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Pasaje Enrique in Parque Central

Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela (pronounced SHAY-la) or Xelaju, is the second largest city in Guatemala. There are a number of attractions in town, and it's also a good base for exploring Guatemala's Western Highlands ("Los Altos"). Situated at the southwest of the country, the surrounding department has a variety of landscapes extending from the cold highlands to the warm Pacific coast. There are numerous volcanos, hot springs, valleys, mountains, rivers. The region provides a harvest of numerous products such as coffee, wheat, fruits and vegetables, and has sheep and cattle breeding.


The city of Quetzaltenango, the capital and largest city of the department of the same name, is situated on an extensive plain and surrounded by hills and volcanoes. The city of Quetzaltenango conserves the old K'iche' Maya traditions and the colonial past, while maintaining the dynamism of modern life.

The city's roots go back to the Pre-Columbian Maya era. The Mam authority, called Kulahá, reached its most important expansion. The K'iche' lords later conquered the area, and founded the city of Xelajú here, moving it from a previous location at the base of the volcano Santa Maria.

The city was already some 300 years old when Spanish Conquistadors came to conquer Guatemala in the early 1500s. Their native allies the Nahuas from Central Mexico called the city "Quetzaltenango", meaning "the place of the Quetzal bird" in the Nahua language. The Spanish took the name from the Nahuas. It's still the city's official name, but locals are more apt to casually call it "Xela" from the ancient name of Xelajú.

It was the administrative capital of the Western Highland region in the Spanish Colonial period. With Central American independence from Spain in the 1820s it was part of the Central American Federation. Conflicts between the interests of Quetzaltenango and Guatemala City led to the creation of "Los Altos", the "Sixth State of the Central American Confederation", consisting of Western Guatemala (and a slice of what is now part of Chiapas Mexico) with Quetzaltenango as its capital. When the Central American Federation fell apart in 1839-1840, Los Altos was briefly a de-facto independent state, until the army of Guatemalan dictator Carrera brutally conquered the city and hung its leaders.

The city enjoyed prosperity with the boom in coffee production in the late 19th and start of the 20th century, when many of the city's "Belle Époque" style landmarks still seen were built. Plans for a railway to Quetzaltenango dated back to the 1890s, and construction was started in the 1920s and finally completed in 1930. The "Ferrocarril de los Altos" was proclaimed the engineering marvel of the age -- until it was destroyed by landslides in 1933. The fabled railroad is still remembered in local song and story, and there's a museum dedicated to it in town.

Quetzaltenango's prosperity declined from the Great Depression through the Guatemalan Civil War in the later 20th century, and for a time much of the city looked on the scruffy side. With the new millennium, however, better times are back. The old landmarks have been refurbished and new ones added, and the city is more beautiful and vibrant than ever.

Quetzaltecos are proud of their city, its distinct regional culture, and its rich heritage.

Get in[edit]

By car[edit]

Use the Panamerican Highway (CA-1) which crosses the Highlands or the International (CA-2), parallel to the Pacific Coast.

By bus[edit]

As with most cities in the country try to arrange to arrive well before dark since moving around in the city is more complicated and dangerous after dark.

