When it comes to touring the fascinating country of Guatemala we see that a main stop for travelers trekking north or south is the surprisingly beautiful city of Xela. The actual name of the town is Quetzaltenango and will be seen as Quetzaltenango from maps and Google Earth but if you are like me and traveling by bus you start to realize that there are simply no buses that state that they are headed towards Quetzaltenango. In a slight state of panic you try and ask locals what bus is going to Quetzaltenango and receive a funny look as they tell you that any bus that is marked Xela are the same as Quetzaltenango and then you see that every bus is marked Xela and feel a little bit stupid.
When you finally get into the town and need a hostel to stay at then your best bet is to head to the town square as most of the main places to stay are located just a few blocks from the square. You will notice that there is a great deal of beautiful historical architecture around the square and a town filled with students from all over the world. Though you would expect warm temperatures in the town you do have to realize that you are further than a mile high in altitude of over 7,500ft and at night it can get downright cold. For places to stay I bunked up at both Hostal Don Diego and Hostal Nim Sut as they were both only two blocks from the town square. Hostal Don Diego was about what I expected for the low price and was a bit dingy and with a somewhat helpful staff. Hostal Nim Sut was the same price yet much nicer and had a great balcony that overlooked the surrounding volcanoes and courtyard that made working or relaxing very pleasant.
The activities are incredible and inexpensive for what you get. As a traveling friend and I decided we would climb the highest peak in Central America being Volcán Tajumulco at nearly 14,000ft. This hike takes 2.5 hours up and requires cold weather gear like a jacket and jeans and during rainy season you certainly want to stay dry with some rain gear. At the summit you will see a tattered and torn Guatemalan flag that signifies you have conquered the tallest point. The next day you will likely be sore so it’s best you make a day out of going to the natural hot springs of Fuentes Georgina for some rest and relaxation. These hot springs feel amazing and even offer a reasonably priced menu so you can stay for several hours and it is only about 45 minutes from central Xela. Now that you are rested up it is time to climb one of the most magnificent volcanoes/views this writer has ever experienced. If possible do the full moon night hike to the top of Volcán Santa Maria as it overlooks the city of Xela on the Northeast and an active volcano that erupts nearly every 30min on the Southwest side. You will get to see the jagged spine of the Sierra Madre mountain range as it extends into Mexico and throughout Guatemala and to the West you will even see the Pacific Ocean. If you do the night hike you will get to watch a breathtaking sunrise as well as see the molten lava escaping the active volcano below. Make sure you bring warm clothes, high energy snacks and tons of battery life and storage on your camera because you are going to be taking a lot of photos. The hike is tough but well worth doing it over several times as the experience will not be forgotten.