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Rating 1.2 (233 votes)


Listed under Volcanoes in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

  • Photo of Pacaya
  • Photo of Pacaya
  • Photo of Pacaya
  • Photo of Pacaya
Photo of Pacaya
Photo by Photography: Bruce Nelson & Mi
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Pacaya, located near Guatemala City, has been erupting regularly since 1965. Like Etna its eruption style ranges from explosive to effusive, though Strombolian eruptions accompanied by lava flows are the most common. The active crater can sometimes be viewed safely from the vantage point of the adjacent inactive summit peak, but be sure to check this out thoroughly with the locals before climbing, as deaths from eruptions - as well as from vicious bandit attacks - have occurred here (the last time I climbed it, I had to hide from bandits who wielded pistols and machetes - and who later shot at other climbers!). Guatemala is a beautiful, culturally fascinating but unfortunately rather dangerous country to visit these days.

Written by  Mike Lyvers.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Man it was, thoroughly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

Climbing Pacaya

We had to rise very early that day, and shake off the beers from the night before. My travelling companion, who shall remain anonymous, was having some travelling stomach issues. Neither of us was at the top of our game. I flagged the bus over and we climbed in. We were quickly surrounded by blonde-haired, gangly-legged European youths, who looked far too healthy and sober to be sharing a bus with us.

The journey was long, and after we left the paved road behind, it threatened to reshape my spine. Pulling up a sharp incline we reached a small village. A few stray dogs stood up to meet us. It seemed an unlikely start to the ascent of a live volcano, but after that drive no one was complaining.

Our guide was a 14 year old local girl who looked like Frida Kahlo. She couldn’t speak a word of English but I didn’t blame her as I couldn’t speak a word of Spanish. This was going to be an adventure.

As we climbed through the forest and fields we were accompanied by a couple of dogs and a woman who kept trying to offer us a horse. Everyone politely refused but she seemed quietly confident. And she was right to be, it didn’t take long before one of our party cracked and jumped on the poor beast. Abruptly the forest cleared and we found ourselves on a desolate hillside that looked something like the surface of the moon. Nothing grew here; I saw no green shoots, no signs of life. The earth was black and barren, when you walked a small cloud of dust arose from your footprints. Looming above us was a smoking peak.

As we pressed on we reached some twisted rock formations, which we proceeded to walk over. The horse couldn’t go any further. Good thing I brought my boots. There was a slightly acrid smell in the air, and it seemed to be getting a little bit warmer. Our shoes crunched on the strange black rock, which was very sharp but brittle, and often broke underfoot. One of the girls ahead of me stopped and refused to go on. It was too hot she said. And suddenly we all noticed it was indeed getting hotter. The ground itself was hot. This was exciting. As we ascended a ridge, a wave of heat hit me.

Wow. Something nearby was extremely hot, but at first I couldn’t see it. I walked over to a small gathering of people, and there it was: a hole in the very earth, a bright red sore on the side of the mountain. The heat was almost unbearable but so was my curiosity. I had to get closer. One of the other guides had brought some marshmallows and, placing them on a stick, he held them over the glowing wound. Watching it burst into flame was astounding!

But holding what really blew my mind, and was probably the highlight of my entire trip, was seeing the river of lava. Holding my mouth and edging closer to the crevice, I could see a river of molten rock running under the very ground we were standing on. It was humbling. This was a truly unique, life-changing experience. In life, you either have or haven’t seen a river of lava, and now, I had. I felt lucky.

This feeling of privilege didn’t last too long when I realised my shoes were melting. The rock I was standing on was so hot the soles of my boots were actually melting. It’s quite a disconcerting and exhilarating feeling. Luckily my shoes lasted the walk back down and they’re now hanging in my front room as a testament to an amazing day.

1 Reply

Wow - sounds FANTASTIC!

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