Blogs from Quetzaltenango, Western Highlands, Guatemala, Central America Caribbean


Wed 21-Thur 22 November - Day 26 to 27 - Quetzaltenango At 9.00am we continued our journey towards the town of url= Ermita de la Concepcion (La Conquistadora) the oldest church in central America. This church was interesting to visit, both for the architecture and the remnant of the Spanish conquest of Guatemala. It is not as decorated, since it was not designed to teach the Mayans. In fact, it was reserved for the Spanish, who had set up a fort in Salcaja to control two important Mayan cities. The walls are very strong to prevent earthquake damage, so this church had never had to be repaired. We arrived at Quetzaltenango at around 12MD and checked into Hotel Mondelo. It was a beautiful, sp... read more
Cuatro Caminos in San Andres Xecul (2)
Cathederal  del Espiritu Santo Quetzaltenango Guatemala (2)
Thermal Hot Springs Quetzaltenango Guetemala (30)

Well we’ve made it across the border into Guatemala and to the city with the wonderful name of Quetzaltenango. It’s in the Highlands of Guatemala and is actually Guatemala's 2ndcity after Guatemala City, which we are going to do our best to avoid as it sounds terrible. Like many towns in Guatemala it has several names as there are several local (ie not Spanish) languages and is normally shortened.; conveniently it seems to be universally known as Xela. Xela is however a good place for a few days; not too touristy. It’s generally frequented by gringos learning Spanish as it’s a much cheaper and better (less people here speak English) place to do this than the main tourist towns. Compared to Mexico this area reminds be a lot of countries in South America and the indigenous ... read more

In Xela (short for Quetzaltenango) I stayed with couchsurfer Irving. The first night we went for a drink with 3 other couchsurfers, that stayed with a friend of his. We drank a Guatemalan sort of aguardiente called "Quezalteca". There are different flavours. I liked the one with tamarinda. The following day, Irving borrowed a pick-up and we went to "las Fuentes Georginas". This is a beautiful place in the mountains, about 45 minutes from Xela. Hot water, coming from the Zunil volcano, flows into the pools. It's cold at that altitude so you can see the steam coming from the pools. Everywhere you look there is green around and it seems like a secret place, although it is frequently visited by touists. It was absolutely beautiful. When we left, we found the car with a flat ... read more
Fuentes Georgina

Cruise ships have not stopped in Acapulco this year due to the dangerous drug cartel activity in the area. But it has been a bit quieter recently so the decision was made to proceed to Acapulco. Besides, the guests were getting restless after so many sea days. Bahia de Acapulco is one of the prettiest natural bays in the world. I was amazed by this beautiful bay back in 1966 on my first international flight with Braniff Airlines and have been back to visit many times since. After disembarking the ship, we were greeted by a local band. The Mariner docked in the shadow of El Fuerte de San Diego, the fortress built over 200 years ago to protect the settlement from pirates. It has now been turned into a fascinating museum which details the strong ... read more

Semuc Champey, Xela and some other nice places The first place I went to in Guatemala was the Maya site Tikal. Tikal is a spectacular place and I have decided to dedicate an entire blog entry to it. I will put that one up later on. Here in this the first blog from Guatemala I have collected photos I have taken in a few other places. First I am going to write a little about a small place called Semuc Champey. Semuc Champey is a popular tourist destination thanks to a series of natural pools located in a former riverbed. At some time the river found its way through cracks in the rock. The cracks grew wider and wider and eventually became a cave. More and more water flowed through the cave which made it grow ... read more
Sunrise over Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey

Distance driven today: 165 miles / 266 km Cumulative distance driven: 6,292 miles / 10,126 km Today’s trip: San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico to Huehuetenango, Guatemala Border crossings: 1 In the morning we left San Cristóbal, in Chiapas Mexico, and both of us felt that we could have easily spent at least three more days exploring the city, eating our way through various restaurants, coffee places, and generally walking around the pedestrian streets. However, it was time to move on south, and so we started riding towards the Guatemalan border. We drove through a multitude of indigenous villages, and descended close to 1,500m/5,000ft over the next hour. As the temperature rose significantly, we had to make several hydration and clothing “easing” stops. Just before 2pm we reached the Guatemalan border, in a rather small and ... read more
A quick hydration and rest stop on the road
The last Chiapas village in Mexico before the border
The Guatemala border

From Lanquin I took a shuttle to Antigua and stopped there for a night before heading to Xela, which I took a chicken bus. Xela is the second biggest city in Guatemala and is famed by tourists for its hiking and Spanish Schools. People usually come here longer term To do Spanish lessons and stay with host families. Xela had really good vibes and felt really safe. It is set in the middle of the western highlands and has the culture of Antigua but the more modern feeling of a Guatemalan city. In other ways, it's just seemed like a more mature, less touristy Antigua and doesn't have some of the colonial feel surrounding it. I stayed in the Black Cat hostel near to the Parque Central for 2 nights. This was a nice hostel which ... read more

For some reason, we thought doing a 3 day hike from Xela to Lago Atitlan sounded like a great idea. The hike turned out to be amazing but that didn't stop us from wondering what the heck we were doing the night before it started. We went with a company called Quetzaltrekkers which is a non-profit organization. The guides are all volunteers and the money goes straight to providing basic needs and education for the street kids of Xela. We started our first day having a big breakfast prepared at the the QT office. Since we had slept in the 'hotel' that shares a door to the street we just had to wake up, take our gear downstairs, and eat. Our group was lead by guides, Matt, Joshi, and Ben and we left QT at 0730hrs ... read more
The Temescal
The So Called "Cornfield of Death"
We Made It!

While in Quetzaltenango (Xela) we weren't really sure what to do. It seemed like a good place to cross the border to, but we hadn't really done any research; and neither had anyone we traveled with. It was a city: big and busy. We wandered on our first day, as we often do, looking for interesting things: markets, Spanish schools, a hat for Dan. We had good luck on the first two, not so good on the last one. Upon recommendation from another traveler we looked into Celas Maya Spanish school and it seemed really good. Lots of activities in the afternoon to practice Spanish and get a better feel for Xela. They went on excursions to textile cooperatives, coffee plantations, the Fuentes Georginas (more below), and many other things you might not be able to ... read more

After San Cristobal we headed for our first border crossing in Central America. We'd heard some daunting things about going through the Guatemalan border and opted to take the shuttle service for MXN350 for door to door service. The shuttle picked us up at 0630hrs from the Iguana Hostel and drove around town picking up others for at least an hour before we got on the road. Stopping for breakfast at 0930hrs. We'd been reading a lot about the Mexican Tourism Tax and spent a lot of time trying to figure out if we'd paid it, and how to avoid paying it again. When we reached the Mexican immigration office one official came to our bus and told us that since it was busy in there (many shuttles were out front) to give all our papers ... read more

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