Here are raw notes of User:JimDeLaHunt's visit to Volcán Pacaya on Dec 27, 2005. I'm recording them here so that I can improve the related part of the Antigua article later. Don't panic, I won't put all of this detail in the article. JimDeLaHunt 16:48, 28 Dec 2005 (EST)
USD $8/person from Santa Clara Internet agency on 2a Ave Sur
Pickup scheduled 06:00h, actual 06:20h. Van carried 12 in our group. Drive about 90 mins from Antigua. Nice views of Volcan Agua, but don't worry, there are better views of it on Pacaya.
Arrived Visitors Centre 07:45h~. Purchase park entrance tickets: Q25 for international visitors, Q10 for Guatemalans. Visitors centre at village of San Francisco de Sales (Suerte?), about 50km southeast of Antigua. Bathrooms available. Cute poem in English in bathroom warns to put toilet paper in garbage can, not toilet.
Several kids offering walking sticks for rent (price unknown). Walking sticks proved useful but not essential. Our guide had 4 spare sticks, which he handed out the slower members of the group when the going got tough.
Horse rides offered (price unknown) by riders who follow the lower trail calling "Taxi! Taxi!". But they'd only take you to a stile at the tree line, and there's a lot of stiff climbing after that. I don't think that horses makes the hike accessible to anyone who couldn't do the lower part of the hike.
Guide "Augusto" responsible for our group of 12. Wears a Pacaya park vest and picture ID. Carries a machete but no firearms. He's 53, and goes up volcano twice a day. Lives in SF de Sales. Says another guide is 70.
Overview of climb. 3km up, 3km down. About 2hrs up + down. Start at 1900m~, peak at 2700m~, so 800m elevation gain.
Lower climb. Depart San Francisco at 08:00h. Up a steep foot trail, paved for first km or so, then dirt. A couple of stops for commentary on trees, geology from guide (in Spanish only). See fumes from a geothermal electricity plant, powered by Pacaya. Arrive at tree line at 08:57. There's a little rest area with roofed picnic tables, fire barrels, and maybe bathrooms there. Pass through a stile in a wire fence to exit tree line. Don't think horses go beyond the stile.
Middle climb leads from tree-line to base of lava and rock. Dirt and volcanic ash trail with grasses and low plants. Great views from here to Honduras and El Salvador in the east, and Volcan Agua and Volcan Fuego and the third volcano visible from Antigua to the northwest. In a valley filled with frozen lava from a 2000 flow, many people have spelled out their names or home towns in rocks -- an interesting take on graffiti!
Upper climb goes up the cone proper. It's all volcanic rock, no plants. It starts off with a steep walk up very loose scree (rocks ranging from dust to 5mm in size). Strenuous, and you slide back a little with each step. Slope rises steeply to left and drops off steeply to right. After a few hundred metres of this we come to area with bigger rocks which is more stable walking. Very pretty black and red rocks of all sizes from 0mm to 100cm. I think we got to the peak at 10:00 or so.
Peak is a 30minute (approx) walk around the currently active vents. Note that shape and details of the peak will change as volcano erupts. As of December 2005, there were three active vents, and several areas where fumes seep from rocks. Fumes were sulpherous, smelling like rotten eggs and irritating the throat quite quickly. A face mask or cloth helps most of the time. Fumes also have steam, so can be quite hot. Lots of great photo opportunities of the vents and in all directions. We saw no glowing hot lava, but some rocks were clearly hot. Hard to look down the vents, because of the heat and fumes. Several rocks were coloured yellow, red and a spectrum of other colours from sulpher and other deposits.
Upper descent goes back down the same scree path as for upper climb. The steep screen slope that was so difficult on the way up is great fun on the way back -- walk/run/glide down the slope loose rock. If you can get the rhythm of it you can go quite fast. At the end of it you will have rocks in your shoes, and your feet and socks will be filthy. Ended this descent at 10:40h.
Mid-lower descent was fast and straightforward. Reached treeline at 10:54h. Reached park entrance at 11:25~. We tipped our guide Q5-10/person, which he earned with his engaging personality, information, and hard work. Approx 15m to buy snacks, visit bathroom. Washing face and hands in the bathroom sink felt great.
Return drive departed SF de Sales at 11:40, returned to Antigua at 12:55h, we ourselves were dropped off at 13:02h.
Security was not a problem; I never felt remotely in danger. The agency promised us an armed security guard. Didn't really see that, but our guide did have a machete and at one point we saw three uniformed policement climbing the mid-slope.
Equipment: Comfortable walking shoes: tennis shoes are fine; boots provide more ankle support but will be harder to empty rocks out of on descent. Consider that shoes might be damages from stepping on hot rocks. Bandana a big help to cut down sulphurous fumes; face mask (painter style or surgeon style) might work better. Sunscreen. Beware of glasses fogging up from steam; contacts might be better.
Morning vs afternoon. Morning probably has clearer weather, and lets you climb and drive in daylight both ways. Evening lets you see glowing red vents, but means you have to descend and drive back in the dark. No personal exp with PM.
I restored the listings for the Black Cat and Los Amigo because they were deleted without comment. If the hostels are no longer in business or shouldn't be on this page, please explain. --Evan 11:11, 29 January 2007 (EST)
Changes I made - you might get a tuc-tuc to take you somewhere during the day for Q10, but a cab anywhere in Antigua is now at least Q15/Q20, and one at night or to outside Antigua is more. Best advice is to ask barstaff for an idea, and always ask the price beforehand. Also, agua pura is just water - from a bottle or a tap so I've qualified it. --mick.powell 12/2/2007
I removed the following; we don't typically recommend books in Wikitravel articles. --Evan 22:58, 11 July 2007 (EDT)
The book Antigua Guatemala: The city and its heritage, by Elizabeth Bell, is a great handbook for the visitor. It provides concise and well-informed descriptions of 43 monuments, houses, and museums, listed in order of importance so that you can use it for a self-guided tour for as much time as you have. It also has a concise overview of the city's history. Laced with colour photos. Other chapters provide intriguing extras such as a record of Volcán Fuego's eruptions, earthquakes, annual festivals, and thumbnail sketches of surrounding towns. 200 pages, paperback. Editions in English and Spanish. Q120 at Antigua Tours. ISBN: 99922-706-9-1. amazon.com listing for this book.
Evan: well, this was a really helpful book for me as a visitor to Antigua. It contains the kind of photographs and historical coverage that I don't expect WikiTravel to achieve for the next decade. Why don't we generally have listings for books as informative, and relevant to the destination, as this one? JimDeLaHunt 05:01, 12 July 2007 (EDT)
The Antigua bus station has moved about 1km west of the Lonely Planet address is what it says in the article but could someone add the actual location of the bus station.--18.104.22.168 19:16, 1 August 2007 (EDT)
The quetzal is the national currency but if the USD is widely accepted by vendors of all types, perhaps listing prices in this currency would be valid as well since travelers could use it? If not widely accepted, only prices in quetzal should be listed and thus, the article changed. If anyone has any knowledge of this, pls share!Zepppep 09:42, 20 January 2010 (EST)
I suspect either - certainly the case in central American locations I have been too. Be good to get a direct confirmation of that for Antigua though. It should never be expressed here as USD by the way. US$ is OK if there is potential for confusion with other dollar currencies, or in this case, maybe just $.--Burmesedays 09:47, 20 January 2010 (EST)
I took care of the currency labels except when it appears the prices are set in USD and not quetzales. Zepppep 10:31, 21 January 2010 (EST)