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 Las Majadas Circuit

As everyone knows Xela is the trekking capital of Guatemala, and if you want to spend a couple of days backpacking to the top of Tajumulco volcano or from Xela to Lake Atitlan this is the place to be. But sometimes a hiker is a bit pinched on cash, having turned in all their empty Brava bottles the night before to finance that last round at the local cantina.

Fortunately Xela has a lot to offer day hikers, be they with or without money and hangovers. This month’s featured hike covers territory seldom explored by gringos, and has the advantage of being far more downhill than uphill.
Santa Maria is the home of three basic dayhikes. One goes to the summit, one goes to the Santiaguito mirador, and one goes, well, listen up.

First, catch a bus to Llano del Pinal from the front of the Iglesia Calvario, next to the big Xela cemetery. Tell the ayudante you are going to el volcan and he’ll make sure you get out at the right spot, which is basically Llano’s main street. Start walking south, toward Santa Maria. Just before the end of town, on the left, is a concrete monument to Guatemalan mountain climbers – measure all times from here.

As you continue up the street it slowly turns into a trail. Your first marker, 15 minutes into the hike, is a solitary oak tree, greatly abused by Mother Nature but still majestic, in a gnarly sort of way. Continue on the trail, remembering all options to turn eventually lead to the same place, at least for the next 12 minutes, when you come to a very important marker.

You will see a line of 12 or 13 agave trees on the right hand side of the trail. If you go straight, as the trail beckons you to do, you’ll be lost, so look to your left and climb up the small rocky hill. Note you are essentially skirting to the left of a small wooded spur.

Another fifteen minutes brings you to a small flat field with closely cropped grass. In the middle is a huge solitary boulder. You are now headed downhill for the rest of the hike.

From here it’s only a question of following the path. Given an option, always take the downhill fork. But don’t worry – even if you feel lost you are, in fact, not. The best part of the trail is from the boulder to the small flower growing village of Las Majadas, after which you will find a narrow dirt road descending to the Reu highway, where you can take a bus (to the left) back to Xela. Total time is about 1.5 hours on buses and 2.5 hours walking, much of it on an absolutely exquisite trail with spectacular views and almost no gringos.

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