Tajumulco is the highest peak in both Guatemala and Central America. Like most of the rest of the high mountains in Guatemala, it too is a volcano. The volcano had its last small eruptions in 1821 and 1863 and has been quiet since.
This is a spectacular climb, and has views of both Mexico and Guatemala. The mountain is also surrounded by several interesting small villages. On clear days you can see to the Pacific Ocean. Despite being a fairly popular climb, there isn't too much in way of tourist infrastructure here, and the mountain can only be reached by long bus rides.
Tajumulco as seen from about 1/2 way up the route.
Most people will probably arrive in Guatemala City. I came overland from Mexico. From Guatemala City, catch a bus to San Marcos. This is a sizable city and several buses run daily from many locations throughout the country. Luckily the road is now paved the entire distance.
From Guatemala City to San Marcos is 258 kms. The easiest way to get there is through Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela, which has a large tourist base for people climbing the nearby volcanoes.
From San Marcos, take one of several daily buses running towards San Sebastian and Tacana. Pass through San Sebastian and ask to bed dropped off at "Tajumulco" or "Llano de la Guardia", near the turnoff to the tiny village of Tuichan (30 kms from San Sebastian).
In January 2015, this was a much faster bus ride (but still crowded!) than it was back in January 1993, which is when I first climbed the mountain. The road to and beyond Tuichan has now been paved.
You can also reach Tuichan from Tacana and from Mexico. This is a short ride on the map, but unless roads have been improved in the last decade, it is actually a long, bumpy, very dusty bus ride.
Near the trailhead on Tajumulco.
The only route I am familiar with is the Llano del la Guardia Route
. If you know of other routes, please post them. Also, see the route page for much more detail.
There is a good trail to the summit, but there are also several other livestock/woodcutting trails in the area that make following the first half of the trail confusing. If you are alone, or you don't speak any Spanish at all, I would recommend taking a local guide. Don't wander too far off the paths either (see the Red Tape section). From the trailhead at Llano de la Guardia, the trail follows the ridge to the west through many farms and cattle pastures. The trail more or less follows the ridge and enters a pine forest at 3300 meters (11,000 feet). From there, the trails converge and it is easier to follow the main trail. Continue up the main trail to a junction. From here, the most used path heads SW to some villiages on the other sideof the volcano. For Tajumulco, instead of following the most used trail down to the villiages, stay on the steep path right at the ridgeline, and follow it to the summit. The climb can be done in one very long day, but it is highly recommended that you camp high on the mountain. The route page has more details.
The upper slopes of Tajumulco as seen from Volcán Concepción.
No permits are required.
There are (were?) rumors that there are (or were?) land-mines on the mountain. Avoid anything that looks suspicious. Don't stray from the trail.
Don't let all this scare you too much; many people climb the mountain every year (and probably every week), but be aware of the situation.
When To Climb
The dry season is best which last from late November to early April. Be prepared for clouds and cool weather at any time of year. It can be surprisingly cold on the summit.
Crater rim of Tajumulco.
There are campsites on the mountain, but above the farms near the beginning of the climb, there is no water in the dry season. The most spectacular campsite is right at the summit, but it can be very windy and hard to sleep, especially if you are not acclimatized to the altitude. The most popular campsites are between the saddle of the main peak of Tajumulco and the sub peak known as Concepción. There is no water here, but there are some nice campsites among the trees. The campsite is located at 3850 meters. Unfortunately there is some trash around, so if you wouldn't mind, please try and gather some of it up and either burn it or carry it out.
There is at least one small hotel in San Sebastian and many in San Marcos. It is also said that there is a restaurant that climbers sometime seem on the floor. It may be best to stay in San Marcos, ride the bus to the trailhead, and then pack everything higher up the mountain to camp if you are on a two day trip.
On a one day trip, you could look at sleeping in the restaurant at Tuichan or sleeping in San Sebastian.
Along the trail near the campsites at the saddle between Tajumulco and Concepción.
The closest weather link is in Tuichan at 2900 meters elevation. Expect cooler and wetter conditions in the mountains.
Tuichan Weather Forecast
Sunrise from the summit.