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Quetzaltenango, also known by its indigenous name , is the second largest city of Guatemala. It is both the capital of Quetzaltenango Department and the municipal seat of Quetzaltenango municipality.
It has an estimated population of 224,703. The population is about 61% indigenous or Amerindian, 34% Mestizo or ladino and 5% white Latin American. Quetzaltenango is located in a mountain valley at an elevation of 2,330 meters (7,640 feet) above sea level at its lowest part. It may reach above 2,400 meters within the city.
The Municipality of Quetzaltenango consists of an area of 127 square kilometres (49 sq mi). Municipalities abutting the municipality of Quetzaltenango include Salcajá, Cantel,Almolonga, Zunil, El Palmar, Concepción Chiquirichapa, San Mateo, La Esperanza,Olintepeque, and San Andrés Xecul. All these municipalities are part of the Department of Quetzaltenango, except San Andrés Xecul which is a part of the Department of Totonicapán.
|POPULATION :||• City 225,000|
• Metro 661,375
|FOUNDED :||May 7, 1524|
|TIME ZONE :||Central America (UTC-6)|
|COORDINATES :||14°50′40″N 91°30′05″W|
|SEX RATIO :|
|AREA CODE :|
|POSTAL CODE :|
|DIALING CODE :|
Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela(pronounced SHAY-la) or Xelaju, is the second largest city in Guatemala. There are a number of attractions in town, and it's also a good base for exploring Guatemala's Western Highlands ("Los Altos"). Situated at the southwest of the country, the surrounding department has a variety of landscapes extending from the cold highlands to the warm Pacific coast. There are numerous volcanos, hot springs, valleys, mountains, rivers. The region provides a harvest of numerous products such as coffee, wheat, fruits and vegetables, as well as sheep and cattle breeding.
The city of Quetzaltenango, the Department of the same name's capital and largest city, is situated on an extensive plain and surrounded by hills and volcanoes. The city of Quetzaltenango conserves the old K'iche' Maya traditions and the colonial past, while maintaining the dynamism of modern life.
The city's roots go back to the Pre-Columbian Maya era. The Mam authority, calledKulahá, reached its most important expansion. The K'iche' lords later conquered the area, and founded the city of Xelajú here, moving it from a previous location at the base of the volcano Santa Maria.
The city was already some 300 years old when Spanish Conquistadors came to conquer Guatemala in the early 1500s. Their native allies the Nahuas from Central Mexico called the city Quetzaltenango, meaning "the place of the Quetzal bird" in the Nahua language. The Spanish took the name from the Nahuas. It's still the city's official name, but locals are more apt to casually call it "Xela" from the ancient name of Xelajú.
It was the administrative capital of the Western Highland region in the Spanish Colonial period. With Central American independence from Spain in the 1820s it was part of the Central American Federation. Conflicts between the interests of Quetzaltenango and Guatemala City led to the creation of "Los Altos", the "Sixth State of the Central American Confederation ", consisting of Western Guatemala (and a slice of what is now part of Chiapas Mexico) with Quetzaltenango as its capital. When the Central American Federation fell apart in 1839-1840, Los Altos was briefly a de-facto independent state, until the army of Guatemalan dictator Carrera brutally conquered the city and hung its leaders.
The city enjoyed prosperity with the boom in coffee production in the late 19th and start of the 20th century, when many of the city's "Belle Époque" style landmarks still seen were built. Plans for a railway to Quetzaltenango dated back to the 1890s, and construction was started in the 1920s and finally completed in 1930. The "Ferrocarril de los Altos" was proclaimed the engineering marvel of the age-- until it was destroyed by landslides in 1933. The fabled railroad is still remembered in local song and story, and there's a museum dedicated to it in town.
Quetzaltenango's prosperity declined from the Great Depression through the Guatemalan Civil War in the later 20th century, and for a time much of the city looked on the scruffy side. With the new millennium, however, better times are back. The old landmarks have been refurbished and new ones added, and the city is more beautiful and vibrant than ever.
Quetzaltecos are proud of their city, its distinct regional culture, and its rich heritage.
