Friday, March 19, 2010

The Heartland of the K'iches: El Quiche

Santa Avelina Waterfalls - San Juan Cotzal, Quiche.
Culturally speaking, El Quiche is one the most diverse departments in Guatemala. Here, the Maya descendants are predominantly K'iches and speak the K'iche language; however, in certain Municipalities within El Quiche, other Mayan languages are spoken: Ixil (in Nebaj, Chajul, and Cotzal), Uspantek (in Uspantan), Sakapultek (in Sacapulas), and Poqomchi' and Q'ekchi in the area close to the border with the Alta Verapaz department.
Nebaj, Quiche.
As for the landscape, El Quiche is also amazingly diverse, dominated by the mountain ranges of the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, Sierra de Chuacus, and the foothills of the volcanic mountain range on its border with Chimaltenango. Even though it is in the heart of the highlands, approximately one quarter of its territory is formed by tropical lowlands in the border with Peten, the northern department of Guatemala.
Agua Blanca, Quiche.
The most representative places, acknowledged worldwide as the main tourist attractions in the area, are Chichicastenango (identified as the most colorful and mysterious marketplace in Guatemala's Highlands) and Gumarcaj (also known as Q'umarkaj and Kumarcaaj, or Utatlan -the Nahuatl translation), a precolonial site whose name means Place of Old Reeds.
Chixoy River, Chicaman, Quiche. 
El Quiche is divided in twenty one municipalities: Canilla, Chajul, Chicaman, Chiche, Chichicastenango, Chinique (from where I have a delicious recipe for a dish called Pulique), Cunen, Joyabaj, Nebaj, Sacapulas, Patzite, Pachalum, Playa Grande Ixcan, San Andres Sajcabaja, San Antonio Ilotenango, San Bartolome Jocotenango, San Juan Cotzal, San Pedro Jocopilas, Santa Cruz del Quiche (the capital of the department), Uspantan, and Zacualpa.
Salinas River, Quiche. 
To start our journey through this amazing region, I choose to show you some of its pristine  and diverse nature, certainly a bird watchers and nature lovers paradise.
Usumacinta River, Quiche. 
In addition to the wonderful photos included in this post, I hope you will enjoy the following video, which I am posting with the authorization of its creator, Luis Valenzuela.


  1. Un destino impresionante, de mucho colorido y belleza natural

  2. Hi Erin! I came across your blog as I was researching places to explore in Guatemala. I'll be living and volunteering in schools for the next two years in the quiché department. I was wondering if you might be able to share some insight on how to find some of these spots. Thanks for sharing your guatemala experiences here!


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