Volcán Pacaya, Guatemala – Hot volcano

After saying good-bye to Petra and Klaus – they return for another six months to Mexico, while we keep on going south – we visit the Tourist Police to receive information about volcano Pacaya. In the last years repeated robberies happened to tourists, but these incidents seem to belong to the past since a guarded national park has been established and the Tourist Police is permanently present. But the helpful officers astonish us while warning us to take the direct route to Pacaya via Santa Maria de Jesús. The road wasn’t safe, armed assaults even to busses happened time and again.

So we take the route through Guatemala City that’s twice as long as the short one. The two-million-capital (including metro) isn’t a tourist magnet but an important traffic junction. In a side road close to the village San Vicente de Pacaya 40 km south of Guatemala City we are stopped at a box office. Foreigners have to pay 50 GTQ entrance fee and we learn that we can’t hike the volcano without guide. The guide takes another 150 Quetzals regardless the size of the group and we have to take him the last 5.5 km narrow dirt road with us in the truck. He shall probably make sure that we don’t hike up too far onto the smoking peak or that we don’t fall in one of the hot crevices. But we can overnight at the trailhead without additional charge.

The guide who must have an official identity card estimates three hours for the hike, but he goes faster if admitted. It is each 3 km and 400 m of elevation for going up and down. Volcano Pacaya, one of the most active ones in Central America, is easy and safe to climb. Eruptions are registered since 1565, recently yearly. The almost reliable wind direction offers protection most of the time. We have to stop at 2,250 m, the last 300 m of elevation to the peak are not accessible. Steam escapes from many holes, the rock are partially hot. The liquid lava is in lower areas around 15 m below surface, in higher elevation only 10 m. A several metres deep crevice gets even closer to the embers. The temperature here is around 900° F / 500° C and our guide is roasting some marshmallows on a stick. Some of the “sauna caves” are accessible as well, and if you didn’t sweat until now you definitely will. (N 14°23’58.1’’ W 90°36’54.9’’)

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