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In Guatemala City Historic Center


[Suggested Visits]

THE HIGHLANDS

The Region which physically lies from the western outskirts of Guatemala City to the Mexican border and from Huehuetenango to the south to a parallel with the Pacific Ocean some 50 kilometers wide through the Departments of Retalhuleu and Escuintla is called " EL ALTIPLANO" (The Highlands).

Its rich tradition and high mountains characterize it. It is the region of highest concentration of native mayas and perhaps the richest in traditions; It holds numerous archeological sites, urbanism and colonial architecture. With many different regional dresses and languages.

Small parcels of land where vegetables for almost the entire country are grown, as well as the basic grains due to the abundant rain and fertile soils, are also found in this region, some of the most intensive agriculture of the world is practicated here and the agriculture is based in night condensation irrigation.

Land of volcanoes and mountains, formed gullies, canyons and plateaus, which produce a very varied landscape where communications between communities has been difficult and has helped to diversify the ethnic groups which can be appreciated in a relatively small territory.

CHIMALTENANGO

This department I located on the highlands of the Sierra Madre and is characterized by steep mountains, deep ravines, beautiful valleys and wide plains. When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in 1526, it was a Cackchiquel city, today is a very intense comercial spot you will see it when you travel to Chichicastenango or Lake Atitlan because the highway passes right trought, you will note it because many buses and trucks will slow your transportation, here is located also the back entrance to pastores (wich is a small town dedicated to tailor hand made cow boy style boots) that takes you righ to Antigua.

Places to visit:

IXIMCHE:

This Cackchiquel archeological site is located three kilometers far south from the city of Tecpan.
In 1524, it was the setting of important historical events. Iximché
(tree of corn) is a land with creeks and ravines. Many ancient architectural structures and actual Mayan rites can still be appreciated. This was the very first capital of Central America, founded by Pedro de Alvarado, who made an alianse with the Cackchikels kings to fight the dominant Quiche groups of Gumarcaaj wich their ruins are located near Sta Cruz del Quiche (near Chichicastenango.) If you can visit this town and its ruins you will love it.

 SANTA APOLONIA

This is Cackchiquel area, and is one of the main centers producing popular ceramic products of the pre-Hispanic origin, it is importan to note that this ceramic is made using a primitive way of rotation, the maker goes around their work stead of making the clay go around using a wheel . It is located 24 miles from the state capital.

SAN ANDRES ITZAPA

This village, located 4.5 miles from Chimaltenango, has a temperate climate. Its inhabitants worship "Maximon", miraculous character made of a sacred piece of wood that boasts both Indian and Spanish traits and wich origin is lost in the past, you can see Maximon cult also in Santiago Atitlan, and exemplifies crossbreeding between both races, it is interesting to know that this deity likes women, likes to smoke and can be a bad guy with your enemies if the proper ceremonies are held. The custom of using candle color for invocate different protections and favors probably started with the Maximon cult and is more related with the Mayan ceremonies than the catholic.

SAN JUAN COMALAPA:

This village is noted for its primitivism-style paintings, which makes it an important indigenous popular art center. Paintings depict customs and daily-life activities and are sold at family-owned galleries that are all over the town making this town a gigantic art gallery. they are fantastic merchants since you will see their paintings display all over Guatemala, This village is located 15 miles from the state capital city and is a must see for artists.

PATZUN

Patzun is located 18 miles from Chimaltenango. It is famous for its religious celebration of the Corpus Christi, which takes place in June and where several religious ceremonies and rituals are celebrated, together with the manufacture of colorful arches and carpets. It is mid way to Lake Atitlan beautiful short cut, wich paisage is beatiful and really the way it used to be years a go, unfortunately there is no traficc in this road because the police and authorities do not watch enought for it and assaults are frecuent there mostly in Kilometro 154...what a shame for us. 
Take it only if you like addrenaline rushes and steep high and downs re not a problem.