Pre-Columbian times Quetzaltenango was a city of the Mam Maya people called Xelajú, although by the time of the Spanish Conquest it had become part of the K'iche' Kingdom of Q'umarkaj. The name may be derived from xe laju' noj meaning "under ten mountains". The city was said to have already been over 300 years old when the Spanish first arrived. With the help of his allies,Conquistador Pedro de Alvarado defeated and killed the Maya ruler Tecún Umán here. When Alvarado conquered the city for Spain in the 1520s, he called it by the Nahuatl name used by his Central Mexican Indian allies, "Quetzaltenango", generally considered to mean "the place of the quetzal bird." Quetzaltenango became the city's official name in colonial times. However, many people (especially the indigenous population) continue to call the city "Xelajú" (pronounced shay-lah-WHO) or more commonly "Xela" for short, and some proudly, but unofficially, consider it the "capital of the Mayas".
From 1838 to 1840 Quetzaltenango was capital of the state of Los Altos, one of the states or provinces of the Federal Republic of Central America. As the union broke up, the army of Guatemala under Rafael Carrera conquered Quetzaltenango making it again part of Guatemala. In 1850, the city had a population of approximately 20,000.
During the 19th century, coffee was introduced as a major crop in the area, as a result the economy of Xela prospered. Much fine Belle Époque architecture can still be found in the city.
On October 24, 1902, at 5:00 pm, the Santa María Volcano erupted. Rocks and ash fell on Quetzaltenango at 6:00 pm, only one hour after the eruption.
In the 1920s, a young Gypsy woman named Vanushka Cardena Barajas died and was buried in the Xela city cemetery. An active legend has developed around her tomb that says those who bring flowers or write a request on her tomb will be reunited with their former romantic partners. The Guatemalan songwriter Alvaro Aguilar wrote a song based on this legend.
In 1930 the only electric railway in Guatemala, the Ferrocarril de Los Altos, was inaugurated. It was soon destroyed by mudslides and finally demolished in 1933. It had been built by AEG and Krupp, and was travelled by 14 train cars. The track connected Quetzaltenango with San Felipe,Retalhuleu. The people of Quetzaltenango are still very proud of the railway. A railway museum has been established in the city centre.
Since the late 1990s Quetzaltenango has been having an economic boom, which makes it the city with the second-highest contribution to Guatemalan economy. With its first high-rise buildings being built, it is expected by 2015 to have a more prominent skyline, with buildings up to 15 floors tall.
In 2008, the Central American Congress PARLACEN stated that every September 15, Quetzaltenango will be Central America's capital of culture.
Quetzaltenango was supposed to host the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games, but dropped out due to lack of funding for the event.
According to Köppen climate classification, Quetzaltenango features a subtropical highland climate (Cwb). In general, the climate in Quetzaltenango can go from mild to chilly, with occasional sporadic warm episodes. The daily high is usually reached around noon. From then on, temperatures decrease exceptionally fast. The city is quite dry, except during the rainy season. Quetzaltenango is the chilliest major city in Guatemala.
There are two main seasons in Quetzaltenango (as in all of Guatemala); the rainy season, which generally runs from late May through late October, and the dry season, which runs from early November until April. During the rainy season, rain falls consistently, usually in the afternoons, but there are occasions in which it rains all day long or at least during the morning. During the dry season, the city frequently will not receive a single drop of rain for months on end.
Coldest months are November through February, with minimum temperatures averaging 4 °C, and Maximum temperatures averaging 22 °C.
Warmest months are March through July, with minimum temperatures averaging 8 °C and Maximum temperatures averaging 23 °C.
Yearly, average low is 6 °C, and average high is 22 °C.
Climate data for Quetzaltenango
|Record high °C (°F)||28.4|
|Average high °C (°F)||22.0|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||12.9|
|Average low °C (°F)||2.3|
|Record low °C (°F)||−11.5|
|Source: Instituto Nacional de Sismologia|
Historically, the city produced wheat, maize, fruits, and vegetables. It also had a healthy livestock industry. They exported throughout the country and with El Salvador. As of 1850, wheat was their largest export, followed by cacao, sugar, wool and cotton.
There are dozens of Internet Cafes in Xela as well as free wifi hot spots.
