Up in Guatemala’s Sierra Madre mountain range, gazing up at the craggy, steaming black colossus before me, it was awesome to think that not long ago, it was spouting fire and lava.
Turned some years ago into a national park, 2,500-metre-high (8,200-foot) Pacaya Volcano is one of this Central American country’s premier tourist attractions, sprawling over three townships, San Vicente Pacaya, Amatitlán, and Villa Canales. And that’s not just because of its own impressive attributes, but also because it’s so easily reached from Guatemala City (just 48 kilometres/30 miles north) and Antigua, as well as relatively easy to ascend on foot.
You can go on your own or with a guide, but this is one of those cases where a guide is a pretty good idea – and the many tour operators which organise day trips do so to suit all budgets and tastes (the mountain-bike tour of the volcano is especially brilliant).
The towns and areas surrounding the volcano are pretty interesting, as well. For example, the town of San Vicente Pacaya (the word pacaya, by the way, means “palmetto” in the local Mayan language), right at its feet, is quite a sight itself. Its nearly 7,000 inhabitants enjoy the zone’s enviably mild climate; it’s a great place to have at a lovely piece of fresh tropical fruit, flavourful corn, or fragrant cup of local coffee.
In short, fascinating attractions like Pacaya are an excellent reason why Guatemala makes a marvellous choice for a trip with your mates. Trust us: this country can deliver an adventure of a lifetime! (And for more on the fun you can have in Guatemala City, click here.)
Photo | Dany & Maryse