The tower of the buried church poking out next to Paricutin Volcano

How To Get To Paricutin Volcano (Complete Guide)

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Paricutin is a volcano that I had never heard of before I arrived in Mexico. But visiting Paricutin and the church that was buried under a lava flow is truly amazing and one of my favorite things I have done in Mexico. In this blog post, I will tell you all about how to get to Paricutin Volcano.

Most travelers never hear about Paricutin as it is quite off the beaten path. It is not super easy to get to but it is well worth the trip to get there. But first I will start off with a bit of history about Paricutin and its violent appearance from under a farmer’s field in 1943. So let’s jump right in!

Cross at the summit of Paricutin with the crater of the volcano in the background
Cross at the summit of Paricutin’s crater

Paricutin Volcano Facts

Paricutin is a volcano that is located in the state of Michoacan which is just over 300 km west of Mexico City. Prior to 1943 the area where the Paricutin volcano is located was just covered in farmers’ fields.

For weeks prior to the eruption, local residents had reported that they keep hearing loud sounds similar to thunder but with no clouds in the sky.

Then on February 20, 1943, a local farmer named Dionisio Pulido was working in his cornfield. When the ground suddenly pushed up and a 2.5-meter-(8.2 ft) long crack appeared in the ground.

Within a few hours, a crater had formed and ash was erupting into the sky. Within 24 hours of the crack appearing the cone of the volcano was 50 meters (164 ft) high. Then within a week, the cone of the volcano was 150 meters (590 ft) high!

Local watching Paricutin Volcano erupt in 1943
A local watching Paricutin erupt in 1943

The eruption destroyed the local village of San Juan Parangaricutiro, burying it under lava flows.

However, the top of the local church was high enough that it stayed above the lava flow. The church is still visible today half buried by the lava flow and visiting it was my favorite part of the trip.

Paricutin’s eruption was particularly interesting for scientists from all over the world because it was the first time that they had been able to observe the entire lifecycle of a volcano like this.

Today the Volcano is safe to visit and the countryside surrounding the volcano is covered in beautiful avocado groves.

How to get to Paricutin Volcano

There are a few options for how to get to Paricutin Volcano depending on where you start from. The three main options to visit Paricutin from are Morelia, Uruapan and Angahuan.

A map showing how to get to Paricutin Volcano
You can get to Paricutin Volcano from Morelia, Uruapan or Angahuan

From Morelia

Morelia is a 2.5h drive away from Paricutin and a popular destination to get to Paricutin volcano. But since it’s a long drive, it is not the best city to visit Paricutin from. Morelia itself is a beautiful city and worth the visit so if you do not mind a long drive it might be the right starting point for you.

From Angahuan

The closest town to the volcano is Angahuan. Angahuan is a very interesting little town inhabited by the Purepecha people. They are an indigenous community that speaks a language that is unrelated to any other language in Mexico.

The town has a very laid-back country atmosphere with kids riding horses in the streets. There is not much going on in the town but there are some basic cabañas you could stay in super close to Paricutin.

So if you would like the opportunity to spend the night close to the volcano and start your hike early in the morning then this will be a good option.

A man in a red sweatshirt riding a horse on a road in Angahuan
Horse riding through the streets of Angahuan

From Uruapan

Uruapan is about 50 minutes from Paricutin by colectivo and is the closest major town to Paricutin. This is where we decided to stay for a couple of days while we visited Paricutin. Uruapan is a nice town and I can definitely recommend it as a base for how to get to Paricutin Volcano.

How to visit Paricutin from Uruapan (+ Costs)

Uruapan is the second largest city in Michoacan and has everything you need such as big supermarkets, gyms, restaurants, etc. There is also an awesome city park with man-made waterfalls that you must visit when you are in town.

Allan standing in front of a man made waterfall in a national park in Uruapan
Natural water park in Uruapan. A must-visit if you choose to visit Paricutin from there

Colectivo Uruapan To Angahuan

To get to Paricutin from Uruapan by public transport you need to go to the main bus terminal. At the main bus terminal, you can catch a colectivo to Angahuan.

The colectivos leave around every 15-20 min and cost about 40 pesos (2 USD) one-way. The ride takes about 50 min and you will be dropped on the side of the main road just outside of Anguhuan.

How to hike Paricutin Volcano (+ Costs)

Once you arrive on the side of the road of Anguhuan you will likely have some locals come up to you offering tours. You have the option of

  • Hiking to the volcano by yourself for free
  • Taking a horse to the base of the volcano and hike up the side (600 pesos / 30 USD)
  • Taking a tour from Morelia instead, more on this further down (87 USD)

If you want to hike all the way up Paricutin by yourself I recommend trying to get there as early as possible. The hike up is quite long and the side of the volcano is very steep and tiring.

It is possible to do the hike completely solo and for free. It will take around 6 hours and 30 minutes. You can check out a detailed map of the hike here. There is no entrance fee for visiting Paricutin Volcano.

As we arrived later in the day there was not enough time to do the hike on our own. So we decided to pay for local guides once we arrived in Anguhuan by colectivo to take us to the base of the volcano by horseback.

