The Highlands: Places to Explore


  • Almolonga

    In this charming village just outside of Quetzaltenango you'll find women wearing bright orange huipils and beautiful headbands. At the busy Wednesday and Saturday markets you can buy fruits cultivated... Read more

  • Chichicastenango

    Perched on a hillside, Chichicastenango ("the place of the nettles") is in many ways a typical highland town. The narrow cobblestone streets converge on a wide plaza where most days you'll find a few old... Read more

  • Huehuetenango

    At the foot of the Cuchumatán mountain range, Huehuetenango—it's one of those fun Guatemalan place names to say (way-way-tay-NAHN-go), but everybody shortens it to "Huehue"—was once part of the powerful... Read more

  • Jaibalito

    So small that it rarely appears on maps of the region, Jaibalito is the most undisturbed of the villages surrounding Lago Atitlán. Santa Cruz La Laguna is a short walk away, but otherwise Jaibalito is... Read more

  • Momostenango

    It's "Momo" in local parlance and on the front of the buses that shuttle you here from Quetzaltenango. This is one of the few places left in Guatemala where the 260-day Mayan calendar is still observed... Read more

  • 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... Read more

  • Panajachel

    The quiet Cakchiquel village of Panajachel on the northern shore of Lago Atitlán began welcoming international visitors during the heady, hippie 1960s, and never looked back. This is still Guatemala's... Read more

  • Quetzaltenango (Xelajú)

    Guatemala's second-largest city might seem quite provincial if you've first visited the capital. But we'll take friendly, old Quetzaltenango any day. Historically, the city never entirely warmed to the... Read more

  • Salcajá

    What you think is your first glimpse of Quetzaltenango is not Quetzaltenango at all, but actually the Quiché market town of Salcajá. With the growth of the metropolitan area, you'll barely know where one... Read more

  • San Andrés Xecul

    A quick detour from the Pan-American Highway brings you to San Andrés Xecul, notable for its canary-yellow baroque church of the same name, which is possibly the most ornate house of worship in the country... Read more

  • San Antonio Palopó

    San Antonio Palopó is a quiet farming town, larger, but much less known, than neighboring Santa Catarina Palopó. Most people have plots of land on terraced gardens where they grow green onions, which you... Read more

  • San Francisco El Alto

    What is Guatemala's largest market? Everyone guesses Chichicastenango, but it's actually the Friday affair at this highland town an easy drive from Quetzaltenango. (It's Central America's largest such... Read more

  • San Juan La Laguna

    The tiny, one-hotel village of San Juan La Laguna bills itself as "the cleanest town in Guatemala," and it lives up to its claim. San Juan is a great place to get away from the crowds and get a more authentic... Read more

  • San Lucas Tolimán

    San Lucas Tolimán, in the shadow of the Tolimán volcano, is the first town you encounter if approaching Lake Atitlán from the south. (It lies a mere 50 km (30 mi) north of Highway CA-2, which runs through... Read more

  • San Marcos La Laguna

    San Marcos has acquired fame as a center of New Age devotion, thanks to the presence of the Pirámides del Ka meditation center/lodge. The tiny village does cater mostly to tourists of all stripes, however... Read more

  • San Miguel Totonicapán

    This traditional highland village is famous for its wooden toys. "Toto" is full of workshops where a wide variety of handicrafts are actually produced. Come on Saturday for the market day, when you can... Read more

  • San Pedro La Laguna

    "It's the new Pana," proclaim its growing number of fans. Indeed, as Panajachel and its international population have matured—a few wags would say "gentrified"—the young and the restless have crossed the... Read more

  • Santa Catarina Palopó

    Santa Catarina Palopó provides an odd mix of deep-seated Cakchiquel tradition and sumptuous luxury in the vacation homes outsiders have built on the fringes of this small town. You'll be surrounded by... Read more

  • Santa Cruz del Quiché

    A half-hour north of Chichicastenango lies the provincial capital of Santa Cruz del Quiché, which serves as a base for exploring the area. Quiché, as the town is commonly called, is known for its pretty... Read more

  • Santa Cruz La Laguna

    Your first view of Santa Cruz La Laguna is the hubbub of a couple of hotels and a few vendors who hang around the dock. (A boat is realistically the only way to get here.) It's a steep walk up to the hillside... Read more

  • Santiago Atitlán

    Across the lake from Panajachel lies its rival in size, Santiago Atitlán, a small city with a fascinating, tragic history. With a population of about 48,000, this capital of the proud and independent Tzutuhil... Read more

  • Sololá

    The Atitlán area's "metropolis" of Sololá is the region's administrative capital. Sololá lies a steep, 20-minute climb up from Panajachel and offers stunning mountainside views of the lake. You'll find... Read more

  • Todos Santos Cuchumatán

    Although it takes about three hours to cover the short distance from Huehuetenango to Todos Santos Cuchumatán, the bumpy ride is probably the best way to experience the tremendous height of the Cuchumatán... Read more

  • Zunil

    At the base of an extinct volcano, the radiant village of Zunil is one of the prettiest in the highlands. Mud and adobe houses are clustered around the whitewashed church that marks the center of town... Read more