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The capital of the department of Baja Verapaz, Salamá lies at the bottom of a pretty valley, between the green folds of the Sierra de las Minas and of the Sierra Chuacús, in a region of triopical dry forest. It is mostly an agricultural region, which benefits from mild temperatures, and produces cattle, fish, flowers and fruit and vegetable seeds for export.

The city of Salamá was founded by the Dominicans between 1550 and 1560, during their “pacific conquest” of this central area of Guatemala. Its original name comes from the predominant indigenous language quiché “tzalam já”, board of water, or perhaps “tzalam á”, tranquil river. The Dominican friars built the church of San Mateo, patron saint of the town, and in the 17th century, established a convent in Salamá to govern the smaller convents of the region, Rabinal, San Miguelito, Cubuilco and others. But after independence, in 1829, General Morazán expelled the religious orders from the state of Guatemala, and secularized their possessions. In 1877, the state of Guatemala divided the region of Verapaz into two departments, Alta and Baja Verapaz, and Salamá became capital of the latter. The population, though it still maintains its strong Maya culture (predominantly Achi’), is still heavily Catholic and religious celebrations are still important. Although it is a departmental head, Salamá is pretty much a small town in a rural region, and market days, Mondays and Fridays, are particularly busy days, as farmers from the entire municipio come to sell their goods.

There are few actual tourist attractions, but Salamá offers good infrastructure if you want to base yourself there to explore the smaller towns nearby or the biological reserves higher up in the cloudforest.

(altitude 940 m, population of the municipio 47,000, urban 20,000)

Neighborhoods in Salamá: Around Salamá,

Other places nearby Salamá: Sierra De Las Minas Biosphere Reserve , Cancuén, Río Ikbolay, Chisec, San Jerónimo, Cobán, Purulhá and the Corredor Biológico del Bosque Nuboso, Parque Nacional Cuevas de Candelaria, Biotopo De Quetzal and Parque Nacional Laguna Lachuá.

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...
07 Dec 2009

Top Places in Salamá

Around Salamá

From Salamá, you can easily visit the towns of Rabinal and San Jeronimo (see relevant section), as well as the municipal park Los Cerritos, just 3 km out of town. It is a dry tropical forest, with ...
City Zone
Around Salamá, Salamá, Guatemala

Things to do in Salamá

Iglesia San Mateo

136556The 16th-century colonial church sits just on the parque central and its pretty baroque façade looks best at the end of the afternoon, as the rays of the setting sun hit it. Inside, there are a ...
Historical Building
Salamá, Guatemala

Iglesia del Calvario

136557The neo-classical Calvario church, built in 1899 on the site of an ancient Mayan cemetery, is reached by a climb up 120 steps. It houses a Señor de Esquipulas or Black Christ, which is celebrated on ...
Historical Building
Salamá, Guatemala

Villa Deportiva

136558Once the Alcatraz of Guatemala, the former maximum-security prison of Salamá now serves as an area for football matches and other sports. There is not very much to see nowadays, but the impregnable ...
Historical Building
Salamá, Guatemala

Temple of Minerva

136560This slightly unimpressive replica of the structure of a Greek temple was built in 1916 by liberal president Manuel Estrada Cabrera in honor of Minerva, goddess of knowledge, in the hope to encourage ...
Historical Building
Salamá, Guatemala


136564The market bubbles with life every day, and is a good place to stroll, taking in the smells, the colors and textures of all manners of fresh fruit and vegetables, weighed on hand-held scales, or ...
Salamá, Guatemala

Mirador Cerro de la Cruz

If you follow the paths leading from behind the Calvario up the Cerro de la Cruz for 30 to 45 minutes, you will reach the mirador atop the mountain, at 1260m, and from there, be offered a 180-degrees ...
Salamá, Guatemala
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