Horse Back Tour of Paricutin (+ Costs)

We were charged 600 pesos (30 USD) per person by the local guide on the side of the road for the tour. So if you are traveling on a tight budget or don’t like long horseback riding it may be better to try and hike by yourself.

However, paying for the tour helps to support the local community so I think it is a great idea if you can afford it. I have heard that other people have got the horse ride for much cheaper. So if you want to bargain I am sure it is possible but we were happy with that price.

You will jump on the horses in the small town of Angahuan. The ride will take you along sandy roads and trails that wind between avocado groves for about 1.5 – 2 hours. All the while you will be able to see Paricutin in the background so it is a very picturesque horse ride.

Katharina riding a horse along a black sandy path a good way to get to Paricutin Volcano
Picturesque view of the countryside on the horse ride to Paricutin Volcano

Paricutin Volcano Hike

The horses are not able to take you to the top of the volcano. So you will be taken to the base and then have to climb up the side of the volcano. The sides of the volcano are covered in very loose volcanic gravel so it is a very slow (but luckily short) tiring climb to the top.

Some huts at the bottom of the path which is how to get to Paricutin Volcano
The path up the side of Paricutin

However, at the top, the views of the volcano and of the lava flows over the surrounding countryside are awesome and well worth the 30-minutes climb.

A view from the top of Paricutin Volcano showing black lava flows in between green trees
View of lava flows from the top of the volcano

Getting down is much easier, fortunately. There is a steep path straight down the side of the mountain. Because it is covered in loose gravel you can just run down in a couple of minutes which is a lot of dusty fun!

A path going up the side of a hill which is how to get to the summit of Paricutin Volcano
The gravel path going down the side of Paricutin to run down

Once at the bottom, you will jump back on the horses to be taken to the buried church of San Juan de Parangaricutiro. Getting there by horse will take around 1 hour.

Visiting the buried Church San Juan de Parangaricutiro

Visiting the church buried under the lava flow was definitely the highlight of the trip for us. When we visited it was not far from the peak of the pandemic so we were the only ones at the site.

Allan sitting on some rocks in front of the San Juan de Parangaricutiro church
The tower of the church is poking out of the lava rocks

Before exploring the church the horses will take you to an area where you can buy some tacos and quesadillas. It is a good place to refuel after the hike up the volcano and is also a resting stop for the horses.

The avocado on the quesadillas was the best we ever had! So I highly recommend getting some food here. The area is covered in avocado plantations so the avocado must have been freshly picked. From the food stall, it is just a short climb over the lava flow to where the church is.

Allan walking over a lava flow at the Paricutin Volcano
Walking over the lava flow to the church

Once you reach the church you can climb down into an area at the back of the church where an altar survived the lava flow. Locals still go down there and place offerings. It is surreal to see an altar like this in the middle of a lava flow.

An altar covered with offeringsThe
The hidden altar

The most impressive part is the front of the church where both spires tower above the lava flow. You can climb onto the church and it is a really interesting area to explore.

Allan standing in the doorway of a church that has been buried in lava with the sun shining at his back
Standing in the archway of the church
Katharina sitting on some rocks in front of a church buried under a lava flow which you you will see if you know how to get to Paricutin volcano
An absolute highlight!

After visiting the church it is about a 25-minute ride back into Angahuan where you can catch a colectivo back to Uruapan. Or if you have chosen to stay in Angahuan you can check into your accommodation there.

Should you hike or take a horse?

A big decision to make when deciding how to get to Paricutin Volcano is whether to take a horse or hike. After doing our tour by horse I think that if we did it over again we would have tried to just do the hike on our own.

As we are not experienced on horses we did not find it that enjoyable being on the horses for hours. Especially Katharina got quite stomach sick from the constant rocking movement. However, if you have some experience with horseback riding and don’t get motion sickness it is a great option!

Overall we really enjoyed our day and our local guide who lives in Angahuan was super friendly, relaxed and looked well after his horses. He couldn’t speak English so it was also a great opportunity for us to practice Spanish.

Paricutin Volcano Tours (+ Costs)

If you do not feel like making the journey to Paricutin by yourself then it is possible to take a tour. Most tours leave from Morelia which is 134 km (83 miles) away from Paricutin. So it will be a long trip but Morelia is a beautiful city and well worth visiting.

There is a tour Paricutin tour on GetYourGuide for 85 USD per person with a highly-rated tour guide. The guide will pick you up from your accommodation in Morelia, bring you to Paricutin, and back to Morelia. The guide also speaks English so you won’t have any language barriers.

Now you know how to get to Paricutin Volcano!

Hiking up Paricutin Volcano is one of the most amazing things I have done in all my travels around the world. It is also off the beaten track in Mexico so you will not have hoards of tourists to compete with when you visit.

Please let me know in the comments below if you have any more questions on how to get to Paricutin Volcano and which option you are taking on visiting and hiking it.

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Travel, health and fitness fanatic from New Zealand. Co-founder of Happy Healthy Nomads and always on a hunt for good food.

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