Xela’s a swinging town. From the raging nightlife to the endless jumping over potholes, there’s never a dull moment. Yet the other day your faithful editor was walking in the Minerva market and saw a guy with a selfie-stick selling selfies. Right then it hit me that technology is ruining everything and I needed to escape the Xela metropolis and get out of dodge for the weekend. Fortunately, there are tons of cool weekend spots within striking distance and, as always, the good folks at XelaWho have got you covered.
The cheapest and most fun way to hit the road is to take a camioneta (chicken bus) from the Minerva terminal. Just hop on a city micro-bus from the corner of 5th Calle and 14th Avenida near the park (just listen out for guys yelling hiper, hospital, pradera or terminal) and you’ll land up next to the Minerva market. From there you’re just a short 5-minute walk through the market full of grimy puddles, yummy bus snacks and people trying to knock you and your grandmother down with a cart full of bananas.
If you make it through (well done!), you’ll get to the main bus terminal, which can be recognized by the hundreds of buses milling around. Helpful touts with impressive vocal chords constantly scream destinations out. So either follow your ears or tell one where you’re going and they’ll politely shove you towards the right bus. Before you start enjoying the thumping cumbia and nod-off, drooling on some senora’s huipil (traditional indigenous blouse), double check that the sign on the front of the bus has your destination on it! Overly eager touts will often barrel you onto a bus to Panajachel when you’re trying to go to San Pedro so there’s no harm in quadruple checking that este bus va directo a San Pedro, verdad?
When the crew here at XelaWho need to blow off some steam after a hard week of Pulitzer worthy journalism, San Pedro La Laguna (on Lake Atitlan) is our weekend spot. Affectionately known by regular weekend warriors as San Piedra La Locura (Saint Crack – The Madness), San Pedro is an eclectic mix of shoeless foreign hippies, young Guatemalans looking to make it with said hippies and the best range of food for the lowest prices you’ll find before you head back to south-east Portland.
If it’s sun and surf you’re after, Tilapita is your ideal beach getaway. Just take a camioneta from the Minerva Terminal to Coatepeque and change there for a bus to Tilapa. From there, you’re just a lancha (boat) away from reaching the tiny beach island of Tilapita. Your best (and only) accommodation option is the majestic Hotel Pacifico (roughly Q100 per person). Its caldo de camarones (a massive prawn soup full of goodness and garlic) and fancy fruit cocktails from then on until you pass out in a hammock and stumble around town til you make it back to the Pacifico. Guatemalan surf can be dangerous so check where’s OK to swim with the locals before belly-flopping in with a gut full of rum coated prawns.
So check out the map insert (p16) for more info on buses and transport and get exploring these and the many other awesome weekend spots around Xela. And remember – be back on Monday morning or your Spanish maestro (teacher) will get out the ruler!