You’ll see the large white church as soon as you enter the proximity of Esquipulas, as it dominates the view of town as you approach it from the road. Once you’re in town, the basilica can be reached by crossing a large, pleasant palm-lined park leading to a flight of steps.
A side entrance leads to the Black Christ (6 a.m.–7 p.m. daily), where you can shuffle into the line and follow pilgrims to a glass case behind the church altar for a brief glimpse.
The height of veneration occurs during an annual festival on January 15, with weekends and religious holidays also popular. You may have the place all to yourself during the week, contrasting sharply with the melee seen on weekends. Inside the church is the usual atmosphere of hushed reverence and incense found throughout Guatemala’s churches
For a real treat, check out the vending stalls near the church where you’ll find a motley assortment of religious kitsch.
Cueva de Las Minas
This cave complex lies about 300 meters south of the turnoff into town along the road heading to Honduras. It’s a further 500 meters from the entrance gate to the complex (6:30 a.m.–4 p.m. daily). There are a fifty-meter-deep cave and the Río El Milagro, which folks say holds miraculous healing powers. Bring your own flashlight.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com