There are two ways to appreciate the volatility and beauty of the Pacaya Volcano. You can sit on a terrace in some bars and restaurants in Antigua Guatemala and watch the red lava ribbon make its way down the volcano slope. It’s most dramatic at night. Or you can go to Pacaya on a guided or unguided tour. Both are great experiences.
Pacaya is only a 90 minute drive from the centre of Antigua and there are a variety of excursion packages from which to choose. You can choose an all-day trip, which includes a hike up the volcano to watch the lava and steam flow first-hand, then a stop over at a lunch place and, for the ultra package, a rest at a spa to enjoy sitting in the hot springs. Price depends on how elaborate you want to make your trip. Just about everyone we know opted for the simple half-day package and they were pretty pleased with the experience.
Whether a full day or half, be prepared for a 6:30 a.m. start. You’ll get back to Antigua about 1 p.m. if you choose a half day. Or you if you’re out all day you’ll get back around 6 p.m.day. Be warned though. The climb up the volcano slope is a bit of a hike. While you don’t need to be an Olympic athlete, you do need to be in reasonably good shape for the climb.
Half day packages start at $30; full day packages are around $60. Be prepared to pay extra for an English speaking guide and about 50 Q ($6.00 US) to get into Pacaya National Park. These excursions can be arranged through any number of local operators.