The Sad Story of the Not-So-Touristy Crater La Alberca

When I learned about Las Siete Luminarias, I only knew one of the seven craters was a tourist attraction. I did not know if any other were accessible. As we arrived at our second crater visit, Crater La Alberca, my husband turned to me and said, “Please don’t make it a goal to visit all seven craters.”

I assured him it was not on my “list” (bucket or otherwise), but damn him, he sparked a desire. I now (kind of) want to visit all of them, especially after hearing the sad story of the Crater La Alberca and seeing the place for myself. La Alberca is located in Valle de Santiago, Guanajuato, Mexico.

a beautiful light brown siamese cat, with shockingly blue eyes, sits on a cement area that used to be the water's edge

This beautiful cat must live at the Crater La Alberca.

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What is the Crater La Alberca?

It’s one of the famous seven luminaries, called Las Siete Luminarias (the most famous of which is El Rincon de Parangueo and the one to which I want to return). However, when our friends asked if we’d like to visit another nearby crater, we answered yes. Again, it was a little difficult to find, but this crater had a parking lot. An empty parking lot. There was one vendor at the top of the stairs, selling jicama and postcards.

a close up of the white and light tan siamese cat with blue eyes.

This cat, though. How beautiful!

We headed down the stairs. There are many steps, but it still is easier than trying to climb this one. At the bottom of the stairs was one additional vendor, a candy shop and there was a teen handling the sales. There was a kind-of pretty and kind-of run-down cement deck to one side. To the other, there were built in, blue metal, graffiti covered picnic tables. The green growth was starting to encroach upon the space. The place gave me the same feeling that I get when I look at pictures of abandoned amusement parks.

A boy (probably the brother of the teen running the candy shop) gave my kids some gummi worms and we did end up buying a cupful (3 worms for 1 peso, so I bought a couple pesos worth). Our group were the only visitors at the time.

a picture of a postcard and on it is an old picture of when the crater was filled with water. In this picture, the water is a reddish pink color (likely caused by algae)

I bought a postcard with a vintage picture of the crater.

So, what’s the story? What’s so sad?

Crater La Alberca used to be filled with water. Now, it is completely empty! It looked like there was a little mud at the bottom, but that’s all the moisture that remains. And when I say this crater was filled with water, it was recently filled with water.  As recently as 15 years ago. I purchased postcards of how it used to look and these photos look like they are much older.

My research is limited, as I am using translations of various sites to try and piece together the story. It is still listed as the most visited of the Seven Luminaries. There were legends surrounding it, such as that it was bottomless and housed a monster much like Loch Ness’s Nessie. It was said that the water turned bright red right before the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City.

Two more postcards with vintage pictures. The top shows the locations of 9 of the 16 craters. The bottom shows the crater's lake with green water.

More vintage photographs

Much like the other crater we visited, you can venture down into this one. You’ll be facing a narrow, somewhat steep trail, that has you traveling through a lot of brush. It is for a braver adventurer than I, especially after spending several hours outside already. Should you choose to visit this one, it may be worthwhile to bring your bugspray, sunscreen, jeans, and boots and do some hiking. I don’t know that I’ll return, but Crater La Alberca is certainly intriguing. It’s like a sad, homely puppy that you want to scoop into your arms and offer some hugs.

The Crater La Alberca today. It's empty of water and full of green plants.

This is the crater as it looks now.

Should You Go to Crater La Alberca?

Well… I really want to say yes for a few reasons, but I’m going to leave this one up to you. Since it’s virtually abandoned, there is a risk of crime happening there. There isn’t any type of security at the crater. I don’t recommend going there alone or even in a small group (this news story is a big reason why). The reasons I want to say yes are because visiting gives you this crazy feeling of getting to see a lost jewel (and in fact, the crater lakes are called hoyas or jewels). You are seeing the bottom of the bottomless lake and you can see why people claim to have seen UFOs there or sea monsters. And while you’re here, you can throw some business to the locals who keep shop at the crater.

Have you ever been to an abandoned place? Was it creepy or cool?

 

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