During my extended travels, I had the chance to stay a while longer in one place. I enjoyed it. Getting to know a new city like your own and having it feel like home is a great chance in travelling. Let me tell you about my top ten in my new second home town of Quetzaltenango.
Maybe this first point is only my personal experience, maybe you’re gonna feel it as well, but for me Quetzaltenango is an especially mellow and chilled place. Don`t get me wrong, we are not talking „Italian Riviera at the beach with a cocktail“-chilled, we are talking about big city life chilled. Everything seems to be a bit more mellow in Quetzaltenango. Go hang out in one of the many café`s or just have a sunny afternoon in one of the countless parks.
Volcano Santa Maria. With her 3772 meters and her perfect strato-volcano shape she towers over Quetzaltenango. Where ever you may walk, sit or hangout in Xela, Santa Maria is always visible. No wonder so many tourists decide to hike to the top. It is a long and hard hike but rewarded with the best view over Xela and the neighboring volcanoes. You may even be lucky and see her little but very active neighbor Volcano Santiaguito erupt.
Also a famous tourist spot close to the city is Cerro el Baúl. Enjoy the great view over Quetzaltenango and have a coffee while bathing in the wonderful afternoon sun. Also a great place for sunsets, but the pretty far walk back into the city spoils the fun a bit. Rather go back earlier and way faster by using the gigantic slides down the hill. What a perfect reward for the hot and sweaty climb.
Quetzaltenango is not only the second biggest city in Guatemala, it also has the highest density of foreign Spanish students and young local students. So obviously, there is also a nightlife. It may not be as excessive and crazy as in San Perdo (Lake Atitlán) but definitely worth checking out. Start your evening in one of the many bars (local craft beer, anyone?!) and continue on to dance the night away in one of the numerous live music bars later at night.
This may be one of the famous “off the beaten path” sights. Cerro Cermado (the burned Hill) is only a short bus ride from Quetzaltenango, yet not many tourist come and explore this holy place. Instead, thousands of Guatemalan`s come from all over the country to pray and worship. If you spot any tourists around here, they are most likely looking for the wonderful rock climbing that’s around. If you are really keen, you can also climb to its top and enjoy the view over the miles and miles of lava field next to it, but the lack of a trail and the sharp lava formations make the hike kind of unpleasant. I would suggest you to instead go and wander around the lava fields, soak up the atmosphere and chat with the very interested locals. Be ready to be asked to take pictures with them 😉
You are not ready for the chilly nights in Xela? Good thing there is Minerva Market. You will not only find fresh fruit and the usual market souvenirs there – no, you also find incredible amounts of cheap and good quality second-hand clothes. Go ahead, dig in to the big piles of clothes and find your super cheap Hollister sweater or outdoor jacket.
Got enough from the lively pulsing city life? Ready to escape into a quiet and melancholic atmosphere? Go for a stroll through the massive graveyard of Quetzaltenango. Once you walk through the main entrance and follow the main path to the horizon you get a feeling of how huge it is. It stretches rows after rows. At the beginning, you are surrounded by the graves of the more wealthy Guatemalans before you reach the farthest parts where the massive Mausoleums turn into small dirt hills with barely a cross or writing on them. A truly fascinating retreat in Xela.
Ready for some more action? Tired of the cold and sometimes rainy weather of Quetzaltenango? Jump onto a Chickenbus and in 2 hours you are in the biggest water park in Central America. Sheer endless pools and slides spread out through the Guatemalan rain forest. You can either relax in the wave-pool surrounded by rock formations or shoot yourself down one of the 42 slides. Biggest plus: it’s in the Guatemalan Lowlands so expect tropical temperatures and loads of sun.
Survived one more of those freezing nights? Ready for warmth? Wouldn`t mind soaking for a while in a beautiful jungle scenery while hot steam is rising around your nose? Get a cocktail in one hand, have a relaxing conversation with other travelers or just float around in the warm, yeah sometimes even hot water. It’s only a 30 minute bus ride from Xela to Las Fuentes Georginas, which also means it can get quite busy on weekends. Better come during the week 😉
Hike to the top of Central America. Go to bed admiring the colorful sunset next to your tent, wake up early and be blown away by the best sunrise you will most likely ever see. Volcanoes erupting and a view from the ocean on the one side, over Lake Atitlan all the way over to Mexico. The air is thin at 4220 meters but the views while hiking up and wandering down are worth every hastily caught breath.
What are your favorite things to do in and around Quetzaltenango? Do you have a second home town?