Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Santa Maria Volcano Hike in Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala

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Aside from attempting to be on my univeristy's rowing team in college, this is pretty much the hardest thing I have physically done in my life. Although, bearing children will probably be worse (random thought). Anyways, when the hike guides say it is a "difficult level" hike, they are not kidding...

Santa Maria: 3,772 m (12,375 ft) @ highest point

I planned my hike to the Santa Maria Volcano three days before hand. All of the guided tours require at least two days notice which is something I wasn't aware of. I did this hike with my friend through Guate Guides! I chose them because they were one of the most economic options, and had great reviews on TripAdviser. We started our day at 5am, being picked up by their van. They provided us with walking sticks and we were accompanied by two tourism police. We began hiking around 5:30am in the dark. As we followed our guide and his flashlight up the non-marked path we were able to experience the sun rise from the side of the volcano! I would have taken more photos but was too exhausted to keep taking out my camera to snap some pictures. hehe. As we continued on, we passed a few plots of land where locals harvest various crops (I can't currently remember the types). It is incredible to think that locals make the hike all the way to that point daily when I was huffing and puffing away and could barely think of reaching the top!

The hike up the mountain took us 3.5 hours in total (which to me seemed more like 6). Upon arrival to the top of the mountain, we saw about two dozen people praying. I was a bit startled because I wasn't expecting it but people really pour their hearts out at the top of the mountain by an "alter" made of large rocks, praying and crying out loud to God. Previously, this alter was used for Mayan religious rituals. A little ways away from the alter area we laid down a few mats and ate the lunches we packed and chilled for about an hour. In this hour we were able to watch the San Tiagito Volcano spew ash three times, which apparently is quite lucky! (yay!) Apparently San Tiagito and his fellow volcano friends were on caffeine or something because the following day it spewed so much ash that air traffic in Guatemala was halted. Anyways, after our one hour break, we were made our way down in 3 hours. During this hike down, we walked through light snow... which was really ash from San Tiagito. The hike was very hard for me and without the motivation of my friend (Super Miggy) I would have never made it up to the top, which I would have regretted. THANKS SUPER MIGGY! Overall it was SUCH an incredibly challenging and amazing experience with a breathtaking view that I recommend to all who are able to make the hike!

Have you hiked or traveled? What are your favorite hikes? 

Now for a few questions you may have about the hike:
  1. Do I need a guide to hike the Santa Maria Volcano? Yes you do, unless you already memorized the way. The the trail is unmarked and there are many points where you can get lost because there are diverging paths.
  2. Do I need experience to hike the Santa Maria Volcano? Okay, so I am not a hiker. I do exercise a few times a week running, but this hike was very hard on me. If you are super motivated and are somewhat fit, I say go for it. Also be aware of the elevation change. The thing that helped me most was my friend who kept pushing me to not give up. Thanks Super Miggy!
  3. What hikes can I go on in Quetzaltenango? Okay, so obviously I recommend you to hike the Santa Maria Volcano. In Xela, there is also the Chicabal Volcano and the Tajumulco Volcano. More info here!
  4. How long does the Santa Maria Volcano hike take? In total it took us 8 hours, which includes the one hour break on top. I was told that we were walking at a medium pace, as a point of reference.
  5. Can we stay overnight at the Santa Maria Volcano? Yes you can! Unfortunately, my schedule didn't allow us to do so, but there are Full Moon hikes up the Santa Maria volcano where you stay overnight atop the volcano. If you do this, be sure to bring warm clothes and a shirt to change into for sleeping because climbing that volcano does make you sweat! :) Cotton is best because it wicks out sweat.
  6. What do I wear and bring to the Santa Maria Volcano hike? The day will start out chilly! Think layers and wear layers. I had a long sleeve cotton top with a fleece jacket and a scarf. I would suggest gloves, long pants and good grip sneakers (some parts are very steep). They recommend 2 liters of water. Bring 2 liters of water and also a flash light, if you are clumsy since you will be walking in the dark.
  7. Will I get elevation sickness? It is possible. Due to the quick elevation change, make sure that you don't hike this until a few days after arriving in Xela (Quetzaltenango) because you don't want to get elevation sickness! ... But if you do, ginger tea is helpful! :) 
  8. Review on Guate Guides? Our guide was great, he was friendly, motivational and loved to hike. This means that when I felt like giving up and literally told them to continue without me, he encouraged me to keep going.

Ethical Activewear Worn for the Hike
Orange Top //  Threads 4 Thought via Ecolissa
Ethically and sustainably made in one of the world's "most advanced water recycling programs"
Black Organic Cotton Yoga Pants // c/o Satva
non GMO organic cotton, education scholarship program for farmer community

Tired but Worth It,


  1. I've never done this sort of hiking, kudos to you Christine for making it all the way up. I agree a guide would be needed. I would want to do this on a smaller scale to see how I handled it. ♡ xox

  2. These images are amazing!

  3. So beautiful! These photos are amazing!

  4. Amazing post, dear! :) Do you want to follow each other? If yes, please follow me with GFC and Google, instagram, write a comment
    and I follow you back :)

    With love.

  5. Amazing Post and very beautiful photos ^^

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    Please Let me know if you follow me and I’ll follow back asap!

    Love xx
    Official Seol ♥


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