Pacaya Volcano

Volcanoes in Guatemala are spread throughout the country’s highlands, totaling over 30 that dot the countryside and characterize the skyline of many of Guatemala’s most popular tourist destinations. An active volcano, Pacaya began its active phase in 1965, and ever since it has been experiencing an array of volcanic activity. More often than not, the Pacaya Volcano emits nothing more than gaseous emissions and relatively small steam eruptions. However, from time to time it can experience more serious explosions that prompt the evacuation of the numerous villages found on its flanks. Rising to 8,371 feet above sea level, the Pacaya volcano is surely not the tallest of the volcanoes in Guatemala, but it is perhaps the most climbed. Due to the constant activity of this notable Guatemala volcano, it is popular with volcano enthusiasts who revere such activity. The Pacaya Guatemala volcano can be found in the southwestern region of the country and is part of the volcanic chain that stretch along near Guatemala’s Pacific Coast.

Lending to the popularity of the Pacaya volcano is its proximity to the beautiful tourist destination of Lake Atitlan. Among the most scenic places in all of Guatemala, visitors to Pacaya and Lake Atitlan will find plenty of tourism amenities, and plenty of activities to keep them busy. A trip to Pacaya and Lake Atitlan is among the favorite Guatemala tours for travelers. This Guatemala volcano jewel is best explored with a licensed tour operator, and many tours are offered from the beautiful nearby town of Antigua. These tours range from 1-day Pacaya affairs, to 5-day trips that include other volcanoes near Guatemala City and the city of Quetzaltenango. Tours including just Pacaya are quite affordable, and can often be arranged for under $100. Many of the tour travel agencies can also help you arrange various other tour activities in and around the Lake Atitlan area. Buses from Guatemala City have routes to virtually every corner of the country, and you are sure to find one leaving from the capital with Pacaya as its destination. If you are the adventurous type and prefer Guatemala transportation by car, you can reach Pacaya from Guatemala City by heading south on the highway. This highly visited Guatemala volcano and its outlying region have recently been relegated to the Pacaya National Park, which was established to manage the growing tourism to the area. The increasing amount of signs along your drive and a good map should point you in the right direction.

In the 1990"s, poverty and the high rate of guns owned by area citizens who were in the midst of the Guatemalan Civil War led to increasing crime rates, most often involving armed robberies. However, in recent years, much of this activity has ceased at Pacaya, as tour groups began including armed guards among their entourages. Even though incidents of robbery have decreased, it is still recommended that tourists stick to using a tour guide or group to lessen the chances of experiencing a rather unpleasant incident. If driving yourself, be sure not to leave any valuables in your car. If hiking on your own, leave your flashy jewelry behind and be sensible about what you display. You will also want to make sure you have the proper shoes and clothing for the hike, which can often include bringing a jacket. While hiking the Pacaya volcano is not the most strenuous of climbs, you should be in decent shape and prepared for the elevation.

Since 2006, increased volcanic activity at Pacaya has attracted more visitors than ever, both Guatemalan and foreign, looking to witness the red lava rivers that slowly flow down the volcano’s slope. Hiking to the top of the volcano is among the tour options, and peering into the crater of the Pacaya volcano is quite a treat. Hopefully, your tour does not embark during a particularly active period, like that in the year 2000, when eruptions forced the suspension of flights to Guatemala at the capital’s La Aurora International Airport. While it is highly unlikely that you will be hit with a falling lava bomb while hiking the Pacaya volcano, you should take precautions to avoid breathing any of the sulfur gases that are emitted, as well as steering clear from heat vents that could burn you. Since the Pacaya Guatemala volcano was included into the Pacaya National Park, a nice trail to the summit has been opened, with rest areas, direction signs and trash bins along the way. Park rangers help to keep the park safe, meaning that it is becoming ever more safe for climbers without guides. However, once again, it is in your best interest to go with a guide, as prices are low and your safety is maximized, not only from crime, but from the dangers of the volcano itself.

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