This lake is within the extinct crater of Chicabal Volcano, at an altitude of 2712 meters

And this lake is the center of the Mam Maya cosmos.

Volcanic crater lake of Chicabal - sacred to the Mam Maya

Volcanic crater lake of Chicabal - sacred to the Mam Maya

The lake is 575 meters wide and 331 deep.

It takes 2 hours from the nearest village to hike there, surrounded by dense cloud-forest, mists usually blanketing the entire lake and volcano by mid-morning.

Morning vista of volcanoes from Volcano Chicabals peak

Morning vista of volcanoes from Volcano Chicabal's peak

A lucky clear morning view reveals three nearby volcanoes … including Santa Maria & the small, but active and regularly erupting Santiaguito Volcano.

Young Maya girl on the sacred shores of Lake Chicabal

Young Maya girl on the sacred shores of Lake Chicabal

The lake is so sacred that it is forbidden to wash, swim, or fish in its waters.

Legend has it that once some men fished there and were sucked under the waters to disappear forever …

Maya shrine at sacred Lake Chicabal

Maya shrine at sacred Lake Chicabal

This altar is a gateway to the underworld – a place of spirits beneath the volcanic crater waters.

When Maya go into the water to make such shrines that go only when tied / roped to someone else on the lakeshore … for safety.

maya altar at lake chicabal

maya altar at lake chicabal

Numerous altar areas – different places for blessings like better health, fertility or to forgive sins – circle the lake where Maya light fires and copal – pine gum incense, offer alcohol, candies and cookies to the spirits.