On our first trip to Central America, my wife and I had lugged bulky hiking boots with us, just for this--a hike to the top of a volcano. But, as you can see in the photo, my wife is wearing sandals at the summit...huh?
Dealing with friends-of-friends, changing weather, and varying levels of language proficiency, the day almost turned into a fiasco, but in the end, we ended up on top. With the weather being fickle, we were told: ‘no summit hike, just visiting the countryside.’ So, we didn't wear the hiking boots...and then when we ended up halfway up the mountain, the trip suddenly became a 'let's hike up to the top!'
Spontaneity has its place, but pumice and volcanic gravel are not kind to feet in sandals; 'why couldn't you have just told us!?!?' As we trudged up Pacaya's flanks, though, we thought 'hey--when are we going to be here again?' We became more thankful for our well-meaning, if miscommunicating guides.
When we finally got to the top, everlasting views all around, our feet may have felt victimized, but my wife was able to smile at the situation--we got there after all!
The Pacaya volcano, (2,552 meters--8,373 ft), one of Guatemala's most active, is only about 20 miles away from the capital, and just across a valley from the almost perfectly conical (and currently inactive) Volcán de Agua (3,760 m--12,336 ft). Pacaya's last major eruption was in 2010. Check for conditions. Tour companies will also take you from the nearby city of Antigua.