Xela, also known as Quetzaltenango, sits at 2300 meters above sea level and is surrounded by towering volcanoes! You can hike in almost every direction, and take in the great sights and surrounding town markets.
The first morning here, I headed out to a little town called San Francisco el Alto. Every Friday morning this mountain village turns into a rambunctious market for textiles, food, and all kinds of livestock! Farmers are leading sheep on leashes, carrying their prized baby piglets, and prodding stubborn mules! I’ve never seen anything quite like it! Do get there early, as the late morning gets insanely crowded – straight up pedestrian gridlock and locals pushing you forward even though there’s nowhere to go!
I recommend checking out the fantastic day hike up the Volcano Santa Maria. This is a steep climb up to 3700 meters and affords great views of Xela and the surrounding area. Check out the photos! The altitude really gets to you – I just took my time up the last half hour. It’s totally worth it!
Another good day hike is to Laguna Chicabel, a crater lake and sacred site to the Mayans. Locals still make prayer offerings at traditional altars around the lake. This is an easier hike and takes half a day. Afterwards stop by Fuestes Georginas, natural hot springs, to relax your tired muscles! Get closest to the rocks where the hot water drips down for the warmest water!
Now onto Lake Atitlan and the peaceful abode of Santa Cruz!