Volcan De Pacaya: The Guatemalan Volcano Experience

In Australia we are blessed with some of the world’s greatest natural attractions. From the aqua wonderland of The Great Barrier Reef and the countless pristine beaches that speckle our coastline, to the mystifying Uluru and The Northern Territory’s barren Red Centre.

However, despite these breathtaking attractions there is one scene that is sorely missing from our landscape-volcanos. And if these lava spewing mountains really are the pimples of the earth, erupting without warning and requiring a great deal of respect, Guatemala is trapped in a kind of adolescent limbo. And for that I am eternally grateful.

For inquisitive gringos like myself Guatemala offers an array of organised volcano hikes and tours, varying in duration, intensity and overall quality. However, one of the most popular volcano treks in Guatemala is the famous tour up Antigua’s Volcan De Pacaya; a 2,500 metre monster towering over the quaint, cobble stone streets of the city.

volcano1  Volcan De Pacaya is an active volcano which last erupted in 2010, covering Antigua in a thick blanket of ash. This eruption came as a shock to the people of Antigua, and guides tell stories of having to hurry off the volcano as it spat fire and bellowed smoke into the peaceful village below.

Thankfully, it was raining, so as the volcano belched fire and many houses burned, it was extinguished by the welcome rain and many house and people were spared. However, one eager journalist decided that the scoop was more important than his life, and by getting too close to the action his life was unfortunately lost.

The trek itself is truly remarkable, beginning in lush forestation and reaching a barren, lunar-like landscape which can only be described as ‘out of this world’. Steam rises from blackened craters as rocks glow red from surreptitious lava, which covertly flows underneath the volcanos’ rocky surface. img_1773-2

Many tours will also provide marshmallows and a stick, creating one of the most unique roasting experiences going around.

The trek is no marathon, however it certainly is not recommended for the faint hearted. A steep climb will get your heart racing, and a certain degree of fitness is needed if you don’t want to be stranded halfway up a volcano.

img_1752-2 However, for those requiring a helping hand a number of children will be following close behind offering a “Taxi” which will take you as far as the molten rock. This taxi will most definitely look, smell and feel like a horse, though their sense of humour will put a smile on even the most sour of travellers’ dial!

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