- Xela Pages - Computer time rental, printing, scanning, cd/DVD burning, fax service, skype booth with mic and camera. Price from $0.40 cent/hour up to $1.25/hour - in front of Parque El Calvario 4ta Calle 19-48, Zona 1
- Alternativas Computer time rental, printing & scanning, Price from $0.50 cent/hour up to $1.50/hour. In front of Parque Benito Juarez - Zona 3
Prices in Quetzaltenango
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$1.10|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||$6.50|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||$12.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||$27.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||$40.00|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||$5.00|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||$2.00|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$1.40|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||$5.50|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||$4.30|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||$0.16|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||$2.65|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||$2.60|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1 pair||$|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1 pair||$|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1 pair||$|
|Leather shoes||1 pair||$|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||$|
Transportation - Get In
Use the Panamerican Highway (CA-1) which crosses the Highlands or the International (CA-2), parallel to the Pacific Coast.
As with most cities in the country try to arrange to arrive well before dark since moving around I'm the city is more complicated and dangerous after dark.
- From Guatemala City, chicken buses run frequently from the Trebol terminal to the Minerva terminal in Xela for Q35. More comfortable direct connections are offered by companies such as Galgos and Lines Dorada ($9, 4.5h, office in 16 Calle 10-03, Zona 1, Tel +502 2415-8900).
- From Antigua, take a chicken bus from the terminal in Antigua to Chimaltenango for Q5. Get off on the main road (under a massive concrete bridge,) walk one block west to catch one of the buses which go from Guatemala City to Xela, Q30.
- From many villages around Lake Atitlán, buses go to Xela (from some infrequently, usually early in the morning.) A frequent service goes from Panajachel to Sololá and from there to Los Encuentros. There you can hop on one of the frequent buses from Guatemala City to Xela. Make sure to get to Los Encuentros well before dusk since no buses pass by after a certain hour and it is not a very pleasant place to spend the night.
- From San Cristóbal in Mexico (as a tourist hotspot well connected to many places in the country) inexpensive shuttles go to Xela several times a day. They usually go to Antigua but stop on the way there in Xela. Alternatively you can get on a micro to Comitán, take a micro from there to the border at La Mesilla, get on a chicken bus to Huehuetenango, and from there to Xela.
- From Tapachula in Mexico, micros run frequently to the border between Ciudad Hidalgo and Tecún Umán from where there are frequent buses until the early afternoon to Coatepeque and from there chicken buses (Q18) to Xela. As the service on both connections in Guatemala terminates relatively early in the afternoon, you should try to leave early in Tapachula.
Transportation - Get Around
The city has grown enormously in the 2000s. Minibus routes thread through all parts of the city and, although cramped, cost only 2.50Q. The bus costs less but is slower and less frequent.
For travel around the countryside, the local buses are very reasonable. They can be entertaining and, at times, quite crowded. Do not plan on carrying much luggage with you on these: some buses have backpack storage above the seats, but most of the time you must store bags that do not fit on your lap on the top of the bus. While they are generally safe up there, they are at risk for weather.
Taxis are relatively common around the city, especially around nightlife hot spots. At night, it is not safe to walk around, so taxis are highly recommended, especially if you are by yourself. Catch a taxi on a public square rather than on one of the side streets and note its number. Negotiate the cost of the ride before you leave. If the driver seems sketchy to you, make a reasonable excuse and do not take it.
When using the minibus to get to Hiper Paiz (the large mall with a movie theatre as well as a supermarket) go to the back part of central park to catch the van. The guy will call, "Hiper Hiper Hiper" and it is 2.50Q in the day and 3Q at night. This same van also drops you at La Democracia Market and Paiz (a slightly smaller mall which also has a supermarket).
This is also the van that you catch to get to the Chicken Bus terminal that takes you to Antigua or Panajachel. Most people tell you to get off at the Roman Columns-Minerva Terminal. You can ask someone where the bus station is or just walk down the street alongside Hiper for 4-5 blocks.
These second-class buses will leave at regular times, but if you load your things on the bus, do not get off as the driver may leave without warning.
These buses at the main terminal do make other stops prior to leaving town (7th Street and 16th Avenue, for example).
Panajachel - 11AM. This is the bus to the lake. 30-35Q for this trip. Otherwise take any bus to Guatemala City, and change at La Cuchilla (and possibly again in Sololá).
