As we climbed higher and higher into the Western Highlands towards the renowned Fuentes Georginas Hot Springs on the outskirts of Xela, Guatemala, we began wondering if the activity was truly for us. “Us” being Kelsey and Deirdre, Trama Textiles volunteers, two American girls who suffer from both weak stomachs and a fear of heights. Therefore, the more ground our minibus gained, the further our stomachs dropped. In addition to my queasiness, I was also undergoing an internal battle of fear and awe, as the scenery through the winding hills proved too beautiful not to photograph.
However, as soon as we were stopped firmly on the wide span parking lot of Fuentes Georginas Hot Springs, the anxiety lessened and our appreciation for the beauty of this natural wonder grew. The springs are nestled in an expansive rainforest, heated due to the steam vents of surrounding volcanos. When we entered the hot spring premises and saw the four steaming thermal pools, the car ride was all but forgotten. As we submerged ourselves in the hottest of the pools (all varying in temperature) we agreed the car sickness was worth it. The experience was extremely relaxing and although we didn´t visit, there was also a restaurant by the pools, offering both local and international cuisine.
After what seemed too short a time, we dragged ourselves out of the pools and back to the parking lot to begin our departure. After deciding I had taken plenty of pictures on the way up the mountain, I kept my eyes firmly shut for the descent.
The next day we hiked to Laguna de Chicabal, another common tourist excursion. In order to avoid the fog that settles over the Ancient Mayan sacred laguna later in the day, we woke up at 5:30 am and began our ascent at 6:30 am. The hike ended up being far more difficult than we had anticipated but ultimately, 100% worth the sore legs! Although it felt as though the ground would never level out, during one of the few brief moments it mercifully did we were fortunate enough to witness an erupting volcano in the distance. Check that off the bucket list!
When we finally reached Laguna de Chicabal, we sat at the edge and took in the breathtaking stillness of the water. Because the laguna is so sacred to the Mayans, swimming is strictly prohibited. Fish are the sole creatures allowed to disrupt its water. However, they were either sleeping in or immobile at the time because for the majority of our visit, there wasn’t a single visible ripple. After fifteen minutes of sitting at the water´s edge, we walked around the entire laguna, encountering fallen trees which, due to natural causes, had splashed into the waters uninvited. There were also small inlets with signs marking points where Mayan celebrations or sacrifices had taken place. Even today, flowers and other arrangements are left on the shores of the laguna as offerings to the Mayan gods.
After completing the circle of Laguna de Chicabal we began our descent. Our tour guide rearranged the route slightly so we could wonder through vegetation and views we hadn’t encountered on our venture there. The entire day was a perfect mix of fantastic views, cultural education, and exercise!
When visiting Xela, Guatemala we join Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor, and local word of mouth in encouraging you to see both the Fuentes Georginas Hot Springs and Laguna de Chicabal.