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Playa Grande

Although translating as “big beach”, Playa Grande is neither by a lake nor by the sea; its name refers to the plains fertilized by the river Chixoy, where corn, beans, cardamom and coffee are grown. Playa Grande is also the head of the municipio of Ixcán, a name which means “yellow woman” in Qeqchi, “snake woman” (referring to the form of the rivers winding across the territory) in Qaqchikeles, and “convergence of the sky and land” in Qanjobal, the third local indigenous language. And a crossroads Playa is, technically in the department of Quiché but convenient as a base to visit Laguna Lachuá in Alta Verapaz, or to cross over into the Highlands, and just a couple of hours away from the sharp angle of Mexico’s border. Some shops will even change Mexican pesos.

While most of the municipio’s population is scattered in small agricultural communities in the surrounding countryside, Playa is large enough to make a good stopover to refuel on money, food or other supplies. But its muddy streets lead to no other attraction than the wild bazaar of a market and the microbuses honking down the main street, so you will likely be heading out pretty fast. There are several banks, a Bancoagromercantil on the main street of zona 1, as well as a Banrural farther down, both with 5B ATMs accepting Visa, Mastercard and Cirrus. There are a few cybercafés around, including Tecnicentro La Selva, four blocks up 2a Avenida from the market.

Should you need to spend the night, the dark, wood-paneled La Reina Vasty offers what are the nine neatest rooms in town, with clean tile floors, comfortable beds, private bathrooms, A/C and TV for $15. Avenida Principal, zona 1, above Ferreteria La Pala, Tel: (502) 5514-6693 / 5514-0385.

Just around the corner is the Hotel España, hiding its green façade behind heavy bougainvilleas. While the cheaper rooms with shared bathrooms ($6) tend to share every noise from the corridor and other rooms, the rooms with private bathrooms, in the wing buildings, are better ($15 single, $24 double). Attached is the El Hangar restaurant, where the potentially annoying cascade of exuberant hanging plants and surly waitresses serving liter-beers to the locals actually give a touch of character. The menu at El Hangar extends from breakfasts ($5.50) – the stack of fruit pancakes is excellent - to full meals including tepezcuintle (a type of agouti), venison ($6) and all manners of beef, chicken and seafood ($4.80-$12), as well as tacos ($5). 2a Avenida 2a Calle, Lote 51 and 52. Tel: (502) 7755-7645 (hotel), 7755-7646 (restaurant).

If you prefer a cheaper and greasier fare of fried chicken, there is a Pollolandia on the corner of 2a avenida, and a string of comedores offering basic dishes for Q10 (just over $1).


Other places nearby Playa Grande: Parque Nacional Cuevas de Candelaria, Sierra De Las Minas Biosphere Reserve , Cancuén, Cobán, Cubulco, Rabinal, Chisec, Salamá, Purulhá and the Corredor Biológico del Bosque Nuboso and San Rafael Chilascó.

By Andrea Davoust
After more than two years of working and living out of a suitcase in Eastern Europe and in various improbable African countries that no-one has ever...
08 Dec 2009

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