• Michael Acevedo

A Pedacito of Guatemala's Volcán Pacaya

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

This was not even on my list of things to do in Guatemala. As you may have read in another post from my trip in March of 2019, I originally went to Guatemala to see one of my cousins.


He ended up leaving by the time I got there so I made up some plans on the fly. Funny how things work out and how unexpected events can make for some great adventure and memories.

Michael poses for a quick selfie after hiking to the base of the Volcán Pacaya in Guatemala
Michael poses for a quick selfie after hiking to the base of the Volcán Pacaya in Guatemala

The day started early on a cool morning in Guatemala City. I was staying in the city center area (like a real naive tourist) and was picked up in a small van; I was the first of three stops. We set off to Antigua Guatemala which is the old capital of the country and contains lots of historic buildings - this is where you should stay when you're in Guatemala.


While we waited for some of the others to join, I noticed ladies setting up a market out on the street in front of an old Cathedral, and I had to go look. I asked the driver if he minded if I went over quickly to snap some photos.


Once I got there I saw each lady preparing to sell handmade crafts. What I didn't realize was that behind them was the most amazing view of the Volcan Pacaya. I then snapped what is one of my favorite photos of all time, shown below.

A dramatic photo of Guatemala locals setting up their shops at the entrance to ruins of a cathedral with the Volcán Pacaya peaking above the clouds in the background
A dramatic photo of Guatemala locals setting up their shops at the entrance to ruins of a cathedral with the Volcán Pacaya peaking above the clouds in the background

With everyone on board, we set off for Pacaya which was about a 1.5-hour drive. We arrived at a small complex of structures that served as the entrance to the park. There was the smell of horses in the air and the morning was still a bit cool, but the nearly cloudless sky meant it was going to heat up.

Our guide paid the admission for the 5 of us and we set off! I was pleasantly surprised to find that trail was created with rocks and thought, wow this is great. Well, I should have known that there was a reason the guys with the horses were following us as though they knew one of us was going to eventually cave and need some help... Well, just like that the path was no longer paved and it became a bit more rugged; still manageable though.

Our guide was great and kept the pace slow so we wouldn't tire easily. This was great but there were sometimes when I felt we were walking super slowly and some of the girls and I found ourselves getting a bit ahead at times. Our guide knew what he was doing though, there were definitely times when it was a bit harder, and keeping a comfortable pace was the right thing to do.


Our first stop was at a clearing on a hilltop that provided stunning views of the volcano at a distance. We snapped several photos and took in the beautiful, otherworldly view of the black mountain and its black slopes. Also visible was the town of Pacaya in the valley below.

We then descended into the valley below and it felt like we were taken to another planet! Like, I knew we were still on earth, but the landscape is so out of this world. The soil is black and coarse and you can hear each of your footsteps as your feet displace what was once molten lava. As we get lower into the lava field I notice that there is a small hut, I'm thinking: did someone really set up a shop down there?!

Our guide showed us that there are a few heat vents even this far away from the volcano. You remember as a kid when someone tells you "don't touch that, it's hot" and you touched it anyway because of your curiosity? Well, the rocks were hot! I mean, it's a volcano... So hot in fact that you can melt marshmallows!

A taste test of a jumbo marshmallow warmed up through the volcanic vents at the lava field of the Volcán Pacaya in Guatemala
A taste test of a jumbo marshmallow warmed up through the volcanic vents at the lava field of the Volcán Pacaya in Guatemala

Maybe a hot marshmallow wasn't the best thing now that the day was starting to really warm up. But how cool is that?! We then went over to the little shop that seemed so out of place. This little shop is filled with handmade crafts that support the locals of Pacaya.


The gentlemen at the shop were so lovely and were eager to share with us some of the cool items that the locals have created. I definitely took home a few things to give to some friends and family. This is way better than a key chain from the airport, "I bought it at a volcano!"

Walking through the lava field was a bit surreal. I mean, I was born in Puerto Rico and have lived in Orlando most of my life - there ain't nothing like this in either of those places!


OK, I am gonna share this video but don't make fun that you can hear me breathing, haha! In this clip, you can hear what it sounds like to walk on the lava rocks and you can really get a sense of what it's like to be there. Doesn't it feel like I'm on another planet?

After our hike, we went to a wonderful spa where we enjoyed a delicious lunch and a much-needed dip into the thermal therapy pools. It was pretty neat! They guided you on going between different temperature pools which, in a specific order, supposedly have healing properties.


I don't know if it worked, but the hot pool was super hot and the cold pool was super cold! All in all, this was a great day albeit randomly planned on my part. If you go to Guatemala, stay in Antigua and go see Volcán Pacaya!

 

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