By Taylor Fuller | Published on July 8, 2022

The wind is blowing around you. The sky is clear, and you can see all of Antigua, the capital of Guatemala, below. You're 12,340 feet above sea level, and while the air is thin because of the altitude, it's the view that's taking your breath away. You've just spent the day hiking up Volcán de Agua, and even though it wasn't easy, you're feeling very accomplished and content.

If you want to experience hiking in Antigua, Volcán de Agua is one for the bucket list. It's only a 30-minute trip away from the city, and the summit offers unprecedented views. It's something that can't be missed if you have the time to do it. You'll typically want close to a full day to accomplish your Agua volcano hike while visiting, as a result make sure to add it to your itinerary from the start of planning your Guatemala vacation.

Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala Volcano View
View of Agua volcano near Port Quetzal

The History Of Volcán De Agua

The area near Antigua has a number of volcanoes you can visit: Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. Volcán de Agua is extinct, meaning it hasn't had an eruption in the last 10,000 years of recorded history. Fuego is active, and Acatenango is dormant. An extinct volcano often means there is no longer a lava supply, and it's no longer near a geologic hot spot. A dormant volcano is still technically active but has not erupted for a very long time. However, it could still erupt again in the future, whether that's in a few years or a few centuries. An active volcano is either erupting or is likely to erupt in the near future.

Wooden pier at Lake Atitlan on the beach in Panajachel, Guatemala. With beautiful landscape scenery of volcanoes Toliman, Atitlan and San Pedro in the background.
Wooden pier at Lake Atitlan on the beach in Panajachel, Guatemala. With beautiful landscape scenery of volcanoes Toliman, Atitlan and San Pedro in the background.
Volcán de Agua was called Hunahpu by the Maya and was considered sacred. It got the name Agua ("water" in Spanish) after a mudslide in the 1500s destroyed Ciudad Vieja, the original capital of Guatemala. People historically believed a small crater lake was once atop Agua: They theorized that an earthquake caused the lake to empty out, which then caused the mudslide. In 1895, however, archaeologists Anne Cary Maudslay and Alfred Percival Maudslay hiked the volcano and determined that this was geologically impossible.
During your ascent to the top of Volcán de Agua, you'll see insanely beautiful views. If you are blessed with blue skies, you might see Volcan de Fuego erupting and the double peaks of Volcan de Pacaya in the distance.

How To Visit Guatemala: Agua Volcano Hike

Antigua, Guatemala with Agua Volcano in the Background
Antigua, Guatemala with Agua Volcano in the Background

It's very popular when deciding on an Antigua, Guatemala, volcano hike to choose Agua because you can do it in a day. It's a little bit complicated to visit this volcano, as you have to register at the Santa Maria de Jesus before beginning your hike. You will have to travel with either a tour guide or a police officer due to the robbers who often target climbers. (Most people who have climbed the volcano report no incidents of this kind.) It's best to register a few days in advance so everything can be arranged ahead of time.

There is a trail that starts behind a cemetery. You'll follow a paved road for a bit, and then it will change into a small path. Keep in mind this isn't the easiest hike — it can often be considered extreme hiking. Volcanic terrain is steep, and the last mile or so is filled with switchbacks and vertical climbs. If you've never hiked before, you shouldn't partake in this hike as the altitude and steepness will make it quite difficult.

It takes anywhere between four and seven hours to climb to the summit of Volcán de Agua. It's much faster on your return — just be mindful of the rocks beneath your feet so you don't slip.

If you're not interested in hiking the entire way, you can take a 4x4 up the side of the volcano to a parking lot where you begin climbing. You will have to pay to leave your vehicle.

When To Visit: Antigua Travel Vacation

View of active volcanos: de Agua, Atitlan, de Fuego and Acatenango. Guatemala.
View of active volcanos: de Agua, Atitlan, de Fuego and Acatenango. Guatemala.
If you want to do some hiking in Antigua and plan it with your getaway cruise to Guatemala, the ideal time for visiting Volcán de Agua is best between November and April. This is the dry season, and while it may be a bit cooler, your chances of clear weather are better. If you choose to hike during the wet season, which runs between May and October, the hike will be much more difficult as the trail will be muddy and slippery.

What To Wear

Layers are key! It will be a lot warmer at the base of the hike. But keep in mind you're already about 6,700 feet above sea level when you start. A windbreaker and good base layers are important. Hiking boots are also necessary. If you're hiking in the winter, be sure to check the weather ahead of time. You need to make sure you're wearing the correct clothes to keep you warm at the summit.

