Central America Guatemala Climbing Pacaya: City Girl Conquers the Volcano

Climbing Pacaya: City Girl Conquers the Volcano


Being a city girl means certain things I am not accustom to doing, like I don’t know… hiking up an active volcano. But when your crazy, spontaneous boyfriend says, it’s cool and we should do it because that’s what traveling is all about, you start to wonder, what experiences do I have hiking?

Oh, that’s easy, none!

In the city, we don’t have hiking trails we have long city blocks, we don’t have mountains we have skyscrapers, we don’t have nature we have concrete. The most experience I have hiking is climbing up the NYC subway steps. Hey, no judging, this is a judge free post!

But yet I’m about to hike up a recently erupted volcano in Guatemala, called Pacaya.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a very active life during my adolescent years and played sports up until college.

But is there really anything that can prepare you for a 2 hour hike up an active volcano?

Steaming hot Pacaya Volcano
Steaming hot Pacaya Volcano

So needless to say, I was a “little” concern about climbing Pacaya. Ben’s experience in hiking and climbing things didn’t help my self-esteem either.

In my head that meant he could do it and I couldn’t, which is a big problem to my anything-you-can-do, I-can-do -better pride.

If his skinny ass can do it, a city girl like myself can do it too.

So I accepted the challenge, poor Ben, he didn’t even know he was being challenged. I even made a “Climbing Pacaya Proclamation”. It went something like this, I Jasmine, the city girl can tackle the Pacaya Volcano without quitting or complaining. Regardless of my inexperience, I will not back down and make it to the top of Pacaya without breaking a sweat, you got this.”

Yeah, I take challenges seriously like that.

So, the day came and we were off. Water packed, hoodies on, and hiking boots made for walking. With my NY state of mind, I was ready to make Pacaya my bitch, so I thought.

It’s not gold but it shall do

When we got to the entrance of the park, we were bombarded by little kids selling walking sticks for 5 Guatemalan quetzales.

Oh shit, is the hike really that bad that people need walking sticks“. I bought one anyway, just in case. It’s not like it was expensive, it was only 25 cents.

And of course, Ben didn’t get one. Show-off.

At the foot of the volcano, our tour guide told us two things that made me think that climbing Pacaya would be way harder than I expected:

1.The guys with the horses following along will offer Taxi rides up the volcano for Q100 just in case anyone feels like they can’t walk any further.

2. Though we have only 3 scheduled breaks, if anyone feels like they need a break please, let us know and we will stop immediately. We don’t want anyone to pass out.

I immediately thought why the hell would I pay money to hike a trail and not do it and then pay an additional Q100 to ride a horse and make the poor horse do the climbing for me. I wouldn’t and I didn’t have plans to do so while climbing Pacaya either.

Sure enough, ten minutes into our hike, a woman in our tour group said she couldn’t walk anymore and opted for the horse.

I couldn’t see why she need the horse, because the hike wasn’t so bad. But clearly she thought differently. But then half way into the hike I started feeling the burn! I was sweating like a pig, and praying for the next break.

Can somebody please turn on the AC?
Sweating like a pig, while the lady on the back gallops up the volcano

My pride won’t let me ask for a break because I was determined to not be the person slowing down the group so I kept pushing myself.

But then I got to the point where the breathing techniques I was trying to do weren’t cutting it anymore, the hoodie I had on was making me sweat more than I had too and the damn walking stick wasn’t helping at all. I was starting to lose my breath and my heart was beating uncontrollably fast.

Sucking up my pride, I asked the tour guide for a break. I couldn’t do it anymore. No matter what though, I knew I wasn’t going to wimp out and take a horse the rest of the way. If I made it half way without a horse, I’m damn sure I can make it the rest of the way without one.

After our five minute break and some water in my system, I was rejuvenated and ready to finish what I started and after an hour of extra hiking I did just that. I made it to the top feeling like Rocky when he made it to the top of the steps.

The CITY GIRL from NYC had conquered the Pacaya Volcano and made it her bitch! Not really, actually I made it my friend.

I did it after all
City girl conquers the Volcano

As they say hard work pays off. The view at the top of the volcano was gorgeous. I had an eagle’s eye view of the picturesque area and the two surrounding volcanoes, Volcano de Agua (Water Volcano) and Volcano de Fuego (Fire Volcano).

Though we didn’t get to see lava, we were able to roast marshmallows on the volcano’s steam vents and one of the best parts was “skiing”  down the volcano at the end. Scary but fun when you get the hang of it.

My reward: Roasted Marshmallow
My reward: Roasted Marshmallow

But the ultimate reward was being able to say I did it. Knowing I worked my ass off to accomplishing something made the victory that much sweeter. Though it was my pride that got me to the top of the volcano, it showed me that I can chose my on battles and conquer them too.

So if you ever get to the point where you think you can’t do something, think again! Regardless of where you come from or what experience you have, there is nothing you can’t do if you try and put your mind to it.

