Quetzaltenango - Xela, among its residents - is one of the largest cities in Guatemala. Surrounded by several active volcanoes, Xela is home to plenty of natural wonders - from the sacred waters of Chicabal Lake to the flora and fauna of Cerro el Baul. The city also values its culture and heritage, being home to numerous museums, historical sites, and architectural gems. There are plenty of excellent shopping and dining options in and around the city, as well. Planning to visit Quetzaltenango soon? Don’t miss out on the best this city has to offer. We’ve selected the best things to do in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Be sure to check these out, and add them to your itinerary.
1. Unwind at the thermal baths of San Silvestre Spa
Editor’s note: There’s no photo available at the time of writing
One of the most popular attractions in Quetzaltenango is their relaxing hot baths. Many visitors frequent these baths believing that they have healing properties. Regardless, they are definitely relaxing and a great way to relieve some stress. The San Silvestre Spa is arguably one of the best and most frequented baths in the city. You can immerse yourself in their thermal baths or take a dip in their indoor pool, which even comes with a waterfall! Afterward, you can rent a private room for a couple of hours to enjoy a delicious meal - a perfect activity for when you just want to relax and unwind with that special someone.
San Silvestre Spa
Address: 1a. Calle A 4-64 Zona 7 almolonga, Quezaltenango 09001, Guatemala
Website: San Silvestre Spa
Opening hours: 5am - 9pm (daily)
2. Try an activity at Centro Intercultural y Deportivo de Quetzaltenango
Whether you enjoy literature, arts, or sports, there’s something for you to enjoy at the Centro Intercultural y Deportivo de Quetzaltenango! You can hit the library for some interesting reads, or learn more about the culture from the fascinating exhibitions in the art and train museum. If you’re sporty and like to keep active, the center also has a good number of sports facilities, including an impressive running track, and a soccer field. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to catch an event, like a concert or a local beauty pageant.
Centro Intercultural y Deportivo de Quetzaltenango
Address: 21 Avenida, Quezaltenango, Guatemala
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 8am - 6pm (closed on Sun)
3. Explore the Santiaguito Volcano on a hiking tour
Santiaguito is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Located just 40 minutes away from Quetzaltenango, you can easily go on an exciting adventure and explore Santiaguito on a hiking tour. The guided tour will take you through a moderately steep hike, with plenty of flora and fauna to admire. You’ll eventually stop at a vantage point, where you’ll be treated to an amazing view of molten lava and clouds of smoke billowing from the volcano – from a safe distance, of course! The hiking tour is limited to just 10 people at most, which means you’ll be receiving personalized attention from your guide.
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Quetzaltenango, Quetzaltenango Department, Guatemala
4. Satisfy your sweet tooth at Chocolate Doña Pancha
Do you have a bit of a sweet tooth? On your next trip to Xela, indulge yourself in mouthwatering, homemade chocolate from Chocolate Doña Pancha! Though they first opened in 2005, Chocolate Doña Pancha is run by a family that has been in the business of making artisanal chocolate since the 1800s - so you can be sure that they have truly perfected the craft. You can take a tour of their store first, where you will learn more about their process of making chocolates, and then try these delectable sweets yourself. One of their must-tries is their World Famous Hot Chocolate, which they also serve with fresh fruit and yogurt.
Chocolate Doña Pancha
Address: 16-67, Diagonal 13 10 Calle, Quezaltenango, Guatemala
Website: Chocolate Doña Pancha
Opening hours: Mon - Wed: 8:30am - 7:30pm (closed on Sun)
5. Marvel at the Quetzaltenango Cathedral
The Quetzaltenango Cathedral, or the Holy Spirit Cathedral, was originally built in 1532 after the conquistadores defeated the legendary Tecun Uman. However, the cathedral as we know it today was re-constructed in the 1990s, having been damaged in several earthquakes in the years prior. As the spiritual center of Quetzaltenango, the cathedral is not just an important place of worship, it is also home to historical and cultural treasures. In addition to the cathedral’s ornate décor, it houses two of the most revered images in Quetzaltenango: The Divine Just Judge, and the Virgin of the Rosary. Truly, the cathedral is a must-see, regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs.
6. Learn about history at Museo De Historia De Quetzaltenango
If you’re a bit of a history nerd and want to learn more about Quetzaltenango, a great place to visit is Museo De Historia De Quetzaltenango. This natural museum is home to a wealth of fascinating artifacts, including vintage photographs, preserved flora and fauna, musical instruments, and many other items that tell of Mayan culture and history. Their main attraction is their exhibit on the Estado de Los Altos, of which Quetzaltenango was once the capital, and the liberal revolution in Central American politics. For a more personalized experience, you can even have one of the museum’s knowledgeable guides tour you through the exhibits.
