Laguna Chicabal Cross in Crater Lake

How to Get to Laguna Chicabal from Xela

In Guatemala, Hiking by Erik @ DIY Travel HQ11 Comments

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.

Xela hike to San Martin (Laguna Chicabal) Colectivo
Take the 6 am colectivo if you want to arrive before the clouds.

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.

Xela hike Laguna Chicabal Start
Start the Xela hike to Laguna Chicabal by heading left and down!

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.

Laguna Chicabal Direction Arrow Posts
Unless you aren’t paying attention, you can’t get lost – just follow the signs.

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).

View from Laguna Chicabal Hiking Trail
View looking back over San Martin Sacatepequez .

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.

Xela hike Laguna Chicabal Entrance
You’re half way there when you see the red roofs.

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 Hiking Loop Start
Start the hiking loop by visiting the mirador first.

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.

Xela hike Laguna Chicabal Mirador
There is no way of knowing you are looking at a volcanic crater lake.

Laguna Chicabal Crater Lake

From the mirador, keep following the path to the right and descend the countless stairs to the crater lake.

Laguna Chicabal Countless Stairs to Crater Lake
Countless stairs from the lookout to the crater lake.

In the early morning, the lake offers nice reflection pictures as the water is dead calm.

Xela hike Laguna Chicabal
Come early, and witness a mirror lake.

From a natural attraction perspective, Laguna Chicabal is an average lake that you can’t even swim in!

Laguna Chicabal No Swimming Sign
No swimming allowed!

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.

Laguna Chicabal Mayan Altars at Cardinal Points
I hope you brushed up on your Mayan hieroglyphs before hiking.

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.

Laguna Chicabal Altar and Flower Offerings Lakeside
The Guatemalan Highlands are a true mix of Christianity and Mayan Pagan beliefs.

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.

Laguna Chicabal Guatemalan Mayans Praying
I would assume locals would pray to the lake since the flowers lined the shore.

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.

Laguna Chicabal Lake Hike Loop Section
This is a much nicer walk compared to the countless stairs.

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 Avoid Entrance Fee
If you are lucky, you may not be asked to pay the entrance fee too!

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.

Laguna Chicabal School Children Playing with Hula Hoops
I guess Hula Hoops can be used that way too.

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.

Road to Laguna Chicabal
There’s enough traffic on the road in the morning to add security.

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.

Laguna Chicabal is an easy day trip from Xela, Guatemala - find out how to get there and if it really is one of the best Xela hikes #guatemala #centralamerica

***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

Comments

  1. Thanks for the post. We’re looking for something to do in Xela with the kids and this looks doable. Appreciate the details.

    1. Laguna Chicabal is easy to get to, and one of the more doable hikes for kids. Check out our post Xela: 5 Day Itinerary for other things to do. I would consider the weekly markets. San Francisco el Alto has a great animal market on Friday, Momostenango on Sunday combined with sandstone pinnacles, or Zunil for hot springs and finding the eccentric San Simon. Enjoy!

  2. Please take this down. Maybe somehow when it was written it was correct but now every peice of info on how to get there is wrong. I just waisted a whole day becose of your blog. The collectivo doesnt go from where you say and at the terminal you make it seem straight forward to just get on a bus but theres around 1000 leaving at any one time and every person out of the multitude i asked had not even heard of San Martin. Terrible day

    1. We are sorry you weren’t able to find the collectivo to go to Laguna Chicabal, but it was accurate at the time of our visit in August 2016. We’ve had several people email us after their visit this year that they were able to get there so it might have just changed. The main thing to look for is the Chile Verde collectivo marking indicating the route. San Martin is the small village just north of Laguna Chicabal. If you were able to get there another way, let us know so we can update the article for other readers.

      As we travel slowly, we usually scout out our transportation options the day before. I recall it took us awhile to find the correct collectivo route, which is what inspired us to write this article and provide the Chile Verde critical detail. I believe we used our phone with Maps.me to show the drivers where we wanted to go (Laguna Chicabal and nearest town San Martin).

  3. You should ignore previous poster Alfie. The collectivo still runs very frequently as described, although it was from 16th and 6th, so they might have moved a block.
    To make it even easier, the drop off in San Martin now has a huge sign pointing to the downhill road to start the hike.
    The whole trip, including transport to and from San Martin took me no more than 6 hours.
    Maybe usefull to add: the collectivo costs 7 quetzal and the entrance fee has been raised to 50 quetzal.

    1. Thank you for the confirmation, and helping other DIYers. I’ve updated the colectivo and entrance prices, but did not see a 16th and 6th nearby that made sense on the map.

  4. The bus stop is at 6a Calle and 15 Avenida in Zona 3, which is probably where the previous post went wrong.

  5. Thanks for the tips, I’m going to try to get there myself tomorrow

  6. This post was very helpful. Just took the colloctivo from 6a and 16 in Zone 3 to San Martin. Very easy to find bus stop.

    1. Thanks for the confirmation to Tim’s and Suerte’s suggested location change. I updated the post so it will be easier for everyone else. Thanks again.

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