How To Visit Paricutin Volcano (All You Need To Know + Costs)
Paricutin is a volcano that I had never heard of before I arrived in Mexico. Most travelers never hear about it 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. Visiting Paricutin and the church that was buried under it’s lava flow in 1943 is truly amazing and of my favorite things I have done in Mexico. In this article I will tell you all about how to visit Paricutin.
But first I will start of with a bit of history about Paricutin and it’s violent appearance from under a farmers field in 1943.
What is Paricutin?
Paricutin is a volcano that is located in the state of Michaocan it 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 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 high. Then within a week the cone of the volcano was 150 meters high!
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. San Juan Parangaricutiro church is still visible today half buried by the lava flow and visiting it was my favorite part of the trip.
This eruption was particularly interesting for scientists from all over the world. Scientists were interested 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 makes for a very beautiful hike to it’s summit.
How To Visit Paricutin
There are a few options for how to visit Paricutin depending on where you start from. The three main options to visit Paricutin from are Morelia, Uruapan and Angahuan.
There are tours that can take you from Morelia. However the drive to get there is about 2 and a half hours. As the hike is quite tiring to get to the top of Paricutin I think that you should try and leave from a town closer to the volcano. However if you want to take a tour from Morelia you can find one here.
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 speak a language that is unrelated to any other Meso-American languages.
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 cabanas 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 starting point.
Uruapan is about 50 minutes from Paricutin by public transport 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 was a nice town and I can definitely recommend it as a base for visiting Paricutin.
How To Visit Paricutin From Uruapan
Uruapan was where we chose to have our base for a few days while we visited Paricutin. It 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.
To get to Paricutin from Uruapan by public transport you need to get to the main bus terminal. At the main bus terminal you need to catch a collectivo to Angahuan. The collectivos will leave around every 15-20min and should cost about 40 pesos. But be prepared that prices and timetables can change fairly regularly.
The collectivo ride to Anguhuan should take about 50 min and you will be dropped on the side of the main highway just outside of Anguhuan.
Once you arrive on the side of the highway you will likely have some locals come up to you offering tours. You have the option of either hiking to the volcano and also hiking up the side of the volcano. Or you can take horses to the base of the volcano and the hike up the side of the volcano.
If you want to hike all the way up Paricutin I would 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 will take around 6 hours and 30 minutes. You can check out a detailed map of the hike here.
As we arrived later in the day there was not enough time to do the hike. So we decided to pay for local guides to take us to the base of the volcano by horse back.
Horse Back Tour Of Paricutin
We were charged 600 pesos per person. So if you are on a tight budget it may be better to try and hike by your self. 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.
You will first 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. All the while you will be able to see Paricutin in the background so it is a very picturesque horse ride.
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 tiring climb to the top.
However at the top the views into the volcano and of the lava flows over the surrounding country side are awesome and well worth the climb.
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.
Once at the base you will jump back on the horses before being taken to the buried church of San Juan de Parangaricutiro. Getting there by horse will take around an 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 me. When we visited it was not far from the peak of the pandemic so we were the only ones at the site.
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 mountain. Also the quesadillas and avocados they gave us were so good!
The area is covered in avocado plantations so the avocado must have been freshly picked. But it was seriously the best avocado I have ever had so I recommend asking for one if you eat there.
From the food stalls it is just a short climb over the lava flow to where the church is.
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 at the altar. It is surreal to see an altar like this in the middle of a lava flow.
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 real interesting area to explore.
After visiting the church it is about a 25 minute ride back into Angahuan where you can catch a collectivo 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?
After doing our tour by horse I think that if we did it over again we would have tried to just do the hike. As we are not experienced on horses we did not find it that enjoyable being on the horses for so long. However if you like horses it would be a great option.
Whatever way you decide I highly recommend visiting Paricutin! It is one of my favorite day trips in Mexico and one of the most interesting places I have visited in all my travels around the world.