When in Quetzaltenango an absolute must is climbing Volcán Santa María. This rising volcano is a hikers’ dream in the western highlands of Guatemala. The trail is challenging, but absolutely worth every minute of effort.
The excursion to the summit starts around 5:30am, but it is a wonderful moment to start. Why? At this time of the day we could spot all the beautiful stars, there were so bright and with so many, thanks to the absence of artificial light. And some time later during the first and easier part of the hike, you get a glimpse of the stunning sunrise.
The hike itself is considered hard. I am in a good shape and I must admit sometimes it was quite challenging. I always kept in mind that the view at the end would be breathtaking. The track is steep but it passes through a fresh pine forest. The pine trees provide shadow and a pleasant parfum, which makes the overall experience even better. The hike up takes approximately 4 hours, which sounded long to me as well. However the walk is nice and as soon as you notice you’re almost there, you will run the last 100 meters.
This stratovolcano towers 1400 meters over Quetzaltenango and the highest point is 3772 meters. Amazing views of the Guatemalan landscape guaranteed. And next to Santa María is Volcán Santiaguito. Santiaguito is still a really active volcano so now and then you notice a plume escaping from his crater. And I have to admit, I wanted to stay on the summit forever. The view is mind blowing. On one side the Pacific, the other way Volcán Tajumulco, Volcán Tacana and Lago Atitlan. A 360° view that you’ll never forget.
Another thing that is special about reaching the top of this volcano, are the praying and crying locals. We saw them during the hike and once at the top you see dozens of them. So not only tourists at this picturesque spot. After worshipping this moment up the mountain, it is time for the 3 hours descent. Hopefully you’ll reach the end safely just like me. Congratulations to myself! I thought I deserved a fresh cold beer after this satisfying excursion.