Guide to Hiking Acatenango Volcano – Guatemala

categories: central america travel

Acatenango is a stratovolcano in Guatemala, located close to the city of Antigua. It is part of a complex of volcanoes that includes Volcán de Fuego, which is known for its frequent eruptions. Acatenango itself has not erupted in recent history, but it is known for its impressive height and stunning views of the surrounding landscape, including the active Volcán de Fuego.

Views of Fuego from Acatenango Summit

Views of Fuego from Acatenango Summit

Acatenango shares a ridge with its active neighbor, Volcán de Fuego. Acatenango volcano is a popular destination for hikers and adventurers due to its challenging but rewarding trail, and the opportunity to witness lava eruptions from a safe distance. Its ascent is known for steep terrain and high altitude, requiring a moderate level of physical fitness and proper gear.

Acatenango’s summit is just shy of 4000m. Acatenango offers panoramic views of the neighboring volcanoes, cities, valleys, and even the Pacific coastline on clear days. It is renowned for its diverse ecosystem, including lush forests and high-altitude vegetation.

Hiking Acatenango has recently become the most popular tour in Guatemala, and it is important to be well-prepared before embarking on this challenging yet rewarding journey.

My company, Far Out Travel Tours, is running a tour through Guatemala from Dec 27, 2024- Jan 5, 2025. Check out our Instagram: @farouttraveltours or click the link at Guatemala: Volcano Hiking & Mayan Cultural Tour — Far Out Traveling

Volcan Agua and Antigua in the distance

Volcan Agua and Antigua in the distance

Booking Process

The Acatenango hike has become the most popular thing to do in Guatemala. The recent explosion in popularity has drawn in lots of new tour companies in the last five years. Some are way better than others… Antigua is a popular destination for tourists, and it is possible to book your tour in person. You can even book your tour from other places in Guatemala, but it’s best to do it in Antigua as it’s only an hour away from the trailhead.

I recommend researching & choosing your company of choice in advance. If you are traveling during the dry season and have limited flexibility in your itinerary, I highly recommend booking in advance. If you are traveling during the rainy season or have flexibility in your itinerary, I’d recommend waiting 1-2 days before booking the hike. The reason I recommend waiting is that the weather can be unpredictable during the rainy season and if you’re locked in on a certain date in advance, you’ll be going whether it’s rain or shine. If you have a few days of flexibility in Antigua, it’s best to choose a day with a good weather forecast.

I recommend you spend 2 days in Antigua acclimatizing before starting the hike. You can research in advance a legitimate tour company with an online presence, reputable reviews, small group sizes, and a good base camp setup. You can also easily just book at a hostel, but I don’t recommend this as you will be hoarded into a very large group with low-quality gear, and sleep in low-quality communal tents. You get what you pay for when it comes to tour companies leading Acatenango hikes.

Fitness Level/Altitude

This hike is not easy and unprepared hikers have died. I was told a horror story of unprepared hikers trying to camp in the crater at the summit with no guide and it was storming and so cold that they left their tents and tried to come down to a lower elevation in the middle of the night. They all got lost and died of hypothermia or from falling off the side of the volcano.

However, if you are prepared, have a moderate level of fitness, and go with a reputable guide, you will be fine. No tours will camp at the summit, ~4000m, it is too dangerous. You will camp at a base camp set up around 3600m. You do not need to be in perfect shape, but ideally no mobility issues, have decent cardio endurance, and a strong mindset to keep pushing. It is a steep ascent up the side of a volcano.

Views from Base camp

Views from Base camp

I recommend training beforehand and getting your body prepared. Nothing too serious, but the stair machine and cardiovascular exercises are great to train for trekking. The trailhead is around 2400m. The altitude is around 3600m at basecamp and almost 4000m at the summit. You will gain about 1600m of elevation during the hike. It can’t hurt to come prepared with altitude sickness medicine.

