Planning on climbing Volcán de Agua in Guatemala? Read on to learn about my experience doing this challenging but rewarding hike!
About Volcán de Agua
Volcán de Agua, or “Volcano of Water” in English, got its name in 1541 when a huge rainstorm filled the crater at the top of the mountain. The crater was so full of rain that one side eventually collapsed and a flood of water surged down the mountain, destroying the towns below.
I hiked Volcán de Agua when my mum came to visit me during my time living in Guatemala (click here to read about having my parents visit when I lived abroad). We chose this volcano because of its proximity to Antigua – about a 30-minute drive. We considered climbing Volcán Pacaya, but I had already hiked this mountain and wanted to try something new. However, I highly recommend this hike if you want to get up close and personal with an active volcano; click here to read more about my experience climbing Pacaya Volcano.
We also considered hiking Acatenango, which is even a bit more challenging than climbing Volcán de Agua. Although not a volcano itself, Acatenango still offers stunning views of the constantly-erupting Volcán de Fuego (Volcano of Fire). However, that hike is much longer, and it is recommended to camp overnight during the hike, which we did not have time to do.
Climbing Volcán de Agua is almost as challenging as Acatenango and far more challenging than Volcán de Pacaya, so I do not recommend it for novice hikers or those who struggle at high altitudes. However, my mum and I are both very experienced hikers and we had a fantastic time (and a solid workout)!
The Hike: Climbing Volcán de Agua
The trail is incredibly steep and made mostly of loose dirt and rocks, making the climb very slippery and precarious. I have climbed many volcanos, but this was definitely the most slippery, even more so than the time I had to wade through volcanic sand and rocks in Sicily! In addition, it took several good cleanings to get all of the dust out of my hiking boots (and clothes!) Still, it was undoubtedly worth it!
I generally avoid tour guides if possible when I’m traveling, but this is unavoidable when climbing Volcán de Agua. Apparently there has been a problem with thieves hiding out along the trail and robbing hikers. Thus, the local government now requires that each hiking party travel with an armed guide. In addition, all hikers must register at the closest town (Santa María de Jesús) before beginning the climb. Our guide’s name was Felix, and he was reserved but sweet and helpful. We never ran across any thieves, although he did try to shoot a number of squirrels. My mum, however, protested adamantly, and eventually he left the poor critters in peace.
The views along the hike were breathtaking, which served as a good distraction from our aching legs. Of course, we had to avoid staring too long at the rolling hills, or we might step on a loose rock and fall! We also had magnificent views Volcán de Fuego erupting and of Volcán Pacaya’s double peaks. Few countries offer views of as many different volcanos as Guatemala does!
The Summit: Climbing Volcán de Agua
The summit is an astounding 12,340 feet above sea level, and 5,549 feet above the trail head. Gaining so much elevation in one day was a bit of a shock to the body, and the air definitely felt thinner at the crater! The summit was so high that the view was mostly obscured by clouds, but we did get an occasional glimpse. Still, the thrill of making it to the top was well worth the climb!
Despite being wonderfully warm at the base of the volcano, the weather at the top was not as pleasant. Between the strong winds and high altitude, it was so frigid that my hands and feet quickly went numb. I definitely recommend some thick wool hiking socks, gloves, and a waterproof windbreaker when climbing Volcán de Agua! Luckily, there is a shelter at the top to provide a bit of protection from the freezing wind. The photo below showing this shelter also offers a glimpse of the place where the crater wall collapsed, causing a flood.
Going down was much faster than up, although we had to be even more careful not to slip. Back in Antigua, we recovered from the climb with a delicious dinner of Spanish tapas and huge glasses of Sangria while recounting our favorite moments from the day’s adventure.
Want to know more about my travels in Guatemala? Click here to read about my previous excursion or keep your eyes out for next week’s post about another Guatemalan adventure. Or, you can click here to read about all of my travel trips and adventures in Latin America!
Happy Travels! XOXO Ann