Legends of the Crater Lake in the Clouds

Costa Rican folklore is rich with stories about the lakes that sometimes form in the ancient craters of volcanoes.  Some tell of alien spaceships seen rising from the depths.   There are Pre-Columbian legends of child sacrifices to appease the wrath of great serpent gods living in the sacred lands surrounding the Poas and Barva volcanoes.

Phineas, Fiona and Carlos gaze at the lush walls surrounding the crater lake.

According to one legend, greed and broken promises formed the Laguna Barva, the crater lake of the Barva volcano.  Two Spanish conquistadors lost in the mountains found an abandoned treasure of Indian gold.

The weary travelers were sick and hungry.  Shortly after the discovery, one of them died.   But before he died, the conquistador asked his companion to promise to use the gold to build a church dedicated to the Virgin of Pilar  (the first vision of the Virgin Mary  to appear before the Spanish people).

Overcome by greed, the remaining conquistador decided to keep the gold.  He buried his friend, put the gold into a sack  and walked until he was tired.  Then he went to sleep.

When the man awoke, he was horrified to find himself back at the grave site he’d left the previous day.   He saw a woman sitting on a rock near his friend’s corpse.   He asked her why she wept.  She replied that his greed and lack of faith caused her sadness.  When he asked her name, she told him, “Pilar.”

He tried to convince her that he would build the church after all , but her weeping would not cease. Her tears created the Laguna Barva and the conquistador was doomed to remain at the lake forever.    The legend continues that if you spend the night on the shores of the lake, a vision of the promised church will appear out of the waters.


We saw no aliens, churches or snake gods.  We did see unique plants and animals found at over 9,500 feet in the cloud forest preserve.


The fungi couple greet the others at the party on the fallen tree.

Hiking at such high elevation is no joke.  We kept our pace slow, took many breaks and had plenty of snacks and water.  When visiting Barva it’s a good idea to dress in layers and bring a jacket.

Under a fern encrusted fallen tree on the trail to the observation tower above the crater.

It took us about 3 1/2 hours to reach the crater lake and return.  Several food vendors set up shop just outside of the gate and we treated ourselves to hot chocolate and coffee before leaving.

This park has fewer visitors than the more accessible volcanoes such as Poas or Irazu.  The road leading to Barva is very steep and much of it is unpaved.  Visitors either need a 4WD vehicle or should plan to park a few kilometers below the entrance and walk.  The fee for residents and citizens is 1,000 colones and tourists pay $15.  Overnight camping is permitted and campers must carry all their gear.

We still have 8 months left. . . maybe we’ll get a tent and see if the legend is true.

This land belongs to Costa Ricans – the dead, the living and those who have not been born.

2 thoughts on “Legends of the Crater Lake in the Clouds

  1. Sonja

    Delightful to see you there in CR! Can’t believe how the children have grown since I last saw them. So glad you all are having such a great, fun, learning, and enjoyable adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh yes, the Costa Ricans love their aliens. Whenever the lights flicker or electricity goes out, someone in my husbands family ‘s bound to blame the spaceships charging up at the volcanoes. Why not? Makes sense to me.


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