Museo De Historia De Quetzaltenango
Address: 4a Calle, Quezaltenango, Guatemala
Opening hours: 9am - 8pm (daily)
7. Have a look at the freshest finds in Mercado La Democracia
If you love cooking with fresh produce, you’re sure to have a grand time at Mercado La Democracia. This is one of the most popular and longest-running farmers’ markets in Xela, boasting the largest selection of goods. Every day, you can find the freshest selection of local fruits and vegetables here, as well as plenty of other goods from clothes to electronics. Just be sure to remember that parking is extremely difficult to find here, so it may be better to walk or take public transport when visiting the market.
Mercado La Democracia
Address: 2a Calle, Quezaltenango, Guatemala
Opening hours: 8am - 6pm (daily)
8. Shop ‘til you drop at Centro Comercial Interplaza Xela
Shopping for all your loved ones back home, or simply looking for good deals? The Centro Comercial Interplaza Xela has just what you need! This is one of the newer malls in the area, and it houses plenty of great shopping options – everything from clothes to electronics can be found here. If you get hungry after a long day of shopping, you can also grab a bite at one of the many great dining options in the mall. If you’ll be traveling by car, the mall also offers free parking for your convenience.
Centro Comercial Interplaza Xela
Address: Km. 205 Carretera a San Marcos Municipio la Esperanza, Quezaltenango 09032, Guatemala
Website: Centro Comercial Interplaza Xela
Opening hours: 10am – 8pm (daily)
9. Enjoy local art and coffee at Ciudad de la Imaginación
Founded in 2010, Ciudad de la Imaginación aims to serve as a contemporary space where local art, culture, and entrepreneurship can thrive. As such, the center often hosts various events, including cultural performances, book launches, seminars, and art exhibitions. It is also home to the Biblios Café, a quiet and welcoming café where you can lose yourself in great books and excellent coffee. There’s always something interesting going on at Ciudad de la Imaginación, so be sure to check it out on your visit to Xela.
Ciudad de la Imaginación
Address: 14a-32, 2a Calle, Quezaltenango, Guatemala
Website: Ciudad de la Imaginación
Opening hours: Mon – Fri: 9am – 6pm (closed on Sat & Sun)
10. Discover forgotten history at the Railway Museum Los Altos
Also called Museo del Ferrocarril de los Altos, the Railway Museum Los Altos is perfect for history buffs. This modest, but fascinating museum features a number of artifacts, including photos and even some vintage parts which tell the story of the highly ambitious rail project that once connected Quetzaltenango to the Pacific coast from 1930 to 1933. The museum also features a lovely display of a model railway. If you’re lucky, you might even catch the museum guide, who can tell you even more about the fascinating history of this oft-forgotten railway in Quetzaltenango.
Museo del Ferrocarril de los Altos
Address: 4a Calle & 19 Av, Quetzaltenango 09001, Guatemala
Website: Museo del Ferrocarril
Opening hours: Tue - Fri: 9am - 4:30pm; Sat - Sun: 10am - 4:30pm (closed on Mon)
11. Indulge in history and dessert at Café Museo La Luna
The Café Museo La Luna is a must-visit in Quetzaltenango, for its vintage charms and mouthwatering meals. The café actually doubles as a museum of sorts, being artfully decorated with plenty of interesting antiques and artifacts. They sometimes feature live musical performances, which add to their cozy and welcoming vibe. In addition to displays of various vintage items, they also boast a wide selection of sweet treats and savory dishes. While you’re here, you should definitely indulge yourself in a cup of their best-selling hot chocolate with whipped cream, or help yourself to a generous serving of their mouthwatering cambrays topped with some dulce de leche.
Café Museo La Luna
Address: 8a Avenida 4-11, Quezaltenango 09001, Guatemala
Website: Cafe La Luna
Opening hours: Tue - Fri: 11:30am - 9:30pm; Fri - Sun: 4pm - 9pm (closed on Mon)
12. Catch some excellent musical acts at Quetzaltenango Municipal Theatre
The Quetzaltenango Municipal Theatre, also called Teatro Municipal, is another important venue for arts and culture in the city. The building itself is quite historical, boasting a stunning neoclassical façade, as well as beautifully maintained interiors. The theater itself looks as though it was frozen in time, yet it still functions as a performance venue. The theater is known for having served as a venue for top jazz performances in the past and, to this day, you can still catch wonderful musical acts, recitals, and other performances by talented local artists.
