Hiking and Rock Climbing in Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala


cerro quemado quetzaltenango guatemala

Today we’re going to be talking about rock climbing in Xela or Quetzaltenango in Guatemala. Rock climbing in Guatemala is limited to two places. Amatitlan Lake, which I have an entire podcast for, and Cerro Quemado in Xela.

Rock Climbing in Xela (Quetzaltenango)

What makes this Xela so spectacular for climbing? It’s this area called Cerro Quemado which literally means burnt mountaintop. Why is that? Because, as you may know, Guatemala has many volcanoes and over thousands of years, from all the volcanic activity in this area, there has been this accumulation, this enormous, lava flow, Magna that’s just there, and it’s created this huge mountain and rough formations.

It’s absolutely phenomenally beautiful. You cannot even access probably 95% of it. Like, that’s how much it is. So you could access only a little portion of it, where there have also been these incredible movements of the earth that makes this rock face. Yet there are these areas that you could hike.

cerro quemado xela satelite view

Rock Climbing in Cerro Quemado

First of all, it’s so undeveloped, so there is room to develop so many routes. So the routes that are developed, they can go from, I don’t want to say total beginner, but a little bit higher than a beginner, to super complicated, super hard. But it got you really complicated route that you could definitely, if you are an experienced climber, you will love it.

You could also camp there. You can camp there for free. There are areas that are pretty flat, and you can explore these areas for days. And it’s just so beautiful because you’re also overlooking the entire valley and there are canyons that you could go in. It is truly spectacular.

rock climbing xela guatemala

If you are a rock climber, it is a must-do place because it’s untouched. There are barely any climbers there, so it makes it like it’s your own personal terrain. But if you’re not and just want to enjoy hiking, and I’m not a hiker, and I was able to get around easily, you will love it. I cannot even stress how amazing this place is with the circus, with nature, with the climbing, everything. It is gorgeous.

It is cold. So make sure that you come prepared and just be prepared for climbing and a show, hiking and a show, because it is all that and so much more. It is a must, must do place in Xela, no matter what your skills are.

rock climbing cerro quemado xela guatemalarock climbing cerro quemado quetzaltenango

Cerro Quemado

Even if you don’t rock climb, you can go hiking on it, and it’s phenomenal, but that’s not the coolest part of it all. I need to tell you about the circus that goes on the Cerro Quemado because it is such a unique, different place.

Religious Site

For some reason, it has become one of these biggest evangelistic churches. And I’m saying plural because we’re talking hundreds of different churches have their little places there.

They have these huge rituals, they take people up to purge them of demons.

hiking cerro quemado xela guatemala

Beware of Human Poop

The craziest thing is that they sell these oils that are kind of like castor oil that people drink. Before we started our hiking, before we got up, started the hike to where rock climb is, I was automatically told, beware of the human poop. No joke.

The reason what they do is they buy this stupid oil, and you can get it all the way along the trail, you drink it, and then you go and shit out all your demons, your toxins. I mean, it’s crazy.

Indigenous Mayans in the Area

Then in every single corner, as you’re walking up… the majority of people are indigenous Mayan. They don’t even speak Spanish.

They’re little old ladies to little kids, two men, two women, you name it, all sorts, dressed in just regular dresses and shoes that have zero friction. They are running up and down, even though I guess it’s these rock formations, these hiking, it’s unbelievable. Everywhere you look, there’s music playing, there are rituals, there are people praying over each other, speaking in tongues, other people vomiting, other people with flowers everywhere. It is absolutely bonkers and this was a regular day.

indigenous people cerro quemado quetzaltenango

It wasn’t even like a Saturday when the majority of the churches come up, and there must be hundreds of different pastures, pastors, and different churches, and they all get paid for this. Somebody is paying for you to do this and directing it and getting your demons out, there are these areas where you have to use these tiny ropes to get up. I mean, it’s deadly.

My kids, and my husband, who are pretty expert climbers, are looking at them, and they’re like, oh my God, you’re going to die. People die all the time because it’s crazy. I don’t know if it’s like how they look at it, if it’s God’s will, or if she had too many demons.

The coolest thing of all is when they saw my family climbing, they were so excited for them and rooting them on, and they couldn’t believe it. They were videotaping them. They were so excited, and they were like, wow, that’s really hard. Meanwhile, the crap that they’re doing is outrageously hard. It is so incredible.

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Last Updated on October 1, 2023

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