It’s December, and while everybody else is partying their hearts out, we thought it would be a fine time to visit Mount Pinatubo Crater Lake. Our trek to this magnificent volcano was a great trip to end the year. I’ve seen the crater lake in pictures so many times before, but it’s nothing like seeing it with my own eyes.
The bluest waters surrounded by walls volcanic cliffs felt like a smile from the heavens. The first glance of Mount Pinatubo’s crater lake was an intense fresh relief following a rigorous adventure ascending to the top. Our trek started from the town of Santa Juliana in Capas, Tarlac, courtesy of Pinatubo Spa Town, a travel company offering 4×4 rides, trek guides and ancillary facilities for hikers.
The 4×4 ride was an enjoyable, exhilarating adventure. Our driver skillfully drove over thick lahars, climbed slopes, and traversed muddy terrain and shallow streams. Trekkers today may consider themselves lucky (or not) because the ride is less harsh and the hike shorter. Years ago, hikers had to drive through a rockier trail, after which they had to trek for about 4 hours. Today, it only takes one and a half hours of 4×4 ride, thanks to the route improvement that’s dubbed the Skyway. The hike was also shortened to about 20 minutes. Visitors pay for the 4×4 vehicle ride and the use of the Skyway.
We spotted some aeta children curiously watching vehicles pass by the lahar-filled trail. There was a small community of aetas where we passed, and we saw a few of them magnificently traveling by foot to some place.
We hiked for about 20 minutes to reach the volcanic lake. Note that although the trek is only around 20 minutes, it is still a challenge to people not used to hiking. Hikers have to go through a slope of average steepness, parts of which are rocky with shallow streams, so be prepared to get a bit wet during the trek. All those challenges would all be worth it as you’d eventually be rewarded with a breathtaking view of Mount Pinatubo’s Crater Lake.
Tips and Warnings
Just this year, a group of tourists and their guide died as they were descending from the crater. This was during the onslaught of typhoon Ondoy, which also devastated and drowned a huge part of Metro Manila. It would not be advisable to go up Mount Pinatubo during typhoon season, especially as typhoons are stronger than they were in the past. The best time to visit Mount Pinatubo is during the dry season, but because of the erratic weather patterns we’re experiencing lately, it would be hard to precisely determine the dry months. Check weather reports to make sure that no storm is expected at the time you plan to hike.
Make a reservation with Pinatubo Spa Town to ensure that there are available 4×4 vehicles for your group. We went to Capas, Tarlac, without making reservations, but luckily there were vehicles available at that time. Each vehicle can accommodate up to 4 people, not including the trek guide and the driver. The facility can provide groups with food for the hike, but you can opt to bring your own food. The travel to and from the volcano is sure to be dusty, so it would be best to bring protection: sunglasses, hankies, etcetera. After the hike, it would be nice to avail of a massage or other spa services from Pinatubo Spa Town.
You may call Pinatubo Spa Town’s office at 045-4930031.
How To Go To Mount Pinatubo
Pinatubo Spa Town, which provides the 4×4 ride and trek guide, is located in the town of Santa Juliana, Capas, Tarlac. From Manila, take NLEX (North Luzon Expressway). Exit at Dau and enter the Mabalacat arch. Take Asian Highway 26, which is just an extension of MacArthur Highway. You will have to take a left turn to Sta Lucia and pass by the Death March Tower and Camp O’Donnell. At the end of this road is Pinatubo Spa Town.
View Mount Pinatubo Crater Lake in a larger map