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Volcan Acatenango – All you need to know

Volcan Acatenango – All you need to know

The Acatenango volcano, located southwest of Antigua, culminates at 3,976 meters above sea level. The 3rd highest volcano in Guatemala, its fame is mainly due to the fact that it is located right in front of the Fuego volcano, thus offering an incredible spectacle on its frequently erupting crater.


Local tour companies claim the tour is suitable for almost everyone so yes it is true but if this ascent does not include any technical particularity, however, it requires a minimum of physical condition, otherwise you will certainly climb, …but slowly…even very slowly…in pain…and a lot for those who never do any physical activity. Sporty since always, I climbed without too much difficulty glued to the guide but I heard other versions where people had to show a strong mind to go to the end. The goal being to make the most of it, I invite you to do a few hikes to prepare for this excursion. As for blogs describing a GI-worthy adventure, let's not exaggerate. To listen to them, they are survivors. Lol ! I am proud of my rise, but it did not make me the explorer of the century. "Let's not push Grandma into the nettles".

I therefore encourage everyone to do it because believe me, the gift on arrival is worth all the effort in the world as it is enormous. For my part, I was high for days. Even today, I proclaim it loud and clear, it was one of the strongest experiences of my life. Your efforts will be rewarded with panoramic views, an exceptional postcard-worthy sunset, Fuego eruptions every 15-20 minutes and a magical sunrise. So to the question: can I do it or not? The answer is yes, of course, go for it ! You will get there.


It is strongly advised to leave with a guide because the path has few indications. A group of 6 got lost recently and froze to death up there. Up to you …

3 agencies stand out: Wicho and Charli, Soy tours and CA Travellers. After surveying travelers and friends around me, I finally chose Soy Tours which really pleased me.

Price: 450 QTZ including:

  • Transport by van, round trip, from your hotel to the start of the ascent. 
  • 2 guides for a group of maximum 12 people.  
  • Meals: lunch and dinner the first day, breakfast the next day.
  • Night in a tent: tent, mattress, duvet provided. 
  • All the necessary warm clothes: hats, gloves, scarves, jackets, sweaters, pants and socks). Backpacks extra if needed. 


  • The Soy Tours camp is based at 3756 m.
  • The summit culminates at 3976 m.
  • The ascent trail is located at the town of La Soledad, which is 32 kilometers west of Antigua.
  • The ascent is done in 6 hours on average
  • For 200 Qtz moreover, the guides will suggest you once there to continue with a 2nd ascent on the Fuego. Duration: 5 hours on average. Difficulty ++


Do not forget that it is (very) cold upstairs. So even if you find it hard to believe, starting in Antigua, that you will freeze once you reach the top, trust me on this: it is freezing. Assume that it will be between 0 and -10 degrees at the top at night and in the morning... 

  • Provide 3-4 liters of water and snacks (dried fruit, cakes, fruit) + wine or beer for those who want to celebrate their arrival.😆
  • For photo enthusiasts, bring a drone and camera + tripod. 
  • For my part, I had also brought tissues, toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant.
  • Good walking shoes if you have them (I did it in running sneakers having nothing else) and warm clothes

In summary, your backpack will weigh between 9 and 10 kgs. 


As planned, the van came to pick me up around 7:30. Inside is present a dozen people already in full discussion. We are going to live together an extraordinary adventure so inevitably, we are all excited. An hour's drive brings us to the Soy Tours office located just next to the start of the climb. Convenient ! Women are busy preparing meals and things for the group. All in a circle, we listen to some explanations on the procedure to follow. A couple a little behind observes me. I can read in their eyes “but the poor thing has nothing, is she going to go up like that?” I came with what I have, namely leggings, a T-shirt, a warm jacket and my running sneakers. I only travel to warm countries so obviously I don not have any winter gear in my luggage. I trust the agency to provide me with everything I need because I asked questions about the equipment provided before coming. Wasp not crazy! I dread the cold like no one else because you could say that my blood composition conditions me more to cross the desert on camels than to travel on the ice.😂. We then rush into a large room full of warm clothes of all kinds. Everyone makes their market. I struggle and I worry a little about the pants because most are too small or too wide. After many tries, I finally found my happiness. Distribution of the lunch that we put in our backpack, which is lent to me free of charge by the agency. Ready for departure, a woman offers to hire walking sticks for 5 qtz. Ohhhhh but that is a good idea! My advice: so above all take one!!! Personally, it was the best investment of my life, my best friend of the whole trip. It will help you on the way up but even more on the way down. 

