Located just over an hour’s drive away Volcano Pacaya is the easiest climb of a set of 4 volcanoes overlooking Antigua.
Pacaya is an active volcano with its last major eruption happening only 2 years ago.
Speaking with the local guide we discovered that the villages nestled along the volcano had to be evacuated after Pacaya started spitting out large lava rocks onto the inhabitants houses, causing the roofs and even some houses to alight from the hot lava. This apparently continued for nearly an hour, leaving the locals cowering in their houses fearing for their lives as the volcano threw fire bombs around them.
The 1,000 or so inhabitants subsequently had to endure days of heavy rain and storms that tore through region, the only blessing from this was that the rain dissipated the ash clouds that had formed but leaving behind nearly a meter of ash.
Luckily for us I only discovered this story on the way down from the seemingly dormant volcano…
We had booked ourselves on a morning tour of the volcano as the weather tends to be better than the afternoon, unfortunately despite waiting nearly an hour outside our hostel the shuttle bus never turned up.
After complaining to the agency Onvisa we were relocated to the afternoon tour, not ideal but as we were going to Lago Atitlan the day after it was this or wait a week. So we went.
The shuttle bus took us part of the way up the volcano; from here we would have to walk about 2 hours to get near the crater.
The climb itself is around 4km and can at times be quite hard going, especially as the soil feels more like sand and you find yourself either sinking or stumbling on the rock littered path.
You are given the option to hire a horse for the climb and if you choose not to you are constantly tempted for the whole hike with the local guides calling out “taxi” and leading the spare horses next to you. It takes serious will power to not succumb!
When you do reach the top of the path the landscape changes dramatically and you are surrounded by black and red lava rocks littered along black cracked paths, which at times sound hollow as you walk.
Once at the highest point you can climb you are rewarded with freshly toasted marshmallows on the hot lava rocks. It is quite an incredible experience to be standing on hot rocks and knowing that the volcano beneath you could erupt.
Unfortunately for us the weather was not on our side for the climb and it was impossible to see any views from the volcano due to the constant misty clouds surrounding us.
However, it was a good climb and it probably wont be our last on an active volcano!