While there is little to see in Xela itself, there are a host of tour and activity options within easy reach of the town. All of the hotels and tour agencies listed in this section can arrange any of the tours or excursions listed below.
In addition to the attractions listed here, many visitors use Xela as a jumping-off point to visit the IRTRA amusement and theme park complex, the Maya ruins of Takalik Abaj, and the lowland city of Retalhuleu, continuing on to the beaches of the Pacific coast. All of the tour companies listed here also use Xela as a base for trips to Nebaj, mentioned earlier, and Todos Santos Chuchumatán, which is covered later in this chapter.
The best and longest-running agencies in Xela include Adrenalina Tours (tel. 502/7761-4509; www.adrenalinatours.com), which has its offices in the Pasaje Enriquez building just off Parque Centro America; Altiplano's Tours (tel. 502/7766-9614; www.altiplanos.com.gt); and Quetzal Trekkers, Casa Argentina at 12a Diagonal, 8-37, Zona 1 (tel. 502/7765-5895; www.quetzaltrekkers.com). In addition to the hikes and treks mentioned below, you can also sign on for a 6-day trip through Nebaj and Todos Santos Chuchumatán; a 3-day hike from Xela to Lake Atitlán; and a 2-day trek to the summit of Tajumulco volcano, at 4,220m (13,842 ft.), the highest point in all of Central America.
Getting Schooled -- Quetzaltenango offers a number of Spanish schools, most with immersion-style lessons, small classes, excursions, and homestay accommodations with a local family. The best among the choices are Casa Xelaju, Callejón 15 D, 13-02, Zona 1 (tel. 502/7761-5954; www.casaxelaju.com); Celas Maya Spanish School, 6a Calle 14-55, Zona 1 (tel. 502/7761-4342; www.celasmaya.edu.gt); Proyecto Lingüístico Quezalteco ★, 5a Calle 2-40, Zona 1 (tel. 502/7765-2140; www.plqe.org); Ulew Tinimit Spanish School, 4a Calle 15-23, Zona 1 (tel. 502/7763-0516; www.spanishguatemala.org); and Utatlán Spanish School, 12a Av. 4-32, Zona 1 (tel. 502/7763-0446; www.utatlan.com). Rates run between Q1,125 and Q1,500 ($150-$200/£75-£100) per week, including homestay, most meals, and some organized excursions.
Getting Involved & Giving Back -- Those interested in volunteering have several excellent options in and around Quetzaltenango. Your best bet is to contact Entre Mundos (tel. 502/7761-2179; www.entremundos.org), which functions as a bridge between a host of non-governmental organizations and community projects. They specifically work to connect foreign volunteers with appropriate community, social, health, and educational projects.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.