Xela is Guatemala’s second largest city, located in the western highlands. It is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes.
Getting to Xela from San Marcos on Lake Atitlan was a a *fekking* nightmare. I actually thought I was doing go die. You can read about that experience here. Despite the epic voyage, we arrived in Xela safely (I think Isis the cat was looking out for me).
I went to a hostel recommended to me a girl I’d met in Nica. Right away I felt at home and met some great people.
To start with, I took a walk around the city go get my bearings. Like many Central and South American cities, Xela has a central square and lots of colonial architecture. Although not as pretty and clean as Antigua, Xela definitely has a charm.
Some other things I got up to:
A little out of town and a bus ride up a big mountain, is the Fuentes Georginas hot springs. I visited in the afternoon with two Canadian girls, Catherine and Markisa, from my hostel. The clouds were low, creating a cool but almost eerie feel.
The main area of the springs had a few different pools of varying temperatures. The biggest one had the most comfortable temperature so we soaked here for a while. After about an hour, we walked down a trail to some other pools, right by a little river. These were a lot hotter!
After a couple of hours of soaking we were pretty relaxed and ready to head back to town.
Walk or run up to Cerro de Baúl
After a short break from running, I was keen to get back into it in Xela. I love running in a new city or town. Because I usually go earlier in the morning, I see a different and quieter side to the place. I almost ALWAYS get a bit lost doing this too! I was very happy to see other recreational runners in the streets and on their way up to the hill. Other than the odd tourist, I haven’t seen any other runners in my whole trip. Around Cerro de Baúl however, there were plenty of locals pounding the pavement, working hard and tackling the hill. The reward, a great view of the city!
If you’re not into running, it still makes a great walk and viewpoint. I’m not sure how long it is, as I ended up covering 8km with quite a few ‘detours’.
I found the food in Xela to be excellent and well catered to vegetarians.
I love everything about this cafe! The interior is fresh and bright. The food, on point! The menu boasts an array of juices, smoothies, smoothie bowls, salads and healthy treats (choc mousse, granola bars). This made me a very happy pineapple indeed.
Street food near square
Most nights vendors set up stalls along some streets near the main square. There is a bit of everything, tacos, empanadas, pupusas, grilled corn and lots of fruit. The smells were very enticing!
Eat the pan!
The bread here is pretty delish, but sweet! Good for a little snack here and there but don’t overdo it, you might end up in a sugar coma. Xela Pan is right near the square but have many locations. There are plenty of other panaderias (bakeries) around too.
I ate twice at Esquina de Asiatica, excellent Asian fusion food! Until I came to Central America I didn’t realise how spoilt I am in Melbourne with our abundant Asian cuisine. I was excited to get my fix here to tide me over another few weeks.
The tallest peak in Central America, Volcán Tajumulco, is relatively close to Xela. There’s an overnight and one day option to tackle the ascent. I decided on the one day hike and again went with Catherine and Markisa, as well as Colin, an American working at the hostel. He had already done the hike so was our guide.
The start of the hike was along a paved road and the weather was beautifully clear. It wasn’t too strenuous at all, just a consistent up. Once the road ended, the proper trail started which was mainly rocky.
As we began to climb the peak, the effects of the altitude affected some of us. Predictably, the climb got a lot stepper the closer we got to the summit. There was a little bit of scrambling over loose rocks which always adds to the adventure!
The summit was shrouded in cloud, so we had no view of the surrounding area. The crater was very cool though. You could walk down into it and people and spelt out words using rocks. We ate our lunch up top, took some pics and headed back down.
Almost immediately, it started drizzling. Then after about 30 mins, raining harder. The rain didn’t let up much most of the way back. When we got back to the road to wait for the bus, we were drenched. We waited for about half an hour and no bus passed. Then, one came but it was chockers. We decided to get a taxi to San Marcos instead. The rest of the journey home was interesting, see my post on chicken bus fun!
Back in town, we had earnt a shower and good night’s rest. A long day of travel and hiking in poor weather, but very happy to say I got to the highest point in Central America!
A long bus journey awaits me as I head across the country to Lanquin!