By Diana Pastor
I love Catholic churches… both for their architectural value and because they reflect a part of culture. I have always thought that churches near Xela have styles and special features that make them ideal touristic sites for those looking to appreciate local architecture. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most special churches in and around Xela so you can visit them and learn a little about thesevaluable religious jewels from the west.
At the top of the list is the La Iglesia de la Ermita, located in the municipality of Salcajá. This church was built in 1524 and still stands today… without having had any major modifications! It was the first church built in Central America and the first to be named a Christian church in Guatemala. Getting there is easy: you can take a bus to Salcajá from La Rotunda in Xela and it should only take you around 30 minutes.
Close to Salcajá, not in the Department of Quetzaltenango but in Department of Totonicapán, is la Iglesia deSan Andrés Xecul. It is a psychedelic-like monument that attracts many tourists for its bright colors.
To get there, take a bus to go to San Francisco el Alto and ask the driver or attendant to drop you at the stop “La Morería”. Once you’re there, you’ll cross the road and take a pick up or tuk-tuk to take you to the center of San Andres.
San Francisco el Alto is home to one of the most significant churches of indigenous Guatemalan culture. It’s an old church without any lights… and at first glances resembles a work of Rembrandt by its dark tones and shadows from the candlelight. It’s located about 45 to 60 minutes from Xela, and is quite accessible as there are many buses that go straight from Xela to San Francisco. These buses can betaken from the 19th Avenue bus stop in Zone 3.
La Iglesia de St. Nicolas in Zone 3 is quite a sight to see at nighttime, as the lights that adorn this Gothic building make this place something to admire… the view is absolutely perfect from Parque Benito Juarez! To get there, just head up past La Democracia market.
And, of course, you must see the Catedral del Espiritu Santo, located right on Parque Central next to the large municipal building. This cathedral was the first Catholic church to be founded in Quetzaltenango, making it one of Xela’s historic gems.
So check out the rich cultural diversity around Xela through its array of churches.