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An update from Evaneos

Quetzaltenango (Guatemala)

Practical information about Quetzaltenango

  • Spa and massage
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  • Place or Historical Monument
4 / 5 - One review
How to get there
3 and a half hours (or 4 depending on traffic) by bus from the capital
When to go
Throughout the year, ideally between April and November
Minimum stay
1 to 2 days

Reviews of Quetzaltenango

Travel writer
30 travel articles

The most captivating town in Guatemala, "my" town.

My suggestion:
As far as possible, make this place your base camp for at least one month.

Less touristy than Antigua or Lake Atitlán, Quetzaltenango (commonly known as Xela - which is pronounced chehla ) is a particularly lovely town to live in and an ideal base to discover Guatemala and visit this western region.

Its historic centre has a myriad of colonial houses and neoclassical buildings built at the command of the dictator Ernesto Cabrera (1898-1920), native to the town.

Anybody travelling to Guatemala for a short period of time (3 weeks) would win out by visiting this town and staying there for 2 days. You've got to wander the streets, the markets (especially the central market, the Democracia and the Terminal markets), see its city theatre and its inescapable Central America Square, one of the most charming parks in the country (more commonly known as "the park" or "central park") lined with beautiful buildings, the Enriquez passage where you can find many particularly lively bars and restaurants on the weekend, as well as the façade of one of the oldest cathedrals in the country.

Quetzaltenango has good restaurants, a beautiful cemetery which is still interesting despite the vandalism (bits of statues and iron rods have been stolen), and which you must visit during full moon nights (guided tour by a local guide), a "natural history museum" which has just been renovated after having been for a long time a potential candidate for the worst museum in the world...whereas the museum of traditional dress, in zone 3, is unmissable for anyone who can understand Spanish: the guides (all are volunteers) make recounting the history and the techniques of the country's traditional dress a pleasure.

Xela is also the perfect base for visiting the surrounding areas: Cerro Quemado of Almolonga, Fuentes Georginas and Zunil, the volcanoes Santa María and Santiaguito, lagune de Chicaba, then the neighbouring counties of Retalhuleu, Huehuetenango and Totonicapán which are abundant with natural wonders often unknown even among the natives.

A view of the sunset from the façade of the baroque cathedral of the Holy Spirit, the only part that remains of the original, some metres in front of the new cathedral
The martyrs arch from the 1897 revolution, at the entrance of the town, commemorating an uprising that was suppressed by the caudillo Reyna Barrios