San Pedro La Laguna - 11:30, 12PM,1PM, 2PM,4PM & 5:30PM
San Marcos - 4AM-8PM Frequent
Cantel & Zunil - 6AM-7PM Frequent buses
Huehuetenango - 4AM-6PM Frequent.
La Mesilla border with Mexico at 7AM, 8AM, 10AM, 2:15PM
Retalhuleu & Champerico - 4:30AM-7:30PM
Santa Cruz del Quiché - Leaves hourly, 8AM-4:30PM
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There are many opportunities to buy goods in Xela. Mayans will approach you, especially in parks, about selling purses, bags and blankets in the local styles. Markets occur regularly in and around Xela. Remember to negotiate prices-- walking away is often a good way to get the price down a bit.
During the monthly market at the Parque Central on the first Sunday of the month, a row of vendor booths is set up in front of the Municipal building & Catholic Cathedral (east side of the park) with vendors mainly selling local products. Showing interest & walking away typically elicits price offers at around half of the original quote. For example: my wife decided against a Mayan tablecloth that was originally quoted at Q250 (a reasonable price) and the vendor's wife proceeded to follow us around the park for a while coming down to Q100 eventually before accepting that my wife simply had decided not to purchase at any price.
- Churrascaría Cajola This place is bare bones, dirt cheap, and delicious. You can get carne asada, with tortillas, beans, and cabbage for 10 quetzales (USD $1.25). A soft drink will cost another 4 or 5 quetzales. Located just east of Cervecería Nacional, next to the small roundabout.
- Sabor de La India A great Indian meal from 40 to 70 quetzales, plus drink. Address is 15 Avenida 3-64, Zona 1, next to Vrisa Bookstore
- Comida Taiwanesa Their specialty is the Taiwanese empenada which is entirely vegetarian. They're Q3.00 a piece and two will make a decent size snack. They also sell soy milk and snow cones with all kinds of toppings. Located south of the Parque Central on 8a calle between 8a avenida and 9a avenida.
- La Genovese A small Italian Restaurant just two blocks south of the Municipal Theater on 14 avenida A serves great pasta dishes perfect for vegetarians, as well as a great selection of meat based sauce dishes such as the famous Lasagna Bolognes, Spaghetti ala Amatriciana. You will also be surprised to find gourmet dishes such as Fettucinni with black trouffles and smoked salmon, Penne alla Gorbachov which is penne pasta with a vodka based sauce. Part of the charm of this restaurant is its chef Alfredo Trovatti who can entertain you with stories of his travels all around the world.
- Luna Cafe has the best hot chocolate (spicy!), and decent food (some original takes on local ingredients & dishes) too. They are closed on Sunday. They are located off the east side of central park on 8a Av between 4a and 5a Calle. Around the corner on 4a Calle, is Bajo la Luna that has an excellent wine selection (seriously) and cheese plates.
- Cafe RED is located in Zona 1 on 3a Calle just west of 15a Av. and has delicious coffee, excellent salads (spinach - no iceberg lettuce thankfully), sandwiches, pasta, soups, tipico meals, and wine for only 15Q a glass. They are closed on Sunday.
- El Cuartito Cafe is located at the intersection of 7 Calle 7 & 13 Avenida, Zone 1, a block from the SW corner of Parque Central, across from the supermarket La Despensa Familiar. Open daily 8AM-11PM. This cozy & trendy modern-art-decorated cafe serves amazing coffee drinks (Q10-23 using 100% organic & fair-trade Xela cooperative produced coffee), teas (Q15-20), hot chocolate (Q12-17), alcoholic (mojitos - Q20; wine - Q16; commercial beer - Q15; artisan beer - Q30; Irish coffee - Q200), excellent pastries, breakfast plates (Q20-35), and great snacks (chips & salsa - Q15, nachos - Q25, quesadilla - Q20). Free Wi-Fi. Live music often.
- Panorama Restaurante y Mirador, 13 Avenida A, D16-44, Zona 1(http://restaurantepanorama.com/videos/como-llegar/), 5319-3536 or 7765-8580. Tue-Fri 5-11PM, Sat-Sun 1-11PM. Amazing view overlooking central Xela (beside Iglesia Monte Sinai). Sit outside on the lawn as you gaze across the Quetzaltenango valley at the mountains all around. Excellent for celebrating an occasion or impressing that special someone. Specializing in Swiss cuisine and serving delicious fondues, raclette, sandwiches, pizzas, hamburgers & more. Q25-110.
