Comprising the provinces of Huehuetenango, TotonicapĂˇn, Quetzaltenango and San Marcos, Guatemalaâ€™s western highlands are mostly for die-hard travelers who are looking to get off the gringo trail and look for some adventure.
Crossed by the picturesque Cuchumatanes mountain chain, Guatemalaâ€™s western highlands are rugged and beautiful, and home to a largely indigenous population. Away from the main cities, local women still wear huipiles (native blouses) and more people speak traditional languages such as Mam, Jacalteco and QuichĂ©. Travelers who stay in the region for a while will be able to identify where a person is from by their clothing.
There are several towns, cities and sites of interest for visitors in the region. The city of Quetzaltenango, also referred to as XelajĂş or Xela (â€śSHAY-laâ€ť), is Guatemalaâ€™s second largest city and a popular spot for visitors who want to learn Spanish in a more authentic or less gringo-ey place than Antigua or Panajachel.
Todos Santos CuchumatĂˇn is a traditional Mayan village, located in the remote mountains above bustling Huehuetenango. It is known for its traditional lifestyle, men who still wear native clothing, and its annual festival of Todos Santos on October 31- November 2.
The province of Huehuetenango is also home to the ruins of Zaculeu, a Mayan stronghold that fell to the Spanish early in the conquest.
The province of TotonicapĂˇn is noteworthy for having genuine native markets in both the city of TotonicapĂˇn and Momostenango. Visitors who have already visited the larger and more famous market in Chichicastenango may want to see these smaller, more authentic markets.