An active volcano instead of an oven – Pizza Pacaya baked on lava is a real tourist magnet

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About 40 km south of the capital of Guatemala, rising more than 2400 m above sea level, the Pacaya volcano overlooks the nearby villages of San Vicente Pacaya and Amatitlán. From the top of the mountain on clear days, tourists can even see Guatemala City and the neighboring volcanoes Agua, Fuego and Acatenango.

Pizza Pacaya - volcano
Photo: David Garcia

Since it became active again in 1965, Pacaya has magnet for tourists. Its slow-flowing lava rivers, by volcanic standards, pose no danger to visitors.

In 2019, this volcano became the first pizzeria in the country and one of the first in the world to use rock/lava cavities as ovens.

Pizza Pacaya - volcano
Photo: David Garcia

Pacaya pizza creator, chef and accountant Maria David García Mansilla, the volcano fascinated in 2010 when it spectacularly erupted. The ash then reached Guatemala's La Aurora International Airport, and flights were suspended for a day.

Instead of running away, he chose to stay close to the mighty mountain.

Pizza Pacaya - volcano
Photo: David Garcia (archive)

Hobby turned into a job

Curiosity led him near the crater where he saw guides inviting tourists to bake on the hardened but still hot lava marshmallow cookies. He liked the idea very much, but he decided to try his hand at pizza.

Video: David Garcia

For years, he baked them for himself and his friends, and after perfecting the technique, he turned his hobby into a business in 2019.

Pizza Pacaya - volcano
Photo: David Garcia

David Garcia regularly hikes to the top of the volcano carrying about 60 kilograms on his back ingredients and equipment to readily welcome tourists who have reserved a place for the event.

In addition to pizza, it offers a variety of toppings, meat (salami, pepperoni, chorizo, prosciutto) and vegetables (onions, olives and peppers), and customers can request other accessories in advance.

Pizza Pacaya - volcano
Photo: David Garcia

He prepares pizza from pre-mixed dough and bakes it around 14 minutes. When he bakes on still hot lava, the process only lasts few minutes since the magma can reach a temperature of up to 1000 ° C.

Pizza Pacaya - volcano
Photo: David Garcia

Pacaya Volcano is National Park so only official guides are authorized to bring tourists. For those traveling with children, the elderly or people with physical disabilities, David Garcia and the guides can arrange horses or vehicles for the trip to the top of the volcano.

Pizza Pacaya - volcano
Photo: David Garcia

Volcano tourism

Volcano tourism is increasingly popular, and there are currently more than 1500 active volcanoes in 81 countries around the world. About 60 of them erupt every year.

Information about the latest eruptions can be followed by lava hunters on the website Global Volcanism Program created by the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

forbidden islands
Surtsey Island – 1963 Photo: Wikipedia

Let's mention how volcanic tours regularly appear in tourist arrangements, marketing campaigns of tourist boards and itineraries of cruise ships.

People are ready to take over for new and exciting experiences increasing risks. This type of tourism is most developed in Iceland, but it is offered all over the planet. The view of the lava is rarely offered, so it is understandable that this scene is attractive to many visitors.

Fuji, Fujigoko, Japan
Photo: Simon Shim / Unsplash

What attracts us to these potentially dangerous places?

The fine line between passion and madness is explored in the National Geographic documentary 'Fire of Love', the story of a French married couple of volcanologists, Katia and Maurice Krafft, who dedicated their lives to a better understanding of volcanoes, and also had unusual dreams about kayaking along the lava flow.

Not everyone is so extreme, but many share a fascination with the power of nature. Part of the attraction of volcanoes is precisely their unstable nature and unpredictability.

Pizza Pacaya - volcano - lava
Photo: David Garcia

Georgina Hancock, marketing director of the tour operator Discover The World which offers a 'volcano hotline', which informs guests about possible trips during eruptions, believes that volcanoes are "nature in its purest and rawest form".

Even after the volcano stops erupting and there is no more hot lava nearby, their clients are still interested in seeing the changed landscape. The ability of Icelanders to live and thrive on this ever-evolving island fascinates visitors deeply.

Pizza Pacaya - volcano
Photo: David Garcia (archive)

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