Hiking atop +3.000m peaks in surely the most dramatic region in Central America
Let's agree on one thing:
Central America's most dramatic region is Guatemala's highlands, which stretch from Antigua to the Mexican border west of Huehuetenango and north towards the Cordillera de los Cuchumatanes.
Here, every town and village has a history, and here the traditional values and customs of indigenous people are strongest across Central America.
In many places across these highlands, Mayan dialects are the first language, and firewood is still used for heating and cooking.
Some places even appear locked in time.
Location: Guatemala, during several weeks of hunting and climbing volcanoes in June and July
One of the most spectacular regions is Lago de Atitlán, a collapsed volcanic cone filled with shimmering waters to a depth of more than 320m.Three powerful volcanoes surround the caldera lake: Volcán Toliman (3.158m), Volcán Atitlán (3.537m) and Volcán San Pedro (3.020m). Beautiful and colonial Antigua, too, is dramatically nestled between three volcanoes: Volcán Agua (3.766m), Volcán Acatengago (3.976m), and Volcán Fuego (3.763m). These six volcanoes can all be climbed. In north, around Cobán, are mountains, caves, waterfalls and pristine forest lagoons which can be explored.
We have spent a few weeks hunting volcanoes in these highlands. We quickly learned that we had to take certain precautions: we heard about many incidents of robbery, rape and murder on volcano trails, often by gangs with machetes. Therefore, on every hike, we brought an armed mercenary soldier who took with him typically some sort of firearme - during one hike they even brough a AK47 machine gun. These "soldiers" are friendly, cheap and reliable. We did not rely on local authorities, as they would often downplay the danger. Instead, we bought our own guard for a day or two during each of the hikes. This may sound a bit dramatic, but in practice, it felt safe, effective and enjoyable.
Besides volcano climbing, we did splendid island hopping adventures in LATAM; check our pages on the Corn Islands in Honduras, the Bocas del Toro archipelago in Panama, or the Mesoamerican Reef off Belize and Honduras.
Selected pics during multiple hikes:
Time to take a small break during the long trip down from Flores to Antigua
Arriving in Antigua during the later afternoon after coming down from Flores on the Lago de Izabel. View towards Volcán Agua (3752m).
Religious ceremony in Antigua while we are planning the volcano treks, i.e. hirering a guide and a soldier, buying food etc.
Ready for the fist trek. The picture shows another shot of Volcan Agua, but our first trek was Volcan Fuego. Here we are simply waiting to be picked up by a 4x4 during dawn.
View towars Volcan Fuego summit (3763m) from the trailhead. It is still smoking.
During the hike up Volcan Fuego the landscape is often very dramatic with major lava fields that have eaten its way into the forest on the slopes.
The sister volcano, slightly taller than Fuego by 200m, can be seen during the whole trek
At some sections lava is rolling down the slopes!
Anders on the crater rim (3.760m) which is part of the summit. It is quite difficult to find a section of the crater rim that is not covered in dangerous smoke. Volcán Acatenago (3.976) in the backdrop.
During antother trek on Volcán Acatenago we had great views towards Antiga and Volcán Agua (3752m)
View on hike towards Panajachal on the shores of mighty Lago de Atitlán - a sunken volcanoe. The mountains along its ridge form one big volcano crater.
Its is nice to take a few hours on the beach after hiking to relax soaring legs
Looking for a boatman to take us across the lake to San Pedro de la Laguna from where the trailhead to Volcán San Pedro (3020m) starts.
Anders is relaxing before the hike up Volcan San Pedro the following morning
View towards Cerro de Ora (1892m) on the slopes of Volcan San Pedro
Optimistic outfit? Sure! It was damn cold.
Deep into the mountains near Cobán is Semuc Champay
We spent 5 hours hiking around the lagoon in the mountains above the lagoon