However, if you acclimatize in Antigua beforehand, you should be fine. In our last group of 7, only one person elected to take altitude sickness preventively. Ensure you are well-rested and hydrated in preparation for the trek. The tour has a guide at the front and at the back of the group, so everyone can go at their own pace. Slow and steady is the key to a successful summit of Acatenango.


As mentioned earlier, with the recent explosion in popularity, sustainability has become a key issue for Acatenango. From speaking with local guides who have been in Antigua forever, the rise in new tour companies chasing profit has led to some unsustainable and sketchy practices.

Acatenango is not yet a protected UNESCO site, nor even a national park, and therefore there are very lax regulations and loose property laws. It’s important to be aware of these issues when choosing a knowledgeable, responsible, & licensed local tour operator that operates sustainably.


I personally hired a porter, and it was the best 200 Quetzales I spent. When you start the hike, it will be hot, but by the time you reach base camp it will be cold, and the summit will be freezing- so you’ll want clothing layers. You also have lots of water and a couple of pre-prepped meals.

The porters carry your bag up, but then they leave back down the volcano right when you reach base camp. You will have to carry your pack down the volcano the following day. So only bring the essentials: your pack will be lighter on the way down as you will have eaten all your meals and drank 3/4 of your water supply.

If you are worried about your ability to handle this hike, you should absolutely hire a porter for the hike up. Hiring a porter provides employment opportunities for the young men in the villages around Acatenango, thus helping the local community.

When to Visit

The best time to visit is the dry season from November to April. You will get the best visibility during the dry season and the least chance of rain. I’ve been in September and had good visibility, and fewer crowds, but dealt with occasional rain.

High Altitude Forest


The below itinerary focuses on the most popular route; the 2-day, 1-night trek where you camp at basecamp and summit for sunrise on day 2. See the detailed itinerary below.

Day 1

  • 7:30 am-9:30 am: Hotel pickup, 1-hour bus ride to the local village at trailhead, orientation, breakfast, & gear rental

First Half of Day 1

  • 9:30 am- ~12:30 pm (depending on your pace): Initial ascent to lunch break spot. The initial ascent is tough and steep, but the excitement & adrenaline of starting the hike makes it enjoyable. Plenty of short catch-your-breath breaks taken as needed. 
    • all times are general estimates depending on the slowest person in your group. If you are the first to lunch in your group and you have a slow hiker, you may be waiting for them and have longer resting periods. Everyone goes at their own pace with no pressure.
  • 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm: Lunch break. Your tour company should pre-pack a lunch for you.

Second Half of Day 1

  • 1:30 pm – ~4:00 pm: Push to base camp. 3600M
  • 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm: Relax at basecamp around the campfire & enjoy views of Fuego erupting and sunset.
  • 5:00 pm – ~8:00 pm Optional night hike to Fuego Ridge. I would only recommend this for more experienced hikers, it is an extra 200Q and a very challenging endeavor- especially after hiking to base camp. No one in our group of 7 wanted to do it, we were content chilling around the campfire watching Fuego’s eruptions from base camp.

Day 1 Nighttime at Base Camp

  • 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm: Dinner and marshmallows around the campfire followed by some red wine. Your guides will bring a basic dinner.
  • 9:00 pm – 4:00 am: Sleep

Day 2

Day 2 Sunrise Summit Hike

  • 4:00 am – 6:00 am: Optional summit of Acatenango for sunrise with Fuego erupting. ~4000m. This is included in the tour price, but if you really struggled on the way up to base camp, it may be best to sit the summit hike out and admire the sunrise and Fuego’s eruptions from base camp. This is the most challenging part of the hike. You will be hiking in the dark with a headlamp. It is very steep, and the lava rock gets quite loose and slippery. However, it is also the best part of the hike. You can see all of Guatemala on a clear morning. You will see Guatemala’s volcanoes, cities, and Lake Atitlan. The views of Fuego are out of this world. Summiting Acatenango is my favorite hike of my life. Leave your bag at base camp and only bring water.

