Quetzaltenango: Discovering the Magic of a Mayan Town in Guatemala

A week vacation to any place leaves you with regrets. You always feel you missed something – a popular destination or an activity from your bucket list.  Feeling sad and telling yourself, ” I’ll come back.”

Unfortunately, most of us do not have the luxury to spend three weeks to a month traveling in a country. I look forward to one week vacation and make the best of that week.

For one of those weeks,  I spent it in Guatemala and only visited  San Pedro in Lake Atitlan and Antigua. I enjoyed both places very much and hope to go back to see the rest of country. Though not anytime soon, because there are many countries left for me to explore.

In Honduras, I met Sylvie, a backpacker. She spends most of her life traveling the world, about seven years and more to go. My feelings: impressed, envious and inspired.

One of the places that she has visited – Quetzaltenango. And shared some of her beautiful pictures with me. I love them so much. I am featuring them on my blog.

A Mayan town, also known as Xela, its original K’iche’ Maya name. It is surrounded by several volcanoes and the second largest cities in Guatemala. The nice thing about Xela is its small-town feel.

Guatemala is very hot during the Summer.  You should know that Xela is one of the coolest cities in Central America and no mosquitoes.


QuetzaltenangoGuatemala has a rich indigenous culture and 60.57% of the Xela population is indigenous. To me, no comparison to most countries in Central America.  And the reason I fell in love with Guatemala. Near Xela, the busy markets and colorful traditional costumes and woven goods allow you to learn about the Maya people.

Xela is also a popular language hub, a great place to learn Spanish  and experience the Guatemalan life. Because of a large number of language students, you will have plenty company of friends.

A safe area and plenty of activities to keep you busy, Xela should be part of your Guatemala vacation itinerary.

Best months to visit, late September or early October, because of the Feria de la Virgen del Rosario Festival.

As a vegan, a popular dish I did not get a chance to taste is Pollo guisado. The recipe is available online.

How to get There

To get there, many mini-buses leave from Guatemala City.

Xela has lots to offer everyone: hiking, culture, entertainment, and arts.

Places to Hike

  • 3 Hour Walking Tour of Xela Quetzaltenango and its Historical Center
  • Fuentes Georginas Hot Springs from Quetzaltenango
  • Santa María Volcano Hike from Quetzaltenango
  • Santiaguito Volcano Hiking Tour from Quetzaltenango

For lodging, here is a list of hostels stay. The prices are reasonable.

Xela is not a popular town but can benefit from the tourist dollars. Most of the time, our money gets spent in the touristy areas, and never penetrates the towns that need it the most. I try to make a conscious effort to visit the least visited areas and leave with a much more meaningful experience.

Leave us comments on which unpopular small town(s) that you visited.

Happy reading,


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  1. As a keen hiker and nature lover, I would love to visit here and experience it first hand. Your description of Xela sounds so good and your photos are just superb. I hope to get here to see it for myself one day.

  2. I love the south america and you are so lucky for this adventure! The hike looks amazing and the pictures too! good job!

  3. What a place! Love your photos!

  4. Beautiful place, I have to visit Central America some day! The small town feel provide a more in depth cultural experience. Beautiful pictures!

  5. I don’t travel much but I definitely want to try out Xela, sounds like an interesting place. Loved the article. A lot of culture seems to reside there.

  6. Beautiful! I am still stuck on there being no mosquitoes!!! That alone would be a great reason to explore!

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