Cotzal was the Ixil Triangle ’s largest town until the road to Nebaj  was built in the 1940s. It’s now rather small, though its setting is (as everywhere else in these parts) gorgeous, surrounded by the imposing Cuchumatanes mountain chain.
There’s little to see in the town itself, though the weavings here are some of Guatemala’s finest. Market days are Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The Iglesia San Juan fronts a pretty plaza that has been remodeled and festooned with flowers and benches. The church’s interior is not nearly as elaborate as that of neighboring Chajul , but its Christ statue curiously holds a staff with an Israeli flag. Jesus was a Jewish carpenter, after all.
Cotzal has been enhanced as of late by a community tourism project. Tejidos Cotzal (just behind the marketplace, tel. 5428-8218, www.tejidoscotzal.org ) is a cooperative of 30 local weavers who retain traditional methods of weaving using natural dyes and backstrap looms. There are two-day guided tours to the weavers’ homes, offering a wonderful opportunity to get out and meet the people who create these singular works of art. The trip costs $13 per person, with a minimum of two people, and can be combined with a visit to nearby waterfalls.
The paving of the road to Cotzal has opened it up to tourism and there is now at least one decent hotel in town. El Maguey (tel. 7765-6199, $12 d), two blocks north of the plaza, has clean, basic rooms with TV and shared bathrooms. The hotel’s eatery offers good set menus for about $2.50. Enterprising weavers may also offer you a place to stay.
Some pretty waterfalls out this way make a good day hike, 10 and 12 kilometers from town, though there are not as of yet any outfitters to take you here. You can take pickups or minibuses to the villages of Chichel and Santa Abelina, from where it’s a much shorter walk to the falls.
The first waterfall, near Chichel, is Chimel, which cascades down a rocky cliff into a small river. There are some tables and benches in the surrounding grassy hillside beneath the falls and it makes a pleasant place for a picnic. You can drive part of the way on a rugged dirt road, but you’ll find yourself hiking the last half mile or so to the falls through beautiful pastureland.
The second waterfall is reached by going a further two kilometers along the main road out of Cotzal to the village of Santa Abelina. The town is built on a hillside and if you go to the base of this hillside via the main road, you’ll find a small tienda on the outskirts of town. You walk straight uphill from here on a very steep trail, turning left onto a smaller footpath, which eventually traverses cornfields for about 20 minutes to the falls.
The water tumbles over a rock that is pitched just over the edge of the cliff and produces quite a bit of spray. There’s a small tile-roofed changing room by the pool at the base of the falls and a friendly caretaker who will collect a $1 admission price. You can ask any of the locals how to get here and they can point you in the general direction.