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 Lava Fields
There is a spectacular rock formation and lava field, within easy walking distance of Xela, which is much visited by Guatemalans trying to get closer to El Senor, but seldom seen by tourists. If you’ve made a downpayment on a private excursion to the moon this makes a good warm-up hike.
Stand in Xela’s Central Park and look downhill, over the ex-prison-cum-museum. You will see the reassuring words Cristo Viene on the hillside. Hike to there. (OK, newbies, take 12th Avenida south till it ends, find a small park, notice the road to the right that switchbacks up the hill.)
Continue past the magnificent pastor’s residence, through the football field, and past the vicious dog corner (a story that can’t be told here). The path eventually straightens and you’ll find yourself looking at the corner of a well-made stone wall. Take a left, keeping the wall on your right. The path leads to a magnificent but uninhabited round stone house, and a Y intersection. Take the left, which eventually ends at a gravel road. A right leads to Los Vahos. Take a left, which leads downhill.
After a short hike there is an obvious road to the right. Take it. The first town you will reach has a name that, to prevent four-wheelers from overrunning it, will not be revealed here. In the approximate center of the town, look for a path to the right, up the rather imposing hill/cliff. Every villager will be glad to give directions, and with a little courage you’ll be on your way.
When you reach the cliff’s base, there are multiple options for getting past it. You can pick along a trail to the left, find the permanent rope dangling from a small crevasse in the approximate center, or pick your way through boulders and other obstacles on the right. At all stages you will be encouraged by graffiti and, most probably, assorted Guatemalan worshippers who are having even more fun than you are.
Eventually you reach a spectacular lava field, to be explored at will. The adventurous (and prepared), can cross the fields and climb Cerro Candelaria.
To get home, retrace your steps. Or, take a right on the first road after leaving the village, continue downhill and catch a bus (to the left, downhill) carrying San Simon aficionados back to Xela from Zunil. A half-day adventure, longer if you take lunch and enjoy sunbathing on a lava field.