From the Cuatro Caminos Junction a few kilometers north of Quetzaltenango, the road heads northeast for 30 kilometers through pine-studded forests to the departmental capital of Totonicapán, also known as San Miguel Totonicapán.
It’s a fairly laid-back town with few foreign visitors. Sights include the ubiquitous town church, on a plaza superjacent to a second one below it harboring a statue of indigenous leader Atanasio Tzul, who led a peasant rebellion in 1820 spurred by government demands for taxation.
Also on the upper plaza is a far less common municipal theater, built in 1924 in neoclassical style. It has been recently restored and painted in bright orange.
The town’s other main attraction is the Casa de la Cultura Totonicapense (8a Avenida 2-17 Zona 1, tel. 7766-1575), which was closed for remodeling. It should continue to house displays, including audiovisual presentations of local indigenous culture, history, and crafts, upon reopening. The visitors center also offers tours to local artisans’ workshops and the opportunity to try some Mayan dishes in local homes.
Totonicapán is especially lively during its annual Festival Tradicional de Danza, usually late in October. It is also kicking during its annual fiesta dedicated to the archangel Michael from September 24–30. The day marking the apparition of said heavenly figure, May 8, is also celebrated with dancing and fireworks.
If you need to stay in Totonicapán, a good budget choice is just next door to the Casa de la Cultura Totonicapense. Hospedaje San Miguel (8a Avenida 7-49 Zona 1, tel. 7766-1452, www.hoteltotonicapan.com, $8–16 d) has rooms on the third floor with shared bath or on the second floor with private bathroom, TV, and slightly more cheerful surroundings. The 23 rooms are clean and have some furniture, including desks. Try to get a room facing the street.
On the pricier side is the nicest place in town, Hotel Totonicapán (8a Avenida 8-15 Zona 4, tel. 7766-4458, $28 d), with well-furnished rooms painted in cheery yellow pastel tones housing handcrafted wooden furniture, cable TV, city views, and private hot-water bathroom.
Its pleasant lobby restaurant serves Guatemalan and international dishes. Closer to the town center, a decent place to grab a bite to eat is La Hacienda (8a Avenida 3-25 Zona 1), a steak house also serving some lighter Guatemalan dishes.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com