- Baviera Cafe, 5a Calle 13-14, Zona 1 (1 block west of central park), 78799958 al 60. 7a-8:30p. This charming cafe/restaurant offers tables, a lounge/sofa area, flat-screen TV showing sporting events. Serves wonderful teas (from Q6), locally sourced & roasted coffee drinks (from Q8), hot chocolate (from Q12), milk shakes (from Q20), juices/horchata/sodas/beers (from Q10) as well as soups (from Q20), sandwiches (from Q25), salads (from Q25), pastries (from Q20), snacks (from Q8), and breakfasts (from Q20). Free Wi-Fi internet to paying customers (passcode=11111aaaaa). There are also 3 other locations in Xela.
- Cafe Nim Sut, 4ª. Calle 9-42, zone 1 (Half block NE from Central Park), 7761-3083. 9AM-7:30PM. Excellent location & service, with a terrace & panoramic view. Offers delicious breakfasts, snacks, lunches, & dinners. Lunch specials every day just Q25. Also offers a variety of coffee, cappuccino, espresso, latte and more. Can plan/host events & gatherings. Also a hostel with nice rooms decorated in a warm style. Offers wi-fi internet access to customers.
Coffe & Drink
Don't drink the tap water. Some hostels will have a water filter, which many drink from, and it seems to be safe. Otherwise, drink purified water (agua pura).
Cabro, which some consider one of the best beers in the world, is made locally in Quetzaltenango. Another local beer, Gallo, is more like the Bud Lite of Guatemala -- bland, available everywhere, and sponsoring everything.
If you like dark beer, try the Moza, another local beer, it's some people's favorite. Shop at the liquor store and return Moza bottles for credit but not all bottles will receive a 1 Q credit.
- El Cuartito Cafe is located at the intersection of 7 Calle 7 & 13 Avenida, Zone 1, a block from the SW corner of Parque Central, across from the supermarket La Despensa Familiar. This cozy & trendy modern-art-decorated cafe serves amazing coffee drinks (Q10-23 using 100% organic & fair-trade Xela cooperative produced coffee), teas (Q15-20), hot chocolate (Q12-17), and many alcoholic beverages (mojitos - Q20; wine - Q16; commercial beer - Q15; several styles of artisan beer - Q30; Irish coffee - Q200). Free Wi-Fi. Open daily 8AM-11PM. Live music often.
- Baviera Cafe, 5a Calle 13-14, Zona 1 (1 block west of central park), 78799958 al 60. 7a-8:30p. This charming cafe/restaurant offers tables, a lounge/sofa area, flat-screen TV showing sporting events. Serves wonderful teas (from Q6), locally sourced & roasted coffee drinks (from Q8), hot chocolate (from Q12), milk shakes (from Q20), juices/horchata/sodas/beers (from Q10) as well as food. Free Wi-Fi internet to paying customers (passcode=11111aaaaa). There are also 3 other locations in Xela.
- Dos Lobos Panaderia y Cafe, 2a calle, 14a-32, Zona 1 (a few blocks northwest of central park), 77617023. A cute cafe owned by a lovely pair of American expats. The bagels are fresh and home made and very delicious. Definitely worth a visit. $9 Cafe negro, $11 Bagel with cream cheese.
- Chill Out (3 blocks west of central park). 12am-4am. Bars in Xela need to close by law shortly after midnight. Chill Out defies this rule and provides the after party on most nights. The place can get packed with local students on weekends. The music is danceable but relatively low volume and most people just come here to chat with their friends. If you show up early (before they officially open) you might be able to get a voucher to get in for free later. Q20 entrance fee.
Sights & Landmarks
- Market (La Democracia). The main market in the city is in Zona 3, covering various city blocks around the covered market, with an enormous variety of produce at cheaper prices than in formal shops (often for identical products). The covered market itself occupies the block between 15 Avenida and 16 Avenida, and 2 and 3 Calle, Zona 3. Fresh meat is sold inside the covered market, fruit and vegetables outside. Clothes, shoes, and toys are mostly sold outside. Many buses and microbuses pass the market, usually breviated to "La Demo". On the north side of the market is the attractive Parque Benito Juárez, with the San Nicolás Church on its east side.
