Tourists walking Antigua's cobblestone streets and visiting its baroque churches say they planned to get close to the volcano, which exploded on Thursday, to snap photographs. At the same time, Guatemalan authorities have ordered the evacuation of more than 33,000 people. Local media report about 5,000 have left so far.
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.
Villagers and farmers living at the foot of the volcano, however, were awoken Thursday by a massive roar during a series of eruptions that darkened the skies and covered surrounding sugar cane fields with ash.
"It thundered and then it got dark as the ash began falling," said Miriam Curumaco, a 28-year-old homemaker from the village of Morelia who had evacuated along with 16 family members to a makeshift shelter at a nearby elementary school. "It sounded like a pressure cooker that wouldn't stop."