TOTONICAPAN

The Municipal state capital is located 19 miles from Quetzaltenano and 130 miles from Guatemala City. It is interesting to see the theater house and the Casa de la Cultura (Cultural House), which houses a small collection of pre-Hispanic, republican and ethnic art.

The Central Park has its main church with an adjacent convent, which were constructed in 1545 and destroyed by fire in 1878, their cornerstone was placed by Francisco Marroquin, first Bishop for Guatemala who used to be very rich and had many slaves, he also founded the first schhol.

On the outskirts of the city lies the Tanque de los Dragones, (Tank of the Dragons), which served as a fountain and washing pool during the XIX century, and is still being used by its inhabitants who lacks of potable water in their homes or just likes to talk about every days events while they do laundry..

There are many handicraft workshops that produce a wide range of artistic objects, among which you can find glazed and painted ceramic pieces, textiles made by men with spanish style "standing looms", wax Christmas figures, wooden boxes and toys, furniture and leather and tin goods. Craftsmen use ancient tools, which go back to the time of the Mayas and Spaniards.

Also notable are the parties and the "morerias" wich are rental shops of all kind of parafernelia used in all the tradicional dances held in Guatemala, true museums that holds millions of dollars in ancient ceremonial textiles .
Traditional dances are
also a main part of the festivities in Totonicapan. Among the most important are La Conquista, Moors and Christians, Mexicans, The Deer and the Monkeys.

It is worthwhile visiting this village during its main celebration days, which celebrate San Miguel Arcangel, from September 24th to the 30th and during Easter week, when the passion of Christ is celebrated. The main market day is on Saturday, full of color and very animated, it is an unforgettable experience.

SAN CRISTOBAL TOTONICAPAN

Is located 9 miles from Totonicapán. It is an important textile center (wool, silk and cotton). You can also find handicraft workshops where masks, musical instruments, wooden toys, pottery and lead-glazed objects are made. The Tistoj furniture shop is a must. The Franciscan temple and convent are richly ornamented with valuable XVII and XVIII  century paintings. It was declared national monument by the government.

SAN JUAN XECUL

Located 22 miles from Quetzaltenango and 21 miles from Totonicapán, at the base of mount Chuicul. It has an important XVI century temple, with a fabulous bright-yellow façade, the color which is representative of the local huipil (indigenous blouse). There are Saints and Angels sitting next to corncobs and Quetzal birds on the façade.

MOMOSTENANGO

Located 22 miles from Quetzaltenango and 21 miles from Totonicapan. Famous for its wide variety and quality of blankets and Momostecan “ponchos”. These people still use the ancient Mayan agriculture calendar of 260 days wich was the most popular calendar for the non iniciated ancient Mayas. Momostenango means “City of Altars”. Quiche priests pray upon the burners smoke that works as a pray recordings that takes their prays flying to the precense of the Gods also the way the incience burns let the shamman know and predict events or take desitions and altars are located both in the village and its natural surroundings.

They also predict the future, using seeds, crystals, beans and corn. Nearby are the famous Riscos de Momostenagno (cliffs), playful sand formations created by erosion. The main market day is on Sunday.

SAN FRANCISCO EL ALTO

Located on top of a 8600 ft high mount, 11 miles from Totonicapán and 10 miles from Quetzaltenango. It is virtually a dead town during most of  the week, except on Fridays, when it comes to life for being market day and this market is the largest of the Guatemalan highlands and mesoamerica.

This market is not a traditional handcraft but a typical daily-life market, where you can find anything used by the local inhabitants including large live stock. Among the goods traded are animals, crops, seeds, food products, tools and thread, ceremonial products that people come to purchase, be aware of pickpokers in crowded places.

It has a XVI century temple, which was severely damaged by the 1976 earthquake and was later restored and declared a national monument.  During restoration works, several colonial murals were uncovered beneath multiple layers of calcium-hydroxide plaster. Among the most interesting objects are, the beautiful altarpieces and carvings.

