The Ixil Triangle is the name given to three towns in the very north of the QuichÃ© department; Santa Maria Nebaj, San Gaspar Chajul and San Juan Cotzal which form a triangle-shape on Guatemalaâ€™s map. Being isolated by the Cuchumatanes the population are majority Ixil, speaking the Ixil Mayan dialect, many people using Spanish only as a second language. Here, the rolling green hills are beautiful, the locals welcoming and the pace of life relaxing.
The towns and remote villages in the region were the site of bloody battles between the â€˜Ho Chi Minhâ€™ front of the EjÃ©rcito Guerrillero de los Pobres (The Guerrilla Army of the Poor) and the Government army during the 1970s and 80s. Indeed, Rigoberta Menchu, the Nobel Prize-winning campaigner for indigenous rights, born in nearby UspantÃ¡n, wrote about the atrocities committed by the Government forces in Nebaj town square. During the years of fighting many locals were killed, tortured or disappeared with many others fleeing north or to Guatemala City. Maya locals began to discard their colorful indigenous dress for less conspicuous clothing thus becoming less-likely targets. Since the 1996 Peace Accords were signed many Ixils are returning, despite the painful memories, to set up businesses and farm the land, creating again a fascinating land of festivals, vibrant markets, traditional weaving techniques, Mayan customs and tasty local dishes.
Sacapulas is the gateway to the Ixil and from where the precipitous road north reaches literally towards the sky, buttressed by the mountains. From here there are some truly superb views of the Cuchumatanes. The road drops down over the other side of the mountains into the valley where the Ixil Triangle rests. Buses leave from Santa Cruz del QuichÃ© going directly to Nebaj and take about two hours 15 minutes. From Nebaj you can take shuttle buses to the neighboring towns Chajul and Cotzal as well as to the small village of Acul. There are also buses to Nebaj from CobÃ¡n and one direct bus from Guatemala City. The roads are now paved, making for a more pleasant journey, although there are already plenty of pot-holes as well as speed bumps which will slow you down.
Born and raised in Yorkshire, England, Jo is currently working as a freelance travel writer in Latin America. With degrees in...