View From The Top

Volcano Fuego erupting at night in Antigua. Guatemala
Volcano Fuego erupting at night in Antigua. Guatemala
During your ascent to the top of Volcán de Agua, you'll see insanely beautiful views. If you are blessed with blue skies, you might see Volcan de Fuego erupting and the double peaks of Volcan de Pacaya in the distance. When you arrive at the summit, you will probably notice a lot of power lines, but don't let that discourage you! If you continue walking around you will find some uninterrupted views. Remember that the air will be incredibly thin on the top due to the altitude. Make sure you take your time and drink plenty of water. If you need some cover, there is a small shelter where you can avoid the wind for a bit.

What To Do After Your Hike In Antigua

Thankfully, Antigua is only a 30-minute drive from Volcán de Agua. Don't miss out on spending some time in the capital city as a part of your Guatemala travel vacation.

Fuel Up

Typical local stew dishes of Antigua. Guatemala
Typical local stew dishes of Antigua. Guatemala
You'll probably be hungry after your hike, so you'll want to fill up on some tasty local dishes. The offering of food in Antigua is pretty diverse. Go for a few Guatemalan classics like plato tipico, corn tortillas served with black beans, rice, and chicken or beef. Sink your teeth into pepián, an indulgent chicken stew with a distinctive smoky taste. It's made with a variety of spices and pumpkin seeds and served with rice. If you didn't fill up on that stew, why not try another one? Jocón is a delicious chicken and tomatillo stew. Tamales and fried plantains are the perfect choices to accompany any dish.

Get Some Culture And History In

Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala Santa Catalina Arch
Santa Catalina Arch and Agua Volcano by Port Quetzal, Guatemala
If you have a few days on either end of your Guatemala hiking experience, why not spend it learning about the culture and history of Antigua? Visit San Francisco Church, a significant religious center for the region. Or head to the Hotel Casa Domingo, which is not only a five-star hotel but also a museum located on the grounds of an old monastery. You can also take a stroll to the remains of Catedral de Santiago, which was originally built in 1541 but has since been destroyed by a number of earthquakes. Nonetheless, it is still gorgeous, and you should spend some time exploring it. Visit Santa Catalina Arch, where you can snap a photo with Volcán de Fuego in the background. And if you're looking to bring home a souvenir, you can head to one of the many artisan markets to pick up some handmade treasures from your Central America cruise vacation.

Tour Some More

Hand with a branch of ripening coffee beans, Antigua. Central America
Hand with a branch of ripening coffee beans, Antigua. Central America
If you're in Guatemala, you have to take a coffee tour. There are a number of tours you can take, some very touristy and some more off the beaten path. Try to choose one that lets you explore a coffee farm from a local viewpoint and enjoy a tasting.
Shore docks view with volcanoes in Background
Shore docks view with volcanoes in Background

You can also head to Lake Atitlán for a day trip. It's a lake in a massive volcanic crater, surrounded by Guatemala's gorgeous southwestern highlands. The lake is known as the eternal spring because it's always 77 degrees. The views are magnificent and are worth the trip alone, but it's also an excellent chance to spend time with some local people and experience a different part of Guatemala.

If you didn't get your fill of volcanoes, you can always visit another one. For an easier hike, head to Volcán de Pacaya, where you can literally roast marshmallows over the crater. It's about an hour and a half drive from Antigua, but it doesn't take nearly as much time to hike to the top.

If you're a thrill-seeker, Guatemala will satisfy. You could book an entire trip based around Guatemala's beautiful nature and hiking opportunities, and you still wouldn't scratch the surface. It's time to grab your hiking boots, Guatemala is calling your name.

Looking for a unique travel vacation experience? Book a Central and South America cruise to visit some beautiful and interesting places and experience the trip of a lifetime.

Written By
TAYLOR FULLER

Taylor Fuller is a travel and lifestyle writer. She has lived and traveled all over the world and loves to share her experiences. She is the author of The Rainbow Atlas and currently calls London her home.

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Wooden pier at Lake Atitlan on the beach in Panajachel, Guatemala. With beautiful landscape scenery of volcanoes Toliman, Atitlan and San Pedro in the background.
Wooden pier at Lake Atitlan on the beach in Panajachel, Guatemala. With beautiful landscape scenery of volcanoes Toliman, Atitlan and San Pedro in the background.
 

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