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Conquering Acatanengo to see the Fuego volcano in its full glory

February 2024

A Valentine’s day like no other. Instead of heading to a cheesy restaurant, we decided to hike Acatenango and have an overnight stay with views of the volcano. We chose Lava-trails for our trip because they offer the BEST view and the coziest dorms to catch up on some sleep between the hikes.

Embarking on the Acatenango hike is not for the faint-hearted; it’s a challenge that tests your endurance, rewards your spirit, and leaves you with both thrilling and painful memories. When I say painful, trust me, I’m not joking…

Even though we are experienced hikers, we had a tough time up there. Perhaps, first of all, we found it challenging because we both suffered from altitude sickness, which was the first time we experienced this. We felt light-headed and short of breath, but somehow, we managed to ascend. If you’re used to hiking in the Dolomites, Swiss, or Austria, you will feel it in your legs on this one! Guatemalans don’t have a lot of knowledge on how to build trails… They made one trail: the shortest way – going straight up! So, you will not only be exhausted by the steep hike but probably will also have sore legs for days after 😉 Nevertheless, every step, every puff, every muscle cramp is worth it, and we would do it all over again in a heartbeat! Keep reading to find out why…

A photo from the buss driving to the Acatenango hike
Breakfast before we leave to the Acatenango hike to the Fuego volcano

The morning air crackles with anticipation as we depart for the Acatenango adventure. Gathered at designated pick-up points, we set out on a 1-hour drive to our supply camp. Even the road to the supply camp is worth watching outside your window. First, you drive through the small villages between Antigua and the volcano, and afterwards, you see the Fuego volcano coming closer and closer.

At the supply center, excitement mingles with the (heavy) mountain breeze as we gear up for the challenge ahead. First things first; we were served a strong breakfast to make sure we’re all fueled to start our day.

The briefing session ensured us we’re prepared for the demanding ascent. It’s hot in Antigua, but once you get up the mountain, it can be pretty cold, with temperatures below 0 degrees. So make sure to take enough warm clothing with you. We took our own equipment with us, such as thermal underwear, gloves, and a good wind jacket, but you can borrow and rent everything you need at the supply camp (jackets, gloves, hiking poles, a bag, sweaters,…). So if you’re backpacking through Guatemala, you don’t need to carry these items in your bag for your entire trip.

The hike is not just about conquering Acatenango; it’s about conquering yourself.

View of Clervaux abbey trough the trees

Ready, set, hike

With gear in place and spirits still high, our ascent begins. The trail weaves through rugged terrain, a relentless climb that promises not just physical exertion but a mental journey of resilience. Especially the first hour is hard because the underground is loose stones, and you’re breathing in a lot of dust clouds.

Around noon, we paused for a well-deserved lunch. Halfway up Acatenango, the lunch package is our reward and gets us fueled for the next part. Energized by the beauty that surrounds us, we are still energized but the tiredness starts to creep into our legs. Guatemalans don’t have a lot of knowledge on how to create good paths because they just created one path, straight up…

The final stretch demands our all, and as we reach Basecamp, a mix of exhaustion and exhilaration washes over. The views before us are surreal – an active volcano giving its best when we arrive at the base camp. We made it, and the view alone was worth every grueling step.

The base camp of Lava-trails is amazing, with bunk beds, and a toilet with possibly the best view on earth. Let’s be honest, you would love to take your sanitary stop here! So it is worth booking your trip with them because you want to have the best view from your bed, and you need your well-deserved rest. Other organizations mostly sleep in tents on the floor, so after an exhausting hike like this, this might not be your best choice.

After you reach base camp, you have the possibility to do an extra hike going over to the Fuego volcano. Unfortunately, we both suffered from altitude sickness, which was the first time ever for both of us. We were dizzy and short of breath, so we decided to skip the Fuego hike and do a smaller Sunset hike instead. To be honest, maybe base camp was still the best spot for our photos, so we didn’t mind not doing the extra Fuego hike.

The Fuego hike is 200Q extra and takes another 4 hours, so make sure to be physically capable of doing this extra trip before you decide to leave. You leave for sunset, but you will need to climb back up in the complete dark. The participants of the hike told us every step was worth it because from there you could see the volcano erupt from close by, which was an epic scene.


If you’re not 100% sure about your physical capabilities or you suffer from altitude sickness, it’s best to choose one of the 2 hikes: either the Fuego hike or the sunrise hike. Both are very physically demanding, so make sure you’re aware of your own body limitations. A lot of people who did the Fuego hike didn’t attempt the sunrise hike and vice versa.

Clervaux castle in the evening with light up expo
Photo expo at Clervaux castle

The night


When the darkness fell, the views became even more spectacular. The spouting lava is something you cannot see during daylight, but when the night falls, this spouting lava becomes impressive. Fuego erupts about every 20 minutes, and at least once an hour, you have an even bigger eruption. We sat around a campfire watching the volcano like we were binge-watching a good Netflix series… It’s addictive. After every eruption, we said, “the next one we’ll go to bed”; don’t need to tell you that didn’t happen.

We chose Lava Trails especially for their cabins. But the fact that the view was so amazing led to the fact that we didn’t sleep much at all. Even after we knocked ourselves out on the bed, our eyes stayed wide open. If you have this view from your bed, would you be able to close your eyes?

The day after


Day II starts early as we get ready to ascend Acatenango summit to (hopefully) see an epic sunrise. The walk starts instantly where you ended yesterday and going steep up again. The good part is that you have no clue about the following steps given the fact is pitch black on the mountain. The only path you see is the one you highlight with your headlamp, so about 1 meter in front of you.

After a climb of 2 hours through loose gravel, we reached the summit, and we were not alone on top. Every group sleeping on the mountain was, of course, present for sunrise, but the crowd really didn’t bother that much. The sunrise was perfect, and Fuego also served us with some explosions to get our enthusiasm even over the top.

After about half an hour, we went down again because on top, the wind was very strong and even though we hiked for 2 hours, we were freezing on top, as you may see in our photos. 😉 The way down was quite easy, just go with the flow and run down. The loose gravel made it possible to just run/slide down, and we were back at base camp 10 minutes later.

The breakfast came as land to a sailor and fueled us again for the trip down. Little did we know the worst was yet to come. The way down was even more intense than our way up, and it’s the descent that left us with sore muscles for 3 days… Even though it’s a quick descent. About 2 hours later, we were back at the start of the trail to end our hike. A cold beer at the supply center, exchanging experiences with the others, and the adventure was over.

This is an adventure that pushes boundaries, leaves indelible imprints on the soul, and reminds us that the most extraordinary views come after the toughest climbs. Are you ready for the ascent?

7:30 – 8:00 Departure – They have 3 pick up points across the city of Antigua, so pick the place that is closest to your hostel/hotel.
8:30 – 9:00  Briefing and collecting gear 
9:30 – 10:00 Start of the hike
12:30 – 13:00 Lunch
15:00 – 15:30 Arrival to base camp
16:00 – 20:00 Optional Fuego hike (200Q per person) 
20:00 – 21:00 Dinner & marshmellows at the campfire 
Day II   
4:00 – 07:00 Summit hike to Acatenango
8:00-9:00 Breakfast & ready to leave
11:00 Arrival

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