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There are plenty of things to do in Xela (Quetzaltenango) which is great news for independent tourists to Guatemala’s second city. Looking for a hike? Most tourists hire guides for treks up Santa María and Santiaguito volcanoes, however there are other great solo day hikes here to consider. If the thought of another guided tour leaves you looking for independent hikes near Xela, this post is for you. Looking for the best hot springs near Xela? Forget Fuentes Georginas and get yourself to Los Baños – they are closer to the city and much easier (and cheaper) to get to.


Before attempting this or any hike, know the weather, know where you are going, bring plenty of water, snacks and sufficient protection from the sun! Also, carry a stick or a few stones in your pockets – dogs in the countryside tend to be very protective of their turf!


view of the central square in quetzaltenango.


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Briefly…

In 2014 we discovered some great hikes near Xela as we were training for our solo climb of Volcán Tajumulco. These trails go through fields with stunning views of Santa María volcano and the village of Chicuá. This featured hike makes for a great day trip from Xela with the option of either hot springs or a natural sauna waiting for you at the end.

Hike these trails either directly back to Xela, to the natural steam baths at Los Vahos, or to a spot where chicken buses bring you to the hot springs at Los Baños, just beyond Almolonga. No matter how you choose to finish the hike, you will pass the extensive lava fields of Almolonga (Cerro Quemado) volcano; exploring this site is one of the more unique things to do in Xela.

Again, this trail features several different end-points and each will be highlighted in detail below. The trail begins in the town of Llano del Pinal, a very short bus ride from the Templo Minerva monument, opposite Minerva bus station. See below for full details…


Getting There

Mini-buses (2 Q, 10 min.) for Xela’s bus station, Terminal Minerva, ply the roads around the Parque Central from early morning to late evening, daily. Chicken buses to Llano del Pinal (5 Q, 20 min.) leave from the left side of the hulking Templo Minerva, not from Minerva bus station. Look forLlano del Pinal displayed on the front of the bus.

View of Templo Minerva, from the Bus Stop to Llano del Pinal
Templo Minerva, from the Bus Stop to Llano del Pinal. Guiller Cupil, Templo a Minerva, CC BY-SA 4.0

As the bus enters Llano del Pinal the driver will likely indicate the stop for the trail to Volcan Santa María, different from the trail featured in this post. Instead, stay on the bus through town to the Final Bus Stop In Llano del Pinal, opposite a soccer field, to begin the walk to the trailhead. The hike from the trailhead continues to the village of Chicuá. See map below for the location of the Final Bus Stop In Llano del Pinal (top marker) and the walk to the Trailhead (bottom marker).

Final Bus Stop in Llano del Pinal TO Trailhead

From the the final bus stop in Llano del Pinal turn right and continue straight exactly 1 mile (20 minutes), then left for the trailhead.


The Trails

To Xela: ____ To Los Vahos: ____ To Bus for Los Baños: ____

Zoom in for detail.

Distances:

From Llano del Pinal to: Xela (7.5 mi.), Los Vahos (7 mi.), the bus for hot springs at Los Baños (6.5 mi.).

Maximum Elevation Gain:

780 ft.


To Xela

Begin in the dusty town of Llano del Pinal and stock up on snacks and drinks at any tienda on your way to the trailhead. You soon climb as the trail, used by local farmers, passes patchwork fields of cabbage, onion, lettuce and other vegetables.

rows of green lettuce in a field.

Soon, the valley opens and views of Volcán Santa María appear behind you. Here, the fields briefly turn to colorful blankets of ornamental flowers; take a moment to enjoy these amazing views! Peer down into the Almolonga valley as you make your way to Chicuá.

Pass through the village of Chicuá, full of more tiendas and a smattering of places selling fried chicken and tacos. From here the trail heads back to Xela. For more options, see below for details on Los Vahos and Los Baños, respectively.


To Los Vahos

Admission:

20 Q for 1 hr.

Insider’s Tip:

Grab bows from the eucalyptus trees that line the road to use at Los Vahos.

wooden sign advertising a steam sauna in the mountains of Guatemala.

Beyond Chicuá a dirt road switchbacks to a small community in the hills above Xela. Enjoy fine views of the city before heading uphill from the local school. You soon approach the saunas at Los Vahos, several concrete buildings atop natural steam vents formed by Cerro Quemado volcano.

cinder block blue building with a tin roof and a cow grazing in front
Head Uphill From the School
Concrete sauna building with steam coming out the widows and doors.
Letting off some steam
eucalyptus branches placed over a steam vent in the ground.
Eucalyptus gives the steam medicinal properties.

Admission to Los Vahos gets you a small, private room featuring a few chairs set around a steaming hole in the ground. This natural steam creates a wonderful spa experience, pepped up by the addition of eucalyptus bows placed across the fuming vent. Brace yourself with a cold shower in the adjoining room or step outside for a jolt of cool mountain air – an exhilarating experience!


