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Quetzaltenango - A travel report by sgsdgsdgs
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Quetzaltenango,  Guatemala - flag Guatemala -  Quetzaltenango
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kirikou's travel reports

Guatemala´s second city - very likeable

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Quetzaltenango travelogue picture
A 4-5 hours bussing it from Guatemala city, Xela is set in between the mountains with nice views at Santa Maria volcano. The city pretty much revolves around parque central (parque Centro-America) in Zona 1, spreading out towards Zona 3. The city itself is somewhat smoggy and grey, but the surrounding area is dotted with interesting towns and hikes. Xela has also become one of Guatemala's two main language school centres (together with Antigua).

Favourite spots:
Quetzaltenango travelogue picture
In town the parque central is among the nicest I´ve seen - excellent for peoplewatching on a sunny afternoon, and there´s an artesania market every first Sunday of the month. The small plaza in front of teatro municipal is also nice. You get an excellent view of Santa Maria from Zona 3 and anywhere in that direction, and a nice view of the city if walking uphill following 15. Avenida. Out of town: San Francisco el Alto has a nice Friday market, Zunil has it´s version of Maximon/San Simon and a nice church, further up from there you can visit the hot springs Fuentes Georginas.

What's really great:
Quetzaltenango travelogue picture
Enjoyed my Spanish classes, though more due to the excellent teacher than the school itself - Utatlan in pasaje Enriquez. Nice enough though and cheaper than most. And except from that I guess I´m a bit in love with the town in general.

There's a good mix of people in town. Some foreigners, mostly due to the 20 or so Spanish schools, but not overcrowded like in Antigua. Also a bunch of volunteer projects, in most of which you'll certainly avoid speaking English. I highly enjoyed my time at the Choquí daycare center through the organization Nuevos Horizontes.

Quetzaltenango travelogue picture
The nearby towns are interesting, Almolonga for it's gardens and market; Zunil for it's Maximón saint figure and weaving cooperative; San Andres Xecul for it's garishly yellow church; San Francisco el Alto for the overwhelmingly crowded Friday market. And the Fuentes Georginas hot springs, a bit past Zunil, are lovely for an afternoon outing - bus to Zunil, and there'll be pickup trucks taking you up the rest of the way. If going early in day, you'll have stunning views over the valley and Santa Maria before the fog settles. Pickups are usually Q35 no matter the number of people going, and entrance to the hot springs is Q10, there are lockers for rent.

The independence celebration goes the entire week around September 15th, and is great fun - fairy, market and lots of people in town.

Quetzaltenango travelogue picture
Plenty of accommodations. Spent a few days at Casa Kaehler, which is nice, but way on the steep side at Q90 a double with shared bath. Later rented a room with shared bath/kitchen at Hospedaje El Puente, Q600-900 a month. Casa Argentina and Hostal don Diego are the cheaper places for long term stays, at Q400-600 monthly, but I'd personally avoid Casa Argentina because of the hassle of getting home safely at night - sort of far out, and the downtown streets aren't all that safe late at night, if walking alone.

Appartments can be rented around town - Casa Iximulew school has a few, and there are some for rent just across the street from the post office, also the guy who runs Adrenalina tours rent a couple of appts. in Zona 3. Also check message boards at Bar Tecun and Spanish schools.

Most schools can set you up with a homestay, can be good, can be bad, always insist to see the place before committing, and never pay up front for more than a week.

Home from market in nearby Zunil.
Home from market in nearby Zunil.
Well...discos, plenty of discos. Casa Verde is a popular hangout for travellers and locals, as is the salsa club La Frata. Downtown discos/clubs tend to come and go a bit.

-Bar Tecun in pasaje Enriquez just off parque central is probably the closest you get to a traditional pub. Dutch run, popular, somewhat pricey, not the cosiest I´ve been to but a good place to meet other gringos.
-Nearby Casa Babylon has wines and wonderful sandwiches and hot chocolates, very nice French manager.
-Cafe la Luna is cozy and quiet, often singers/guitarists on Fridays. And in the basement the owner's son runs Bajo la Luna, nice wine and cheese bar.

Typical travellers hang outs are Cafe Blue Angel, which also show movies, great food, extremely slow but friendly service; abovementioned Bar Tecun; Cafe Baviera is good for snacks and coffee; Taco no Mas has filling Mexican food at good prices. Restaurante Royal Paris is great for the occasional splurge.

For cheaper food, go a street or two down from the main park, heaps of small "hole in the wall" type places with beans and rice and meat and such.

The ladies at the market in the corner of parque central have good enchiladas and chicken with chips; for a better selection of street food head to either La Democracia market in the middle of Zona 3, or the market at Minerva bus terminal.

Other recommendations:
Friday market in San Francisco el Alto - 40 minutes from Xela.
Friday market in San Francisco el Alto - 40 minutes from Xela.
There´s a nice cemetery, but one shouldn´t walk there alone (locals say four people and more in a group is safe) due to gangs and junkies using it as a hangout. Cafe Cinema Paraiso and Cafe Blue Angel show movies almost every night - often on the artsy side, mostly subtitled. The big cinema is at the Hiper Paiz shopping mall in Zona 3, you can grab a microbus there (Q1 a journey, well actually Q0.75, but you hardly ever get change unless asking) but if the movie ends later than 9 you'll need a taxi back - most taxi trips are 10-25 Q.

A couple of gyms around town, all demand membership and are relatively expensive.

In addition to Spanish classes (see there are salsa and merengue schools, weaving classes and occasional cooking lessons.

Published on Wednesday January 15th, 2003

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