One of the most active volcano in Guatemala
Once again, at the beginning of another tour. 3 weeks holidays through 5 countries in Central America. While we arrived into Guatemala City the day before, the reason for returning to Guatemala was not just by coincidence but on purpose. The last time we were here was 2 years ago and we wanted to visit the Pacaya Volcano. Said to be the most active in the country. But due to time constraints we could not manage to get any spare time to do so. Of course in any case, just a volcano is not major reason to decide by all means having to arrive here. The second reason, and major one, was to be able to get to the Maya city of Copan just across the border from Guatemala to Honduras. Since flying into Honduras was not optional at all, Guatemala City was the best choice for the reasons above and for the great air fare deal with Iberia.
Only a quick note here as I will further expand in the next travelguide, Copan was one of the four Maya capitals, being the others Tikal (in Guatemala), Palenque and Calakmul (in Mexico). Having been already in Tikal, and Copan on this trip, the remaining 2 as of today are highly on the scope to be the next candidates soon.
Somehow in the other hand, putting aside how many sights Guatemala has across its land, it is one of the countries I feel quite confident and good. The people, the food, the beauty. All adds up even though it is not one of the safest place to be. At least Guatemala City is not somewhere you can stroll as you would do anywhere in Europe without worry, nor you would once it gets dark. Yet in any case comparing the latest visit with the one 2 years back, the improvements in every sense are very obvious. Better infrastructure, ongoing construction and overall increase in wealth.
From the city to the volcano is around 1 hour. The volcano is overlooking the city and it might be possible you see it smoking, some days more than others or even making one of its eruptions. It is not rare to get dust over Guatemala City and Antigua at the other side. Don’t worry, you are safe anyway. The likes for it to be a destructive explosion are minimal as it is continuously releasing pressure and it is well monitored 24 hours a day.
In order to visit it, you will need to pre-arrange a tour. While there are plenty over the internet to chose from, make sure of what is included and what is not, for example, access fee to the National Park, meals, drinks and so on. Many do not include anything, just the transportation to/from your hotel in Guatemala City and the guide to take you to the top and along the trail. In our case, we used www.getyourguide.co.uk to book this trip. We did use this site in the past and were very satisfied, and once again, this was another great experience. Not only it included all we needed, but after hiking and visiting the volcano, it was also included the lunch at the Kawilal Hot Springs, and a spa circuit of 1 hour, plus some more extra time to enjoy the pools!. Very very worth it.
For more information about the Pacaya Volcano check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites, while information about the tour through getyourguide here. The currency of Guatemala is the Quetzal. Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
Transports and how to visit
Since this is an organised tour you will not need to arrange by your own any transportation, unless you are planning to rent a car and go yourself.
The distance between Guatemala City and the volcano is around 50 kilometres and will take around 1.5 hours to reach the base entrance to the National Park. From here you will start the hike towards the crater, something that will take between 1/1.5 hour, depending on how many people you are with in the group and how fit they are. It is not a hard hike anyway. To us this was very easy after having done both Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen volcanoes in Indonesia just 2 months before. Ijen, let me tell you, was hardcore. Pacaya was very simple and easy.
From the top you will get astonishing views of the entire region surrounding you, and the nearby volcanoes Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. This last one releases thick smoke every now and then, completing a nice picture.
I would recommend you to take a thin jacket. While at the base the temperature is nice and warm, as you hike up the temperature drops and can be as cold as 15 degrees towards the top. Yes it is true your body will be hot from the exercise while heading up, but will cool down quickly, moment when the jacket will come very handy. This of course depends on the season you come. In December or January you won’t need a jacket though, we did not use it at all.
Doing exactly the same we did 2 years ago, we decided to stay at the very same hotel because it was a really good experience, great location; and was still, although at a bit higher fare, very good value for money. This is the Hotel Barcelo. On 7a Avenida 15-45, next to Plaza del Obelisco/Avenida de la Reforma, Transmetro stop Plaza de Espana. A very large property with great comfort, great buffet breakfast, and a beautiful large heated outdoor pool and jacuzzi! As you can imagine, with the cool temperature in the evening/night, it was a pleasure to enter them. Another great plus for this hotel is their frequent free shuttle from/to the airport.
Literally next door to the hotel you have a good bunch of fast food restaurants where you can go without any trouble on your own at any time. This will save you lots of money than if having to order room service or at any of their expensive restaurants within.
Out of question anyway, if Barcelo is not optional then try to get a hotel in Zone 10. This is near the airport and it is basically the hotel zone where you will find every large worldwide chain. Apart of being the safest area, it is also the most convenient since you are next door to the airport and also next door to the main Transmetro bus line with direct access to the city centre, or walking distance to the bus station for buses towards Honduras and El Salvador. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.