The volcanoes of Guatemala, when the ground shakes beneath your feet

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Guatemala belongs to the so-called Ring of Fire, which means that if its inhabitants don’t have the ground shaking under their feet or volcanic ash falling on them for three days in a row, they will hesitate whether they are home. There are 37 volcanoes, 4 of them active. We’ve seen two of Guatemala’s active volcanoes live.

Morning warm-up under the volcano
Morning warm-up under the volcano

One from the terrace of a little hotel in Antigua, we went out for lunch on one 😊 We saw many inactive ones. Just turn your head from right to left on the terrace – Agua, Acatenango, Fuego (beautifully murmuring and luminous lava at night) – all over 3700m. For the others, all you have to do is walk a few dozen kilometres to the magical Lake Atitlán, and there are volcanoes with beautiful names – San Pedro, Tolimán, Atitlán. Even the highest point of Guatemala lies at the top of the volcano’s crater – Tajumulco (4220 m).

The volcanoes of Guatemala

Pacaya National Park

Enough with the geography; you deserve experience. In the morning, the bus picks us up in front of the hotel at six o’clock. The streets in Antigua were so narrow that the bus only slowed down; we hopped on a dartboard as part of our morning warm-up. While still in town, some Dutch people hopped on it. There were 18 non-Spanish tourists on the bus and one non-Spanish driver. He didn’t know where to take us; we couldn’t explain what little we knew. 🙂

The magic of tourist guiding

Local guides took turns climbing onto our bus to get a job. In Pacaya National Park, tourists can’t go without them. They say it’s for safety and orientation. I only felt unsafe when a horse pooped right in front of me, and I barely avoided the pile. We oriented ourselves and our guide, who wanted to shorten the route considerably and thought that if he kept repeating the word “shortcut”, we would take that shortcut. He tried to catch the other three groups. He wanted to capture the other three groups. We didn’t let on saying are priceless. To Jose’s (our guide) credit, he took this loss manfully and even smiled along the way.

Hike trip

The hiking led first through the forest along avocado, palm, and bromeliads in bloom. The local horse riders kept hoping that some gringo would pass out from fatigue, and they would put him on a horse and rob him of some kecal (local currency). Over the forest belt, the views of all the surrounding volcanoes, the town of Antigua, and the villages clinging to the slopes of the volcanoes took our breath away.

Only Pacaya was shy, and her top was subtly coated with a puff that was just as steaming. Suddenly, we were on the moon. I hadn’t been on it, but that’s how I imagined it. Lava-light dust, wobbly underfoot. Black holes, steam rising from them. Green grass here and there, a sulphurous smell.

A taste of lunch on the volcano

Local chefs pitched their tent in the lava – a little below the top, they stuck a parasol, set up the utensils, put the ingredients on the pizza dough, put the baking sheet in a small fumarole, and in 5 minutes, it was ready. While pushing through the pizza, Pacaya smiled at us and blew out a nice puff of smoke as a goodbye. And there was a buffet open by the bus, so we also waved to Pacaya with a chilled gallo in our hands.

The volcanoes of Guatemala are beautifull. If you’re still into it, next time I’ll take you to visit Ah Cacao. Do you want to?


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Ivana Viskupová
Ivana Viskupová

Passionate alpine hiker, mountain guide and good friend of the "restartnisa" and the 7 Hills 3 Lakes hiking challenge. Says of herself: "I become a better person in the mountains. They make me more humble and more receptive. They clear my head. It doesn't matter if the hill is 500 meters or 5000. Sometimes it's not even the hill that's important, it's the way to get there. I like to get to know the country and the people who live there."

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