  • From Guatemala City, chicken buses run frequently from the Trebol terminal to the Minerva terminal in Xela for Q35 (quetzales). More comfortable direct connections are offered by companies such as Galgos and Linea Dorada (US$9, 4½ hours, office in 16 Calle 10-03, Zona 1, Tel +502 2415-8900).
    • For 1st class buses to Guatemala City, Galgos has its terminal on Calle Rodolfo Robles, at the southern end of the La Democracia market district in Zona 3, at the end of 18 Avenida. Alamo also has its office in Zona 3, on 14 Avenida, near the corner with 5a Calle, a few blocks northeast of La Democracia.
  • From Antigua, take a chicken bus from the terminal in Antigua to Chimaltenango for Q5. Get off on the main road (under a massive concrete bridge,) walk one block west to catch one of the buses which go from Guatemala City to Xela, Q30.
  • From many villages around Lake Atitlán, buses go to Xela (from some infrequently, usually early in the morning.) A frequent service goes from Panajachel to Sololá and from there to Los Encuentros. There you can hop on one of the frequent buses from Guatemala City to Xela. Make sure to get to Los Encuentros well before dusk since no buses pass by after a certain hour and it is not a very pleasant place to spend the night.
  • From San Cristóbal in Mexico (as a tourist hotspot well connected to many places in the country) inexpensive shuttles go to Xela several times a day. They usually go to Antigua but stop on the way there in Xela. Alternatively you can get on a micro to Comitán, take a micro from there to the border at La Mesilla, get on a chicken bus to Huehuetenango, and from there to Xela.
  • From Tapachula in Mexico, micros run frequently to the border between Ciudad Hidalgo and Tecún Umán from where there are frequent buses until the early afternoon to Coatepeque and from there chicken buses (Q18) to Xela. As the service on both connections in Guatemala terminates relatively early in the afternoon, you should try to leave early in Tapachula.

Get around[edit]

Local buses[edit]

For travel around the countryside, the local buses are very reasonable. They can be entertaining and, at times, quite crowded. Do not plan on carrying much luggage with you on these: some buses have backpack storage above the seats, but most of the time you must store bags that do not fit on your lap on the top of the bus. While they are generally safe up there, they are at risk for weather.

These second-class buses will leave at regular times, but if you load your things on the bus, do not get off as the driver may leave without warning.

These buses at the main terminal do make other stops prior to leaving town (7th Street and 16th Avenue, for example).

  • Panajachel - 11AM. This is the bus to the lake. Q30-35 for this trip. Otherwise take any bus to Guatemala City, and change at La Cuchilla (and possibly again in Sololá).
  • San Pedro La Laguna - 11:30, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 16:00 & 17:30
  • San Marcos - 04:00-20:00 Frequent
  • Cantel & Zunil - 06:00-19:00 Frequent buses
  • Huehuetenango - 04:00-18:00 Frequent.
  • La Mesilla border with Mexico at 07:00, 08:00, 10:00, 14:15
  • Retalhuleu & Champerico - 04:30-19:30
  • Santa Cruz del Quiché - Leaves hourly, 08:00-16:30


The city has grown enormously in the 2000s. Minibus routes thread through all parts of the city and, although cramped, cost only Q1.25. The bus costs the same but is slower and less frequent.

When using the minibus to get to Pradera (the large mall with a movie theatre and a supermarket) walk a couple of blocks away from central park and at the side of Pasaje Enriquez to catch the van. The guy will call "Hiper Hiper Hiper" and it is Q1.25 in the day and Q3 at night. This same van also drops you at La Democracia Market Utz Ulew Mall and Montblanc Mall (a slightly smaller mall which also has a supermarket).

This is also the van that you catch to get to the Chicken Bus terminal that takes you to Antigua or Panajachel. Most people tell you to get off at the Roman Columns-Minerva Terminal. You can ask someone where the bus station is or just walk north for 4-5 blocks or you can get down at Pradera and walk along side to the east again 4 or 5 blocks until you reach the bus terminal (exert caution).


Taxis are relatively common around the city, especially around nightlife hot spots. At night, it is not safe to walk around, so taxis are highly recommended, especially if you are by yourself. Catch a taxi on a public square rather than on one of the side streets and note its number. Negotiate the cost of the ride before you leave. If the driver seems sketchy to you, make a reasonable excuse and do not take it, also that is the most safe way to get around especially to catch a bus to Antigua or any other place if you carr a big backpack.


