A few kilometers beyond San Francisco El Alto along a beautiful mountain road brings you to the town of Momostenango, famous for its delightfully warm wool blankets, which you can shop for at the twice-weekly markets on Wednesday and Sunday. Adherence to the Mayan calendar and traditional Mayan ceremonies are still very much in evidence here.
Among the attractions here is an interesting geological formation known as Los Riscos, essentially like large outdoor stalagmites, and made of eroded clay and crystalized stone. They’re worth a look, though you might find the litter in the vicinity of the rock formations a bit unnerving, as is often the case in rural Guatemala. They’re about 500 meters outside of town. Anyone can point the direction, and there are signs to guide you once you’re on the way.
Momostenango’s annual fiesta, the Octava de Santiago, takes place July 28–August 2. There are also dances held a few times a year, most notably on Christmas and New Year’s Eve, when townsfolk performing the displays dress up in devil costumes and drink copious amounts of liquor.
Momostenango is accessible via frequent second-class bus from Xela’s Minerva bus depot as well as from the Cuatro Caminos Junction and San Francisco El Alto. If you need to spend the night, your best bet is Hotel Estiver (1a Calle 4-15 Zona 4, tel. 7736-5036, $5–7 d), which actually looks nicer from the outside. There are 12 spartan rooms with shared or private bath with hot water; some have balconies.
A backup is the centrally located Hospedaje Posada de Doña Pelagia (2a Avenida “A” Zona 1, tel. 7736-5175, $2 per person), where you get a roof over your head and a room lit by a solitary lightbulb hanging on a wire. Bathrooms are shared. The rooms are centered around a courtyard and if you’ve brought a deck of cards you’ll have to play elsewhere, as a sign clearly denotes that card-playing is strictly verboten. For food, there are a number of very basic comedores near the plaza.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com