Community Tourism refers to a process through which certain communities manage and administrate their own tourism projects, which means that more benefits go directly to them and not to external businesses and/or tour operators. It is an excellent way to make sure that a trip will benefit local families and economies, and ensure conservation of social, cultural, and ecological heritage. At the same time, it allows travelers to see a different side of the country, far from traditional tourist destinations and allows for authentic contact with the most important and valuable part of Guatemala: its people.
LA FLORIDA COMMUNITY FARM, Colomba Costa Cuca - Quetzaltenango
This community farm is located in a region known for its abundant natural resources and its perfect climate for agriculture, but also for a great deal of poverty. During the internal armed conflict, the families of this community fought for labor rights, social justice, equality, and environmental sustainability, and they eventually won ownership of the La Florida community farm. The farm is organized as a cooperative; its members work there in the mornings, but in the afternoons they take care of their own crops, primarily producing organic coffee, bananas, and macadamia nuts.
There are different volunteer opportunities for learning about these forms of agriculture, as well as other activities related to health, education, ecotourism, women’s and youths’ rights, all whlie learning about the fascinating history of this community.
Visitors can stay in the “community house” (built thanks to financial support from EntreMundos) and eat with the different families, getting to know the local diet.
To get to La Florida, you will need to take a bus to Colomba Costa Cuca (two hours from Quetzaltenango) and then another bus to El Paraíso (approximately one hour), and from there you will be able to walk two km. to the community.
Telephone: (+502) 7772-3213 / (+502) 3090-8207
CHAJIL SIWAN PARK- Totonicapán
Located eight km. from the departmental capital of Totonicapán, in the community of Chuamazán (km. 199 of the paved Totonicapán/Quiché highway), the purpose of Chajil Siwan Park is to oversee the conservation of local forests and springs, while sharing these native riches with national and foreign visitors. Activities are focused on the conservation of the location’s natural resources and in sustainable ecotourism management: the fundamental goal of the latter is appreciation for biodiversity and natural patrimony.
The Chajil Siwan Community Reserve was born in 2003, after area inhabitants became aware of the need to conserve natural resources and change their reliance on the harvest and sale of wood that damaged a large part of the local forest.
In this park, there are zip-lines, trails, overlooks, camping areas, orchids, other special plants, and local birds such as quetzalillos and guardabarrancos (also known as “chajil siwan” in the local language, providing the park’s name), children’s games, a restaurant with typical food, and the sale of local handicrafts.
Telephone: (+ 502) 5375-7051
MAYA TRADITION FOUNDATION - Sololá y Quiché
This is a project located in Panajachel and works with around 13 cooperatives of artisans who weave and make natural dyes, as well as Maya doctors from different communities in the departments of Solola and Quiché. The Maya Foundation is dedicated to facilitating access to national and international markets, with the goal of contributing to the development of the indigenous artisan women and their families. Following the Fair Trade model, they seek to support the artisans, their families, and their communities through social programs that promote techniques and knowledge, preserve local cultures, and motivate indigenous women to bolster their business systems.
You can visit the cooperatives and get to know the ancestral processes of making textiles and dying threads with natural plants from the region, as well as visiting the Maya doctors to learn about and participate in healings using Maya techniques and medicinal plants that are grown in the Foundation’s organic garden. It is also possible to learn about local artisanal production with weaving classes and basket-making and to participate in a Maya ceremony.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MayaTraditionsFoundation/?fref=ts
XE’KUKU’ A’AB’AJ COMMUNITY TOURISM, San Juan la Laguna - Sololá
Xe’KuKu’aab’aj is an association in San Juan la Laguna, on the bank of Lake Atitlán. It is a famous place, known for the weavings of its women, the nature, the production of coffee, avocados, and vegetables, and there are two ways to arrive: 1) by land, traveling through 148 km. of the Interamerican Highway and passing the villages of Santa Clara and San Pablo; 2) by water, from Panajachel, on a boat that crosses the lake in 30 minutes.
The community tourism group Xe’KuKu’a'ab’aj offers excellent tours, so that a visitor can learn about the culture and history of the Maya Tzutujil ethnic group. Specifically, they offer the following 3 excursions:
The CULTURAL TOUR, to get to know the history and the life of the ancestors through the murals that are found spread out in different parts of the village. They also visit 5 brotherhoods, the Catholic church, the cemetery, the process for naturally dyeing cotton and its transformation on backstrap looms, to turn it into beautiful weavings.
