Mayan woman entering the Basilica in Esquipulas

Top things to do in Esquipulas

Esquipulas in Guatemala is one of the less known spots for foreign tourists To local people it is known for religious tourism, they will visit the place to see the famous Cristo Negro in the basilica of Esquipulas. But there are more tourist attractions in the authentic Gautemalan town which are worth a trip. Here my advice for the top things to see!

When, after one year of abstinence, I entered Guatemala again, I fell in love again with this unique and beautiful Mayan country. Arriving at Esquipulas, I immediately recognized that this place is not often visited by foreigners. Not only was I the only white-skinned person on the street in this moment. The confusion and curious interest of the passengers was obvious. And even more, when I started talking to them in fluent Spanish. I had searched the internet for information about tourist attractions beforehand and hardly found anything, but talking to the locals I was surprised at the possibilities. Anyhow, this is my favorite way to explore a region, because it is the most original one.

Typical Accomodation

Guatemalan street food

Loads of food

I found a place to stay for the night, an economic hotel designed for demands of the average Centralamerican tourist, which means simple windowless rooms door next door, bathrooms without light and toilet paper and a lack of communal or resting areas. This is being compensated by TVs to entertain the whole family, which not only will keep me awake at latenight but also steal my beauty sleep in the morning. Before exploring the city I have to strengthen myself with some local food being offered on the Main Street in front of the artisanal market.

Basilica del señor de Esquipulas and Black Christ

La Basilica Esquipulas, leaving backwards

Leaving backwards

Only a few steps away and surrounded by a beautiful park area was the basilica of Esquipulas. Surprisingly it was visited by different ethnic groups from all over the country, colorfully dressed Mayan women occupied the garden having picnic. Wanting to see the Cristo Negro was the main reason for their visit, so I waited in line to enter the back of the imposing clerical building. The pilgrims were deeply moved and soulfully were praying in front of their exceptional Redeemer. As it is disrespectful to turn your back on the Black Christ, we were leaving the basilica backwards, guided by handrails on the winding walkway.

Piedras de los compadres

Outlook, Piedra de los compadres in Esquiplas

Mystical place

Some kilometers outside the town, two according to official sources and six according to several signs, I find another attraction called „Las piedras de los compadres“. I found it a good idea going by tuktuk. Locals tell me the beautiful legend, whereby at this place once a couple spent the night in passionate union and was turned into stones which are now lying upon each other in perfect balance. The story is told to me with a wicked smile, as it should prevent young people from physical pleasures. Knowing about the common custom in some regions of Guatemala marrying at age of 12 or 13 this turns out to be a rather sad story. Anyhow here is a another religious and spiritual place for the Mayan people and when I climb the nearby hill overlooking the surrounding I can hear the ancestors voices, whispering in the wind.

Cerrito de Morola

Cerrito de Morola in Esquipulas

Pilgrims passing the altars

I spend the afternoon climbing a mountain, located on the opposite end of town, passing fourteen altars, many pilgrims stop at to pray, before I reach a Francician Convent from where I can overlook Esquipulas and its beautiful hilly countryside. Following the winding trails I pass tiny settlements and coffee plantations before I reach aromatic little church with a miracle cross in front. Visitors found if they circuit the cross seven times and pray for a miracle, it will become true. So I do and will see what happens.

More things to do

Having some more time it is worth to explore the surrounding of Esquipulas. One could visit caves where Mayan people still perform ceremonies and rituals, take a swim in one of the nearby rivers and waterfalls or visit the beautiful cloudforest „El  Trifinio“. More information is provided on the tourism page of Esquipulas.