The Quetzaltenango Municipal Theatre
Address: 1era calle entre 14 avenida A y, 14 Avenida, Quezaltenango 09001, Guatemala
Website: Teatro Municipal Quetzaltenango
13. Explore the wonders of Chicabal Lake
Also called Laguna de Chicabal, Chicabal Lake is not just full of natural beauty, it is also a historical treasure. This site is considered to be sacred among the Mam Mayan people. Little wonder, then, that it attracts thousands of visitors every year. Undoubtedly, no trip to Quetzaltenango would be complete without exploring the lake. The best way to see this sacred site would be to go on a guided hike of the area. These guided hikes will lead you to sacred Mayan altars, which are used to this day by traditional Mayans. The hike will also take you through scenic trails, so you will not only be treated to breathtaking views, but you will also see up close an important part of Mayan history and culture.
14. Immerse yourself in art at Centro Cultural Efraín Recinos
Centro Cultural Efraín Recinos is named after the beloved Guatemalan architect and visual artist, Efrain Recinos. He was best known for his invaluable contributions to Guatemalan art, most notably for his design for Centro Cultural Miguel Ángel Asturias, another cultural center and theater in Quetzaltenango. Although Recinos passed away in 2011, the cultural center dedicated to his memory is alive and well, and now serves as a venue for various art exhibitions, where local artists can showcase and sell their works. If you are a true art buff, Centro Cultural Efraín Recinos is a great place to immerse yourself in the best the local art scene has to offer.
Centro Cultural Efraín Recinos
Address: Avenida Jesus Castillo 3-24, Quetzaltenango 09001, Guatemala
15. Engage in Mayan history at Museo Ixkik´ del Traje Maya
Explore the rich history of Guatemala and the rest of Central America here at the Museo Ixkik´ del Traje Maya. Here you can view the permanent displays of Mayan clothing and the Mayan language display, or catch some of the temporary exhibits - just be sure to check their calendar for the schedules. There are many audio-visual materials to engage younger audiences. If you are interested in learning more, you can visit the library and browse through their collection. You’ll learn a lot in this museum, and it helps to have a pen and some paper ready while you go through the various exhibits.
Museo Ixkik´ del Traje Maya
Address: 19 Avenida & 4a Calle, Quezaltenango, Guatemala
Website: Museo Ixkik del Traje Maya
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 9am - 5pm (closed on Sat & Sun)
Price: Up to 3.25 USD
16. Enjoy a spa day at Baños Balcárcel
On your next trip to Quezaltenango, enjoy a relaxing stay at Baños Balcárcel, another popular day spa in the city! This particular spa is commonly frequented by locals who are tired after a long day at work. Having been in service for decades now, the spa has a long and colorful history of serving affordable massages. The masseuses boast years of experience and have their own style of massage. With over 30 tubs for water therapy, there is enough room for you and all your loved ones to immerse in these refreshing baths. This is definitely a great spot to visit after a long day traveling around the city.
Address: Avenida Jesus Castillo, Quezaltenango, Guatemala
Website: Baños Balcárcel
Opening hours: 6am - 8pm (daily)
17. Check out what's in style at Utz Ulew Mall
Utz Ulew Mall is the hottest shopping stop in Quezaltenango. With over a hundred different shops inside, you won’t be starved for choice. Some of these shops include popular fast-food chains and clothing stores. Electronic stores and hobby centers are also available here for your more specific needs. Tons of activities and concerts are held on a regular basis as well, so be sure to keep an eye on their events calendar. You’re sure to enjoy many great, stylish finds at this mall.
Utz Ulew Mall
Address:19 Avenida 2-40, Quezaltenango, Guatemala
Website: Utz Ulew Mall
Opening hours: Mon - Thu: 10am - 8pm; Fri - Sat: 10am - 9pm; Sun: 10am - 8pm
18. Enjoy hearty meals at Restaurante Tertulianos
Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account
¡La Armonía de Casa Museo se vive en PÉRGOLA LA VID! Un espacio al aire libre para que disfrutes Cocina de Autor, por...Posted by Tertulianos Restaurante & Museo on Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Delicious meals fill the menu at Restaurante Tertulianos, making this a must-visit for the hungry traveler. This restaurant is one of the finest in the city, situated in a charming old villa where you can enjoy some of Guatemala’s best food. A buffet-style service is standard, with a menu created by some of the best chefs in the city, from the appetizers to the desserts. The restaurant also maintains a very sensual, romantic atmosphere, with antique tables and meals by candlelight. You can even host events here: parties, weddings, or conferences. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you’re sure to have a unique dining experience.
