- Category: Travel Resources
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 / 3090-8207
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
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
Telephone: (+502) 7762-2829
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 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
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
Telephone: (+502) 5381-0540
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.
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
- Category: Travel Resources
The city has many different schools, academies, and institutes, as well as some of the most recognized universities in the country, being the locality with the most educational establishments per inhabitant. This is due, beyond the high quality of teaching and training, also to its strategic location, since the majority of its students come from cities and villages that are located in the entire southwest region.
Additionally, in Quetzaltenango there are many Spanish Schools, which are attended by people from many countries of the world, principally Europe and North America. The Spanish classes offer foreign students a chance to submerge themselves in the culture and the language of the region, experiencing the incredible beauty of the language and of the Guatemalan landscapes through personalized classes and activities such as ecological excursions, hikes through the mountains, adventure tourism, and internships in rural communities. To guarantee an education of high quality, almost all of the Spanish teachers are native Guatemalans who have confirmed educational and university degrees, as well as experience in teaching the language.
If you would like to learn Spanish, Quetzaltenango is one of the most convenient and affordable destinations in the world to do so, much more than Antigua Guatemala or the capital city.
** NOTE FROM ENTREMUNDOS ABOUT THE DESCRIPTIONS OF SCHOOLS AND PROJECTS
Many Spanish Schools offer volunteer services with local organizations and this – of course – something valuable and worthy of praise.
However, we advise students interested in learning Spanish in Quetzaltenango to be careful about the phrase “nonprofit”, because in reality this rarely means that the school is a functional association or organization with remarkable social impact. Some of them donate a part of their income to local projects and communities, others a very small percentage, and other absolutely nothing.
- Category: Travel Resources
A great opportunity to stay in Xela, get experience for your CV, and get paid for it!
Join Our Team! Utatlan English seeks new English Program Coordinator
Utatlan English seeks teachers
A language school in centre of town needs native or completely fluent English teachers for one-on-one classes. Part time hours & all materials provided. Paid classes or direct exchange for Spanish classes. Experience preferred. 3 months minimum commitment.
- Category: Travel Resources
Local Volunteer Opportunities
Asociacion Artesanos Unidos por el Desarrollo de Atitlan (AUDA)
Asociación Centro de Cuidado Diario El Buen Samaritano
Asociación de Desarrollo Integral Progresista de San Agustín Acasaguastlán (ADIPSA)
Asociación de Mujeres del Altiplano (AMA)
Asociación Nuevos Horizontes
Asociación Ventanas Abiertas (Open Windows Foundation)
Centro Infantil Bellota
Comunidad La Florida
Comunidad Nueva Alianza
EcoLogic Development Fund
Escuela de la Calle (EDELAC)
Estación Biológica Las Guacamayas
Fundación Caras Alegres
Habitat for Humanity
Hospitalito Atitlan (and Asociacion K'aslimaal)
Instituto de Espanol y Participación en Ayuda Social (INEPAS)
Long Way Home
Organización "Los Patojos" (The Little Ones) Forming Leaders for Guatemala
Partners in Solidarity (Compañeros en Solidaridad)
Proyecto Hamaca y Pescado
Red de Comercio Equitativo y Solidario Kuchub'al (RED KUCHUB'AL)
Santa Anita La Unión
Seguras Perspectivas/Secure Perspectives
Tzuk Kim Pop
Unión de Trabajadores de Quetzaltenango (UTQ)
Volunteers in Mission (VIM)
International Volunteer Opportunities Links
Volunteering in Nepal
Free Volunteering Abroad
Macdonald Youth Services
Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Assoc.
United Nations Volunteers
Links to other Voluntary Service Organizations Worldwide
WorldTeach at Harvard
Institute for International Cooperation and Development (IICD) Website
Quaker Information Center in Philadelphia
Amizade WebsiteThe Interchange
Institute for Sustainable Communities
Volunteers in Asia
Volunteer Challenge: Offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups in Bolivia at an affordable price
Travel Preparation Links
World Countries Information
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Travel Warnings from the Australian Government's perspective
Travel Warnings from the British Government's perspective
Travel Warnings from the Canadian Government's perspective
Overseas Security Advisory Council
Pinkerton Global Intelligence Services
Air Security International
Center for International Policy
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Travel and Ticket Agency Links
Travel Resource Links and Other Services
On the Road Travel.
