Xela and Tajumulco, Guatemala
Set in a valley surrounded by mountains, and dormant and active volcanos, Guatemala’s second largest city is a great base for learning Spanish, volunteering, relaxing in natural hot springs or hiking volcanoes. I made Xela home for two weeks, studying Spanish and hiking.
The large volcano of Santa Maria looms large over the town but it is the neighbouring El Caliente peak of the Volcán Santiaguito that is one of the most active domes in the world and erupts up to five times an hour. This awesome power of nature is visible from a viewpoint on Santa Maria which is an easy 90 minute hike up the mountain from the village of Llanos del Pinal. The 3772 metre summit is another two hours up. Both offer good altitude training ahead of trekking Tajulmulco, Central America’s highest peak.
Hiking Volcán Tajumulco
At 4,220 metres, the non active Volcán Tajumulco is a relentless uphill trek to the base camp 200 metres below the summit. While the incline is continuous, it is not overly steep. Sunset views from Tajumulco are spectacular and sunrise creates a silhouette of the active erupting volcanoes near Xela and Antigua, providing a stunning vista.
Bring all your warm clothes plus borrow your mate’s. Temperatures plummet to below zero at night and the wind at the summit takes a further 5 degrees or so off the temperature.
Accommodation: Home stay or Black Cat Hostel
Spanish School: El Portal . Experienced, educated teachers and good home stays.
Food: Sabor de la India, great food.
Bar/cafe: El Cuartito bar and cafe, and North South bookshop and cafe
Tour operator: Quetzaltrekkers, a not for profit supporting street kids.