One thing you must do, and it may be the very reason why you came to Nebaj, is go hiking to some of the most enchanting villages in highland Guatemala. Short or long, easy or strenuous; you can choose a hike to suit your needs and tastes. There are two hiking agencies located right next to each other on 3a Calle between 5a and 6a Avenida. Hikes range from $15 to $80.
El Descanso has its own guide crew known as Guias Ixiles. They speak English and Spanish (as well as Ixil).
It is worth getting a guide for numerous reasons: security â€“ although it is safe around this area if you got lost the distances between isolated villages could prove a serious problem; communication â€“ Spanish is the second language here and if you donâ€™t speak Ixil having a guide can help you cross any language barriers; history and culture â€“ local knowledge can really enrich your experience, giving meaning to the Maya customs you will see in the villages; local economy â€“ supporting locals employed in tourism allows you to give something back to the communities.
Below is an example of some of the treks and sights around Nebaj. The grading is a difficulty rating (5 being the hardest).
Cataratas - The hike to these waterfalls is a pleasant two-hour, three-kilometer walk from the north of Nebaj. It goes through green pastures following the river. 1
Acul â€“ To reach this traditional Maya village six kilometers (3.7 m) out of town the hike takes five hours which includes walking time up and through the mountains, stopping for lunch at the Hacienda San Antonio and time in the village itself. Return journey is by bus. 2
Cocop â€“ This peaceful three to four-hour, nine-kilometer (5.6 m) hike, follows the narrow Nebaj river valley up to this mountain-top hamlet. There are awesome views high over the surrounding area. 1
Sacred sights â€“ Get a two-hour insight into Maya worship and tradition from a local expert and see sights you probably never would have found yourself.
Todos Santos â€“ If you have three days to spare and donâ€™t mind breaking into a sweat youâ€™ll be rewarded by this 10/18 kilometer (6.2-11.1 m) hike all the way into the Western Highlands. Avoiding major roads, the route snakes through the mountains, crossing pretty fields full of wild flowers, passing La Laguna Magdelena and up into the rocky altiplano. On the second night, staying in Capellania, you can also trek over to El Mirador for some superb views out over Huehuetenango and across to the San Marcos volcano. The route continues onto La Ventosa from where you can take a bus, if your feet are tired, otherwise youâ€™ll follow the RÃo LimÃ³n on to Todos Santos for your third night. Remember to take warm clothes on this one as the hike goes over 3000 meters and the nights are chilly. Harder routes are also possible. 4-5
Las Aveturas â€“ This hike also goes to Acul, ending there the second night and with a night beforehand at Las Majadas, but covers 25-36 kilometers (15.5 â€“ 22.3 m). The route starts out through the dense forest which surrounds Nebaj â€“ which can be tricky to penetrate; the reason why this was the EGP hide-out â€“ but when it opens out the views of the Cuchumatames are worth it. You can also visit three neighboring lagoons near Las Majadas, the cheese factory at Acul before trekking back to Nebaj on the third day. 4
Xeo-Cotzol â€“ This a popular two/three-day hike due to its average difficulty rating and the opportunity it provides for contact with the Maya communities in the surrounding villages. There is quite a lot of going up and down the steep mountain sides, covering about 37 kilometers (23 m), but the views are splendid and so are stop-offs at Xeo, Ctozol, Finca la Vega where they produce cheese, cream and mushrooms. Other villages can be added on, such as La Pista where a lot of the guides from Guias Ixiles live. 3
Hike, Historical site, Camping, adventure, Lookout point, Nature trail
3a Calle between 5a and 6a Avenida.
Budget to mid-range.
Relative price: Budget
Travel Skills: intermediate/somewhat difficult.
You Need to Bring:
Good boots, rain coat and warm clothing.
US dollar, Guatemalan quetzal
Born and raised in Yorkshire, England, Jo is currently working as a freelance travel writer in Latin America. With degrees in...