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Overview

As the principal town in the Western Highlands, Quetzaltenango makes an appealing base for exploring that culturally and scenically stunning area. Within easy reach are mammoth volcanoes, natural hot springs, major regional markets and towns where indigenous traditions remain strong and richly symbolic clothing is proudly worn by their inhabitants. Local outfitters can guide you up such behemoths as Volcán Santa María from which its often explosive neighbor, Santiaguito, can be observed, wrapping things up with a soak at the seismically heated pools of Fuentes Georginas. High in the mountains at an often brisk 2333m, Xela (as the city is ...

As the principal town in the Western Highlands, Quetzaltenango makes an appealing base for exploring that culturally and scenically stunning area. Within easy reach are mammoth volcanoes, natural hot springs, major regional markets and towns where indigenous traditions remain strong and richly symbolic clothing is proudly worn by their inhabitants. Local outfitters can guide you up such behemoths as Volcán Santa María from which its often explosive neighbor, Santiaguito, can be observed, wrapping things up with a soak at the seismically heated pools of Fuentes Georginas. High in the mountains at an often brisk 2333m, Xela (as the city is usually called) is packed with splendid if oft-decaying buildings, legacy of a 19th-century coffee boom. A steady influx of foreign visitors, drawn by a plethora of quality Spanish language institutes and compelling volunteer opportunities, lend the city a cosmopolitan vibe and a highly varied nightlife. It all centers on the lively Parque Centro América, dotted with monuments and prominent edifices, including a once-elegant shopping arcade now given over to a series of boisterous pubs.

Daniel C. Schechter
About the Expert

Daniel C. Schechter has contributed chapters to more than a dozen Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the Mexico, Caribbean Islands, Andalucia, Guatemala, and Pacific Northwest guides.

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Daniel C. Schechter for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Quetzaltenango, also commonly known by its indigenous name, Xelajú, or more commonly, Xela, is the second largest city of Guatemala.
  • Language: Spanish & Amerindian languages
  • Currency: Guatemala Quetzal
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    May-October for warmer temperatures, late September for Virgen del Rosario festival