Watching a live volcanic eruption from my perch atop Santa Maria

“No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied — it speaks in silence to the very core of your being”.  —-Ansel Adams

Around 10:30, five hours after starting our hike up the dark and slippery path of the Santa Maria Volcano we had finally arrived at her pointed peak.  The clouds had started to form and blanket the valley of Xela thousands of miles below.  Yet fortunately they hadn’t fully conquered the peak.  There was still a spectacular view of the surrounding volcanoes and valley beneath.

As we approached our resting spot for an early lunch I was perplexed by a low humming sound.  The sound of voices, high and low, big and small, filled up the empty open space around me.  As we come closer to the noise I realized with amazement that it was a human chain of chanting.  The Mayans were singing their prayers to their gods.  The voices of their chants flowed smoothly together making a monotonous tone at times, entrancing me and captivating my soul.

Adventure Travel Guatemala TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking

My 5 am climb up the Santa Maria Volcano

“The Beauty of the Mountain is hidden for all those who try to discover it from the top, supposing that, one way or an other, one can reach this place directly.   The Beauty of the Mountain reveals only to those who climbed it…” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

View of the grand Santa Maria volcano off in the distance as I was leaving Xela via shuttle on my way to Antigua. 

There are things you’ll experience in Guatemala that will stay with you forever: the smell of a freshly grilled tortilla; the assault-on-all-senses of a jungle trek; the people you bump into on the road and become lifelong friends…..In the west, a volcano looms on almost every horizon, almost begging to be climbed.  (Opening lines in the introduction to Guatemala, Lonely Planet 2010).

It was with these words, “almost begging to be climbed” that I joyously opted to skip my already-paid for Spanish class on Wednesday and wake up at the break of dawn to climb Guatemala’s fourth highest volcano, Santa Maria (elevation 3772 m/12,375 feet).  It didn’t matter that I was utterly exhausted nor that I didn’t have the right gear.  All that mattered was there was an enormously, inviting volcano begging to be climbed.  There was no way I wasn’t going to climb it.

Adventure Travel Guatemala TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking

5am climb on Santa Maria Volcano

Just a short note to let you all know that I had the most spectacular day today in Guatemala! I rose at 4:45 am and set off in complete darkness to climb the fourth highest volcano in Guatemala, Santa Maria at 12,375 feet/3772m. It was so intensely beautiful that it made me melt. When we got to the top of the volcano a few hours later, I saw my first ever live volcano eruption right across the way at Santiaguito Volcano. Here it is….


There are two other options for climbing The Santa Maria Volcano. One is you start at 11 pm and do a moonlight hike and watch the sun rise over the neighboring volcanoes (there are tons!) but it is very very cold. The other is a 2 or 3 am start and you arrive just as the sun rises over the volcanoes. Apparently if you do the night hike you can see the brilliant red lava gleaming from a neighboring volcano!!!! If I was here a little longer than a week, I would have definitely done it. I can’t imagine how amazing it would be to see burning live lava in the darkness of the night!

Stay tuned…This is just a quick “postcard” summary of my trip. I took over 150 pictures today of the amazing volcano, countryside and farmland. Of course I need to edit and write it all up as a post! That will be when I return!

Adventure Travel Guatemala TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking