Iyake Suspended Lake – Ado Awaiye, Nigeria - Atlas Obscura

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Iyake Suspended Lake

Ado Awaiye, Nigeria

Ado Awaye Mountain and the unique lake that sits near its peak are shrouded in ancient legends. 


Ado-Awaye is an ancient site with no shortage of timeless wonder. Founded in 1500, the neighboring mountain communities Ado and Awaye were amalgamated over centuries into the single Ado-Awaye, once ruled over by the King of Ado, a disgraced crown prince from the larger Oyo kingdom.

Hiking the Ado Awaye mountain takes roughly three hours depending on speed. Most of the terrain shifts between rock and forest, beginning with rough steps carved into the mountain. En route to the top, travelers encounter numerous ancient sites. Oke Ishage, or Ishage Rock, is said to be the bringer of rain for Ado-Awaye. When rain is needed, a priest will visit the boulder-like rock and cover its bottom half with a white cloth to usher in rain. Some believe that those touching the rock while making a wish will see their wishes granted.

On the way up the mountain, hikers come across the Esè àwon Àgbà, Yoruba for “footprints of the gods.” Historians theorize these small footprint-sized holes were used for grinding stones several centuries ago, but mythology deems them evidence of walking deities.

Hikers who reach the mountain apex are rewarded by a view of Iyake lake, one of only two suspended lakes—defined as a lake on top of a mountain—in the world. Legend says that beneath Iyake lies another world, a parallel existence ruled over by a goddess of fertility who lives inside the lake.

The exact depth of Iyake is unknown, and legend says that none who enter the lake ever return. It’s rumored that if one puts their foot in the hole near the lake known as Agbómofúnyàké (Yoruba for “collects child and gives to iyake”) when it’s filled with water, the person will be dragged to the bottom. Not all mythology surrounding the lake is sinister though; it is said the lake’s water can cure ailments and disease when used to bathe.

Know Before You Go

Hiring a guide for the hike is highly recommended. Atabo David is known as the premier English-speaking guide and charges 1,000 Naira ($1.75 per adult and 200 ($0.35) Naira* per child. The entry fee for the mountain is 500 Naira ($0.87).

Visitors should plan to take a car from Ibadan or Abeokuta (both accessible by train from Lagos via the Ibadan-Lagos Railway, which charges fare based on your stop). Atabo David can recommend one of two motels for overnight guests, which charge between 3,000 and 5,000 Naira ($5.26 - $8.79) per room per night. No climbing accessories are required for the hike except for good shoes (closed toe, in case of snakes). Bring cash or plan to use a Nigerian bank card, as international card readers almost certainly won’t be available.

*Calculations using black market exchange rate of ~570 N / $1.00. Official rate is 410 N / $1.00, but continued inflation and devaluation of the Naira keep the black market rate fluctuating between 570 - 610 N / $1.00 as of November 10, 2021.

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