Chicabal Crater Lake

Key information: Chicabal Crater Lake

  • Climb through steep montane forest to this high, intriguing crater with a beautiful, quiet, mysterious and sacred lake in its depths.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating87
  • Beauty30
  • Natural interest16
  • Human interest12
  • Charisma31
  • Negative points2
  • Total rating87
  • Note: Neg: Slightly tedious walking conditions

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 3-4hrs
  • Maximum Altitude: Around 2,900m
  • Level of Difficulty: Strenuous


Chicabal crater lake sits an hour or so south-west of Xila in Guatemala's volcanic highlands.

From the maze of lanes above the QUE-03 road, a steep cobbled track heads straight up the pleasing wooded hillside to a pass, from which a gentle descent gets you to a peaceful spot, but for the music playing in the scruffy but characterful tourist cabins that are plonked there.

Another steep dirt track has you panting your way up to the crater rim, through attractive cloud forest (indeed quite possibly cloud), which harbours some inappropriate-looking fields for a reserve. Enjoy your first view across the crater, if the clouds allow. The crater walls are covered in jungly cloud forest, with the wide and beautiful lake at its base.

The descent to the crater floor (at 2,712m) is either down 600 steps or along a winding and gentler path. The climb back is pretty brutal if you take the steps.

The lake occupies the whole floor, but is shallow-edged, with a long beach and a (flat! - a new experience here) 2km path circling the shore. It is all a curious mixture of manicured and jungle.

The lake is beautiful, quiet, mysterious and slightly numinous, so it no surprise that it it is sacred (no swimming, to Walko's disappointment), and people come to worship in Mayan-descended ceremonies. Bunches of luxurious tropical flowers are planted in the wet sand and seem to live a long time, although someone clearly comes to dispose of the wilting aftermath. There are slightly voodooy-feeling sites for ceremonies in the undergrowth. The cloud often comes down to kiss the lake, spawning legends while they’re at it.

Retrace your steps. You are well walked by the end; Walko estimates a total of perhaps 700m of generally steep climb and descent are involved.

We’d love to share more! Please help us by making suggestions and sending photos! Thank you!

For more information and photos, including detailed practical information and some warnings, see our Guatemala’s Volcanoes walk page.

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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.


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