More Information

Location: Between Antigua and Guatemala City in Guatemala
Cost: $15-20 USD
Company: Every tour company in Antigua and Guatemala City offers the tour for pretty much the same price.

Have ever climbed up an active volcano? Tell us about your most awesome volcano experience in the comments below.



  • Michael

    I went for a month last year and visited most of the country and am going for another month later this year. The entire country is fantastic! Acatenango is the one everyone should do at least once. It’s a two day trip, 5-6 hours up but you get to see the lava flows.sy night. I loved the Pacific coast, the volcanoes around Lake Atitlán, the city…it’s all pretty amazing.

  • Oswaldo R Cuy Castellanos

    Congrats for your excited experience hiking on one of the beautiful volcano in Guatemala! I’m from Guatemala just 20 minutes in Antigua, (Santa Maria de Jesus Sac) I live in Springfield, Ohio 3 years ago I claim up the Pacaya with my little boy on my back and wife and it was one the most exciting moment as familia! People wants to go up Pacaya just don’t pay for the caballos is hard for the poor animals that are not in shape for such job.

  • Brandon

    Nice article! I am going back to Antigua in 3 weeks. I was trapped there for 5 months last year but couldn’t do nada because of Covid. I sat at my hostel alone everyday watching Netflix and ordering Ubereats and gaining 45 lbs. So I am returning to go do all the things I couldn’t. What a great town with nice people! I’m glad you had fun. You look much fitter than me so I may skip the uphill hike. Love from Mississippi. Cheers

    • Brandon

      Oh… I was supposed to tell my best volcano experience. I was in Baños, Ecuador when Tungurahua was active. Every few days there would be a massive BOOOM! and the buildings would rattle. I was on the square one day and everyone in the streets jumped and had their hands covering their heads and then we all started laughing. There was this incredible mushroom cloud that rose thousands of feet and could be seen in Quito 3 hours away. It was something special to experience.

  • Stephanie

    Hey! Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m fellow city girl, and I’ve booked myself a solo trip to Guatemala next Feb.

    My concern isn’t actually the physical exertion part of hiking Pacaya Volcano. Rather, I’m the type who likes to plan and book everything in advance. You mentioned that you paid only $15-20 for the tour and that pretty much every tour company in Antigua will offer the same tour. So my questions are: how did you find/choose a tour company (can you make any recommendations)? How far in advance did you book your tour, or was it more like show up and book a tour for the next day? I’m planning to stay in an Airbnb, so I won’t have a hostel/hotel to arrange tours for me.

    Thanks for your help!

    • A

      We just randomly walked into one of the many tour agencies and bought two tickets for the next day. It’s very simple and you don’t have to worry about it. You also don’t have to stay in a hostel to book tours through them you can just walk in and tell them what you want and they will help you. Hope that helps and enjoy hiking Pacaya.

  • Wow and this one is one of the small ones in Guatemala, you should try the Tajumulco next time, is the biggest and the night sky from the top is just AMAZING. :)

    • hahaha, I would probably die climbing Tajumuico, but like most hikes that I am afraid of, I would do it anyway and once at the top I wouldn’t regret it one bit. Speaking of hiking, last week I actually climbed an active volcano, Kawah Ijen in Indonesia and it was amazing! You would be please to know that I didn’t die lol, nor was I overly exhausted :) If you get a chance you should definitely hike Kawah Ijen, it’s breathtaking!

  • Umm, I’m in zero shape to hike a volcano. Zero! Takes me 16 minutes to walk a mile and that’s pushing it. I’m going on a mission trip there in Late June. E ery one wants to do it on our free day. Do I start now training is it even worth it? As in, can I make it you think? I’m working on weight loss but have about 60 more lbs to go…opinions?

    • Hey Susan. I definitely think it is worth it and if you start training now, I am sure you can do it. If not you can always pay one of the guys on the horses to take you up. Either way I am sure you will have a great time.

  • Rosebud

    Thank you for the inspiration Jazzy!

    I recently pushed through the fear and booked my first solo trip as a birthday gift to myself. I will be visiting Guatemala for 4 days and Pacaya is on my to do list.

    I am a Brooklyn girl, so you know I enjoyed this on so many levels.

    • Hey Rosebud, CONGRATS on taking the first step! It’s the hardest. Where do you plan to stay in Guatemala, Antigua?

      #Brooklynknights ;)

  • Hi Jasmine,

    Woohoo NYC gal, well done! That long a hike is no small feat.

    I hear you….I have done a few wacky things and grew up a city boy in New Jersey. Good for you!

    Side note; I noted your sweat shirt. Is that Middlesex County, NJ? Because I grew up next door in Union County ;)

    Thanks for the inspired share!


    • Hey Ryan,

      WOOHOO to you too for being a city boy from NJ and doing wacky things!!! No sorry that is Middlesex County in Boston. No problem. Safe travels!!

  • The Adventure Ahead

    You can actually say you roasted a marshmallow on a volcano?!?! So cool! Looks like an amazing adventure :)

    • I must admit, that is a pretty cool thing to say!! I will definitely add this to the cool things I have done while traveling.

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