Laguna Chicabal is an easy volcano to climb with a sacred Mayan crater lake. Find out how to get there from Quetzaltenango and what to expect!
How to Get to Laguna Chicabal
If you are looking into Laguna Chicabal, and are not sure if you should pay for a tour or go independently, then we can assure you that it is an easy day trip from Xela that you can do by yourself.
To tackle this Xela hike, take a colectivo (Q7) from the intersection of 6a Calle and 16 Avenida in Xela Zone 3 towards San Martin Sacatepequez. The vans will read Chile Verde, and you can ask to get off at Laguna Chicabal.
The colectivos to Launga Chicabal start running at 6 am, and you will need to leave Quetzaltenango early in order to reach and enjoy the crater lake before the clouds roll in around 10 am.
For the return, it is possible to catch a colectivo back to Xela (Quetzaltenango) from where the colectivo drops you off in San Martin Sacatepequez.
Laguna Chicabal Without a Tour
The Chile Verde colectivo from Quetzaltenango will drop you off at a four-way intersection in San Martin Sacatepequez .
Your natural inclination is to go right and up, but you actually need to go left and down. This is the only confusing part of the hike to Laguna Chicabal.
The rest of the hike can be followed by posted signs. In case the signs go missing, you first follow the road left and down, over two bridges, and make a left at the intersection.
Make your first right where the sign indicates. Then make your first left. This road will then take you to Laguna Chicabal, and pass a Tienda on the way. Maps.me is a great offline app that shows the trail all the way to the top.
About halfway, once you pass through the village and hike up an unpaved road, you will come across the entrance to Laguna Chicabal (Q50 / $6.50).
This will be identifiable by the red corrugated roofs in the middle of farms. From there, continue heading up the unpaved road until you reach a fork in the road.
Your two options at the fork in the road are to visit the mirador, or head down to Laguna Chicabal’s crater lake. Although both options form a loop, we recommend visiting the mirador first before clouds roll in.
Laguna Chicabal Mirador
Upon reaching the Laguna Chicabal mirador, it is evident that this natural attraction is not that special – there are plenty of better places to visit in Guatemala. In fact Volcan Santa Maria is the better Xela hike.
Laguna Chicabal Crater Lake
From the mirador, keep following the path to the right and descend the countless stairs to the crater lake.
In the early morning, the lake offers nice reflection pictures as the water is dead calm.
From a natural attraction perspective, Laguna Chicabal is an average lake that you can’t even swim in!
Sacred Mayan Crater Lake
However, the Laguna Chicabal highlights were watching locals pray, and seeing all the Mayan ritual offerings around the crater lake.
Scattered around the lake perimeter were signs educating visitors on Mayan hieroglyphs.
Several spots also featured circular rocks where candles were lit, with flowers lining the lake shore. In a conglomeration with Christianity, there was one cross placed in the lake.
On the right side of the lake was a family praying to their gods. They were on all fours, and facing away from Laguna Chicabal.
Returning to Xela
It seems like locals account for the majority of Laguna Chicabal visitors, as we only saw a handful of tourists on this hike.
To complete the loop trail, take the path to the left of the stairs. It is a steady climb back to the crater rim, but more enjoyable as you are closer to nature.
At the top, continue following the path until you return to the mirador/crater lake “Y”. You should then be able to return the same way you came, and catch a colectivo back to Xela.
Laguna Chicabal Entrance Fee
The entrance fee to Laguna Chicabal is Q50 / $6.50, and is payable when you reach the office that is identifiable by red corrugated roofs in the middle of farms.
We arrived early, followed the road, and no one from the office bothered to stop us to pay the entrance fee.
Laguna Chicabal Safety
Laguna Chicabal felt like a safe hike in Guatemala, but things can change quickly in Central America.
The first half of the hike was through a village filled with farms and businesses. There was even a school where we saw kids racing Hula Hoops downhill.
This was followed by a more remote hike along an unpaved road. However, having the entrance midway helps improve the security.
Although isolated incidents do happen in Guatemala, I wouldn’t worry much about hiking Laguna Chicabal without a tour.
We still recommend purchasing travel insurance before any trip to Guatemala though. We’ve been using World Nomads through 80+ countries over the past 12 years and have been really happy with their coverage and services.
For more details check out our World Nomads review here.
***The Final Word – There really is no reason to hike to Laguna Chicabal, unless you have a lot of spare time. ***
Visited August 2016
Updated January 2020