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This is a Southwest department. Famous because it has some of the oldest colonial buildings in the country since it was here where the Spanish Conquistadors first settled.

It is notable given its geographic variety which includes numerous volcanoes, thermal water beds, valleys, mountains and rivers, which allows several crops to be planted here, such as coffee wheat, fruits and vegetables, as well as breeding of livestock specially sheep.

This department has an overall area of 1951 sq. kilometers (1219 sq. mi.) whit a cool climate on the highlands and warm on the coastal area. The languages and Mayan tongues spoken are, Spanish, Quiche and Mam.

During the pre-Hispanic period, Quetzaltenango was a Quiche center called  XELAJÚ, meaning “Under ten hills”. Quetzaltenango is Nahuatl-origin, word that means “Place of Quetzal birds”.

Accounts of the time of conquest tell that the conqueror of Guatemala informed that when the Quiche prince Tecún Uman died, he was wearing and emerald-green suit made of quetzal feathers when this lord was killing the conqueror horse the Quiche warrior he got stab in the heart and the legend says that a quetzal bird fall over his blood taking its chest red feathers color from there, for which the newly founded Spanish city was named Quetzaltenango.

This city played an important role during the independence movement. In 1822, the political leaders of the time swore their loyalty to the Mexican emperor Iturbide. In 1838, Quetzaltenango became part of the State of Los Altos (The highlands), as sixth member of the Central American federation.

By the end of XVIII century, the coffee plantations became relevant and the department prospered. In 1902, the Santa Maria volcano erupted, and the earthquakes produced, partially destroyed the city. Nevertheless, some neo-classical buildings still remain.

As part of the tours offered you can visit the ghost city near by covered by the volcano ashes in much the way as a modern Pompey.


It is currently considered as the second most important city of Guatemala, due to its size, industrial, cultural and commercial activity. It has preserved its colonial architecture. Is considered the biggest Mayan modern city in the country.

Several neo-classical buildings can be seen, among which are those located around the Centro America Park, considered the heart of the city. East of the plaza lies the Espiritu Santo (holly spirit) Cathedral with its two facades. The first one constructed in 1535, is very ornamented, and latter one is neo-classical style, forms part of a structure made of several domes which dates back to 1899.

On the south end of the park is another building with such characteristics, called La Casa de la Cultura, where the Natural History Museum is housed, and which contains a collection of pre-Hispanic pieces and historical memorabilia.

This is also the site of the information Office of the Guatemalan Tourism Board, or INGUAT.

The Municipal Theater is located at 1st street, between 14th and 14th avenues, and is decorated with several busts of local scholars.

Colorful inclined stone-covered streets that that rise and fall, red-roofed houses, parks and churches, and mansions built by the rich local coffee growers are part of the urban Landscape of the city.

On the outskirts of the city is located the Cerro el Baul, from where one can get a magnificent view of the city and the surrounding mountains.

XELAJU, as this city is known, has an altitude of 2,333 meters above sea level and has a cold and humid climate.

The most important celebration that takes place at the city, is the city fair, which runs from September 12th to the 18th, with the famous Central American Floral Parade.

Xela, is located 206 kilometers ( 128 miles) from Guatemala City, and is reach by taking the Pan-American East highway, or 234 kilometers via the international Pacific highway.

Quetzaltenango’s surroundings include several villages and tourist sites, of Quiche and Mam origin, and that have several small plazas with amazing colonial-style churches, where the tourist can appreciate the agricultural and handcraft richness of the region on market days.

For this reason, it is recommended that this city be used as an operations center for the Mayan highlands. 


( Click Here to see Quetzaltenango Map  ) ( Go to TOURS Page )







Guatemala Classic
Travel Package
9 Days 7 Nights
Vist Antigua, Lake Atitlan
Chichicastenago, Copan,
Guatemala City and
Fly to Tikal  $799