THIS IS A HOW TO GUIDE ON SUMMITING VOLCAN ACATENANGO WITHOUT A GUIDE:
1. You are starting in Antigua.
2. You aren't afraid of normal public transportation.
3. You have a suitable tent and sleeping bag (or you are going to climb up and down in 1 day). It will get down to 5 degrees C at night during March.
4. You have a headlamp (doable without one under full moon)
Difficulty: easy if you are in shape (no actual climbing or climbing gear necessary, only the ability to walk for 5 hours).
You could pay one of the tour company's 80-120 USD per person just to go for a hike up a mountain, or you could pay just 15 quetzales (2 USD) in total plus food. The choice is yours. If you want a guided tour where they lead you then go for it, but I'll explain why even this is pointless at the end.
Go to the Antigua bus terminal at before 5:30 a.m. Take a bus to Chimaltenango for 5 Q (30 min.). You may also be able to take a bus to Paramos for 3 Q but we weren't sure if this early in the morning they stop there on the way to the volcano so we didn't.
You will arrive in Chimaltenango at 6ish maybe a little bit later. Stay on the bus until the bus parks. Walk straight in the direction the bus is parked and turn left on the first street. Walk one block and turn right. You will see more buses parked. Ask for the one that goes towards Yepocapa. It should leave at 6:45 a.m. (We have done this more than once). Pay 5 Q and get of in La soledad (1.5 hours).
Now it should be around 8:10 a.m. The bus will drop you off at the trailhead and there should be other people already hiking. Hike on up.
After about an hour or so you will arrive at a registration. They will ask you for 50 Q. This seems absurd to me as it is public land, and you only have to pay that much if you aren't a local. So if you don't want to pay that all you have to do is just before you get to the registration (which I don't know is even legitimate seeing as it says registration in english only) ...just before you get to it on the last curve hiking up, there will be a trail that leads to the right. Take that trail and follow it until you can turn left. Turn left and go up the mountain. In 15 minutes you will be past the "registration" and will have encountered the normal trail with a bunch of people on it.
Everytime we have gone we have always hiked with the other groups going up. One time a guide even invited us into his group. Other times we just mingle or go solo. Your first time I'd definitely recommend mingling just to take the easiest route. It won't be hard as hundreds of people hike it every day. Many groups make fires at night so if you're a social person thats a good place to go. If you want to make you're own you can. I'd recommend sleeping at the view of volcan de fuego to watch the beautiful eruptions at night. Ask people going up where that camping area is. Also it is less cold there for sleeping. I was fine with a sleeping bag rated to 8 C and a thermal.
After sleeping, wake up at 4 a.m. in order to walk to the summit (1 hr)in order to see the sunrise. CANT MISS IT!
The trail is so well trodden that it makes going up so easy.
If you want to see a video of the ascent before climbing it, I made a short clip on it:
If any pilots want to fly off of the top, this is what the peak looks like: -snip-
I hope this all helps the mighty rugged adventurers out there! It sure would have helped me.
NOTE ON SECURITY:
The volcano is safe. There is no need for a guide because you're afraid of getting robbed. 1. most guides don't have guns so it won't help anyway. 2. There haven't been robberies for years according to one guide. The guide says the stories on the internet are probably written by tour companies. This is backed by the fact that if you search in spanish (the local language) you won't find anything about robberies on Acatenango. 3. There are so many people climbing that the volcano is almost crowded. They would easily be caught if they did exist. Never had a problem. Great volcano. Great hiking. Beautiful view.
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