Travel Journal: Antigua, Volcán Acatengago & Sipacate Guatemala

In Antigua we had booked an Airbnb in advance as there wasn’t many camping options in the city. The Airbnb was supposed to have parking; however, it didn’t end up being Toby sized parking. We planned to take Toby to the body shop the next morning (see previous post for background on why) so we elected to leave Toby parked on the street overnight. While many people do this, Toby standouts quite a lot and it is preferable to have secure parking at night. We decided we would take the chance and removed all of our valuables and brought them into the Airbnb. We were lucky and Toby had an uneventful night parked on the street!   

We found a body shop within walking distance of our Airbnb and they were able to fix Toby’s dent and match the paint for a super reasonable price! Needless to say, we were happy to not have to be reminded of that stressful incident every time we looked at our home on wheels. Sneak preview (while in Guatemala we we’re super stoked about the body work, fast forward 1.5 months and the wax they used on the panel has changed colours – Toby is now two-toned!)

Antigua is a beautiful city that we really enjoyed exploring, so much history and lots of interesting architecture. Antigua Guatemala means “Old Guatemala” and it was founded in 1543! We stayed at the Airbnb for three nights and we were able to keep Toby at the police park in the center of Antigua. You can also camp here (for free!) but we were told you need to have your own bathroom in your vehicle as they do not offer toilets. Apparently, in some cases people had been refused camping because of having no toilet, this is one of the reasons we paid for the Airbnb (although it also worked out well for when Toby was at the shop!). While parking Toby we met other overlanders at the police parking lot and they also did not have a toilet, apparently they were allowed in! We decided we would come back and camp after our time at the Airbnb.

The Plaza Central Park Antigua
Palacio de los Capitanes Generales
Arco de Santa Catalina
Ruins of Iglesia El Carmen
Antigua has so many historic ruins, some are even part of sports complexes!
Cerro De La Cruz
Cerro De La Cruz

One of our highlights of our trip so far was hiking Volcán Acatenango which is just outside of Antigua. The hike was certainly challenging with loose volcanic ash and a steep climb! The hike is 18km’s and there is an elevation gain of 1,500 meters. We packed two overnight bags and had to carry enough food and water for us and Roo (yes, she was able to come on the hike!). You have to do the hike with a tour company as you need a local guide, one of the best parts of this is you don’t have to haul up your tent supplies as they already have tents prepared at basecamp. One less thing to carry! Most of our backpacks were filled with food, water and warm layers for the higher elevation. We were very glad to have our toques, mitts and jackets as the temperature did drop below zero at the top!

At points I (Brenna) was seriously questioning why we decided to do this trek but can 100% say it was worth it. You start the hike at noon and hike approximately 5 hours to what is called the base camp. Here is where you camp overnight on the side of Acatenango. Acatenango is beside Volcán Fuego which is still active. All throughout the night you can see lava spewing and hear the rumble of Volcán Fuego. The nighttime view of stars, the surrounding countryside, and lava erupting from Volcán Fuego is hard to forget.

Basecamp Acatenango
The campsite setup at basecamp on Acatenango.
Sitting fireside with a view of Volcano Fuego.

After our night at the basecamp we woke up at 4 am to continue the additional 1.5 hours to the summit for sunrise. The 4 am wake up was challenging and we were the only people in our tour group who ended up completing the hike to the summit. Our guide made the remaining trek to the summit seem very difficult, while it certainly wasn’t easy we think he played it up a little bit and was hoping he wouldn’t have to take anyone all the way to the top. He does the hike 4 days a week! It was pitch black and slow going but the summit at sunrise was an incredible reward.

Watching the sunrise after hiking to the summit of Acatenango.
Family photo at the summit! Note the level of warm clothing!

Roo was with us every step of the way, often running circles around us on the way up. She only slowed down on the descent as some of the loose volcanic ash and sharp rocks got stuck in her paws. On the way down Mitchell occasionally had to carry her through some loose patches of rock. Once Roo figured out she could hitch a ride she became a little less tough and took advantage of the rides refusing to pass areas with loose rock on her own and just waiting to be carried. This was a good way to tire out Mitchell as carrying a 60 lb dog and a full backpack requires serious effort.

After hiking the volcano, we returned to Antigua and camped at the police park. While this is an awesome free spot right in the center it doesn’t have showers or toilets so you have to do a little bit of a walk to find those amenities. Can’t beat the price of free though! We also enjoyed swapping travel stories with other overlanders.

After Antigua we drove towards the Guatemala coast and the beach town of Sipacate. Here we found a quaint town with incredibly friendly locals and decent surf! We ended up camped under a cashew tree which bombarded our truck with fruit resulting in some late night dog stress as Roo was forced to wake up multiple times during the night to scare away each cashew fruit that hit our truck. The town also had a fireworks festival (for an upcoming mayoral election) one of the nights and Roo spent the night hunkered down in the truck trying to hide underneath our mattresses. Although she is not bothered by thunder and lighting, fireworks and firecrackers are the bane of her existence.

Typically, we have tried to get as close to the border as possible then cross first thing in the morning. This time we elected to drive the four hours to the border then cross. All was going smoothly until we tried to cancel out TIP (temporary import permit) for Toby. The lady told us there were issues with our paperwork and we had to wait. Unsure of what we were waiting for we tried to get clarification. After 3 hours of waiting all we can determine is that on the backend of their system they had us exiting to Honduras not El Salvador and because of that they had to send an email and wait for a reply. We were very thankful when she finally stamped our paperwork and let us leave!

2 thoughts on “Travel Journal: Antigua, Volcán Acatengago & Sipacate Guatemala”

  1. Photos and stories are blowing me away.
    Really appreciate your sharing of this incredible adventure.

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