  • Market (La Democracia). The main market in the city is in Zona 3, covering various city blocks around the covered market, with an enormous variety of produce at cheaper prices than in formal shops (often for identical products). The covered market itself occupies the block between 15 Avenida and 16 Avenida, and 2 and 3 Calle, Zona 3. Fresh meat is sold inside the covered market, fruit and vegetables outside. Clothes, shoes, and toys are mostly sold outside. Many buses and microbuses pass the market, usually breviated to "La Demo". On the north side of the market is the attractive Parque Benito Juárez, with the San Nicolás Church on its east side.

Historical center[edit]

The town conserves traces of the colonial period in its streets and avenues. The classical, neoclassical and Italian renaissance styles are evident in the buildings and the houses which have been built during the past century and the beginning of the 20th, with volcanic stones by artistic "Quetzalteco" masons. Some examples of architectural styles:

  • Espiritu Santo Cathedral consists of two structures. The "Espiritu Santo" parish's ancient facade (1535/1896) and to the back the "Diócesis de los Altos" (1899).
  • The Municipal Theatre is a very important Neoclassical work.
  • The Central America park (known as "Parque Central): Situated in the old centre of the town is also centre of cultural activities and amusements.
  • The Enrique Passage: commercial building from 1900 facing the central park.
  • Gobernacion: one block from the central park.
  • Municipal Palace: overlooking the park on the east side.
  • Central market: one block below the cathedral, with a number of handicraft shops selling souvenirs, and with food and drink available below.
  • Natural History Museum A small local museum on the south side of the park, with a collection of curiosities including a few Maya archaeological finds (mostly ceramics).
  • The Cerro del Baúl, where one can have a beautiful view of Quetzaltenango's valley, day or night (accessible by foot, car or taxi).

Cultural activities[edit]

  • Occidental Cultural Centre (La Casa de la Cultura de Occidente)
  • Alliance Française de Quetzaltenango, numerous activities are scheduled all year.
  • Artisans' market: The first Sunday of each month, the "Quetzaltecos" install the artisans' market in the central park where handcrafts from Quetzaltenago and surrounding villages are displayed.
  • Annual fair and festival: September 12-18


  • Study Spanish. Quetzaltenango is well known for its Spanish schools, with a great many available, concentrated in the historic centre of the city. Classes are given on a 1:1 basis, usually with study in the morning and tourist activities in the afternoon, and accommodation provided with a local family.
  • La Pradera (Hiper). Shopping mall with multi-screen cinema that screens the latest Hollywood releases, usually dubbed in Spanish, but occasionally subtitled.


There are hundreds of volunteer opportunities with organizations and groups in and around Xela, ranging from one-day projects to long-term placements.

Many of the schools listed above offer opportunities for their students. For other volunteer opportunities, see this list:


Fuentes Georginas hot springs near Zunil

Xela is well known for its abundance of volcanoes, mountains, and hot springs.

  • A number of different Tour operators among them Adrenalina Tours organizes daily shuttles to the Fuentes Georginas hot springs in the town of Zunil, to areas for hiking and trekking, cultural tours in indigenous villages, walking city tours, or to the tours of the cemetery and beer factory. There are also shuttles to and from most places in Guatemala, and Tapachula and San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico, or Copán Ruinas in Honduras. This service is equipped (in the case of Adrenalina Tours and some others) with its own vehicles, bilingual drivers, and certified guides. Offices for all of them are located around Central Park and Adrenalina Tours on the west side of the central park, on Pasaje Enriquez. Information:
  • Caminando Guatemala Specialized tour operator for treks and hikes, on the third floor above Adrenalina. They organize daily hikes to the local volcanoes of Santa Maria, Chicabal, and Santiaguito. They can also arrange multi-day expeditions.
  • Quetzaltrekkers offers trips to local natural wonders at reasonable prices, and extended treks to Lago de Atitlan and the Cuchumatanes. All guides are either foreign volunteers or local Guatemalans. All profits go towards La Escuela de la Calle, a school in the poorest neighborhood of Xela.
  • 1 Mayan Gateway, 13 calle 32-23 zona 3 Quetzaltenango, +502 77669275, . 09:00-17:00. Mayan Gateway: local tour operator for tours and hikes to the volcanoes and mountains close by. They also offer shuttles service throughout the country.