To Los Baños

Private Hot Spring Bath:

15 Q for 1 hr.

From Chicuá the hike passes the turnoff for Los Vahos and arrives at the road into Xela. Here, take any chicken bus (4 Q, 20 min.) marked Zunil to the hot springs at Los Baños. The bus will stop for 10 minutes in Almolonga prior to continuing to Los Baños. Here, choose from nearly a dozen bathhouses, each providing individual tubs for an hour (or more) of pure soaking bliss! The bathhouses at Los Baños are our favorite hot springs near Xela!

tiles bathtub filled with hot water
In Hot Water!
woman with towel on her head after a bath.
Private Room

Each bathhouse offers dozens of private rooms with a changing area, a small rinsing tub, a very large soaking tub (enough room for 6!) and taps delivering plenty of naturally heated spring water and cold water for tempering. The bathhouses also sell soap and shampoo, perfect for washing off the grime from your hike. Fill the tub, soak, drain, repeat.

trucks pulling out of a bathhouse parking lot.
Fuente Saludable (left)

For the best service, the hottest water and tubs big enough to practice your backstroke, stop in to Feunte Saludable which has earned our Drifters Recommendation. Bathhouses in Los Baños are nothing fancy but are certainly a great way to relax after a long hike. Stepping into the cool mountain air after a soak (and a few cans of Gallo) is an experience not to be missed!


In Conclusion…

Although there are plenty of things to do in Xela, independent exploration is often overlooked by tourists. The Fuentes Georginas hot springs near Xela –  worth a visit themselves – only represent a bit of the geothermal activity in the area. For some rather unique and authentic hot springs near Xela, definitely visit any of the establishments in Los Baños and don’t forget the natural saunas at Los Vahos. As for hikes near Xela, there is plenty of opportunity for stunning, independent trekking through nearby villages and countryside. Get out and see more!


We are affiliates with Lonely PlanetTherefore if you purchase a Lonely Planet travel guide after clicking on one of the text links or books within this post we receive a nominal commission from them, at no extra cost to you.


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hiking trail through the mountains with lava fields

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fields of flowers with mountains and clouds in background

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24 Comments

  1. I have wanted to visit Antigua Guatemala for a while but still haven’t made it. I had never heard of Xela until now, and it looks like another great place that’s definitely worth a visit! That hike looks so pretty and the hot springs sound really relaxing. Thanks for sharing!

  2. You had me at private hot spring bath! Looks like Guatemala really has a lot to offer, I’m dying to go. Also, I love your insider tips!

  3. You had me at hot springs! I love that you can go hiking then visit a steam bath both in one day. That makes for such a nice little reward for the trekking and the views are just breathtaking too! I’ve honestly never researched into Guatemala nor thought to visit, but I’m for sure intrigued now. Thanks for introducing us to these lovely independent exploration ideas!

    • Jas,

      It sounds like you’d really like Xela. Each time we do this hike we’re amazed there aren’t more folks enjoying it. Of course, the hot springs and the steam bath are an even better way to get the most out of it!

      Your Drifters,
      Jerry and Fiona.

  4. I’ve never been to Guatemala, but I’m a big hiker! I love exploring places independently and seeing things tourists don’t typically get to see. The bath houses don’t appeal to me at all but the hike to Xela looks beautiful!

    • Maggie,

      You can easily skip the bath houses and just do the hike for the scenery. There are natural outdoor hot springs in the area that are very popular with tourists and locals called Fuentes Georginas.

      Your Drifters,
      Jerry and Fiona

  5. We’ve never been to Guatemala but would love to visit someday. When we do, we’d also consider going to Xela and hike in the surrounding area. The scenery looks really stunning. But is it not allowed to stay longer than an hour in Los Vahos?

    • Mei and Kerstin,

      Stunning scenery, indeed. You can pay for more time at Los Vahos – 1 hour is usually plenty, but 2 hours would be quite relaxing as well.

      Your Drifters,
      Jerry and Fiona

  6. I haven’t been to Guatemala yet. I’d totally be up for hiking to hot springs! Thanks for the tips. Saving.

  7. I have never been to Xela but I think it has so much to offer. The hot springs at los baños look so cool, it must be fun to explore around Xela. I will bookmark this for when I eventually get there!

  8. Oh my gosh! What lovely landscapes. Never heard much of Xela but it does sound like an amazing place for hikes and outdoor adventure.. A hot bath from one of its natural hotsprings sounds like a perfect way to relax after a hike..:)

  9. This is certainly my kind of hike with natural saunas and hot springs! Hiking is one of the best ways to really explore an area and I would definitely follow this trail. I have not been to Guatemala – yet – but it is definitely on the list. Thank you for the information.

  10. I never heard of Xela but I am a hiker and I would seriously love to check out this area. Great informative post and the landscape looks beautiful 🙂

  11. Jerry & Fiona,
    It is fun to travel to new and beautiful places through your post!
    Thanks for sharing!💕
    Blessings in 2019!
    Jeff & Ronda

    • Ronda,

      It is our pleasure to share these places with you! We never would’ve made it to Guatemala without a lift from you and Jeff.

      We wish you all the best in 2019 as well.

      Your Drifters,
      Jerry and Fiona

  12. Donna J Scott

    Jerry, I enjoyed your post immensely. Very informative and the photos are incredible.
    Please keep us informed of your amazing journey.
    Love you two drifters. Mom

    • Mom,

      You know how much we love Guatemala. Spending time in and around Xela is a favorite of ours. We are very lucky to have people like you who support us and shine a light on our path as we drift. Thank you!

      Your Drifters,
      Jerry and Fiona

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