“Acatenango” AKA ‘Hike of Death’. I’m not a hiker- I love nature, but I am a New York City girl inside and the most I’ve hiked has probably been up a fire escape of a Manhattan brownstone. But when in Guatemala…hike! All 37 volcanoes! Or at least a couple of them! Right?
I naively decided to start checking volcanos off my list with an overnight hike to Acatenango. It wasn’t until I started walking that I realized what I had gotten myself into. Acatenango is the 2nd largest volcano in Central America, at a elevation of 13,000 feet. Not only was I completely under equipped in clothing, snacks and flashlight, but I was completely mentally unprepared. (I did, however, show up with a bottle full of apple cider vinegar.)
Here’s some advice if you’re considering this hike:
1. Bring clothes for the north pole. Seriously. You will encounter an “arctic wind chill” at the top. You will also freeze while you “sleep.”
2.Bring a flashlight that you can wear on your head. You will need your hands while “walking” up to the top.
3. Bring snacks. I’m fairly fit- but this is a serious workout on your body and you will want something more than apple cider vinegar to take you up that volcano.
4. Book a full body massage in advance- you will need it. Maybe 20yr olds have it easier, but I think the bodies of most 30yr olds will hurt for 1 week.
All this being said- hiking Acatenango was one of the top 5 coolest things I have done in my entire life. The scenery is drop dead beautiful. The mental and physical challenge is exciting. If you’re as lucky as I was, you will spend your night watching the lava from Fuego volcano (across from the Acatenango camp site) explode and flow down the side of Fuego- an awesome natural phenomena to witness. (Be warned- you will also hear Fuego burp/spew/crack/ cough all night long.)
I don’t think I will ever hike Acatenango again, but I am glad that I did it once. It’s an accomplishment. And the other volcanos I’ve hiked since then? They feel like a piece of cake.
There are many organized tour groups to hike Acatenango; I recommend either OX Expeditions or Old Town Outfitters.