The Western Highlands are a mountainous region in Guatemala.
The Western Highlands stretches from the outskirts of Antigua to the Mexican border. It's probably the most beautiful part of Guatemala. The region defines itself with 2 main features: a mountain range of volcanoes on its south side and the tall mountain ranges that form the northern side. The greatest of these are the Cuchumatanes mountains where the Ixil Triangle is located.
- Cantel - a K'iche' village with a glass-blowing factory open to tourists, and a small archaeological site.
- Chichicastenango - known for its colorful markets held every Thursday and Sunday
- Huehuetenango - last major city before or from the Mexican border
- Quetzaltenango - Guatemala's western center makes an excellente base for studying Spanish
- San Marcos en San Marcos - last city closest to Mexican border
- Solola - the capital of the state of Solola is 10 minutes up the hill from Panajachel, and has a market (Sundays and Wednesdays) that attracts shoppers and vendors from throughout the state, since it is the largest.
- Panajachel- Lake Atitlan's most visited town
- San Antonio Palopo - Laid back and simple Mayan village. Can service tourists nicely but only a couple dozen at a time
- San Juan - emerging destination
- San Marcos La Laguna - "less party, more meditation" than San Pedro
- San Pedro la Laguna - a laid-back small town with established backpacker reputation
- Santa Catarina Palopo - an authentic Mayan village with an abundance of traditional Kaqchikel culture
- Santa Cruz la Laguna small village on north side of Lake Atitlán. If getting away from it all in magical surroundings but still being a short boat ride away from a night club is your desire then this is the place to be.
- Santiago Atitlán, small town on south side of Lake Atitlán, famous for a shrine to Maximón
The landscape of the highland is controlled by many factors but perhaps the most important is its altitude. At lower altitude, the plants are almost tropical with coffee, cotton bananas and cacao while at higher up the hills are often wrapped in clouds and the ground is sometimes covered with frost. There, corn and potatoes are grown as main crops.
There will be a constant flow of buses along the Interamericana Highway. Some of them will be branching off onto minor roads to more remote areas. Going through these roads can be a exhausting experience, particularly in northen Huehuetenango and Quiche regions but scenery makes it well worth the travel. The most recommended plan is to base yourself in one of the larger city or village and then make a series of day-trips to those more remote areas.
Spending time in the western highlands means you'll have lots of choices with spectacular verdant scenery yielding up atmospheric highland villages of adobe houses and whitewashed colonial churches at every turn. On top of the colorful market towns and astonishing landscapes for which the regions is known for, ther are a few historical sites sucha as the pre-conquest cities of Iximche, Utatlán and Zaculeu.
The numerous Spanish language schools, volunteer opportunies, and opportunities for laziness which the Western Highlands offer are described in the individual articles of the region's cities.
Crime against tourist including armed robbery and rape is not common in the Atitlán area, but it does happen. There have been isolated incidents reported in Panajached late at night. If you are planning to hike the volcanoe nearby, check with the tourist office first for the latest security information.
IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING EXIT TO MEXICO You do not have to pay an exit tax at the La Mesilla border to leave Guatemala, however as of March/April 2019, Mexico Immigration has a new rule that requires the payment of MX$558 entry tax if coming from Guatemala. Yes, you now have pay to enter Mexico whereas before you did not. When entering across the La Mesilla border the Mexican Immigration will give you a form and make a payment at the bank next to the INM office. This is not a scam. It is now law. As for whether you can avoid the exit tax by presenting the INM Official with a copy of your itemized plane ticket that clearly shows the itemizes costs including the exit tax, however they may ignore this and still force you to pay.
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