SALCAJA

Located 5.5 miles from Quetzaltenango city. It is a very ancient village where the San Jacinto Church was built which was the first religious building of the Kingdom’s Captaincy General. It is a beautiful example of Colonial Architecture. It is also famous for its jaspe textiles, its liquor called “Caldo de Frutas” or fruit soup, and its delicious “Rompope”. Market days are on Tuesdays, and its celebration day is on August 23.

SAN JUAN OSTUNCALCO

Located 7.5 miles from the City of Quetzaltenango, its is placed on a beautiful valley and within a prosperous region rich in crops and fruit orchards. The Lacandon and Siete Orejas volcanoes surround the town. Its inhabitants build woven-cane and wicker furniture weaving the fibers as  mere thread.     Musical instruments and beautiful regional textiles can also be found here. Market days are on Sundays.

ALMOLONGA

Located 3 miles from Quetzaltenango, it’s a fertile-land valley, known for its vegetables and fruits cultivated in small parcels. This is a town that has organized their lives around the Godspell, almost everybody is born again Christian or Evangelico as they are call, it is interestin to observe the results of the protestant christian doctrine put in to work, crime is very low and business are good, if you are a believer come and take a look, if you are not come and take a look, if you think in save the cultural traditions...guess what...come and take a look.

Nearby are the thermal waterbeds of Aguas Amargas and El Rosario, where you’ll be able to dive into sulphurous waters. Market days are on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and its local fair runs from June 27th to the 29th.

CANTEL  

Located 8 miles from Quetzaltenango. Cantel has the oldest and one of the largest textile factories in the country. There is also a blown-glass products factory that can be visited. Market day is on Sundays and its local fair is celebrated on August 15th.

ZUNIL

Located 3.5 miles from Xelaju, it lies next to the river banks and the Salama River. Its features include adobe houses, broken-slate-roofs whose sizes contrast the surrounding mountains and the Santa Maria Volcano. Its inhabitants wear really colorful textiles, made using pre-Hispanic techniques, with rich colors and designs that portray objects from the surrounding areas.

Vegetables, corn, beans and wheat are cultivated on the river banks. The whole valley is covered with huge volcanic stones from ancien and modern eruptions, geothermic experiments for electricity generation has being going for years, unfortunately and depickting the high electricity cost, no investors had make this urgently needed project...shame on us again.

At the Central Park you will find the colonial church famous for the carving on its façade and the silver cross on the altar. This is one of the few villages where Maximon or San Simon, represented as a figure with doll-like head is worshipped with Pom and ceremonies. Market day is on Sundays and its main fair is celebrated on November 25th.

FUENTES GEORGINAS (GEORGIAN FOUNTAINS)

This Thermal-water baths with healing properties are located very near Almolonga. Its Waters flow from the fumaces of the Cerro Quemado volcano. These baths were built during the presidential period of General Jorge Ubico, reason for which it received that name, on his honor. The place has a small basic hotel with fireplaces and the sourroned by tropical lush cloud forest, the weather is kind of cold so it is very nice to be in the hot pool, lots of locals visit the place on weekends but during the weekdays you arte almost alone, nice place to meditate and maybe cure some of your back pains, we can arrange a tour or transport for this and other highland places.

. Other thermal fountains to be visited are Los Vahos and Aguas Amargas.

SAN MARTIN SACATEPEQUEZ (SAN MARTIN CHILE VERDE)

Of Mam origin, it is located north of the Chicabal volcano. Its inhabitants during the Santa Maria volcano eruption in 1902 abandoned the village. Later people came back and it is nowadays one of the western highlands most interesting communities.

Women are excellent weavers, who embroider geometric figures depicting pre-Hispanic and modern designs that en end up decorating their Huipiles (typical Blouses)

CHICABAL VOLCANO

Located on the San Martin Sacatepequez area. It raises 2900 meters (9560ft).
One of the main highlights of this volcano is a lagoon that the locals consider sacred. Throughout the month of May, they go up to the lagoon and perform their Mayan rituals
, all the lake craer is sourronded by7 small altar stuctures mainly built of the volcano stones, the mist comes down early and the ambience is more like the mistic movies, the shaman voices filters trought the mist and sourrounds you with a heavy spiritual mood. This is really a fantastic sentation and unique experience for the spiritually oriented, this is not a show..it is a real speiritual gate.  