The salsa, Bachata scene is very active in Xela. Lessons are cheap and there are lots of clubs.


Xela is an excellent place to take language lessons (both Spanish and some of the Mayan languages specific to the area). There are various schools and NGOs in the city most offer rates based on one week of instruction (approx. 5 hours per day). Some schools offer volunteer opportunities for an additional cost while others offer it for free. Most also offer home stay options, which is an excellent way to make sure you keep practicing at all times. One of the best reasons to learn in Xela is the price. You can expect to pay about US$140-160 per week including home stay. This often includes internet access at the school. Arrangements can be made ahead of time or upon arrival (most schools have multilingual administrators who can help make arrangements via email or phone - some even offer airport pick up from Guatemala City).


There are many opportunities to buy goods in Xela. Mayans will approach you, especially in parks, about selling purses, bags and blankets in the local styles. Markets occur regularly in and around Xela. Remember to negotiate prices-- walking away is often a good way to get the price down a bit.

During the monthly market at the Parque Central on the first Sunday of the month, a row of vendor booths is set up in front of the Municipal building & Catholic Cathedral (east side of the park) with vendors mainly selling local products. Showing interest & walking away typically elicits price offers at around half of the original quote. For example: my wife decided against a Mayan tablecloth that was originally quoted at Q250 (a reasonable price) and the vendor's wife proceeded to follow us around the park for a while coming down to Q100 eventually before accepting that my wife simply had decided not to purchase at any price.


  • Churrasquería Cajola This place is bare bones, dirt cheap, and delicious. You can get carne asada, with tortillas, beans, and cabbage for 10 quetzales (USD $1.25). A soft drink will cost another 4 or 5 quetzales. Located just east of Cervecería Nacional, next to the small roundabout.
  • Sabor de La India A great Indian meal from Q40 to 70, plus drink. Address is 15 Avenida 3-64, Zona 1, next to Vrisa Bookstore
  • Comida Taiwanesa Their specialty is the Taiwanese empanada which is entirely vegetarian. They're Q3.00 a piece and two will make a decent size snack. They also sell soy milk and snow cones with all kinds of toppings. Located south of the Parque Central on 8a calle between 8a avenida and 9a avenida.
  • Café Museo La Luna has the best hot chocolate (spicy!), and decent food (some original takes on local ingredients & dishes) too. They are closed on Sunday. They are located off the east side of central park on 8a Av between 4a and 5a Calle. Around the corner on 4a Calle, is Bajo la Luna that has an excellent wine selection (seriously) and cheese plates.
  • La Red Kat is located in Zona 1 on 3a Calle just west of 15a Av. and has delicious coffee, excellent salads (spinach - no iceberg lettuce thankfully), sandwiches, pasta, soups, tipico meals, and wine for only 15Q a glass. They are closed on Sunday.
  • El Cuartito Cafe is located at the intersection of 7 Calle 7 & 13 Avenida, Zone 1, a block from the SW corner of Parque Central, across from the supermarket La Despensa Familiar. Open daily 8AM-11PM. This cozy & trendy modern-art-decorated cafe serves amazing coffee drinks (Q10-23 using 100% organic & fair-trade Xela cooperative produced coffee), teas (Q15-20), hot chocolate (Q12-17), alcoholic (mojitos - Q20; wine - Q16; commercial beer - Q15; artisan beer - Q30; Irish coffee - Q200), excellent pastries, breakfast plates (Q20-35), and great snacks (chips & salsa - Q15, nachos - Q25, quesadilla - Q20). Free Wi-Fi. Live music often.
  • Restaurant y Mirador Panorama, 13 Avenida A, D16-44, Zona 1, +502 5319-3536, +502 7765-8580. Tu-F 17:00-23:00, Sa Su 13:00-23:00. Amazing view overlooking central Xela (beside Iglesia Monte Sinai). Sit outside on the lawn as you gaze across the Quetzaltenango valley at the mountains all around. Excellent for celebrating an occasion or impressing that special someone. Specializing in Swiss cuisine and serving delicious fondues, raclette, sandwiches, pizzas, hamburgers & more. Q25-110.
  • Baviera Cafe, 5a Calle 13-14, Zona 1 (1 block west of central park), +502 78799958. 07:00-20:30. This charming cafe/restaurant offers tables, a lounge/sofa area, flat-screen TV showing sporting events. Serves wonderful teas (from Q6), locally sourced & roasted coffee drinks (from Q8), hot chocolate (from Q12), milk shakes (from Q20), juices/horchata/sodas/beers (from Q10) as well as soups (from Q20), sandwiches (from Q25), salads (from Q25), pastries (from Q20), snacks (from Q8), and breakfasts (from Q20). Free Wi-Fi internet to paying customers (passcode=11111aaaaa). There are also 3 other locations in Xela.


