Quetzaltenango is Guatemala's second city. It has a great atmosphere – less than big, not very small, enough foreigners to guide a good selection of hotels and restaurants, although not so many which it loses its national flavor. The Guatemalan 'layering' effect reaches work in the town center – when the Spanish moved out, the Germans moved in and architecture provides the zone a somber, even Gothic, feel.
The city's name is actually a mouthful, but locals kindly shorten ito Xela (shell-ah), an abbreviation in the original K'iche' Maya name, Xelajú.
Xela is loved by travelers after some time to settle in a place and work towards their Spanish. It also functions like a base to get a range of spectacular hikes from the surrounding countryside – the ascent for the summit of Volcán Tajumulco (Central America's highest point) along with the three-day trek to Lago de Atitlán, among others.
Centro Intercultural de Quetzaltenango
Cultural Center in Quetzaltenango. Quetzaltenango's railroad station, 1km east in the Templo de Minerva along 4a Calle, lay dormant for quite a while until town converted it into this center, which now houses schools of art and dance, plus three interesting museums.
The Museo Ixkik'
The Museo Ixkik' is specialized in Maya weaving and traditional outfits, even though 400 paintings by Guatemala's leading modernists are exhibited from the Museo de Arte, including sticks to Efraín Recinos, Juan Antonio Franco as well as the landscape artist José Luis Álvarez. The Museo del Ferrocarril de los Altos covers the ambitious rail project that connected Quetzaltenango to your Pacific coast but operated for three years from 1930 to 1933.
Parque Centro América
Plaza in Quetzaltenango. Most of Xela's sights crowd near the broad central plaza. It's a great place to get a stroll or even sit the ones watch. It was originally two separate parks, developed by Italian architect Alberto Porta inside 1800s; we were looking at combined in the 1930s update into its current oblong shape. The most notable from the monuments scattered along its expanse is often a rotunda of Ionic columns dedicated to your composer Rafael Álvarez Ovalle.
In the center with the plaza there´s a pillar devoted to Justo Rufino Barrios, the 19th-century president whose 'reforms' transferred land ownership from Maya peasants to coffee-plantation owners.
Cemetery in Quetzaltenango. Quetzaltenango's enormous cemetery is usually a pleasant and fascinating green space to get a walk. To the left in the main entrance, check out the grave on the gypsy Vanushka, spurned and shamed by her wealthy lover until she died of the broken heart. Flowers will still be left at her grave by those seeking better fortune in affairs in the heart. It is recommend only visiting Friday to Sunday throughout the day, when there are several people around.
Cerro el Baúl
Viewpoint in Quetzaltenango. This wooded hill can be a popular weekend destination for city dwellers, due to its wonderful views across Xela's broad plain and for the volcanos that fringe it. There's a small cafe, some surprisingly fast and scary kids' slides plus a giant obelisk with great Mayan warrior Tecún Umán carved in relief – legend claims they are buried for this spot.
Museo de Arte
Museum in Quetzaltenango. An interesting if chaotic bunch of some 400 paintings by Guatemala's leading modernists is exhibited here, including sticks to Efraín Recinos, Jorge Mazariegos and also the landscape artist José Luis Álvarez. Most prominently displayed will be the fantastic canvases of Rodrigo Díaz, who also is actually the curator.
Museum in Quetzaltenango. This museum is about Maya weaving, with traditional outfits arranged by region. Director Raquel García is skilled on the symbols and meanings of indigenous clothing and interesting commentary.
Templo de Minerva
Monument in Quetzaltenango. Rising incongruously from an island inside the middle of traffic-choked 4a Calle, the temple was erected by dictator Estrada Cabrera to honor the Roman goddess of education as well as inspire Guatemalans to new heights of learning. Bizarre contrast notwithstanding, celebrate a handy shelter throughout a rainstorm and also a useful landmark with the nearby bus terminal.
Iglesia El Calvario
Church in Quetzaltenango. The church that lends its name towards the neighborhood west with the center was built four centuries ago over a rise to protect yourself from Xela's periodic flooding. Check out the grand interior having its unusually broad single-nave design. Calvario is one from the chief way stations during Semana Santa celebrations.