A terrifying eruption of one of the world's most active volcanoes tapered off last Friday into a draw for delighted tourists, who snapped photos from a neighbouring colonial city and made plans to take night hikes to see glowing rivers of lava.
Villagers were returning to their homes on the flanks of the Volcano of Fire as it wound down its largest eruption in nearly four decades, spewing smaller amounts of ash and lava.
Guatemalan authorities reduced the alert level from the highest, red, to orange around the Volcan del Fuego, or Volcano of Fire, and said last Thursday's ferocious lava flow was now two smaller, 3,000-foot streams.
Tourists walking the cobblestone streets of the colonial city of Antigua, about six miles from the volcano, said they were making plans to take guided trips to the mountain to see the lava, and guide companies said they were getting dozens of calls for tours.
Celina Huang, a 25-year-old Spanish student, was taking photos of the volcano, which looms over the Baroque churches and brightly coloured arches of Antigua.
"This fire and red light is something I've never seen before," she said. "In my country, Taiwan, there are volcanoes, but they're dormant. This is the first time I've seen an eruption."
As close as safely possible
Nilton Dasilva, a church group leader from Northfield, Illinois, said he decided to take a detour during a group trip to a nearby coffee plantation and try to get as close as safely possible to the volcano.
"Now that we know it erupted, we're going to try to stop on the way and maybe take some pictures," Dasilva said.
Guatemalan authorities ordered the evacuation of more than 33,000 of the 62,000 people living immediately around the volcano, many in isolated indigenous villages. Gustavo Chicna, a volcanologist with the national weather, earthquake and volcanology institute, said the Volcano of Fire, Guatemala's most active, appeared to be in the final stages of its biggest eruption since 1974, when the event was five times more powerful than this week's.