Quetzaltenango or Xelajú (indigenous name) is about a 4-hour drive from Guatemala City and was once the capitol of Central America. This cobblestoned colonial city is the second largest city in Guatemala. It is nestled ~1.5 miles high in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Approximately 60% of the population in Xela is indigenous. Most of the indigenous people still practice their traditional customs, ceremonies and religious practices. This makes traveling through Quetzaltenango a very unique experience.
Quetzaltenango presents itself as a modern city. Although Quetzaltenango is not crowded with tourists it is a very active city. There are many cafes, coffee shops, bars, restaurants and dance clubs that offer a wide variety of entertainment experiences at very affordable prices.
The City has an infrastructure more or less similar to that of European or Northern American cities. There are three universities, a lot of internet-cafés, shops of different types, art museums, fitness centers, dance clubs, cinemas, etc. In addition to this there are many aspects that contribute to the Guatemalan style of this city: handicraft stores, markets, and street vendors. Quetzaltenango represents the step into modern times of Guatemala without forgetting the traditions of the past. This is one more reason to learn Spanish with us here in Xela!
Xela is broken down into about 12 Zones. Most tourists will never see anything but Zone 1 “Centro Historico” and Zone 3 residential/commercial areas. Juan Sisay Spanish School is located in Zone 1, along with many restaurants, cafes, stores, night clubs, laundry mats, and more. Students are housed in Zone 1 with easy walking to school every day.
MAP – http://www.xelapages.com/map.htm This map only covers Zona 1 & 3 which is all you will need for the most part.
On the weekends, you can explore the Mercado la Democracia, a sprawling commercial district/ farmers market of vendors hawking everything from traditional Mayan wares to shoes and fresh-from-the-farm vegetables.
Or you can sip coffee on the terrace of “& Cafe” or Cafe Barista which over looks the central park of Xela while you practice your verb conjugations. Guatemala is one of the largest coffee producers in the world, and here you can sample some of its finest.
And on any night of the week you can find free salsa lessons. Unlike Guatemala City, spending the night out is relatively safe, and unlike Antigua, you actually have a chance to converse with locals rather than other travelers.
The exchange rate usually floats around 8 Guatemalan Quetzales to 1 US Dollar or 10.50 Guatemalan Quetzales to 1 Euro.
The following is a list of average prices for everyday items:
Night in Hostel: Q30-50; Museum Entrance: Q15; Movie: Q25; Hour of Internet: Q5
Fast Food: Q10-35; Meal in Market Q12; Meal in Restaurant: Q30-60
Cup of Coffee: Q3-10; Frozen blended caramel latte: Q20; Dessert Pastry: Q8;
Beer in Grocery Store: Q5; Beer in Bar: Q15; Litre of Rum: Q40
Chicken Bus Fares:to Guatemala City: Q50; to Antigua: Q50; to Lake Atitlan: Q35;
Mini Bus or Pullman Fares: to Guatemala City: Q60-70; to Antigua: Q60; to San Pedro la Laguna, Lake Atitlan: Q50