A popular city for ex-pats, Xela (Quetzaltenango) blends perfectly the traditions and cultures of Guatemala with the comforts and amenities of home. It’s definitely worth a visit, so to help you plan your time there, read on for the top 15 things you must do in Xela, Guatemala!
- Try the street food. Vendors are out at all hours, at the Parque Centrale and on the 15th Avenida and on other random streets and parks. Try everything, including the tortillas, tostadas, corn on a stick, and empanadas, because it’s all mouth-wateringly delicious!
- Ride a chicken bus. These buses are the cheapest and easiest way to get around Guatemala, if you’re brave enough to give them a try! To make it a safe and successful experience, have your 5-10 Quetzales bus fare ready in your pocket, don’t wear anything fancy, don’t carry too much guard your possessions, and sit at the front of the bus. And don’t be afraid to ask one of the boys who are yelling out the destination of each bus for where to find the one you want, since the bus terminal is a crazy mess of hundreds of colorfully adorned buses!
- Sit in the Parque Centrale and do some people-watching. This is the gathering space for families, friends, entrepreneurs selling trinkets, shoe-shiners, taxi drivers, and every other kind. The action that plays out here in the center of town is definitely interesting!
- Buy a sheca at Xelapan. This is the popular sweet bread pastry at the local chain pastry shop. They’re cheap and delicious and you can’t leave here without trying one!
- Get caught in a parade. It’s unlikely that you won’t run into a random parade during your stay here. At least once a week there are celebrations and parades, all of which play into the celebratory spirit that is pervasive here. Whether for a religious holiday, Independence Day, the children’s day or whatever else, there are parades very regularly that you’ll find as you wander around town.
- Hike a nearby volcano. Xela is surrounded by them and a visit here wouldn’t be complete without a hike up to the summit of Tajamulco or Santiaguito or Santa Maria!
- Attend a soccer match. The fans are nothing short of fanatical for their soccer team. Hopefully you catch them during a winning season, but either way the games are a ton of fun, with band music, lots of yelling, facepaint, flags, banners, and no sitting during the action!
- Try the local cervezas. You’ll have to decide for yourself which of the local beers you prefer, Gallo or Cabro. Now that’s a contest I’m happy to partake in!
- Visit The Bake Shop on Tuesday or Friday. This favorite is run by the Amish community and there is no place to get fresher or more delicious pastries than here. They’re only open twice a week though, so plan accordingly!
- Bathe in the hotsprings at Fuentes Georginas. Only a chicken bus and taxi ride away, these natural hotsprings are a favorite among locals and tourists. Go early in the morning to get your aqua-therapy with a view over the countryside.
- Take Spanish classes. There are more Spanish schools here than you can count, and they all offer excellent Spanish lessons at competitive prices. And you’ll need your Spanish skills here, as many locals haven’t learned English.
- After taking your Spanish classes, try your luck at haggling at one of the sprawling markets in Xela. The produce is cheap but if you watch carefully you’ll notice the prices go up for gringos. See if you can negotiate the price down, and it helps if you’ve mastered Spanish!
- Visit San Andres Xecul. This nearby town has a beautiful church at its center, painted more colorfully than any other church you’ve seen, I promise! This is also a much smaller, more rural town so it’s an interesting place to visit and walk around.
- Take salsa lessons. Salsa dancing is the most popular pastime here, so it’s something you must do in Xela! There are salsa studios on every block offering lessons. And then when you’ve got your hips moving and your feet stepping to the beat, try out the bars on salsa night. You’ll surely be shown up by the locals because they were practically born dancing salsa, but it’s all for fun anyway!
- Go visit Lake Atitlan. This is a lake not far from Xela and it is absolutely gorgeous, definitely worth a visit. There are many town surrounding the lake, each with a different vibe, so you may even want to spend awhile visiting a bunch of them!
And there you have it, the top 15 things you must do in Xela, Guatemala! If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in this awesome city, be sure to check these 15 things off your list!
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