We loved Xela. The weather was cool and enjoyable, there were lots of great food options, cafes, views and enough day trips to keep you entertained for a week (at least). Most travellers come to Xela to learn Spanish. There are lots and lots of Spanish schools. We spent 5 nights in Xela and went on day trips to Fuentes Georginas, San Andres Xecul and San Francisco de Alto
Other than our three day trips, we wandered around the easily navigable centre, ate lots of good food, and enjoyed the spectacular views from our hostel's terrace. Nim Sut Hostel, as they claim, certainly does have the best view in Xela. We would highly recommend staying there. It was mid November when we were there, and very quiet, but I can imagine it gets busy in the high season. The owners, Christopher and Gloria, an American/Guatemalan couple are super helpful, friendly and obviously care a lot about their business. Gloria has lots of good information, suggestions and arrange any activity or shuttle you're interested in. And, she does it all with a genuine smile! Sitting and chatting with Christopher on the terrace was always enjoyable! We stayed in room 5, which we thought to be the best room in the hostel. On the top floor, our huge window had an amazing view of the mountains, cathedral and town. The room was large with a double bed and a single one. It was cozy at night, comfortable and quiet. The bathroom was shared with one other room. There are other private rooms too, a couple dorms and at least one room with a private bathroom. You could use the massive, fully stocked kitchen, there was free water refills, wifi and quick laundry services. The location was perfect, only a block from Parque Central and 2 blocks from our favourite watering hole, Bajo La Luna. Everything was kept neat, tidy and clean. There always seemed to be someone sweeping something. But, really, its Gloria, Christopher and the very impressive view that make this hostel so special.
Our favourite place for a drink and later eats was Bajo la Luna. (It doesn't open until 7pm) Jose, the owner is friendly, imaginative and a great chef. His chickpea burger and fries were super tasty, and everything that came out of his kitchen looked and smelled delicious. Fridays he does a little kitchen experimentation and adds a mystery dish to the menu. He was serving pulled pork burritos in addition to his menu options the night we were there. But its the atmosphere at Bajo La Luna that kept us coming back. Small and intimate with just enough details it was a great place to spend the evening with friends, or making new ones. The drink prices were reasonable, especially on Wednesday when wine is 20% off. Jose even let us sample some local fruit liquor from neighbouring Saljaca that I had been reading about! Cheers to the bartender!
Our go-to breakfast spot was Maya Cafe, we literally ate there every morning. There were lots of breakfast options but we also got a version of a Tipico breakfast. J would get the Chapin which was Q20 ($2.60USD) and came with 2 eggs, beans, rice and tortillas and my favourite was the Maya D (Q23/ $3USD) which came with 2 eggs, fried plantains, beans, a chunk of cheese, a little hashbrown and tortillas. Nothing in Guatemala is not accompanied by corn tortillas! All breakfasts include a thermos of coffee, a milky porridge starter, a basket of bread and 2 sugar cookies. We were seriously stuffed at the end of it, and rarely had to eat a second full meal. Lunch here is also a great option, with lots of local choices for around Q25 all accompanied by fruit juice, soup, and, you guessed it, tortillas.
Our favourite cafe was Cafe Armonia. The coffee was delectable and roasted right on sight. It was possibly the best coffee we had in Guatemala. I would have loved to buy some beans to bring home, but the thought of carrying them around for another month forced the coffee to be, unfortunately, just a really lovely memory.
Artesano was our place for bagels. Real bagels, not just bread baked in circular form! When we were going on day trips and wanted to bring some snacks we'd hop in grab a couple Pimento Cheddar bagels and a cookie or 2. We were never disappointed. Xelapan is a popular bakery chain with a shop conveniently located right in Parque Central. More of a traditional Guatemalan bakery with lots of buns full of cheese, beans, chocolate and such, we stopped into Xelapan more than once for a bready snack.
I fell in love with Chocobananas in Guatemala. A frozen banana fully dipped into chocolate right before your eyes, chocobananas were my #1 favourite snack in Xela. There are a few places to buy these yummy treats, but my preference was for the ones at Chocodelicio on a side street at the bottom of the square very close to Maya Cafe. She'll even sprinkle peanut pieces or sprinkles on yours, if you fancy. (Q5/ 65cent s US) If you aren't a banana fan, fear not, you could also choose to have frozen watermelon, pineapple, coconut or a strawberry skewer dipped into the chocolate!