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Daytripper: Cool Trips. Close by.

Daytripper is XelaWho’s regular monthly series on day trips within easy reach of Xela. This December 2009 issue focuses on San Andrés Xecul, home to one of Guatemala’s most unique and unusual churches.

Daytripper: San Andrés Xecul By Kristien Verhaeren

Need something to do on a on a lazy, sunny Sunday? Let me tell you about a little excursion I had. My travel guide suggested visiting 3 villages near Xela: Salcajá, San Andrés Xecul and Olintepeque, which you can visit in a day. But on this particular Sunday it was already past 2 p.m. so I decided on one town: San Andrés Xecul in the department of Totonicapán.

The most remarkable thing about San Andrés is its colorful painted church, built in the mid 1500s. It is a unique example of folk art, perhaps the most famous one in Guatemala. On the façade, angelitos and other figures in splashy colours contrast with the yellow ochre background, which is also the color of the huipil the women wear here.

The name “Xecul” means “under the blanket” and is related to the town’s sky-high 2400m altitude (i.e. its climate). It lies in a valley surrounded by mountains on 3 sides. The main ethnic group and indigenous language is K’iche’.

San Andrés Xecul lives from the spinning and dyeing of cotton threads, which I’ve been told they often hang outside the houses to dry. Unfortunately I didn’t see this part, perhaps because it was a Sunday? The town is also reputed to have a university for brujos…but I guess that’s only a rumor.

Although things were pretty quiet on a Sunday, I truly enjoyed strolling through this little village. I went uphill to a chapel, also yellow painted, from where I had a beautiful view of the whole valley.

Getting to San Andrés is easy, cheap and only about 1 hour from Xela! Most of the tour companies in town offer a tour.  If you decide to go on your own, first go to the Minerva Terminal (taxi?Q25, minivan going to “Terminal-Hospital-Hiper”=Q1.25). At the terminal, take any bus (cost Q3) bound for Cuatro Caminos (Huehuetenango,  Momostenango, etc.). Note that you need to get off before Cuatro Caminos, at “la Moreria”, near an Esso gas station. Cross the street and from there you can jump into a pick-up who drives you to the village (for Q2). Don’t forget your scarf and jacket!

I experienced a lovely afternoon but my only advice would be to leave earlier then 2pm and perhaps go on a day less tranquilo than a Sunday! Order up some nice warm and sunny weather so the sunshine lights up the magical yellow church of San Andrés Xecul!

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