The COFFEE TOUR, a walk that visits a coffee-growing cooperative, where visitors get an explanation of the whole process of producing organic coffee, from growing it, drying it, and grinding it, to the tasting of a delicious cup of coffee.
The MEDICINAL PLANT TOUR, where you will learn about the nursery of medicinal plants. The benefits of each one are explained by healers and midwives, who heal the inhabitants of the village with their inherited knowledge. You can also try and purchase the plant essences, ointments, soaps, shampoo, teas, and other products that have restorative and healing properties.
ARTESANAL FISHING, a hereditary practice among the Maya Tzutujil population, which has for centuries been the greatest source of income for the families of San Juan La Laguna. A local fisherman shares a few ancestral techniques for fishing on board a cayuco, handmade by the same fisherman. On this journey, you will be able to appreciate the majesty of Lake Atitlán, and its flora and fauna.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/xekukuaabaj
Telephone: (+502) 4737 7483 / (+502) 5820 9653
CHIABAL, Todos Santos Cuchumatán - Huehuetenango
The village of Chiabal de Todos Santos Cuchumatán, in Huehuetenango, possesses a variety of traditions that make up a grand cultural richness. Its cuisine and oral tradition stand out; at the same time, it is surrounded by natural scenery that is noticeable for its beauty. These are the reasons behind the ecotourism activities that are a source of economic income, which benefit the community and contribute to the diffusion and conservation of location’s cultural and natural variety.
This is a Maya Mam community where the men (and not just the women, as in many other rural areas in Guatemala) also wear the typical traditional outfits, with white pants and red stripes, shirts with intricate embroidery, and straw hats. Weaving is one of the principal activities for women in the community, along with the cultivation of potatoes and the raising of sheep and llamas for their wool. Their community tourism project offers lodging and food with many of the local families, giving you the opportunity to get fully involved in the community and its social life.
Additionally, they offer places with more independence for the visitor, such as cabins of stone and wood, also with the option to eat in the house of a local family. Some of the dishes that are worth trying are characterized by lamb’s meat, prepared in different ways.
You can follow tourist paths through nature, routes in the nearby mountains, and toward the local viewpoint, from where – on a calm and cloudless day – it is possible to see all of the volcanos in the western Guatemalan highlands. It is also possible to learn about the most common practices among the local population: how to use the temascal sweat lodge or steam bath, which offers many health benefits; they describe its construction, as well as the process that requires its use. Lastly, they mention and you can visit a few of the village’s traditions, such as the famous running of the horses, and they mention the rich oral tradition, which includes various tales about famous characters.
Getting to this community is very easy: visitors must take a bus from Huehuetenango (toward Todos Santos Cuchumatán, passing by Chiantla) and get off in the village of Chiabal.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/chiabalinda/?fref=ts
MAGNOLIA MIRAMAR, Colomba Costa Cuca - Quetzaltenango
The inhabitants of this small community were forced to abandon their homes during the 36 years of the internal armed conflict in Guatemala. They were displaced to Mexico, where they lived for 18 years and created – in 1992 – the Association of Dispersed Refugees of Guatemala – ARIDGUA in Spanish – to plan their return, considering the following determining factors: the functioning of the productive systems in the region where they settled, the nutritional needs of the population, the alimentary habits of the families, the cost of the basic basket of food and vital goods, the organizational level and arrangement of the population, and the alimentary assistance directed toward groups of people who returned.
When the Peace Accords were signed in 1996, the road toward a return to Guatemala for the displaced families became clear and they were able to buy the Magnolia Miramar Farm, in the municipality of Colomba Costa Cuca: a remote and precious place in the mountains, with views over the coastal plains.
The community survives on the sale of coffee and bananas and offers lodging in the former house of the “patrón” (owner) of the coffee plantation, as well as tours regarding coffee, eco-hiking, and excursions through the mountains that surround Magnolia Miramar.
It takes a long bus ride to get there, but it is worth the trouble for those who wish to enjoy a stay in a community that is very friendly and in the middle of plenty of nature. It is possibly to call the families that make up the community farm in order to organize your arrival to and departure from Magnolia Miramar.
Visitors can eat in local homes and perform volunteer work in various community activities if they wish. You can arrive by bus in the direction of Colomba Costa (2 hours from Quetzaltenango), and afterwards another bus toward Magnolia Miramar/La Mina (1 and a half hours)
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/magnolia.miramar
Telephone: (+502) 5034-2007