SpanishUno - Spanish Learning Software
Spanish books, free lessons, cds, dvds, travel, directories, etc
BackPacking in Europe
Idiomas & Aventuras
Spanish courses in Madrid Spain
International Youth Hostel Association Website
Budget Travel Web
Transitions Abroad Website
Bureau of Consular Affairs Home Page
US State Department-Travel Publications
FOREIGN ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
International Mailing Website
Language Study Materials and ESL Resources
Learn Spanish Guide: All about how to learn Spanish and how to speak Spanish
Spanisch Sprachschule :Lernen Sie Spanisch in Costa Rica, Ecuador und Mexiko
Spanish language school: Learn Spanish in Spain
Lernen Sie Spanisch in Alicante, Granada, Madrid, Puerto de Santa Maria, Sevilla oder Teneriffa
Spanisch Sprachaufenthalt:Lernen Spanisch im Ausland mit Hermosa
Translation Company: London based agency offering high-quality translation services
- Category: Travel Resources
Guatemala has an area of 108,889 km², with 16,051,208 inhabitants (2014 census), and the official language of Spanish, although around half the population speaks other languages as their native language. These languages include 23 Maya languages and the Xinca and Garífuna languages.
The Maya civilization was born in the area now knows as Guatemala and expanded to nearby regions during the first millennium C.E. The country was conquered by Pedro Alvarado and his troops in 1524, becoming a Spanish colony, and later gaining its independence in 1821. During the second half of the 20th century, it suffered from an armed conflict between the government and guerrilla forces that lasted for 36 years and took a heavy toll of 250,000 dead, 42,000 disappeared, 1,500,000 displaced, 150,000 refugees, 600 massacres, and 400 villages erased from the country’s map through bombings and burnings (Beatriz Manz, 2002). After the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996, Guatemala began a process of transition toward democracy, but the predominant impunity and unequal distribution of national wealth among the population have blocked Guatemala’s evolution and development, relegating it to the 117th place in the PNUD (United Nations Development Programme) Human Rights Development Index rankings: second to last in the entire American Continent.
According to some statistics (PNUD 2007), almost 70% of the Guatemalan population is indigenous, the majority of them of Maya ethnicity and a minority of Xinca (indigenous non-Maya population) and Garífuna (Afro-Caribbean-descended population that inhabits the Caribbean zone of the country). The Maya population is made up of different linguistic communities and groups; although the official language is Spanish, 23 national languages are legally recognized.
On October 25, 2015, Jimmy Morales Cabrera, from the nationalist FCN-Nación party – Frente de Convergencia Nacional -, was elected the fiftieth president of the country.
<< There are things in Guatemala that you never forget: the smell of a recently made tortilla, the rush of feelings at a typical street market, the pleasure of swimming in a waterfall after a sweaty walk through the jungle, the people that you meet on the way and who become your friends for life…
But maybe the most exciting part is experiencing the rich Maya heritage. This surprising culture has left behind some of the most impressive ruins in Latin America, many of which are still part of sacred rituals. The temples at Tikal can easily be visited from the island of Flores, while the journey through the jungles of El Petén toward remote locations such as El Mirador is as worth it as the destination itself. Less known enclaves such as Quiriguá and Takalik Abaj are easily accessible and some say the visit is more satisfying: the atmosphere seems amplified, since the traveler is probably the only visitor.
The legacy of the Maya powerfully dominates modern Guatemala, that complex panorama of urban noise and rural splendor. Underappreciated by many, its prosaic capital is the most lively Guatemala, and there you can find some of the best museums, restaurants, and cultural centers in the country. If all of that is a little overwhelming, the colonial splendor of Antigua Guatemala isn’t far via the highway, and in each of its corners there is a new postcard-worthy scene. If you are looking for something in between, head to the mountains; many visitors consider Quetzaltenango (Xela), the second-biggest city in the country, the perfect mix between an authentic adventure and all of services a traveler could want.
There is also the magnificence of the Guatemalan countryside: volcanos and lakes separated by wild forests, jungles, cornfields, and small farms, and the charm of the simple rural life. On the journey from the mountains to the coast, you will experience 32 microclimates.
To the west, a volcano dominates the horizon, almost begging to be climbed. To the north, the torrid jungles of El Petén surround ample Maya ruins, vibrant and full of exotic natural life. The center of the country is covered in exuberant hills, covered in cloudy forests where the elusive quetzal lives, and broken up by networks of caves. To the east, a combination of the waterways of the Río Dulce and Izabal Lake provide a safe refuge for yachts during hurricane season and for the fauna and flora in extensive sections of wetland.
And we can’t talk about the Guatemalan landscape without mentioning its greatest beauty, Atitlán, a lake surrounded by volcanos that has fascinated travelers for centuries.
In general, Guatemalans are a friendly and welcoming people, and visitors will not feel strange for long. Adventure awaits, and although traveling through Guatemala used to be characterized by difficulties and uncertainty, today the greatest challenge is usually finding time to see everything. >>