The 8,200-foot (2,500-m) Santiaguito Volcano is set within Guatemala’s Western Highlands near the town of Quetzaltenango. The volcano is active and belches smoke on a regular basis.
The Santiaguito Volcano was created in the wake of the Santa María Volcano’s 1902 eruption. This eruption destroyed Santa María’s former summit and left some 5,000 people dead. It was one the largest eruptions of the 20th century.
Since then, new lava domes have grown inside the trench left by this eruption. Santiaguito is the youngest of these domes, having been created around 1922. The massive Santiaguito dome-complex has been growing ever since and is accompanied by continuous explosions, most of them minor. It belches smoke and ash on a regular basis, but sometimes emits lava and pyroclastic flows.
Most travelers are content to see Santiaguito from a distance. Hikes up the neighboring Santa María Volcano offer awesome views of the smoking Santiaguito, as does a half-day hike to a mirador overlooking the volcano.
More adventurous travelers may, however, be interested in the real deal—a hike up Santiaguito itself. Although less common, this is in fact a viable option. Some guiding companies will get you within a quarter mile of the crater. From this distance, you’ll understand the raw power of this incredible volcano.