DESTINATION MINI GUIDE:
Todos Santos Cuchumatán is located at 9000 ft. in the Cuchumatanes Mountains, approximately 8 hours from Guatemala City. The majority of area inhabitants are of Mayan lineage and the predominant language spoken is Mam, a Maya dialect. It is one of the places where most people still wear traditional dress called Tipicos and practice the ways of their ancestors. Some of Guatemala's best weaving is done here.
People are the main attraction of Todos Santos. Throughout Guatemala and beyond, post cards and tour books feature the faces of Todos Santeros (males) wearing their distinctive red pants, dark blue chaps and striped shirts with ornately embroidered collars.
Travelers come here to immerse themselves in this rich culture that dates back thousands of years. In the streets of Todos Santos, the xylophone-like wooden marimba is played. In the last decade, language schools have developed here giving travelers more to do and villagers more income.
Buses leave the Huehuetenago (Huehue) bus station between 11:30 am and 3:00 p.m. daily. The fastest bus leaves at 12:15. Buses back to Huehue start leaving Todos Santos at 6:00 am. On market day, the schedule shifts to suit whomever is driving that day and most of the buses are busy carrying people to and from the local villages.
The best way to get around is by foot. The whole town comprises one main street, one cross street and a few small side streets.
Market day every Saturday attracts people from all over region who come down from the mountains to sell their goods from chicks and vegetables to yarn and fabrics. Many tourist groups come from Quezaltenango (known as Xela) and Antigua for market day.
The area is also excellent for hiking. Torre, the highest peak in Guatemala, is a three-hour hike. From the top, you can see five of Guatemala's volcanoes and even Mexico. Both language schools do weekly hikes there. The trailhead is reached off the highway 15 minutes outside town by bus. You can ask the driver to point it out. The quaint mountain village of San Juan Atitán is a 5-hour hike from the center of town. Continue down the town's main road past the soccer field for a couple miles to reach the river.
Dia de Todos Santos on November 1 is famous for its horse race and traditional dancing. In the race, participants ride bareback from one point to another, taking a drink at each stop. The winner is the last person to fall off his horse.
By foot, you can reach the Tuj Qman Txun Mayan ceremonial ruins located 10 minutes from the town center. Compared to other archaeological sights in Guatemala, Tuj Qman Txun is humble but worth the uphill trek.
The chuj bath is one of the simple pleasures of life in Todos Santos. You will notice that all the homes in the village have a small, low-to the ground mud brick structure outside. This is the chuj where family members clean themselves. Like a sauna, a wood fire is built under the pile of
The language schools also provide wonderful opportunities to meet people who practice Mam traditions. They facilitate visits with medicine people, shamans, videntes and talks with community elders who share about the past. For example, one 80-year-old gentleman spoke of the days when everyone traveled for days by foot to work in the fincas (plantations). The schools also provide informational programs about the more recent history made by the country's tragic civil war in the early 80s. Since danger still exists for people who speak out against the governments actions during that time, you might notice conflicting stories coming from different sources. Keep in mind that Guatemalans outside their country have more freedom to speak than people still living there.
By far, the best lodging is in the homes of Mayan families. Simple meals are provided with lodging. Such home stays can be arranged through the language schools. It is also possible to stay with a Spanish speaking or Ladino family. (Ladino is the commonly-used term for mestizos.) Of course, there is a great range of possibility when staying with a family depending on the size of the family and location of the house. Generally, running water isn't available in the homes.
There is no luxury lodging available in Todos Santos. Four simple guesthouses called hospedajes with shared baths are also available. Private rooms can sell out so be prepared to share. Children greet the buses and will guide travelers to accommodations.
Some homes are available for long-term rental. The language schools and information center as you come into town are good resources for such alternatives.
Comedor Kati serves very tasty fresh vegetable soup, chicken, beans and rice.
Market day on Saturday and Thursday.
There are no telephone lines in Todos Santos. The post office in the town center has telegraph service. Huehue has the closest Internet access, ATMs and Western Union offices. Note that cash can be hard to get from ATMs in Guatemala if you don't have the PLUS symbol on your card.
RESOURCESTodos Santos Cuchumatan
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