The author, Lea Rose Allbaugh smiling for a photo at the summit of her Acatenango hike

Acatenango Volcano Hike (Ultimate Guide & Best Tour in 2023)

👉Jump to: About Acatenango Hike | How to Book & Plan | What to Expect | What You Need | Things to Know | History & Geography

Hiking Acatenango Volcano is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Guatemala. Some even say it’s one of the best things to do in all of Central America.

I spent 3 weeks traveling through Guatemala and decided I couldn’t pass up this once-in-a-lifetime overnight hike. Let me tell you: it was very difficult, but it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. 

I had some questions before I hiked Acatenango, and I wish I’d had this guide ahead of time. In this article, you’ll learn about what to expect, the best Acatenango tours, and whether or not the Acatenango hike is the right choice for you. 

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About the Acatenango Volcano Hike

The Acatenango volcano hike is a 1.5-day overnight hike that takes place just outside of Antigua, Guatemala. Hiking Acatenango is very difficult, but it’s generally doable for most average fitness-level people. 

This hike takes you from the base of Volcano Acatenango to a base camp. You can see two volcanoes at base camp: Agua Volcano and Fuego Volcano. From here, you can choose whether or not to hike the additional Fuego hike. In the morning, you can choose whether or not to hike to the Acatenango summit for sunrise (but I highly recommend you do).

How to Book & Plan Your Acatenango Volcano Hike Tour

Hikers descending from the summit of Acatenango
Descending from the Acatenango summit

One of the most important pieces of planning your Acatenango volcano hike is choosing a good Acatenango tour company. I did my hike with OX Expeditions (tour linked below) and couldn’t have been happier with my choice. 

Many Acatenango tour companies operate this hike and based on my own experience and what I heard from fellow travelers who went with different tour companies, I can tell you that OX really goes above and beyond. 

OX Expeditions prepares you ahead of time, lets you know what to expect, is extremely knowledgeable and professional, and runs the hike like a well-oiled machine. Every aspect has been thought of and properly prepared for. 

Hiking Acatenango is one of the most popular things to do in Antigua. Companies like OX Expeditions offer the hike every day of the week. You can book your Acatenango overnight hike way in advance, but you don’t have to. I booked my hike just a few days beforehand. 

What to Expect on Your Acatenango Overnight Hike

The Day Before the Acatenango Hike:

The guide, Philip explaining things during the pre-hike orientation
Our guide, Phillip, going over what to expect in orientation

There will be a pre-hike orientation you’ll want to attend if you choose to book your hike with OX Expeditions. During this orientation, you’ll meet your main guide and fellow travelers. Your guide will go over what to expect and answer any questions you have. 

I found this extremely helpful since I’m someone who likes to be prepared. I felt a lot better going into the hike the next morning. 

The Morning of the Hike:

The author's breakfast on a plate and a cup of coffee beafore the hike to Acatenago
The perfect pre-hike breakfast

On the morning of the Acatenango volcano overnight hike you’ll meet at the OX office at 6 am. Here, you’ll be able to rent any gear you need and have time to pack your backpacking backpacks if you choose to borrow one.

This is also when the food that OX provides is divided up among everyone. This includes your sandwich for lunch, pre-prepared dinner, and two “community” food items.

Once everyone is packed and ready, OX takes everyone to a cafe for a hearty, traditional Guatemalan breakfast. After breakfast, a shuttle takes you about one hour to the base of Acatenango. Here, you can use the bathroom and rent hiking poles (which OX requires you to get, and trust me, you’ll want them). 

On the Acatenango Hike:

The signage of I Love Acatenango
The first break on the hike

You can think of the Acatenango Volcano hike in four phases. This is because you’ll pass through four different geographic areas throughout the 1.5-day hike, and each area has its own microclimate. You’ll also pass through two national parks. 

Hikers passing by a farmlands on their way to the summit of  Acatenago
Coming up through farmlands

The first phase of the hike passes through a farmland area and lasts about 1-1.5 hours. This is the hardest part of the entire hike apart from the morning summit hike. This is because you immediately start gaining a lot of elevation and have to get into a rhythm. 

The whole hike is difficult but I promise you, the initial feeling of “I can’t do this” comes and goes. 

Hikers passing by the cloud forest area
Up through the cloud forest

The next phase of the Acatenango volcano hike is through a cloud forest area. This lasts 1.5-2 hours and looks like a thick, dense jungle. There are a ton of switchbacks and you’ll pass through the first national park in this phase. Entrance fees are 50Q a person. 

Hikers during their stopped for lunch at the alpine area
Where we stopped for lunch

The third phase of the hike is through an alpine area. This phase of the hike lasts about 2 hours. You’ll take your lunch break, pass through the second national park entrance (again, 50Q), and reach base camp. The alpine area is when it starts to get chilly. 

