Volcan Tacana (House of Fire) is the second highest peak in Central America, soaring to 13,320 feet. Sailors used to call it the Lighthouse of the South because of the lava flows that were visible at sea. It is considered an active volcano, having last erupted in 1986. Still, 250,000 people live on the beautiful green slopes. As you travel higher towards the villages on the slopes, you’ll notice the refreshingly cooler climate.
Visiting Volcan Tacana is a wonderful experience. It is part of a protected biosphere reserve so you will be able to enjoy many varieties of plants and animals. You may not want to climb to the summit; in that case you can visit the villages to appreciate the local color and culture and also visit nearby Union Juarez.
If you decide you want to climb these beautiful cone towers, there are two routes up from Union Juarez. You should allow two or three days for each route. Chiquihuites is the less steep route; a three hour walk will lead you to Papales, where you can rent a hut for about twenty pesos and spend the night. From there the summit is about a five hour, spectacular climb. You’ll see tropical forest, pine growth and cloud forests before you get to the windswept summit. Once you reach the top you’ll never forget the panoramic view of two countries and the Pacific Ocean! People have said the sight is so beautiful that they stood there for several minutes before they could collect their thoughts.
There is a campsite about ten minutes below the summit where you can stay the night and catch the spectacular sunrise the next morning. If you’re going to ascend to the top of this magnificent volcano you should definitely stay for the sunrise and one last view before starting down again. The other path, Talquian, is about two hours walk from Union Juarez then five hours to Tigales. From there it will only be six hours to the summit.
You might enjoy your ascent more if you hire a guide. They know every aspect of the mountain and can point out things that you wouldn’t even know to look for. Guides charge about $50-125 per person. Higher rates generally indicate two guides, one leading the party and one bringing up the rear. The better guides also have radios for communication and are trained in basic first aid.
Temperatures are at or below freezing at the summit so dress in layers. There are springs along the way to fill your water bottle but bring a filter or purifying tablets.
If you’re not a climber you can drive up about 5km to Pico del Loro, an overhanging rock shaped like a parrot’s beak, and enjoy a lovely panoramic view. Ask directions to La Ventana (the window) for another scenic view point over the valley of the Rio Suchiate. Also check out the Cascadas Muxbal, both about an hour’s walk from Union Juarez.
If you go during the week leading up to Easter (Semana Santa) you can just follow the hundreds of people who come to climb the volcano.
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