Daytripper: Cool Trips. Close by.

Daytripper is XelaWho’s regular monthly series on day trips within easy reach of Xela. This month’s article is called: The Santa Maria Lookout

Ok. So you’ve noticed that big beautiful mountain dominating the Xela skyline, although you haven’t quite figured out what the big ugly mountain next to it is. But you’re no mountain goat, just someone who likes to get out of the bus fumes and into the fresh country air once in a while. Well, this hike is so easy the only way we could make it easier is if we told you to go mall walking.

That big beautiful mountain is Santa Maria – the most beautiful mountain in Guatemala, in fact, and we’re going to take you to the absolutely best view of it. The big ugly mountain is Cerro Quemada, which makes sense if you’ve been paying attention to your Spanish teacher’s lessons and not just his cute butt.

From the bottom of Parque Central, step into 12th Avenue and look up at the Cristo Viene sign, avoiding being run over by either the cars or the two goats stationed nearby. Guide’s tip: buy fresh goat milk for hiking energy; the tuberculosis won’t kick in for a couple of months.

Head south on 12th Ave, towards the Cristo sign. When it ends, hang a right and look for Plazuela de San Antonio on your left. Take the road to the right of the Plazuela, uphill. And uphill some more, then a little bit more uphill before you pass the Alquimista turnoff and eventually find yourself standing in front of the church, admiring the knockout view of Xela.

Keep following the road (turning into a path) uphill and around a few switchbacks and uphill some more until it straightens out for a while, passing someone’s cute blue summer cottage on the right before you come to an obvious corner of an aging but once great stone wall.

Here you take the straight path, not the 90-degree left that is probably what most other people would be doing. You’re doing your own thing here, not following the masses. Keep walking the obvious path, avoiding multitudinous side paths that clearly don’t go anywhere you want to go, since you don’t plan to hoe any corn today. In just under 9 minutes reach a dirt road. Take a right and follow it. Precisely 6 minutes later you will see a truly amazing Tree.

Unfortunately the view from the Tree is restricted, otherwise we’d just stay here bathing in it until our bones turned to dust, or at least until our feet turned pink and wrinkled. Take a right at the Tree, 15 giant steps, a big breath, look left, and take care not to swoon. That big beautiful mountain is Santa Maria and it doesn’t get any bigger or more beautiful from any other spot in the country. The big ugly thing on your left is still Cerro Quemado.

From here you can retrace, or follow the grass road downhill 19 minutes to the paved road (take a right) and another 22 minutes to your 2nd glass of goat milk. One hour 20 minutes round trip.

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