At Base Camp:

Overlooking view of the Acatenango base camp
Base camp from above

It feels like a victory to finally reach Acatenango base camp. You’ll be tired after 4-6 hours of hiking, but this is a really rewarding moment because the bulk of the hike is behind you. You can just relax and enjoy the sweeping views if it’s clear out. 

The author, Lea Rose Allbaugh with her friends resting at their wood cabins on the Acatenago base camp
Finally resting our feet after a long day of hiking

Base camp has wood cabins and each one is outfitted with camping gear including sleeping pads and sleeping bags. There is also a sitting area, basic outdoor kitchen, and fire pit at the camp site. An outhouse with a drop toilet is available too, but many people prefer to just go behind some bushes.

The author's macaroni pasta for her dinner
Pasta dinner

You’ll likely be given some snacks before dinner. I stayed behind instead of doing the Fuego hike and we enjoyed hot chocolate and banana bread. For dinner, we had pasta with vegetable marinara sauce and even red wine. 

It gets dark pretty early at base camp, so most people head to sleep early. The temperatures can get pretty cold at this time, but the cabins are honestly warm and comfortable. 

The Volcano Fuego erupting at night
Volcano Fuego erupting

Around midnight, my group got super lucky and got to witness volcanic activity and eruptions from Fuego. Bright lava exploded from the volcano and it was one of the most unforgettable parts of the trip. 

On the Fuego Hike:

Clear blue sky over the Volcano Fuego from the base camp
View of Fuego from base camp

Hiking Fuego Volcano is an optional add-on hike. This hike is another 3 miles roundtrip and lasts 4 hours. It begins from base camp and takes you up to the nearby Fuego Ridge. Here, you can see Fuego Volcano even closer, weather depending. Doing this is known as “the double whammy hike.” 

You can choose whether or not to hike Fuego once you’ve reached base camp and have had a couple of hours to rest. This way, you can decide whether or not you’re up for it. 

I didn’t do the hike to Fuego but I heard from others that it was extremely difficult. However, it’s supposed to be incredible if the weather is good.

On the Summit Hike:

View of the sunrise starting during the hike to the summit of Acatenango
The sunrise starting to appear

The 1.5-hour hike to the summit of Acatenango for sunrise is the last phase of the trek. It’s the hardest part of the entire hike, but it’s also the most spectacular. The summit hike is optional so you’re welcome to stay at base camp. However, I strongly urge you to do this part of the hike if you’re able. 

Expect to wake up at 3:30 am to start your ascent. You’ll hike up a steep and narrow pathway that’s full of loose rock. This loose rock in combination with the extremely high altitude is what makes summiting Acatenango so hard.

Colorful sky over the Agua Volcano and Fuego Volcano
Agua Volcano on the left, Fuego Volcano on the right

Once you make it to the Acatenango summit—wow. It feels like you’re on another planet. You’ll be greeted with the most breathtaking, panoramic views of Agua Volcano and Fuego Volcano. You’ll feel like you’re on top of the world. My group got super lucky and witnessed Fuego Volcano erupting from the summit. It was unreal. 

Physically:

The author, Lea Rose Allbaugh smiling for a photo during her hike to the Acatenango summit
Smiling through the exhaustion

Antigua, Guatemala is already at a high altitude of 5,069 feet. From Antigua, you gain more altitude just by reaching the base of Acatenango Volcano at 7,952 feet. From the base of Acatenango to the summit, you gain almost 5,000 more feet of elevation. Simply put, you’ll feel this rapid change in altitude during your Acatenango volcano hike.

OX guides are fully prepared for the level of difficulty and the entire hike is well-paced. You can expect frequent breaks every 30 minutes or so, which I found to be the perfect pace. Each break lasts about 10-15 minutes and allows you to rest, catch your breath, and refuel on water and snacks.

Just know that you will experience overall shortness of breath. Feeling slowed down and like everything requires you to exert more energy is normal because of the altitude. You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and know it’s as much a mental effort as it is physical.

What You Need for the Acatenango Volcano Hike

Most of what you’ll need for this Acatenango overnight hike, you’ll have to carry with you. Extra layers, water, and personal items are all travel essentials you’ll need. This being said, OX provides a lot, including food, as well as camping and hiking gear, which you can rent at no extra cost. 

What You Need:

  • Your own hiking shoes
  • Backpack (55L is recommended)
  • A dry-fit shirt 
  • Fleece layer 
  • Rain jacket or poncho
  • Hiking pants 
  • Leggings or base layer
  • Beanie
  • Headlamp
  • Gloves 
  • 4 liters of water
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses 
  • Toilet paper 
  • About 400-500 Quetzales (local currency)

What They Provide:

  • Sleeping bags & sleeping pads at base camp
  • Cabins
  • Food (4 meals)
  • Transportation to and from Acatenango
  • Backpacks 
  • Outer layers (coats, gloves, hats, etc.)
  • Headlamps
  • Rain protection
  • Filtered water (they have liters of water available at the OX office, but I recommend bringing your own)

What I Recommend Bringing:

For more packing advice, see my full Guatemala packing checklist.

