Walking through the streets of Xela feels like walking through your hometown. The city where you were born, that you know by heart and that you are never going to leave. Because you love it so much. You hang out around Parque Central, maybe with an ice-cream from Pops – the best ice-cream in the world.
Quetzaltenango, which the locals call fondly Xela, is the 2nd largest city in Guatemala. Xela derives from the ancient Maya name Xelajú, meaning under the ten mountains. Which is quite an obvious name considering that Xela is situated in the Guatemalan Highlands „Sierra Madre“ and surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. Many tourists come to Xela to do one of the countless hikes on top of the volcanoes. Also the Fuentes Georginas, natural hot springs containing sulfur, are a frequently visited attraction.
|Granizado vendors on the Plaza Central in Xela|
But Xela has more than that. It is a nice place to linger and to explore. After strolling through the streets of Xela and after having visited the Democracia market it is definitely time for a cup of hot chocolate. Since five generations „Doña Pancha“ serves one of the best hot chocolates in town and sells a lot of delicious desserts, too. You can find her in the 7a Calle in zona 1, just a jump away from the supermarket Dispensa Familiar. If you are just on the other side of the Parque Central you can go to „Panificadora La Vienesa“, which also serves nice hot chocolate and cakes. It is located at the corner of the 6a Calle and 9 Avenida in zona 1.
You are more of the hot coffee type? Well, Guatemala has also some of the best coffee in the world. A nice and cosy place for a cup of coffee (hot or cold) is the „Café Baviera“ at the corner of 5a Calle and 13 Avenida in zona 1, opposite Pasaje Enriquez. I guess the interior decoration tries to imitate the touch of a Bavarian alpine hut, which is definitely worth a see but also the coffee is quite good here.
For me the best places for lunch are always the cheap restaurants close to the market. My favorite place is „El Rico Quetzalteco“ (Yes, it is called the delicious Quetzalteco). They have a lot of different dishes to choose from (watermelon drink included) for just 15 Q. The lunch gets served on wax-lined, flowered tablecloth and in the background you can listen to some silent piano tunes (at least both times I was there, a guy was playing the keyboard) and watch the ongoing soccer game. You will find it in the 8a Calle in zona 1, right at the market building over there.
You are on a date in Xela? Then go to „El Sabor de la India“. Yes, of course it is strange to go to an Indian restaurant when being in Guatemala. But trust me. It in one of the best Indian restaurants I have been to so far. And I know what I am talking about, I have lived in India for one year. The menu is kept small but delicious. The licuados with fruits are super creamy, but also the typical Indian lassis are very good. You will find El Sabor de la India in 15 Avenida between 4a and 3a Calle in zona 1.
If your up for some salsa in Xela then Wednesday is your day. Grab some hamburgers first. Go to a place called „Bajo la Luna„, it serves the best burgers in town. And whats more, on Wednesday there is some wine happy hour going on. You will find it in 4a Calle close the the corner of 8 Avenida. But don’t get confused! It is not the Luna Café we are talking about here. As the name Bajo la Luna indicates, this bar is literally under the Luna Café, meaning you have to walk 4a Calle some steps down. Otherwise also the Salon Tecun right at the Plaza Central inside the Pasaje Enriquez is a nice option. It is supposed to be one of the oldest bars in town. So it is worth a see, also because of its Western saloon like atmosphere.
After dinner, go for some mojitos to „El Cuartito Café“. Try the mojito with Ron de Jamaica. The bar is a hip place to chill out and during the week there are mostly some life concerts going on. You will find it in 13 Avenida, opposite the Dispensa Familiar. If you are out on a Wednesday, your last stop will be „La Parranda“ to dance some salsa. It is open until 1 a.m. and for sure some Guatemalan guy will ask you for a dance. So don’t be shy!
Just to conclude the food-stroll through the city, another place to mention is „El Club de la Cocina“. it is a bit aside from the other restaurants in 13 Avenida between 3a y 4a Calle. It serves fresh, homemade pasta in a very living-room like atmosphere. And then, to come back to the reason most turists visit Quetzaltenago: hiking. If you are too lazy to make your own sandwich for the tough hike, get one at „La Chatia Artesana„. They have non-vegetarion as well as vegetrian sandwiches. The one I tried was very good and even came with some Nachos. The small place is right after the bridge when coming from the Central Park in 7a Calle. Buen Provecho!