9h30: let's go. Little by little the cornfields give way to the forest. On the way there are no signs and even fewer toilets. We meet many guided groups coming down from their excursion made the day before. You can read the fatigue on their faces, some are at the end of their lives. I have a smile from ear to ear. The weather is nice, it is hot and I am determined to succeed in the ascent. I ask them questions quickly, they tell me that there were a lot of clouds, that the2nd ascent to the Fuego, a 5-hour walk there and back, did not allow them to see anything because it was immersed in the clouds. It is good to know ! We resume our climb, which is accompanied by regular breaks to recover and a 45-minute lunch.

Click on a photo to start the slideshow

3h30 pm: at 3,600 meters above sea level, The Fuego emerges. Already there, the spectacle is striking. It roars and spits its lava accompanied by a cloud of ash. Joy takes over fatigue to complete the remaining path. Then appears our camp; it is liberation, enchantment, happiness in all its forms. Distribution of tents, I sleep with Gwendoline. The poor thing suffered from altitude sickness for a good part of the climb, she struggled. Everyone collapses, swooning over the Fuego. The photos and comments fuse. The group is thrilled. The guides get down to the fire, let about thirty minutes pass. They then propose to us to carry out the 2nd2nd ascent that leads to the Fuego. It takes 5 hours on average for the round trip in harsh conditions. Big consultation between us, I admit to having really hesitated. But I don't want to miss the sunset which looks promising given the weather conditions. The sky is really clear. 5 hours, it is not nothing in a pile of gravel where your feet sink. Knowing that you still have to climb at 4 am for sunrise, the calculation is quickly done in the end. I prefer to save my energy for the sunrise. Results of the races: no one wants to continue. We are satisfied enough as it is. And I can tell you that I don not regret it.  

Click on a photo to start the slideshow

The sunset is crazy. I take off from the planet. The oncoming night transforms the Fuego's gray eruptions into reddish tears on its flanks. We hear ohhhh and ahhhh at each of them. The dinner is done in an unspeakable delight, the meal is hearty and tasty. I watch this iron pot on the fire wondering if they are making us a coffee or something. To my great surprise, I see one of the guides dive inside 2 large chocolate bars. Oh firecracker ! Hot chocolate. Like children, we rush on it. Hum! Fullness ! It makes us forget for a moment the cold that is setting in. But the guides have not finished with us, they have prepared us a 2nd2nd surprise: a big bottle of Quetzalteca with orange (quite strong digestive based on cane sugar alcohol). Between 2 eruptions, go for a little drink. But fatigue is felt, one after the other, we go to bed. 9:30 p.m., everyone is asleep. In my tent, I hear the breath of the Fuego, it is like a powerful heartbeat. I listen to the heart of the Earth amazed at such power. The Fuego spits its tons of lava and ashes all night long. It accompanies our dreams with its regular upheavals. 

Click on a photo to start the slideshow

For my part, I spend a restless night. Being claustrophobic, the smallness of the tent triggers me repeated anxiety attacks. I take a deep breath, I meditate, I go back to sleep but nothing helps. Every 20 minutes or so, I wake up panicked. I would like to open the tent but the wind is blowing hard, it is freezing cold outside. I watch my little Gwendoline sleeping soundly. I envy her. I am not well. My head keeps telling me that I am too high, locked up, that I have to come down. Here's an idea ! I imagine the scene: “Okay guys, it's not all that, but I'd be better out and down of the mountain. I take my gear, I'm leaving. Chao bye!”.🤣🤣🤣 Even at the worst, I find a way to delirious alone in my corner. I try everything to manage my anxieties alone, psychologically and emotionally it is complicated. Over the hours I feel my face swelling, the altitude definitely does not work for me. This damn night never ends, it is ultra long.

