Quetzaltenango, more commonly known by its Mayan name Xela (pronounced shay-la), is Guatemala’s second largest city. Despite this, it still manages to retain a peaceful small-town feel. Its narrow cobbled streets, colonial architecture and historic city center all contribute to the rich culture that’s ubiquitous here in Xela.
Moreover, Xela is also known as the intellectual center of Guatemala. With 10 major universities, Xela has a long-standing literary tradition. This tradition also holds true for students studying Spanish. Students who are more serious about their Spanish education find Xela to be a relief from other Latin American immersion programs. It is extremely difficult to immerse yourself in cities such as Antigua where it is all too common to come across restaurant staff who not only know how to speak English, but also who refuse to speak Spanish with you regardless of your Spanish-speaking abilities. On the other hand, Xela maintains a “perfectly balanced” tourist and expat population. This population is large enough to be found if that’s what you seek, but at the same time, small enough to be avoided.