Day 2 at the Summit

  • 6:00 am – 7:00 am: Challenging descent down the loose rock to base camp. It almost feels like you’re skiing down the loose lava rock, you descend so much faster than the ascent.
  • 7:00 am – 8:00 am: Breakfast and pack up. Basic breakfast – oatmeal, granola bar, and instant coffee.

Day 2 Descent

  • 8:00 am – ~11:00 am: Descent down to the trailhead. I found this part the most challenging because of the stress on my knees and hips.
  • 11:00 am – 12:00 pm: Return gear, celebratory lunch.
  • 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm: shuttle back to Antigua or head to Lake Atitlan. Far Out Travel’s Guatemala Tour goes straight to Lake Atitlan after the trek to avoid retracing any steps, but most standard tours will bring you back to Antigua. Acatenango is an hour west of Antigua, and Lake Atitlan is an hour and a half west of Acatenango so it logistically makes sense to keep going west to Lake Atitlan on a Guatemala itinerary.

What to Pack

This list is ideal for the dry season. If going in summer, decrease layers and bring waterproof gear.

Bring on your own:

  • Quality ergonomic backpack- can also rent one for a small $.
  • Long Johns thermal pants or sweatpants
  • Long sleeve athletic compression shirt
  • Lightweight hoody
  • Lightweight rain jacket/poncho
  • Hiking pants that can unzip to shorts
  • Comfortable T-shirt
  • Gloves
  • Extra pair of socks and underwear
  • Snacks
  • Camelback (optional for ease of hydration)
  • Broken in hiking shoes with good grip

Provided by/Rent from your trekking company:

  • Comfortable jacket
  • Scarf/Buff
  • Toboggan
  • Headlamp
  • Trekking poles
  • 3 or 4 litres of water in water bottles
  • Lunch, Dinner, and Breakfast in small Tupperware containers.

For the start of the hike, I wore shorts and a T-shirt. About halfway up, I transitioned my shorts into hiking pants. At base camp, I added on my lightweight hoody, toboggan, and gloves. I slept in my long-john thermal pants and long-sleeve athletic compression shirt and socks.

For the summit sunrise hike, I wore two pairs of socks, long-john thermal pants, hiking pants, a long-sleeve compression shirt, a lightweight hoody, a jacket, toboggan, buff, and gloves. I recommend sleeping in the base layer you will wear for the summit sunrise hike so you are quickly able to get dressed in the dark.

On the descent, I wore the same I wore on the way up, slowly shedding layers as it got hotter and hotter.

A Successful Summit

A Successful Summit

Camping Facilities

Every tour operator has a different base camp setup. The base camp setups are basic. There is no running water which means no toilets. Make sure to research your tour company’s base camp setup. Ideally, it should have unobstructed views of Fuego volcano, a permanent camp set up with quality gear, and doesn’t share the grounds with other tour operators. Our base camp setup has its own permanent camp settlement, with an outhouse, quality gear that is frequently changed out, and a quiet private area with great views of Fuego Volcano.

Golden hour at Base Camp

Golden hour at Base Camp


The Acatenango overnight trek is a challenging yet rewarding endeavor and a must-do on any Guatemala itinerary. Preparation for the trek will ensure an enjoyable and successful experience. If you would like to learn more about Far Out Travel’s Guatemala Tour on Dec 27th– Jan 5th where we visit the highlights of Guatemala please visit: Guatemala: Volcano Hiking & Mayan Cultural Tour — Far Out Traveling

Guide to Hiking Acatenango Volcano #guatemala #volcano #hiking #trekking #travel #vacation #trip #holiday

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Sean Hira

by Sean Hira

Sean is an avid traveler who started @farouttraveltours as a passion project. An affordable, authentic, and adventurous style tour company that runs small group tours to “Far Out” destinations.

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