Taking a hike up Pacaya -- an active volcano just outside Antigua -- is a truly rewarding experience that should not be missed. I did the hike in the late afternoon to get there for sunset, which I highly recommend. The sun wasn't too intense for the rather hefty climb, and just as we hit the summit, the light started to change, providing for some terrific scenery. (Just bring a flash light for the descent!) Upon reaching the top, I started to notice a difference in the ground beneath my feet, and upon looking up at those in front of me, I really felt like I could be on the moon.
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Dancer in the (Almost) Dark
Upon reaching the summit of Pacaya, the active volcano just outside Antigua, I just wanted to dance! Sorta. As a yogi, one of my favorite things to do while traveling is to take a moment, in a peaceful place that's representative of my journey, and practice an asana (pose). With the sun setting behind me, I knew the silhouette of dancer pose would make for a beautiful shot, so I chose to backbend and balance way up high on this active ground.
In 2008, we joined an American family of four and two British university students on a guided hike up Volcan Pacaya near Antigua Guatemala. The hope was to see lava flows and we were not disappointed.
The hike is moderate compared to the strenuous hike up Volcan San Pedro near Lake Atitlan. Our guide was an American who had resided in Guatemala for many years. He took us up to the lip of the caldera, which was a safe distance from the lava flows. From there, we could see other tour groups actually down in the caldera extremely close to glowing lava.
Our guide indicated that he would be willing to lead us through parts of the caldera for a closer look, but emphasized the safety risk. Sturdy shoes were required. Unlike the lava flows in Hawaii, this flow “bubbled” up from below producing a terrain that looked smooth but was actually full of razor sharp glass-like shards. Any skin touching the cooled lava was likely to be badly cut. He warned that in the event of an emergency and we had to leave the area, we should walk steadily to the clearest route out. Running would likely cause someone to fall and get lacerated making it difficult to get the entire group out safely. With that said, we all voted to descend into the caldera.
It was certainly an adventure. Our guide had everyone select hiking sticks to help with stability and picked a route to a lava flow where he pulled out some marshmallows. It’s not often you can say you roasted marshmallows on lava.