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Departamento de Totonicapán

Departamento de Totonicapán (Guatemala)

Practical information on Departamento de Totonicapán

  • Encounters with locals
  • Countryside
  • Place or Religious Monument
  • Place or Historical Monument
  • Off the beaten track
4 / 5 - One review
How to get there
It's about 1 hour away from Quetzaltenango by bus
When to go

All year round

Minimum stay
Half a day

Reviews of Departamento de Totonicapán

Seasoned Traveller
24 written opinions

A stronghold of the Mayan community resistance and a very beautiful region unknown to tourists.

My suggestion:
You can visit San Andrés Xecul and San Cristóbal on the same day.
My review

The "Toto" region (as it's commonly known in Guatemala) might not be one of the preferred destinations among travellers to Guatemala. However the village of San Andrés Xecul is perhaps an exception due to its yellow saffron church and syncretic front, possibly the most beautiful and best known in the country (it features on the front page of Lonely Planet and is therefore something of a Guatemalan symbol).

It's true that you cannot compare Totonicapán's tourism potential to that of Antigua or Lake Atitlán - and it's perhaps no worse. One of the aspects of Toto which fascinates me the most is the powerful community organisation of the 48 townships. They proudly claim the heritage of indigenous leader Atanasio Tzul who had gone to the King of Spain's court to reclaim the land that had been stolen by the conquistadores. This organisation is an example of great social mobilisation and control. Having maintained its prehispanic heritage, the organisation has proved exemplary in terms of community cohesion, territorial defence, direct democracy in the community ( authorities change every 1st of January and cannot last more than one term), and the supply of various public services that the State, at the service of the powerful (domestic or foreign), no longer provides.

My advice to any travellers would be that the superficiality of tourism is not enough. You should contact the locals on couchsurfing websites and try to understand the community's history and the organisation in order to be fully satisfied. Visiting Toto's community forest, which lies not far from the city and is impeccably maintained (something all too rare in Guatemala, where waste is littered everywhere) by the citizens themselves, helps you understand it all.

The front of the church in San Andrés Xecul, the most famous monument in the Totonicapán region and one of the most famous churches in Guatemala
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