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Huehuetenango Overview

Meaning ‘Place of the Ancients’ in Nahuatl, the departmental capital of Huehuetenango, or ‘Huehue’ as it is known by many, is a relaxed and friendly town, serving as the access point for the western highlands. Despite this, it is only 1,901 meters above sea level (6,237 ft) and actually occupies the valley at the foot of the Cuchumatanes; from the steep winding road out north of Huehuetenango, towards Todos Santos, there are some spectacular views from the Mirador looking out over the whole town. With its relatively low altitude, Huehue is less chilly and less traditional than the altiplano towns rising above it, boasting average temperatures ranging from 16°C (61°F) - 24°C (75°F).

The town has an unhurried atmosphere and a friendly, open vibe and although there is not much here by way of tourist attractions it is nevertheless a pleasant place to spend a couple of days. In the center of town is the main square with the town hall, the colonial church and other Neoclassical buildings around its edges. It also contains a 30m² relief map of the area. The market is to the east of town, three blocks from the square. Only four kilometers (2.5 mi.) away are the ruins of Zacaleu; a Maya heritage site. Indeed the Mam have inhabited this land for centuries, and a trip up to the highland towns north of Huehuetenango will immediately demonstrate this.

Huehuetenango, with a population of 57,289, is located about six hours from Guatemala City, and 275 kilometers (170 mi) from the Mexican border at La Mesilla, making it the center of transport and commerce in the area. Many visitors never make it this far up into the western highlands, opting instead for day trips to Chichicastenango or some R&R by the lake. However, making the effort to get up here is rewarding. The craggy, mountainous landscapes and isolated villages harboring unchanged Mayan traditions transport you to a very different Guatemala than the one you will find in Antigua or the Eastern Highlands.

If you are only in Guatemala on a short vacation, it might not be worth heading all the way up here. However, if you are on an extended trip, you could do a lot worse than to soak up some highland spirit on your way from or to Mexico. The route from the border skirts around the uplands but does not delve into the true highlands, so you’ll need to jump off in Huehuetenango in order to get onward buses to places like San Mateo Ixtatán. Alternatively, you can stop off in the western highlands while traveling from Quezaltenango on your way east to Sacapulas or Nebaj via Aguacatán, and then even onto Cobán via Uspantán.










01 Dec 2009




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