Don't drink the tap water. Some hostels will have a water filter, which many drink from, and it seems to be safe. Otherwise, drink purified water (agua pura).

Cabro, which some consider one of the best beers in the world, is made locally in Quetzaltenango. Another local beer, Gallo, is more like the Bud Lite of Guatemala -- bland, available everywhere, and sponsoring everything.

If you like dark beer, try the Moza, another local beer, it's some people's favorite. Shop at the liquor store and return Moza bottles for credit but not all bottles will receive a 1 Q credit.

  • El Cuartito Cafe is located at the intersection of 7 Calle 7 & 13 Avenida, Zone 1, a block from the SW corner of Parque Central, across from the supermarket La Despensa Familiar. This cozy & trendy modern-art-decorated cafe serves amazing coffee drinks (Q10-23 using 100% organic & fair-trade Xela cooperative produced coffee), teas (Q15-20), hot chocolate (Q12-17), and many alcoholic beverages (mojitos - Q20; wine - Q16; commercial beer - Q15; several styles of artisan beer - Q30; Irish coffee - Q200). Free Wi-Fi. Open daily 8AM-11PM. Live music often.
  • Baviera Cafe, 5a Calle 13-14, Zona 1 (1 block west of central park), +502 78799958. 07:00-20:30. This charming cafe/restaurant offers tables, a lounge/sofa area, flat-screen TV showing sporting events. Serves wonderful teas (from Q6), locally sourced & roasted coffee drinks (from Q8), hot chocolate (from Q12), milk shakes (from Q20), juices/horchata/sodas/beers (from Q10) and food (see "Eat" section). Free Wi-Fi internet to paying customers (passcode=11111aaaaa). There are also 3 other locations in Xela.


Quetzaltenango has a variety of accommodations for a variety of budgets, though world travelers will find the prices and facilities in the "high end" accommodations more like that of mid-range places in larger world cities. It is best to always ask to see your room before moving in to it; whether budget or more pricey, some rooms in the same place can often be much better or worse than others. At cheaper places don't expect hot water or heat unless you ask for it; in some the "heat" may be wood to put in a fireplace that you have to order and pay for by the bundle.


  • Casa Argentina, Diagonal 12 8-37. Friendly and central, very close to a small fruit and vegetable market. Home of Quetzaltrekkers, a non-profit trekking company. It has a wi-fi (or use their computer), kitchen (a bit dirty and run down), hot water (use the top one - hottest, and it's solar (?)). Q25 for a Dorm room, Q35 for a single room. If you are going to be in Xela by the week tell Leanora when you pay-May 2010-there is a weekly rate at least for the private room with bath. Some find this a great kicked back place, but do check your mattress for signs of bed bugs.
  • Casa Doña Mercedes, +502 5687-3305, . is off to the southeast corner of central parque at the corner of 6a Calle and 14 Av. The rooms run US$11/night for the shared room, $70/week for a private room (both with shared bath), and $110/week for a private room/bath. The private baths hot water coming from a water heater. There is a sun room, kitchen, TV in the rooms, and the staff cleans your room every day. Also, they will do your laundry for 30Q/load.
  • Hotel Casa del Viajero (, 8 av. 9-17 zona 1, +502 77614594, +502 77615297. Well-known colonial style traveler's home located in the historic center, a few blocks from Central Park. Offers: rooms with private bath, hot water, cable TV, Wi-Fi, breakfast and dinner, parking, Event room. Prices start at Q75 per person in single, double or triple rooms. US$10+.


