Climbing a volcano and being within a few inches of streaming hot lava was a thrill. We arrived at Pacaya in the afternoon, not knowing what to expect. There was a violent eruption in 1965 and the lava has been flowing ever since. It has become quite the attraction and we were excited to take advantage of the opportunity. Some indicated that it was, at 8373 feet, a small volcano and therefore easy to climb. Others described the trek as difficult and dangerous.

The shuttle pulled up to an area filled with children selling walking sticks. At 5 Quetzales, the walking sticks were a steal and proved to be incredibly useful. The beginning of the hike was scenic and green:

Since we are both accustomed to the flatness of the prairies, pretty much anything is considered steep. That combined with the increase in altitude made it quite challenging for me. Alex had a much easier time and I felt like I was slowing him down so I hopped on a horse for a little bit:

As the greenery started to disappear, the ascent became more treacherous. We walked through jagged volcanic rock and tried our best not to lose our footing.

The higher we climbed, the foggier it got, and we felt as if we were going through clouds. Although the weather was warm in Antigua, it does get quite chilly the higher up you are on the volcano, so the hoodie and the zip-up in our backpack were a necessity. Suddenly, after about 30 minutes of cold winds and numb fingers, we felt a wall of thick, muggy, humid heat. Alex looked down and saw the lava flowing right under his foot.

Seeing real live molten lava flowing just inches away from us was one of the most surreal experiences we've ever had. The wind was so strong that, at times, it would feel like it was going to burn you when it blew the heat your way. We were close enough to the lava that it could melt our shoes and no one seemed to be worried about safety. You would definitely not see this sort of thing happen in North America. We didn't even have to sign a waiver! It's a good thing no one fell in - that would have put a damper on the evening.

Some guys in our group brought along hot dogs, buns, and mustard to make themselves a celebratory dinner for reaching the lava. Several of the dogs fell in before they were actually able to assemble one. Others were roasting marshmallows and were kind enough to share.

We had to hop from one rock to another to get around to see the lava up close. Jumping, coupled with heavy winds and razor-edged surroundings made the conditions comically hazardous, but we made it!

... and just when we thought that the descent might be easier than getting up, the sun had set and we had to forge our way down through the darkness. Luckily, we had our headlamp and a flashlight, but I still fell and cut my hand on the sharp rocks. It was a rough day, but it was worth it for an experience that neither of us will forget any time soon. - Mina 

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  1. Wow! That looks amazing!

  2. stunning! what a fabulous experience!

    also, i just saw your wedding photos on max wanger's site - you guys must be deliriously happy. the pictures are so so lovely! you both looked gorgeous.


  3. Wow! This looks both amazing, and a little scary! I'm sure it was an experience you'll never forget!

  4. Holy crap that is incredible. Now I wish I was there, too. Thanks for letting me know something this cool exists.

  5. oh my gosh, that is seriously incredible! I can't believe you guys saw that! Love that last picture.

    Also, I saw on your twitter that you're heading to Costa Rica. I was there last February and have some GREAT recommendations. I'll e-mail you!

  6. Very cool photos- what an experience! I love how they roast marshmallows- too funny!

  7. lovely blog!
    you are living a life what every one wants to have...but a very few have that courage.
    Congratulation and best of luck for your journey!

    keep sharing your experiences... :)

  8. Oh my gosh- What a wicked picture with the Volcano. Very cool!

  9. This post is the coolest thing ever! Well, technically not "cool" per se... with active volcanoes and hot lava running, but you get it. :] This is beyond words!

  10. Anonymous11.1.10

    I went to The Big Island in Hawaii to try to do this, but they cut everyone off from doing this since tourists have died getting close the lava.

    Have to take a trip to Central America for my fix...

  11. Awe.some! Volcanoes are amazing and I'm so jealous of your up-close experience! Hawaii is neat but you can't get pictures like that. Maybe I've found my vacation spot for this summer. Wonder if I can sell it to my husband...

  12. i am shocked at how close they let you get!! how breathtaking.

  13. Wow.
    That's kind of moving! I mean, really! Mother Earth - hello!

  14. you brave girl! those pictures are lovely, but i'm not going to lie... i've got an irrational fear of volcanos!

  15. Wow, what an amazing journey you are on.. thanks for brining us along!

  16. Anonymous12.1.10

    Oh my goodness. I am envious of your lives. I want to run away too. I am just going to have to make myself happy living through you.

    Thanks for visiting my teeny blog!

  17. Katie12.1.10

    You guys look like the Fellowship of the Ring!

  18. Been following you for awhile now and I must say this by far is the coolest thing ever, with the exception of your idea to come up with this life adventure.

  19. this looks incredible, how amazing that there was lava at your feet!

    Thank you for your get well comment as well, it means alot :)

    Can't wait to see where you go next, take care xx

  20. Liz - Thanks. We love it when people send us tips and suggestions for our upcoming stops! - Apparently tourists have died at Pacaya too, but nobody seemed too concerned.

    Felicity - I would strongly recommend Antigua as a vacation destination. It's affordable, has a ton of activities to offer, and you can't complain about the weather!

    Rhianne - It was less amazing when I realized the next day that my shoes had actually been singed a bit from the heat.

  21. We also climbed Pacaya when we were there and had a pretty similar experience. EXCEPT the lava was not that brilliant the day we were there! That's so awesome to see that! I will say, that climbing it was one of the most physically exhausting things I have ever done. Needless to say, I will never be cut out for Everest or K2.

  22. absolutley incredible you two! Adventure at its finest.

  23. Wow! this post is amazing. How could they not warn people that you might step on lava?

    I'm reading your blog from the beginning and now it feels like the adventure has really started.

    Am so excited!

  24. this is amazing. every once in a while when I need inspiration and a way to feed my wanderlust I remind myself of your adventures and revisit your beautiful images.

  25. Thank you for this wonderful write-up. I definitely liked reading everything that is posted on your website. Keep blogging! :)