Nebaj is the largest of the villages and has grown substantially through the last few years since the end of the civil war. I still have pleasant memories of my first visit to this enchanting town, at the ripe old age of 18, riding on the roof rack of a crowded chicken bus on twisting mountain (dirt) roads.
The location of this hamlet, nestled in a valley among the Cuchumatanes mountain chain, is superb, and you’ll surely remember the first time you see its quaint houses and whitewashed church coming into view from the mountains above. As elsewhere, the town is centered around the plaza with the church and government offices built around it. A peek inside Nebaj’s church reveals a multitude of small crosses as a memorial to civil war victims.
During the worst of the violence Nebaj was pretty much off-limits, with military checkpoints in Santa Cruz del Quiché, Sacapulas, and along the road north keeping close tabs on the activities of sojourners to these parts. Today it’s become increasingly popular with foreign volunteers working with one of many NGOs helping out with postwar reconstruction and community development projects throughout the area. Despite its violent history, the region is remarkably safe, with reports of tourist robberies in these parts being virtually unheard of.
The women of Nebaj wear one of the most colorful and beautiful of Guatemala’s indigenous costumes; they’re imbued with animal and bird motifs and worn with an elaborate headdress adorned with purple, yellow, and green pom-poms. You can pick up colorful weavings with these motifs from several stalls along the plaza and at some of the local restaurants.
Getting to Nebaj
Bus schedules in Nebaj, as in most small rural towns, are somewhat elastic. The bus depot is two blocks southeast of the plaza. There are several daily buses and minivans to Santa Cruz del Quiché, with the last bus leaving sometime around 5 p.m.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com