Because I really enjoyed hiking with the not for profit, volunteer run company Quetzaltrekkers in Nicaragua I decided to look them up again when I was in Guatemala. I was immediately sold on their three day, two night hike from Xela to Lake Atitlan. I had planned to meet a friend from Melbourne on the lake in just over a week, and did not like the idea of spending that week in awful Antigua. So instead I took the bus to Guatemala's second largest city.
 
Quetzaltenango, or Xela as its called, feels like Guatemala. Antigua, although with her gorgeous Colonial facade, feels like a Hollywood movie set. To me, it is kind of embarrassing in its inauthenticity. Any culture or historical significance is suppressed by a tourist town dotted with expensive restaurants, shops and beauty spas. I was happy to head to Xela.

During my short stay I spent my time doing what I do best. Eating and walking. I found a great map at my hostel which included a self guided walking tour so spent a day literally getting lost. In a place where half the population is indigenous I was very out of place.  My favourite spot was definitely the crazy Minerva bus station, where all the chicken buses arrive and leave from. I spent way too long there. 


The Xela to Lake Atitlan hike is Quetzaltrekkers most popular. And I definitely know why. We walked through the most diverse scenery, from cloud forests to corn fields, dramatic mountain scenery to rolling hills. We raced each other up the excruciating Record Hill and we were always greeted by the friendliest locals. It was physically challenging at times, but always fun and our group included some of my favourite people I've met on my travels.

To say I loved it would be an understatement. 
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
On our first night we stayed in the highland village of Santa Catarina where we rolled out our sleeping mats on the floor of the town hall. After dinner and kicking a soccer ball with local kids we took turns in a local family's temascal, which is a traditional Mayan sauna. All fresh and clean we then visited another family who put on an incredible traditional dance show for us. 
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
Our second night was spent in the village of Xiprian, with Don Pedro and his family. We were treated to a delicious meal of chicken and vegetables before hanging out around the fire cooking marshmallows. It was an early evening though, as the wake up call to watch the sunrise the next morning was 3:45am.

DEFINITELY WORTH IT.
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
After breakfast and the stunning sunrise, which included a volcanic eruption in the distance, we descended the 500 metres down Indian Nose to the village of San Juan on the lake, visiting first a coffee cooperative before having lunch at a women's weaving cooperative. 

These three days were special. We had the best group of people, impeccable organisation from Quetzaltrekkers, the warm and kind hospitality of the locals and some of the best scenery Guatemala, if not Central America, has to offer.

I can not recommend the hike enough. Exploring Xela, the three day walk, plus another week on the lake, is definitely my one recommendation for Guatemala. Cost wise, the hike is very cheap (around $100 USD for the three days, two nights, including transport and food). Plus for an extra $10 you can get your bags dropped off in San Juan. I borrowed an old backpack from Quetzaltrekkers, taking along only the bare necessities, and got my backpack, filled to the brim with all my non essentials, delivered. Easy. 

Your comment will be posted after it is approved.


Leave a Reply.