The town conserves traces of the colonial period in its streets and avenues. The classical, neoclassical and Italian renaissance styles are evident in the buildings and the houses which have been built during the past century and the beginning of the 20th, with volcanic stones by artistic "Quetzalteco" masons. Some examples of architectural styles:
- Espiritu Santo Cathedral : Consist of two structures. The "Espiritu Santo" parish's ancient facade (1535/1896) and to the back the "Diócesis de los Altos" (1899).
- The Municipal Theatre is a very important Neoclassical work.
- The Central America park (known as "Parque Central): Situated in the old centre of the town is also centre of cultural activities and amusements.
- The Enrique Passage : Commercial building from 1900 facing the central park.
- Gobernacion : one block from the central park.
- Municipal Palace : Overlooking the park on the east side.
- Central market One block below the cathedral, with a number of handicraft shops selling souvenirs, and with food and drink available below.
- Natural History Museum A small local museum on the south side of the park, with a collection of curiosities including a few Maya archaeological finds (mostly ceramics).
- Also visit the Cerro del Baúl, where one can have a beautiful view of Quetzaltenango's valley, day or night (accessible by foot, car or taxi).
Quetzaltenango has important cultural activities. There, you'll find theOccidental Cultural Centre (La Casa de la Cultura de Occidente), andAlliance Française de Quetzalteango, numerous activities are scheduled all year.
The first Sunday of each month, the "Quetzaltecos" install the artisans' market in the central park where handcrafts from Quetzaltenago and surrounding villages are displayed. In September, the annual fair and festival is offered from the 12th to the 18th.
Things to do
- Study Spanish. Quetzaltenango is well known for its Spanish schools, with a great many available, concentrated in the historic centre of the city. Classes are given on a 1:1 basis, usually with study in the morning and tourist activities in the afternoon, and accommodation provided with a local family.
- La Pradera (Hiper). Shopping mall with multi-screen cinema that screens the latest Hollywood releases, usually dubbed in Spanish, but occasionally subtitled.
There are hundreds of volunteer opportunities with organizations and groups in and around Xela, ranging from one day projects to long term placements.
Many of the schools listed above offer opportunities for their students. For other volunteer opportunities, see the list below.
- Asociación de Mujeres del Altiplano.
- Asociación Nuevos Horizontes, women's and children´s rights non-profit organization [www]
- El Nahual Community Center (non-profit). Offers volunteer teaching opportunities in schools around Xela. All are welcome at the weekly organizational meeting held Monday at 5:30PM at the Blue Angel Café.
- Entremundos (non-profit), e-mail: [email protected].Hosts a database of local opportunities, accessible for free. Additional services, including housing, are available with a donation.
- La Pedrera Community Project (non-profit). Offers volunteer work and internships with an indigenous community.
- Celas Maya Spanish School, 6a calle 14-55, zona 1, 77658205.
Xela is also well known for its abundance of volcanoes, mountains, and hot springs.
- Adrenalina Tours organizes daily shuttles to the Fuentes Georginas hot springs in the town of Zunil, to areas for hiking and trekking, cultural tours in indigenous villages, walking city tours, or to the tours of the cemetery and beer factory. There are also shuttles to and from most places in Guatemala, and Tapachula and San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico, or Copán Ruinas in Honduras. This service is equipped with its own vehicles, bilingual drivers, and certified guides. Their offices are located on the west side of the central park, on Pasaje Enriquez. Information: [email protected]
- Caminando Guatemala Specialized tour operator for treks and hikes, on the third floor above Adrenalina. They organize daily hikes to the local volcanoes of Santa Maria, Chicabal, and Santiaguito. They can also arrange multi-day expeditions.
- Quetzaltrekkers offers trips to local natural wonders at reasonable prices, as well as extended treks to Lago de Atitlan and the Cuchumatanes. All guides are either foreign volunteers or local Guatemalans. All profits go towards La Escuela de la Calle, a school in the poorest neighborhood of Xela.
The salsa scene is also very active in Xela. Lessons are cheap and there are lots of clubs.