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Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala

The Spanish school

This school is part of a non profit organization managed by a collective of teachers, all Guatemalans. The school has a social focus, which means that the teachers are employed on permanent contracts (not short-term insecure contracts) with a decent salary, and they receive all their legal benefits (including maternity leave, paid holiday and social security contributions). All teachers have college degrees or equivalent, and several years experience of teaching Spanish as a second language. The curriculum is on a one-to-one basis, and is adapted to suit the needs of each individual student (which of course change each week as that student gains more knowledge and confidence). What is included is access to the extensive library of textbooks and fiction and non-fiction books in English and Spanish (as well as over 200 documentaries and feature films in Spanish and English).

You get 5 hours of Spanish lessons per day. The school also offers an extensive activities program in the afternoons consisting of lectures, films, visits to voluntary projects etc. On Saturdays you can participate in excursions to the surroundings of Xela, the Indian name for Quetzaltenango.

The second half of the year June through December the school has a high season surcharge of $ 30 per week. There is a limit on the amount of students per school so make sure you book  in advance!

Social activities and excursions

Besides Spanish classes the school informs the students on social, political, historical en cultural reality of Guatemala by means of workshops and lectures. The social focus of the school means that they organize weekly seminars on themes such as democracy, human rights, the situation of street children, and the position of women in Guatemala today. The tuition also includes a 90 minute orientation (in English) to the school and Guatemala, which includes a brief presentation of the history of the country, the recent civil war and the current human rights and political situation. There are also excursions to various places of natural and historical interest close to Xela (the cost of travel fares and entry fees is additional to the tuition cost, but these are not substantial).

The host family

Lodging and three meals a day are provided by a local middle class Guatemalan family. The families are a mix of ladino/indigenous backgrounds. The meals can be adapted to meet vegetarian requirements. The home stay provides you with the opportunity to practice your Spanish in a non-classroom environment.

Xela is quite a big city but most families are within walking distance of the Spanish school.

The transfer

We cannot offer a direct transfer from the airport to Quetzaltenango because this would simply be too costly. We can arrange a transfer for you from the airport of Guatemala City to Antigua where we reserve and pay one night in a hostel for you ($ 55). The next day you can take a local bus to Quetzaltenango (around five hours and $5) or a shuttle (around four hours and $ 35) ; you will receive travel information from us after booking for this school. You can also opt for travelling to Quetzaltenango with a guide from the airport of Guatemala. The guide wil pick you up on arrival at the airport and will guide you with busses and taxi's to the school in Quetzaltenango. This guide service costs $ 65 and does not include your won transport and possible accommodation costs.

Voluntary Work

The school also supports and has supported over several years a range of social projects. One of these is a Centro Cultural in the centre of Xela, which provides classes in art, English, music and creative arts to a group of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Students are welcome to become involved with the classes given to the children at the Centro if you wish.

All prices are in $ US Dollars. hpd = hours per day
Guatemala Classes hpd 1 wk 2 wks 3 wks 4 wks extra week extra night transfer
Quetzaltenango private 5 $ 255 $ 445 $ 660 $ 850 $ 205 $ 10 $ 55
2008
Guatemala Classes hpd 1 wk 2 wks 3 wks 4 wks extra week extra night transfer
Quetzaltenango private 5 $ 275 $ 465 $ 680 $ 870 $ 205 $ 10 $ 55

COUNTRY INFO: GUATEMALA

Guatemala is one of the most culturally authentic countries of Latin America. There is a very high percentage of Indians in its population. Catholicism has been mixed with pagan rituals, like the use of sacrifices. The Guatemalan culture is in many ways very colourful and the Mayas still cling to their ancient traditions. It seems as if time has stood still here in certain places.

Guatemala is a country of contrasts; the Latinos have a modern western lifestyle, whilst most of the Mayas still live pretty much like their ancestors lived hundreds of years ago. They still wear their traditional clothing, brightly coloured hand-woven costumes, both in everyday life and on religious occasions like the many processions that are held here.

The landscape of Guatemala is beautiful and very diverse: there is jungle, rough mountains, hill forests, rain forests and high altitude lakes that are surrounded by volcanoes. Antigua, Panajachel at Lake Atitlán, the market of Chichicastenango and the old Mayan city of Tikal in the middle of the jungle are the main tourist attractions of Guatemala. These places are easy to travel to yourself or you can book organised tours from Antigua or Quetzaltenango. Guatemala City is worth a short visit but not really a must and most certainly a city where you will need to watch your belongings at busy bus stations or on public transport.

Guatemala is known as the country of eternal spring because of its mild climate.

