Guatemala's Center


Global Mark : 13.50

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Tradition Market Relax Fiesta 


 3 3 2 4 3 3 2 4 12.00

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
2 100% 100% 100% 12 to 18 15.00

Description :
A very relaxed department's capital that see little tourists

Comments : This is the place to come to if you are looking for authenticity. Most travelers remain at the bus station and see the town from the window of their bus only. 

What to do ? Relax by the lovely plaza & orange Cathedral, the ladino hang out place / Walk around the big covered market, the Maya part of town / Notice the difference of atmosphere / Have your shoes polished / Visit bad restored ruins nearby / Learn Spanish : at least 4 schools (around $130 per week w. accomodation) and little temptations to talk English !

What you may not like ? The difficulty to get precise transport info / The few drunk people, sleeping on the street or eager to talk to you / The little attractions in town

Market days ? Thursday & Sundays

How long ? One afternoon until your bus leave in the morning

Where to stay ? A few good places in Zona 1, near the plaza :

  • Todos Santos Inn (7641241), 2 C 6-74 / Q30 per person or Q40 if shower / Go there for the nice clean rooms, some with a view, in a nice clean house / What you may not like : not much in the rooms beside the beds
  • Hotel Vasquez, opp the above / Sgl Q31 / Not as good as the above but acceptable.
  • Hospedaje El Viajero, 2 C., east of the above / Sgl 15, Dbl 30 / Very basic but the cheapest prices. 
  • Hotel Central (7641197), 5 Av 1-33, a green facade without name, opp exp. Hotel Zaculeu / Rooms 18(1) 30(2) 42(3) or 54(4) / Go there for the huge rooms well furnished, some with balcony, at good prices, the old charm & the helpful staff / What you may not like : the old charm, the dust on the furniture (ask for some clean up) and the noise from the road
  • Hotel Gobernador, 4 Av. 1-45 / Rooms 23(1) or 41(2), w. shower 41 & 75 / Small, dark and basic rooms
  • Hotel Mary (7641618), 2 C 3-52 / Rooms 35(1) or 70(2), w. shower 55 & 85 / Go there to check the rooms as it was full when I visited and to have a look at the OK view from the terrace.
  • Hotel Queen Santo (7649754), 3a Av 0-20 / Sgl 50, w. shower 90 / All rooms w. cable TV / Go there to watch TV in the OK rooms. 
  • Hotel Posada Familiar (7641189), 4 C 6-83 / Room Sgl 20, Dbl 40, w. shower & local TV 50(1) or 80(2) / Go there for the correct atmosphere and rooms / What you may not like : the Sgl are basic & dark and the road noisy. 

Where to eat ? A few places around town. The comedor at Hotel Central offers breakfast for Q10 breakfast and lunch & dinner for Q15. The food was OK but the portion not as big as what I was used to in the previous comedores. Let me know if you find something better...

Internet ? Expensive at Q30 per hours. One place opp. Todos Santos Inn. A cheaper one (Q18) was however reported on 6 Calle, on the way to the bus terminal. 

Supermarket ? Just opp. the Cathedral on 5 Av. 

The ruins of Zaculeu ? Once you have walked the city & covered market, take a bus (2C, just west of Todos Santos Inn, about every 30mn from 7am to 7pm) to the 'Ruinas'. 20mn and Q1 later, you will reach them. It is now free to visit (it was Q25 before) and that is good because they really aren't impressive. The previous colonial power, the United Fruit Company, indeed did a fairly poor job of restoration. The tiny museum is however OK and the setting very nice. Go there during WE to spot locals having picnic on the grass. 

 << Discover the ruins

Leaving ?
The bus station is located in Zona 5. Regular buses do the connection with zona 1 from 6 Av, near the Cathedral. It cost Q0.65 and takes 10mn. Buses heading to the North or to the East should however pass by the Cathedral. Ask for advise. 

To Price Time Freq Hrs
Xela 8 3am to 6pm 15mn 2.5
Guatemala City 30 day 30mn 6
La Mesilla 8 day 15mn 2
Todos Santos 8 5:45, 10:45, 12:30 to 16 na / a few 2.5
Aguacatan 4 6,8,9:30, 10 to 16:30 na / hour 1
Sacapulas 10 11:30, 13:30 na 2.5
Nebaj (1) 17 11:30 na 4.5

(1) Except Sunday

The trip to Todos Santos : SSSSS / Left / Q8 / 2.5 hrs
I had requested the guesthouse owner to make a phone call on my behalf to check the latest schedule. Apparently, the bus was leaving at 6am. I did not wake up on time (who cares, I know) but still managed to reach the station at 5:43. Two minutes later, the bus left, nearly empty. It basically followed the same route I had taken 5 mn before, showing up on 4 C, by the Cathedral at 5:50. If you wake up late, you know where to go...
The bus was soon packed, with at least three people per seat. One exception : the seat by the driver. I jumped there as soon as I could, not so much for the space but for the view. The windows were really dirty but the panoramas were amazing nevertheless. 
We climbed the mountain for about one hour and then turned left on a dusty and bumpy road. Welcome to the Cuchumatanes ! On that road, the best scenery was definitively in the front, then on the left. Sometimes, it is possible to seat on the roof (basically when the bus is too packed) : that would be the best way to enjoy the amazing scenery...
From that turn off, the bus started to empty, little by little, and there were only a few people left when we reached Todos Santos at 8:15.

The trip to Aguacatan : SSS / Right / Q4 / 1.5 hrs
We left half empty at 9:30 but then took the time to fill up at El Calvario (the blue church). When we really left the town at 10:00, the bus was really packed : I shared my seat with two mothers and their kids ! The total trip was supposed to take 45mn only. But that was in theory, outside market day (it was difficult to advance), without any stops nor buses coming the other direction (the road is narrow by the ridge and prudence is a necessity) and with a kamikaze driver. We arrived at 11:00. 

See also the trip from Xela