If you're in the mood for a brisk, fairly easy day-hike through a landscape that could have been pulled straight from the pages of a Tolkien novel, we'd like to introduce you to Guatemala's Volcán de Pacaya. While this moderately sized 2,552 m volcano may lack the challenge/rewards of nearby peaks like Acatenango, it offers something pretty unique in return: the opportunity to hike alongside rivers of molten rock. Kitschy as it may be, you can even roast marshmallows over these all-natural igneous hot-plates, so as far as consolation prizes go you could do a lot worse.
The trick to enjoying Pacaya to the fullest is to try and minimize your group size. Due to its popularity, guided hikes can swell into the dozens, and vendors selling walking sticks and rides on horseback have been known to diminish the experience somewhat. Options? Well, if you're an experienced hiker/climber with some knowledge of the area, the route up Pacaya can easily be traversed solo in half a day. Otherwise, consider turning the trek into a 2-day endeavor and camping out under some Central American stars. Yes, that amount of time is a bit excessive for the length and intensity of the trail, but there's something about the midnight glow of lava on a secluded Guatemalan volcano that makes the hyperbole seem well justified. See our links for more info and enjoy the heat.