Volcanoes and Hiking in Guatemala

Ash eruption from Santiaguito volcano
Tom Pfeiffer/VolcanoDiscovery/Moment/Getty Images

Guatemala is a small country in Central America. You might know it as the destination where you can find tons of amazing Mayan archaeological sites such as Tikal and El Mirador. It's also a place where you find the gorgeous Atitlan Lake and one of the last true colonial cities from the region.

The country is also an immensely rich country when it comes to culture, with up to 23 different ethnic groups and with an amazing biodiversity that is being protected by hundreds of nature reserves that cover over 30% of its territory.

As if that wasn't enough, its Pacific coasts are famous for its strong waves among surfers and even has a small and gorgeous beach on the Caribbean side that not a lot of people know of. As you can see, there are tons of things that make Guatemala a place that you must visit when you travel to Central America.

Guatemala's Natural Beauty

Another thing that you will notice almost instantly when you arrive in the country is the number of mountains and volcanoes that seem to always be around you. It doesn't matter where you are in the country, you will always see mountains, even near the beaches.

Guatemala has the highest amount of volcanoes in the region, with 37 in total spread along its territory. That is because it is located along the ring of fire, an almost perfect circle that goes across the globe. Three tectonic plates meet in it and are constantly bumping into each other as they have for centuries.

This means that mountains and volcanoes are constantly being created in the region at a very slow pace over hundreds of years.

The country is also home to the top two tallest peaks of Central America which happen to be volcanoes -- Tacaná and Tajumulco.

The Volcanoes of Guatemala

Here are the known volcanoes in the region:

  1. Acatenango
  2. De Agua
  3. Alzatate
  4. Amayo
  5. Atitlán
  6. Cerro Quemado
  7. Cerro Redondo
  8. Cruz Quemada
  9. Culma
  10. Cuxliquel
  11. Chicabal
  12. Chingo
  13. De Fuego (active)
  14. Ipala
  15. Ixtepeque
  16. Jumay
  17. Jumaytepeque
  18. Lacandón
  19. Las Víboras
  20. Monte Rico
  21. Moyuta
  22. Pacaya (active)
  23. Quetzaltepeque
  24. San Antonio
  25. San Pedro
  26. Santa María
  27. Santo Tomás
  28. Santiaguito (active)
  29. Siete Orejas
  30. Suchitán
  31. Tacaná
  32. Tahual
  33. Tajumulco (the highest in Central America)
  34. Tecuamburro
  35. Tobón
  36. Tolimán
  37. Zunil

Guatemala's Active Volcanoes

Three of the volcanoes listed are currently active: Pacaya, Fuego, and Santiaguito. If you are near them you will probably be able to see at least one explosion. But there are also a few that are not fully active or dormant. If you pay attention you might see some fumaroles in Acatenango, Santa Maria, Almolonga (also known as Agua), Atitlan and Tajumulco. It is safe to go for a hike in these volcanoes, but don't linger and smell the gasses for too long.

The semi-active ones are safe to climb at any time. You can also go on tours of the active ones, but you have to make sure that the company that you go with is constantly monitoring them so you can do it i​n a safe way.

Hike a Guatemalan Volcano

If you wanted to, you could climb all of the Guatemalan volcanoes. But most companies only offer tours of the most popular ones such as Pacaya, Acatenango, Tacana, Tajumulco, and Santiaguito.

If you find the most specialized companies you can do private tours on any of the 37 volcanoes. If you are up for a challenge you can even do combination tours such as the volcano trilogy which involves climbing Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango in less than 36 hours. You can also combine two of the ones around Atitlan Lake (Toliman and Atitlan volcanoes).

A couple of companies offering tours to the most touristy volcanoes are O.X. Expeditions, Quetzaltrekkers and Old Town. If you prefer the option of doing some more unique routes or less visited volcanoes, contact Sin Rumbo to organize a tour through them.

Edited by Marina K. Villatoro