Quetzaltenango is the second largest city in Guatemala. It is located in the western highlands of the country and serves as the commerce centre for the area. The city is home to about 225,000 people: about 61% indigenous or Amerindian, 34% Mestizo or Latino and 5% European.
The name Xela (pronounced SHAY-la) is short for Xelaju, which was the city’s name before being conquered by the Spaniards in the early 1500s. The Spanish conquistadors changed the city’s name to Quetzaltenango which roughly translates to “the fortress of the Quetzal bird” (Guatemala’s national bird). Many people still refer to the city by the original name Xelaju or Xela which means “under the seven mountains” in the indigenous K'iche language.
You will find an active nightlife here as well as a popular art and music scene. Xela also has its own football team, Club Xelajú MC, that plays at the local stadium. The city is close to great hiking spots and only a few hours drive from Lago Atitlan as well as the black sand beaches of the Pacific coast.