The Highlands: Places to Explore

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Nebaj

A fascinating part of the highlands, although one of Guatemala's most inaccessible regions, is the so-called Ixil Triangle. It's home to the indigenous Ixiles, who speak a unique Mam-based language, different from the Quiché spoken in the surrounding area. Isolation has meant that the people here have been able to preserve a rich culture; you'll have some trouble finding fluent Spanish speakers here. Women wear bright-red cortes with green or yellow huipils; men have mostly abandoned traditional wear, but retain colorful sashes, which may decorate an otherwise Western outfit of jeans and sweater. For many years, traditional Ixil wear meant doom for the people here; the war hit this region hard, as the Ixiles were specifically targeted for elimination. Out of fear for their own safety, many people here abandoned their traditional costume, and have only begun to don it again since the signing of the peace accords.

The main town in this region is Nebaj, where cobblestone streets lead to a central plaza with a large colonial church. On Thursday and Sunday the town swells with people who come from the surrounding villages to sell their distinctive weavings. Besides shopping, hiking in the surrounding mountains is the main draw for tourists.

Nebaj at a Glance

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