Things to Know Ahead of Time

Prepare your Body Ahead of Time

The author, holding hydration tablets
Hydration tablets are a great thing to have before, during, and after your hike

The Acatenango volcano overnight hike is no joke. I recommend preparing your body 24 hours beforehand to make the whole Acatenango hike easier. 

Hydrate the day before. This can make a huge difference when it comes to elevation sickness. I drank more than 2 liters of water the day before my hike. In my experience, I didn’t feel any elevation symptoms in terms of nausea and dizziness because of this. 

You should also try and get a good night’s sleep. Have a good meal and don’t drink any alcohol the night before either.

If you need help finding a good hotel in Antigua, check out my guide to the best places to stay in Antigua.

You Can Bring Your Own Backpack or Rent One

Many people who choose to hike Volcano Acatenango are travelers or outdoor enthusiasts who already have their own backpacks. However, if you don’t have a hiking backpack or would rather use one of the OX backpacks, you can. Just bring your things to the OX office on the morning of your hike and you can transfer your things then. 

👉 Read Next: Best Things to Do in Lake Atitlan

You Need Hiking Boots

The author, Lea Rose Allbaugh during her hike at the Acatenango volcano
Wearing proper hiking boots was one of the best decisions I made

Many people have done and do this hike in typical gym shoes, but it is highly recommended to wear proper hiking boots instead. This is because most of the Acatenango volcano hike is steep. Having proper protection, grip, and ankle support is key. 

Altitude Sickness is Real

Common elevation sickness symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Hydration is one of the most important ways to prevent symptoms so make sure to stay hydrated. 

Another quick and easy tip to help reduce symptoms is eating dark chocolate. It’s even recommended by the guides. Packing electrolyte tablets is also a good idea. 

You Can’t Predict the Weather

View of dark clouds from the base camp
It was pretty cloudy when we arrived at base camp

For the most part, there’s no use in trying to predict or pick a good weather day for your volcano hike, especially during Guatemala’s rainy season. The weather is notoriously up and down during this time. 

It may rain or storm during your hike, but guides are prepared for these conditions. And bad weather is likely to pass. As long as you have good hiking boots and gear like quick dry hiking pants, a backpack cover, and a rain jacket or poncho, you’ll be okay.

You Can Hire a Porter

OX has the option to hire a porter to carry your bag up and down from the Acatenango volcano hike. This costs 200 Quetzales each way + tip (and I highly recommend tipping your porter well). Hiring a porter is a great option for older hikers and people who are not as in shape. And to loosely quote OX, hiring a porter is a good idea if you just want to enjoy your hike.

I decided to hire a porter both ways because I knew the strain of a heavy bag would be too much for me on the already strenuous hike since I’m small. I’m so glad I did. And definitely don’t be ashamed to hire a porter because, at the end of the day, you’re still making it up a volcano.

Expect to See Dogs

One of the dogs that you can spot along the hike to Acatenango
One of our volcano dogs

Expect to see some stray dogs during your Acatenango overnight hike. You’ll see them starting at the base of Acatenango all the way to the summit. In my experience, they were all super friendly and they honestly made the hike a little sweeter. Think of them as a little bonus.

History & Geography of Acatenango Volcano

Colorful sky over the Acatenango’s crater
View of Acatenango’s crater

Volcano Acatenango is one of 37 volcanoes in Guatemala. Acatenango is not an active volcano, but nearby Fuego Volcano is. Volcano Acatenango was formed about 43,000 to 70,000 years ago and its last eruption was in 1972. 

The Acatenango hike has four geographic areas, each with its own microclimate. There’s the farmland area, cloud forest area, alpine area, and volcanic area. This means that the hike takes you through really varied but beautiful landscapes. You’ll see everything from rolling mountains and rich greenery to volcanic areas above the tree line. 

👉 Read Next: Best Places to Stay in Lake Atitlan

FAQs About Acatenango

How long does it take to hike Acatenango?

It takes between 4-6 hours to hike from the base of Acatenango to base camp. The hike to the summit of Acatenango from base camp takes about 1.5 hours.

What is the difficulty level of the Acatenango hike?

The Acatenango Volcano hike is very difficult, this can’t be sugar-coated. This being said, the Acatenango Volcano hike is doable for most people who are of average fitness level. 

***

Hopefully, you’ve gotten a good sense of what to expect on the Acatenango Volcano overnight hike. Overall, I was really impressed with OX Expeditions and highly recommend booking with them for your Acatenango hike. It really is one of the best things to do in Antigua

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