  • Hotel Pension Bonifáz, 4a. Calle 10-50 Zona 1 (Just off the Central Square), +502 761 4241. One of Xela's top hotels since 1935. Convenient location; offers parking for those who came with a car. On the pricey side for Quetzaltenango. Even if you decide to stay somewhere cheaper, you may wish to stop by the fashionable bar and restaurant for a meal or a cocktail.
  • 1 Hotel Modelo, 14 Ave A 2-31 zone 1, +502 77612529. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Owned and operated by the same family for over 100 year the Hotel Modelo offers old world charm in the heart of Quetzaltenango. US$30 up.
  • Casa Xelajú, Callejón 15, Diagonal 13-02, Zona 1, . Offers two-story house for rent and 10 apartments with big windows where you can see the city, mountains and volcanoes. They are completely furnished including central heated water, washing machine, a dining room, living room, full kitchen and three bedrooms/one bedroom, two bedrooms and balconies. Located five minutes walking distance from the Central Park, in the Historic Center of the City. Free unlimited high speed Wifi, 24/7 US$35/day for the house which include three bedrooms.
  • Guesthouse El Puente, 6a Calle 14-55 Zona 1 ( [dead link]), +502 7761-4342. Located in the rear part of the main Celas Maya Spanish school building/facility, a small hostel used primarily for student residency. Each room accommodates 1-3 guests. Kitchen is shared and fully equipped. Beautiful private sunny garden. 4 ample sized rooms, 1 with private bathroom (Q65/day or Q1650/month) & the other 3 with a shared full service bathroom (Q50/day or Q1350/month)..


  • Casa San Bartolomé, B&B, 2da ave. 7-17 zona 1, Barrio San Bartolomé (one block from Parque Bolívar, take 6ta, Calle from Parque Central), +502 7761-9511, . A quiet, clean and comfortable bed & breakfast with very nice gardens. The hotel has six bedrooms and two equipped and furnished apartments, all with private bathrooms and enough hot water. Rates include full breakfasts to select from a six options menu. Special rates for longer stays. Free Wi-Fi. Q205-350.
  • Hotel El Centro, 10 calle 11-69 zona 1, +502 77631357, +502 77650620. 3 blocks from Central Park with 24-hr reception. Rooms have hot water, cable, wi-fi internet & free parking. Towels & bed linens included. Visa cards accepted. From Q130 per person, breakfast included. Children under 5 are free..
  • Casa Latina, Diagonal 12, 6-58, Zona 1, +502 5613-7222. beautiful, new guesthouse, just a few minutes walk to Parque Central and bars/restaurants. Las Flores market is across the street! Casa Latina has a friendly, home-like atmosphere. 2 floors, each with 4 rooms. Both floors have bathroom, kitchen, living room & balcony. Spanish School Sol Latino is just a stone’s throw away, Includes wi-fi internet access, parking, bed linens, smoking area, & travel info. Available services include laundry & airport transport. Per night: US$7 for 1 person or $10 for 2 people, per week: $35 for 1 person or $48 for 2 people, or per 4 weeks: $122 for 1 person or $173 for 2 people. $30 deposit per room (returned at checkout if room in good condition).
  • 7 Orejas Hostal, 2a. Calle 16-92 zona 1, +502 7768-3218, +502 5207-3006. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. A quiet & friendly environment in a cozy atmosphere with rooms decorated in Guatemalan style. Located in the historic district with easy access to cafes, discotheques, bars, travel agencies, Spanish schools, et al. Wireless Internet, Cable TV, private bathrooms, security storage (bring your own lock), linens & towels, reading light, luggage storage, free continental breakfast, free coffee, tea & drinking water all day, 24 hours reception, Parking with reservation. Restrictions: No pets, no smoking, no drugs, no visitors in rooms. Dorm bed (8 available) - Q65/US$9 pp. Single room - Q150/$20 (weekly - Q840/$112, biweekly - Q1400/$187, monthly - Q2550/$340). Double room - Q230/$31 (weekly - Q1295/$173, biweekly - Q2170/$290, monthly - Q3900/$520. Triple room - Q285/$38 (weekly - Q1690/$225, biweekly - Q2800/$374, monthly - Q5100/$680).
  • Kiktem-Ja, 13 Av 7-18 | Zona 1, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (across from Cuartido about 2 blocks from Parque Central). Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. Clean and comfortable. You may be able to get a discount if you stay a while. The location is unbeatable -- two blocks from Parque Central. Hot showers with good pressure and televisions in the room with both Espanol and English channels. Q160.