4h15 am: everyone stands up. We have to hurry because we are late. We must climb the last 300 meters of ascent leading from the camp to the summit in order to watch the sunrise. So we start in a hurry; which completes me. I already felt bad but this is worse. Despite everything, I hang on because I do not want to miss anything. Each step costs me and to make matters worse, I cannot see anything with my flashlight, its light is too weak because the batteries seem to have run out. Those in front are far behind, those behind super behind. I feel alone in the middle of nowhere, I struggle to find the way but if I stop, I am afraid of not being able to continue. I arrive up there out of breath, weak with a severe headache, swollen face, an urge to vomit, my anxieties still present. Getting up was too fast for my little body which had already suffered a lot all night. I am in tears so much I am drooling. 2 others are in the same condition as me. For once, I feel less alone. At the top, a strong and icy wind welcomes us. Definitely, it is really hard this morning. We sit and wait, the cold is such that our hands and feet get cold very quickly. Taking pictures is a feat. Suddenly, lights appear. It is magic ! The colors invade the sky, lower down, the Fuego accompanies with its continual spectacle the sun which is pointing the tip of its nose. Silence reigns. Everyone is immersed in the contemplation of this unique spectacle. What I see is just unspeakable, I do nott have enough words. I'm in tears so much I'm drooling. 2 others are in the same condition as me. For once, I feel less alone. At the top, a strong and icy wind welcomes us. Definitely, it's really hard this morning. We sit and wait, the cold is such that our hands and feet get cold very quickly. Taking pictures is a feat. Suddenly, lights appear. It is magic ! The colors invade the sky, lower down, the Fuego accompanies with its continual spectacle the sun which is pointing the tip of its nose. Silence reigns. Everyone is immersed in the contemplation of this unique spectacle. What I see is just unspeakable, I do not have enough words. 

Click on a photo to start the slideshow

It's time to go back down to camp. The view is amazing. We even see Lake Atitlan in the distance, the other volcanoes. Bluffing ! We are having the breakfast. Like the day before, it is really good. I feel better. The start comes. Our backpack again on our back, we attack the descent. It is super slippery, one of the girls must have fallen about fifteen times. I am tense, clinging to my stick, it is a real ice rink but we chat, we laugh. This time, it is our turn to meet the rising groups. We are all smiles and encourage them. 3 hours later, the entrance sign finally appears. Once more ! ohhhs and ahhhs followed by checks by the guides. Yes we did it, we did it, we did it!! Yeah! as our friend Dora would say. This end of the excursion leaves room for accomplishment, self realisation. Back to the office where we return the borrowed items while drinking a beer offered by the house. The discussion is in full swing. Everyone relates their experience, their highlights, their difficulties, their feelings. We relive our escapade over and over again… Now it is time to go home. The return is made in laughter and exchanges. Everyone is dropped off at their home. Wow! I still have trouble realizing it, it is like a dream. Luckily, my little Guatemalan family is waiting for me. Carolina makes me a washing machine, a good meal during which I tell everyting. It is good after such an adventure to come back home.

Click on a photo to start the slideshow



I introduce you Bruno and Caro, the famous couple with their questioning and pensive look when they saw me arrive. During the climb, we laughed about the situation. What I read in their eyes was indeed what they thought. We really had a good laugh thinking about it. Against all expectations, it is with them that I will get on best. These two have already visited 32 countries. Basically, they work part of the year in their private transport agency, put money aside and leave to travel the confines of the world the rest of the year. We are still in contact, we write to each other regularly.


Our small group with 2 guides.

Those who know me will say to themselves “oh la la, but what did you do to your hair?”. the Answer: “Well, nothing, I'm fed up with dyes. I leave blank to see what happens. To be continued …


I have lived strong moments in my life but this one will prance in the head for a lonnnng moment. Everything was so intense.

It is definitely one of the strongest experiences of my life. 

Thank you Guatemala !

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