Activities Guatemala

  • Climbing volcanoes.
  • Mountain biking.
  • Horseback riding.
  • Sailing on the Rio Dulce or Lago de Atitlán.
  • Visit Livingston: a Caribbean coastal town with African influence.
  • Diving in Lago de Atitlán at ATI-divers in Santa Cruz la Laguna.
  • River rafting.
  • Bird watching.
  • Weaving classes.
  • Salsa dance courses.
  • Visit the highlights of Guatemala: Antigua, Lago de Atitlán, Chichicastenango, Todos los
  • Santos de Chuchumantanes and Tikal.
  • Visit less known but there for more traditional Indian villages.
  • An abundance of voluntary work in any field!
  • Transport: collective bus ('chicken bus') or minibus for tourists on routes between highlights.

CITY INFO: QUETZALTENANGO

Quetzaltenango is the second largest city in Guatemala and is called Xela by the locals. This is also what it says on the busses, so don't bother looking for Quetzaltenango at the bus station. Xela has over 125.000 inhabitants and is 200 kilometres away from the capital. It is located in a big, green valley at an altitude of 2.334 meters. Because of this height, it can get really chilly at night, but it usually has gorgeous blue skies and a nice temperature during the day. You will not find many tourists here, which is why it is a perfect place to seriously study Spanish and partake in the everyday life of Guatemalans.

Although Quetzaltenango is a big city, there is almost no industry; agriculture and commerce are the main sources of income. It is not an especially pretty city, there are only a few buildings worth visiting, but this means few tourists and thus enables you to get a feel for the 'real' Guatemala. Walking around you feel like you're in a large village, as there are almost no high rises and little traffic. In the vicinity of Quetzaltenango, there are many quaint little villages that are worth visiting. It is really easy to take a bus and walk around one of these places, especially on days when there are festivities or markets.

Activities Quetzaltenango

  • Voluntary work (there are lots of projects where you can work with the local Quiché Mayan Indians).
  • Weaving classes.
  • Visit (walking) the natural warm water hot springs at Los Vahos of Almolonga (3,5 km outside Quetzaltenango).
  • Visit the town Todos Los Santos Chuchumantanes especially on All Saints day (1st of November).
  • Visit on foot or by bus Indian villages around Xela: Zunil: a picturesque agricultural village (10 km of Quetzaltenango), the market of Friday of San Francisco El Alto (17 km of Quetzaltenango).
  • Weekend tour: climbe the highest volcano of Central America: the Tajumulco 4220m.

Travel tip

Many students over the last years have used the possibility to combine Spanish lessons in Guatemala with lessons in Mexico. You can book an open-jaw flight; you fly into Guatemala City and out of Mexico City or vice versa. We recommend you make the journey from Guatemala to Mexico by bus but if you want to combine Guatemala with Costa Rica or Panama you are better of flying.

Fiestas

Make sure to check the dates of local fiestas when making your travel plans. We highly recommend you to experience being present at any of the local fiestas. Every town has its own annual fiesta. The fiestas, often with a religious background, consist of hours or even days of dancing by the male population. They dress in traditional costumes and wear masks which depict a certain historic event.

In the week before Easter there are numerous processions in Antigua for example. The streets are dressed up with flower petals, laid out in beautiful motives like paintings. An absolute must do!

Here's a list with the important fiestas:
Antigua Annual feast 25 July
-- Easter (2008) 20-21 March
-- Independence Day 15 September
Panajachel Annual feast 4 October
Chichicastenango Annual feast 21 December
Sololá Annual feast 15 August
San Lucas Tolimán Annual feast 18 October
San Marcos la Laguna Annual feast 25 April
San Pablo la Laguna Annual feast 25 January
San Pablo la Laguna Annual feast 29 June
Santiago Atitlán Annual feast 25 July
Quetzaltenango Annual feast 15 September
Todos Los Santos All Saints' Day 1 November
  Annual feast 1 November
Flores Annual feast 15 January

CLIMATE

Guatemala only has a rainy and a dry season. In Antigua and Quetzaltenango the rainy season lasts from June until October, the dry season from October till June. In rainy season the rains are heavy but usually short and mainly in the afternoons. Right after the sky turns blue again. The average day temperature is around 21ºC in the high lands, at night it cools down considerably. On the coast it's 30ºC during the day.

Come with Adiós Travel to learn Spanish in Xela, Guatemala.

Learn Spanish in Latin America

Xela central park

Xela classes

Xela classes

Xela students

Xela teachers

Nuevo san Jose

Guatemala

Guatemala

Panajachel

Tikal

Usumacinta

Guatemala

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