Internet cafes[edit]

There are dozens of Internet cafes in Xela and free wifi hot spots.

  • Xela Pages - Computer time rental, printing, scanning, cd/DVD burning, fax service, Skype booth with mic and camera. Price from US$0.40 cent/hour up to $1.25/hour - in front of Parque El Calvario 4ta Calle 19-48, Zona 1
  • Alternativas Computer time rental, printing & scanning, Price from $0.50 cent/hour up to $1.50/hour. In front of Parque Benito Juarez - Zona 3

Stay safe[edit]



Go next[edit]

It may be possible to arrange a tour of the Gallo brewery by calling ahead.

You can spend hours in and around the Mercado de la Democracia in the commercial center of Xela. It is where the locals shop for most of their needs.

Any concert is worth attending in the Municipal Theater. It is beautiful inside.

Evening marimba concerts are often given on the steps of the Municipalidad on the west side of Parque Centro America.

Walk around town. In the side streets, you'll often come upon a master giving guitar lessons or a group of men practicing Marimba.

Go to a football game: Xelaju M. C. vs anyone. The crowd is animated and the fireworks alone can be worth the price of admission. Don't pay extra for the high priced seats, they remove you from much of the fun. Try to sit in the corner near the band. A "Xelaju M. C." flag to wave costs Q10. Grilled sausages are less. No alcohol permitted in the stadium.

Fireworks! If it's your birthday, or you just feel like it, spend a couple of Quetzals for a big string of firecrackers. You'll normally hear them any evening or early morning. Bring your ear plugs: they usually sound off about 04:00. They are called God Bombs and are used to wake God so He will hear your prayer. It definitely wakes the dogs who bark till the roosters wake and cock-a-doodle-doo until they figure out it is not dawn. Ear plugs.

Weekend nights are also an option, you will find night clubs in all the center, from the Central Park, to the Theatre, for Q30 you can get in anywhere and drink something. Also in some seasons the "14A" is closed to the traffic because of some music festival, concerts, street art exhibitions etc.


  • Zunil is 9 km from Quetzaltenango. Monday is market day. Located on the Samala river and on the main highway leading down the coast, Zunil's people wear attractive clothes made by hand using traditional techniques featuring intricate designs and bright colors. This picturesque town is the center for the worship of "Maximon" or "San Simon" a life-sized mannequin endowed with occult power: Just 8 km from town on the slopes of the inactive Zunil volcano would have found the beautiful "Fuentes Georginas" thermal springs, equipped with restaurant and bungalows.
  • Fuentes Georginas have a dual admission policy charging foreigners twice what they charge locals. The restaurant closes at 18:30 and doesn't serve anything but huevos (eggs) and meager salads after 18:00. The accommodations are rather spartan by any standards but is downright ridiculous for the Q320/night. However, the room rate includes admission to the pools for two days. It is recommended to take the bus into Zunil early and spend the day at the springs, heading back home at sundown. Admission to the pools for tourists is Q50/day.


