Climbing Tajumulco without a guide is very easy to do. In fact, it be done as a day trip from Xela if you grab an early 5.00 AM chicken bus to San Marcos. There are tour companies in Xela (Quetzaltenango) that offer guided hikes to the peak along with a night of camping on the way up to get everyone “acclimatized” to the altitude. More on that later…
We worried a solo climb would be difficult and found scant evidence online regarding this. This post will assist anyone hoping to bypass the tour groups and climb Volcan Tajumulco without a guide!
Adventurous, budget-minded travelers want to know if climbing Tajumulco without a guide is possible. It is and this post is for them.
Climbing (and getting to) Tajumulco Without a Guide
Those with time (and a sense of adventure) should base themselves in San Marcos. Thinking of a day trip instead? Grab an early chicken bus from Xela and transfer in San Marcos. For this post I present transportation logistics from Xela to the Tajumulco trail head as a day trip with an early evening chicken bus back to Xela. For comprehensive bus schedules check out Rome2rio.com.
Assuming you get an early bus from Xela….
The earliest chicken bus from Xela arrives in San Marcos by 7. AM. At San Marcos terminal look for buses marked for the towns of Sabinal or Tacaná – do not take these buses to Sabinal or Tacaná! 1.5 hours later (9.30 AM) arrive at the trail head for Volcan Tajumulco, opposite Hotel Villa Real at the turn-off for the village of Tajumulco. The trail head is on the right side of the road – no guide needed!
The start of the trail is at an elevation of roughly 10,000 ft. with Xela topping out at 7,640 ft. – becoming “acclimatized” to the elevation has already happened after being in Xela for several days prior to this excursion. Of course, pace yourself as you climb Tajumulco.
Lucky hikers may be joined by the same 3 bored dogs who followed us up! We named them Miss Clingy, Burr (he’s covered in burrs) and Standy-Offy, who accepts pets in a non-emotive way.
Fit hikers will reach the summit of Tajumulco in 3 hours. Views into Mexico, and the city of Tapachula are evident with clear skies. Smaller volcanic peaks are visible; the smoke plume from Volcano Santiaguito really stands out in a clear sky. Enjoy an hour at the top of Tajumulco.
The benefit of going with a tour group and camping means you arrive at the peak of Tajumulco for sunrise. Hike with a tour group if a sunrise summit is a must for you. If DIY adventure is your thing, hiking Tajumulco without a guide is just what you need. I do not suggest you head into the hills by yourself to camp out. I do suggest climbing Tajumulco without a guide in daylight hours if you are on a budget.
Wrapping It Up
You can do this as a day trip from Xela. Climbing Tajumulco without a guide may be for you. Are you after the enhanced experience of climbing Tajumulco for sunrise? Consider a tour instead.
Arriving at San Marcos by 7: AM and transferring to a Sabinal bus brings you to the Tajumulco trail head by 9:30 AM. Allow 3 hours to climb Tajumulco, 1 hr. atop the summit and 2.5 hrs. to descend.
You are now roadside at the trail head to Volcan Tajumulco by 4 PM for the bus back to San Marcos. Connect in San Marcos for that late day chicken bus back to Xela.
This is cutting it close, but it can be done. Or base yourself in San Marco a pleasant enough place where we spent 2 great nights. What’s the rush?