Camping or swimming is not recommended given the religious importance the lagoon has for the local indigenous people and only come with a organized tour because you can get lost easy in another dimention.

SANTIAGUITO VOLCANO

It is an active volcano. The crater can be reached by car or by bus up to the El Pinal plans; The remainder of the way up has to be done by foot and visit the ghost town recently destroyed by an eruption, in a few thousand years this may become the pompey of Guatemala. We can arrange the trip visiting the lagoon, fuentes georginas, Zunil and the ghost town.

 There are other four volcanoes: Santa Maria, Cerro Quemado, Lacandon and Siete Orejas.

SUGGESTED VISITS

Following are several visit schedules that a tourist can perform, in order to make their visit more efficient:   

HALF DAY TOUR

City of Quetzaltenango walking tour. Departure 9:00 am. Return 1:00 pm  Part from the Central Park, or Centroamerica Park and visit the surrounding building, many of them of neo-classic architecture; to the south of the plaza, visit the Casa de la Cultura de Occidente where it is worthwhile to see the collection of masks and musical instruments. Finally visit the temple of Minerva, built in the period of President Manuel Estrada Cabrera which is a replica of the Greek Temple of that name.

 

ONE-DAY TOUR

Quetzaltenango, Almolonga, Zunil Departure    8:00 am. Return 5:00 pm Visit the villa of Almolonga, the exiting Quetzaltenango southeast-bound; both the villa and its market are amazing from which products are exported to Central America and Mexico. Stay on the same road that leads to Zunil where you will be able to see the worship activities in honor of Maximon, a Guatemala deity. Return to Quetzaltenango by noon and visit the city seeing its main buildings and the market, by mid-afternoon. By night you can dine at the restaurants and go out to any local Disco Clubs.  

 

TWO DAY TOUR

Day one Huehetenango, Zaculeu Departure 7:00 am Begin the tour very early and take the road that leads to Cuatro Caminos, at which point you should take the CA-9 highway to Huehetenango. From here, go to visit the ruins of Zaculeu; later visit Chiantla and return to Huehuetenango. Visit the town in the afternoon.

Day-two Departure 7:00 am Begin the tour very early in the morning by driving to Todos Santos Cuchumatan, and try to be there by dawn to watch the sunrise from 10,000 feet high(3,000 mts). Enjoy one of the most authentic mayan regions of Guatemala in terms of its customs and traditions. After lunch return to Quetzaltenango.

 

THREE DAY TOUR

Day one: Salcaja, Chiantla, Aguacatan, and Sacapulas: Departure 8:00 am From Huehuetenango, on the road just before Cuatro Caminos stop and visit Salcaja. When you arrive to Huehuetenango, visit its market. Later, go east and visit Chiantla and Aguacatan where women wear very colorful and spectacular waist belts. On your way there you will see sheep grazing on the hills near Santa Maria Chiquimula. Continue to Sacapulas (in Quiche) and then go to Nebaj, a village with no pollution and with no outer influence on its customs. See the huipiles that the women wear, as well as the customs and religious rituals. Spend the night at a local inn.

Day two: Chajul and Cotzal.  Departure   7:00 am  Leave early for a visit to the mountains, while you visit the village of Chajul and Cotzal (in Quiche). These are also famous for the clothing their people wear. After lunch on way back, visit Santa Cruz del Quiche and spend the night in Chichicastenango.

Day three: Santo Tomas Chichicastenango Departure:   7:00 am  Very early in the morning, go out and see the last preparations for one of the most colorful markets, famous for its handcrafts. Visit the market throughout. Later visit the Santo Tomas Church, a 400-year-old church where both catholic and protestant rituals can be seen simultaneously. On the afternoon, go to see the Pascual Abaj ritual, a local pagan deity. Finally go back to either Solola or to Quetzaltenango.

 

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