The "Quetzaltecos" villages of Quiche and Mam origins, have small places with impressive colonial style churches where the tourist will see the regional handcrafts displayed on market days.

  • Salcajá: 9 km from Quetzaltenango. Market day: Tuesday. local festival on 25 August. Here was constructed the church of San Jacinto, the first of the religious constructions of the region and a beautiful example of colonial architecture. Also famous for its hand-woven "jaspe" materials and unique alcoholic beverages known as "caldo de fruta" " and "rompopo" .
  • San Juan Ostuncalco 12 km from Quetzaltenango. Situated in a valley of the mountainous region, it is the commercial centre for the Mam-speaking villages which border the department. Here you may acquire musicals instruments, wicker furniture as well as lovely hand woven materials.
  • Almolonga 5 km from Quetzaltenango. Market on Wednesday and Saturday. Annual festival 26-29 June. Known for its variety of vegetables which are cultivated on the smell farms which surround the village. You will also enjoy thermal springs such as "Las aguas amargas" and "El rosario" .
  • Cantel 10 km from Quetzaltenango. Visit the interesting cooperative for handmade blown glass. Chojolom, a small K'iche' archaeological site is located on a hill just outside the village. For a guide, ask at the Municipal offices, in a temporary location in a sidestreet to the right of the Catholic church. K'iaqbal is another small archaeological site with a couple of sculpted stones, on a hilltop past the new General Cemetery.
  • Olintepeque : 7 km from Quetzaltenango. The place where according to legend, the famous Maya-Quiche prince Tecún Uman died in battle against Pedro de Alvarado in 1524.
  • San Andres Xecul : 7 km from Quetzaltenango, in the direction of the "Cuatro Caminos" highway junction, with a colonial-style whose facade is both colorful and picturesque.
  • Volcán Santa Maria, 12,256 feet & Santiaguito. The summit of the Santa Maria Volcano lies at the end of the steep 3-4 hours climb from the village of Llanos del Pinal (located 6 km away from Quetzaltenango). You'll best enjoy the truly awesome view during the clearer weather of the early morning hours. The whole coastal plain lies at your feet, along with the cities of Quetzaltenago and Tapachula, Mexico. You can look down into the very active Santiaguito crater which erupts at least once every hour. You can still enjoy the view minus the ragged hike by driving to the top of the adjacent Siete Orejas Volcano. (10,384 feet above sea level). To get there, grab a chicken bus for 3 GTQ (Jan 2023) at triangle in front of Iglesia del Calvario, and drop off almost at the end of Llanos del Pinal which is about 100-200 meters from the trailhead, then just follow the track on Organic Maps app or OsmAnd app. On the trail forks, quite often there are markings where to follow.
  • La laguna de Chicabal, 3 hours by foot from the village of San Martin Sacatepequez (also known as Chile Verde) (14 km from Quetzaltenango). At this very picturesque crater lake, the sorcerers of the whole region meet on the 3rd of may.

The High Country[edit]

  • Totonicapan Near Quetzaltenango, you have to visit the principal town Totonicapan (in the department of the same name). Known for its hand woven textiles and its potteries, and production of wooden masks for traditional dances.
  • San Francisco El Alto Friday this is the site of the Central America's largest market. If you can buy it in Guatemala, you can buy it here, although there is very little aimed specifically at tourists. If you can, drop by the cathedral and see if someone will take you up on the roof for a bird's-eye view of what's going on.

If you go here be on the look out for pick pockets. Also if you have a camera keep it in your hand since a swish of the knife will cut a strap and you will not even know it till you start to take a photo.

Toward the Coast[edit]

Pacific Beach[edit]

This city travel guide to Quetzaltenango is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.