A post I wanted to put together to help intrepid travellers who want to visit Paricutin volcano in western Mexico. I remember researching this Mexican volcano before my first visit in 2014 and finding very little information. Several tours later, I decided to compile this comprehensive guide.
Ah mighty Mexico! The land of tacos and Tequila. For many holidaymakers a trip to Mexico will consist of an all inclusive trip to Cancun. However this is a country with so much more to offer. If you’d like to get off the beaten path in Mexico I would consider traveling to the west of the country, away from the crowds of the Yucatán peninsula. In this post I’d like to talk about a rarely visited village 440km west of Mexico City. A village called Angahuan. From this village you can access one of the seven natural wonders of the world – Volcan Paricutín.
Paricutin Volcano Facts – The birth of a Volcano
In 1943 an event occurred in a town of western Mexico that caused fascination for both scientific and religious communities alike. Local farmer Dionisio Pulido was going about his daily work when a crack in the ground of his cornfield opened up. Lava started seeping out of the crack and within hours a crater had developed. His early report to the scientific world allowed them to study for the first time, the entire life cycle of a volcano.
The volcano erupted for nine years during which time it completely destroyed two towns. Once it finished erupting, the cone stood at 424m and became the youngest volcano on earth. In the town of San Juan Parangaricutiro, the lava flow destroyed everything in its path with one exception. The only place to remain mostly intact after the volcanic eruption was the towns main church. As a result the church has become a major pilgrimage site for devotees who come to leave flowers and candles at the ruined alter.
How to visit Paricutín Volcano
“As we drive down the narrow cobbled street of this small Purépecha town we are hardly inconspicuous. A bright yellow American school bus packed with westerners. Word quickly spreads and soon enough we are being escorted through the streets of Angahuan by local cowboys on horseback. They lead the way to our campsite at the far end of the town where we base ourselves for two nights. From here we are able to explore the incredulous buried church and distant Paricutín volcano.” Excerpt from my diary during my first trip to Angahuan in 2014.
The best way to visit Paricutin Volcano is from the village of Angahuan. In this Purépecha community, guides are available to lead treks to the volcano. The trek is around 20km return and is mostly flat. However walking across the sharp lava field is very difficult and sturdy boots are required. A guide is definitely recommended as there is no marked path through the lava field.
From the base of the cone there is a steep climb to reach the crater at the top. Although now dormant, steam still vents from the crater.
For a photography hike such as this one I always carry the same items in my backpack, which you can read about here.
It is also possible to take a guided horse trek around the agave and avocado fields to the base of the volcano. This takes around 2 hours one way in a very uncomfortable wooden saddle! A short 30 minute hike to ascend the volcano crater is then possible. Once at the top it is possible to walk around the crater or even down into it if you desire. However, the most fun part is the scree run back down the ash covered volcano. Lean back and let her rip – you’ll be back at the bottom in minutes!
San Juan Parangaricutiro Church
On your return from the volcano either by foot or by horse, you can visit the remains of the lava engulfed church. It’s quite a sight to see and as a photographer it makes for some really interesting shots. There are no barriers or restrictions on visiting the church but just be prepared to climb amongst the lava rocks. Near the church there are food stalls and souvenir shops which mostly cater for domestic tourists.
Where to stay Angahuan
Angahuan is a small village with accommodation and camping available at Cabañas Vistas del Paricutin Angahuan. Here accommodation consists of bungalows (Cabañas) with various beds in each. On site there is a small museum documenting the volcanos history and a restaurant serving food and alcohol. On a clear day you can see the church lying amongst the lava field, with Paricutín volcano in the distance. To reserve a cabaña call +52 452 132 7193.
Very little English is spoken in the village so basic Spanish is a must.. I visited this site four times and never once saw a foreign tourist. It’s quite a special place to visit and certainly provides that feeling of getting off the tourist trail.
How to get to Angahuan
This is the tricky bit! It’s certainly not straight forward to get to this remote village. The first step is to take a bus from Mexico City to Uruapan. Once in Uruapan walk away from The historical Centre to the main highway. At the highway catch a bus to Los Reyes and tell the driver you wish to stop at Angahuan.
The bus will drop you at the end of the village where you will then need to walk through the cobbled streets to the village centre. Once in Angahuan you can visit Paricutin volcano.
When to visit Paricutín Volcano
This part of Mexico has a wet and dry season and the temperature stays pretty consistent all year around. The wet season is between May and November with the hottest month being May. The best months to visit Angahuan and Paricutin volcano are January to April when the rainfall is low and the temperature ranges between 15 and 20 degrees.
If you are planning a trip to western Mexico I strongly encourage you to put Angahuan and Paricutin on your hit list. I promise you won’t regret it. Do you have any questions about doing this trip? If so, leave a comment below.
Travelling around North America? You might also be interested in this post about National Parks in the USA
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