the tents are set up for you and you can enjoy a cup of tea and a snack. Meanwhile, the weather conditions are observed by the guide and depending on this, a suitably activity will be chosen. When the weather permits, the tour guide will take you to a viewpoint where you can watch the sunset. When it gets dark, the guide takes you to recent lava flows to roast marsh mellows. From 6.30 pm you will enjoy dinner with some wine and perhaps the company of some very cute dogs.
The next day The day starts at 5:00 am when you are woken up by the guide. It is now time to climb to the top of the volcano, provided the conditions allow it. Along the way you will be able to admire a beautiful sunrise, and if you are lucky you will be able to see active lava flows, or even small eruptions. Once you have reached the top, you will have time to admire the view, recover and take photos. The crater smokes continuously, and the smell of sulfite is not to be missed. You will have an amazing view on the inside of the crater and over different landscapes. It really is a breathtaking view. After this stop, it's time to head back to the basecamp for breakfast. During breakfast you can enjoy banana bread, coffee and other treats such as Nutella. Around 8.00 you will walk back to the village, which takes about an hour. After this you will return to OX Expeditions with the van to return your gear.
What should you wear when climbing a volcano Climbing a volcano is not an everyday activity for most people. It is important to wear good clothes and shoes when climbing, especially if you are staying overnight. It is recommended to wear a 3-layer outfit while climbing. This is because you reach higher altitudes while climbing, making it colder and the wind blowing harder. It is also often more humid at higher altitudes, making it useful to put on a waterproof jacket. OX Expeditions provides you with the following:
o Fleece jacket
o Sleeping bag
o Tea / Coffee
o Stick for walking
When you sleep in a tent on the base camp, it is really cold at night. I was wearing leggings, shirt, t-shirt, vest, fleece and a raincoat and I was really shivering at night. I have to admit that I get cold quite quickly, so for the people who also suffer from this it might be useful to bring a pair of thick socks and maybe an extra pair of pants to make sure you're not cold at night. If you get cold anyway, you always have 3 other people sleeping next to you ;)
So, what should you bring yourself:
o Toilet paper
o (Blister) Band-Aids
o Camera or Phone
o Mountain shoes or sneakers
o Waterproof jacket
o Energy bars or snacks (like nuts)
Try to avoid wearing white sneakers before your shoes end up like mine did ;)