Santa María is one of the highest and most impressive volcanoes in Central America. Although dormant these days, she has a history of mass destruction and has changed the course of history (at least for Xela). Her summit offers magnificent views over the Guatemalan volcanic chain as well as the crater of Santiaguito: now the most active volcano in Central America.
This trek can be done as a 1-day trek, a 2-day camping trek or as part of our thoroughly awesome monthly full-moon trek. Click the tabs above for more info about each trek
We meet at QT headquarters at 10:30pm to distribute equipment and hot drinks before being taken to the base of the volcano (at 2500m) in a pickup truck. We start trekking at around midnight under the pale light of the moon. The hike begins on a gentle incline through pastures and cornfields before gradually developing into a steeper, switchbacked ascent through the forest with intermittent views of the city lights below. We always ensure that plenty of guides tag along for the trek so that the group can fan out along the trail and each individual can take it at their own pace.
At about 4am, the first group of hikers hit what is known as the dead-zone. The skeletal trees thin out, the trail becomes rocky and the slanted landscape starts to look almost as desolate as your state of consciousness is likely to be at this hour of the night. Then, just when you’re considering which boulder on the side of the trail would make for the most comfortable bed, the trail flattens and you realize you’ve reached the summit. Woooo!
The group takes protection from the cold wind in their sleeping bags while the guides distribute hot drinks and snacks. If we’ve timed it correctly, the sunrise over the distant volcanoes should start right about now. When that loveliness is over with, we can stare down on the crater of Santiguito directly below us and wait for an eruption from this, the most active volcano in Central America. Then all that is left is to pack up and make our way back down to the base. From there we take a bus back to Quetzaltenango and are usually back in the office for some fruit and a coffee by 12 midday. You’re full-moon induced animal instincts should be well and truly sated by now and you may feel the urge to enter a prolonged period of deep deep hibernation.
We have lunch at a lookout set above Sanitaguito while waiting for the super-active volcano to spew clouds of ash into the sky (eruptions occur, on average, about once per hour). Although the amount of time we spend on the summit depends on the weather and volcanic activity, we are generally down the volcano and back in the office in the late afternoon.
* For those who want to see the Santiaguito crater but desire a less strenuous trek, we can take an alternative route around the side of Santa María without actually having to scale the summit. This is the Santiaguito mirador trek and it is interchangeable with the 1-day Santa María trek on the online schedule depending on what the majority of the trekkers want to do on the day.
We meet in the office to distribute equipment and then make our way to the base of the volcano around the midday mark. We arrive at the summit in the early evening giving us enough time to set up the tents, eat dinner and watch the sun go down over the Pacific Ocean. Many people choose to stay awake until the wee hours waiting and watching for plumes of smoke and ash to rise into the sky from Santiaguito. The rumblings of the young volcano can be heard from inside the tents making for an eventful night's sleep. We wake up early to catch the sunrise before packing up camp and slowly making our way down the volcano at a relaxed pace. Expect to be back in the office around midday on the second day.
When: The full moon trek occurs once per month, usually on the Tuesday or Wednesday closest to the full moon. We generally schedule the 1-day trek to run mid-week and the 2-day trek to run on weekends. On-demand treks are often possible. See our online schedule for details or contact us.
What to Bring:*
2-Day trek add:
*Don’t have all this stuff? No problem – we will lend you what you don’t have free of charge. Do have some this stuff but don´t want to carry it anymore? Consider leaving it as an equipment donation! Quetzaltrekkers relies on the generosity of individuals and companies for equipment.