On a map you will find a city called Quetzeltenango, but at it’s heart it goes by Xela, its given Mayan name. As the second-largest city in Guatemala, there is no shortage of things to do, both urban and adventurous. It is the setting for World Endeavors volunteer programs in Guatemala, and the location could not be more perfect to facilitate a meaningful international experience.
As the highest peak in Central America at 13,845 feet, a hike up this volcano is no small feat. Lace up your hiking boots and start out early in the morning, and prepare for a wild, winded, and exhausting day — but never forget that the reward is completely worth the effort. From the top, you will be struck with breathtaking views and indescribable sense of accomplishment, as well as the incredible feeling of pushing yourself outside your comfort zone and conquering new challenges.
Relax in the Hot Springs
The Fuentes Georginas in Zunil, outside of Quetzeltango, are a one-time must-go destination for an afternoon of relaxation after a week of volunteering (or after climbing the volcano!). Each hot spring has varying degrees of temperature, so you will always be able to find a level that’s just right for you. An easy bus ride away, you will want to bring a bathing suit, a towel, and some money to spend at the nearby restaurant.
Visit the Cemetery
Although it is an uncommon thing to visit while traveling abroad, the Xela Cemetery is an absolute must while volunteering in this beautiful city. Located near the main plaza, this colorful graveyard is home to brightly painted grave stones, vibrant flowers and artwork, and an interesting look into the way that locals perceive death in Guatemala. If anything, this cemetery is a beautiful celebration of life.
Sample the Market
One of the best ways to practice you Spanish, interact with locals, and sample delicious Guatemalan fruits and cuisine is by visiting the San Francisco de Alto Market. This constantly bustling center of commerce in Quetzeltenango is always full of life and overflowing with the sounds of vendors selling their wares and buyers negotiating the price. Get caught up in this lively atmosphere and you may just learn the art of the bargain as well.
You have already conquered the tallest volcano in the region, so why not visit one of the most scenic? This is another early-morning hike, but when you reach the top to find a clear blue lake in the crater of the volcano, you will understand why you did it. Swimming is forbidden due to ancient Mayan folklore that protects the area, but this incredible sight is not to be missed.
While this is only a handful of the experiences you will have available to you in and around Quetzeltenago/Xela, this list offers a great starting point to get you exploring in no time. Always remember to put yourself out there and push yourself to explore, practice your Spanish, and make connections with locals — and in the meantime, have a wonderful time at your volunteer placement!
Are you ready to take the first steps and volunteer abroad in Guatemala with World Endeavors? Get in touch with us today!
Posted by World Endeavors on November 12, 2016
World Endeavors believes that international travel has the power to change lives, broaden horizons, and deepen intercultural understanding. The world is undergoing rapid changes, with societies becoming more interconnected and environmentally aware; at the same time a more challenging global economy inspires in many a need to reach out and make a positive difference while seeking personal growth opportunities. There has never been a better time than now to travel abroad.