Address: 14 Ave 5-26 Zona 3, Quetzaltenango 09001 Guatemala
Website: Restaurante Tertulianos
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 7am - 10pm; Sun: 7am - 4pm
19. Enjoy the outdoors at Cerro El Baúl Park
Cerro El Baúl is the largest green space in the city center, and it’s a great place for a hike or a picnic. The park is built on a lava dome, a reminder of the region’s volcanic activity. Verdant trees fill this 2.4 km2 (240 ha) park, which also features a good number of hiking trails and landmarks. The summit rises a thousand feet above the city, and it provides a stunning view all around. There is an opening where you can get the best view of the city, which is a perfect spot for photos while you enjoy the cool breeze that blows over the highlands. It is, overall, a nice place to relax and enjoy the great outdoors.
Cerro El Baúl
Address: Cerro El Baúl, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
20. Enjoy a great meal at Bar Salon Tecún
Located right beside Central Park, Bar Salon Tecún is another one of the most sought-after restaurants in Quetzaltenango. Pizza is a favorite here, with flavors ranging from cheese to meaty specials. You can also choose from their selection of fried finger foods, burgers, and salads. There is a wide selection of alcohol-based drinks, and the bartender can even prepare special cocktails for you. The atmosphere becomes more lively in the evening, with live band performances, so you’re guaranteed to have a great meal and a good time.
Bar Salon Tecún
Address: Interior Pasaje Enriquez Quetzaltenango Guatemal Quezaltenango, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
Website: Bar Salon Tecún
Opening hours: 8am - 12am (daily)
21. Witness nature's power at the Santa Maria Volcano
Standing at 12,375 feet (3,772 m), the Santa Maria Volcano is one of the most dominant features of the city landscape. It is also one of the most active volcanoes in the country, and is known for being the site of one of the largest eruptions in the last century. While dormant, the volcano gives you a great view of the city, and you can even view the active vent that is situated on the other side. You will need to be in good physical condition to hike up the mountain, so be sure to take caution before and during your hike. Of course, the breathtaking view at the top will be well worth the effort.
Santa Maria Volcano
Address: Santa Maria Volcano, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
Opening hours: 8am - 12am (daily)
22. Take a bite of some street favorites at Central Plaza
The Central Park is a popular gathering place for locals in the late afternoon. The most notable feature is the rotunda of columns dedicated to a famous composer. There is also a memorial to a former president in the center, which joined two separate parks into the Central Park that stands today. The historical Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, town hall, and Rivera building are all located right beside the park. The best time to visit is on the first Sunday of every month, when artisans and handicraft shops pop up. There are also many popular diners here, including a must-visit pizza shop also on this list.
Parque a Centro America
Address: 12 Av. And 4 Calle, Quetzaltenango 09001, Guatemala
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
23. Meet the animals at Minerva Zoological Park
Minerva Zoological Park is the most notable green area in the middle of this bustling city. It is home to a large variety of animals, including a lion, a tiger, different monkeys, and smaller mammals. There are also many bird species, including parrots, owls, parakeets, and even a toucan! The zoo hosts many environmental awareness programs, and there are even sessions where you can interact with and feed fruit to some of the animals. Educational tours are relatively common here, so you might be able to learn alongside them, too.
Parque Zoológico Minerva
Address: Avenida Las Américas 0-50 Zona 3. Quetzaltenango. Guatemala.
Website: Parque Zoológico Minerva
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 9am - 4pm (closed on Mon)
24. Pay a short visit to the San Nicolas Church
This Gothic church is one of the most eye-catching structures in town, and it is also one of the most visited. Built in 1919, the church has been witness to the transformation of the city into modern times. Its exterior spires and buttresses are homages to the great churches of Europe, and its bell tower is visible from most of the town. Inside are almost century-old statues and tiles, which are rich in heritage. The church is located right in the heart of the city. In front is the Benito Juarez park, with many other surrounding shops and diners.
Iglesia San Nicolas Quetzaltenago
Address: 15 Avenida, Zona 3, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
Nature, culture, and history come alive in Xela
The city of Quetzaltenango is indeed unique, as it appears to conserve nature, the Maya K'iche’s old traditions, and the colonial past while still maintaining the dynamism and conveniences of modern life. We hope this list will help you decide how to make the most of your next trip to this fascinating city, where nature, culture, and history all come to life.
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