Quetzaltenango is the second-largest city in Guatemala, with around 200,000 inhabitants, many of them indigenous Mayan. It is nestled in the heart of the Sierra Madre mountain range, four hours away from the Mexican border, and four hours away from the capital city. The original name of the city in the Mayan language K'iche was Xelaju No’j, hence the nickname of Xela now (pronounced Shey-la). It was renamed Quetzaltenango by the Mayan guides of the Spanish conquistadores.
As well as Spanish, the languages Mam and K'iche' are still spoken widely in the town and surrounding areas. The altitude of the city is 2335m. The temperature here is about 20°C - 25°C / 70°F - 75°F during the day, but the nights can be quite cool, especially in December and January when the temperature can drop to below freezing at night. The rainy season runs from May to September with showers in the afternoons but the mornings are still sunny and warm.
Xela is a favourite for Spanish students as it is a friendly town in easy reach of other beautiful areas of Guatemala, so at weekends you can visit the stunning lake Atitlan, climb nearby volcanoes or visit the pacific coast. The town has great little cafes, bars, and numerous salsa dance schools and is a great place to hang out for a few weeks or even longer. Unlike some locations on the traditional 'tourist trail' there are not hordes of tourists in Xela, even in the summer months. The foreigners in town are more often than not here for weeks rather than days as they are here to study or volunteer. You will certainly get to practice your Spanish a lot here as Guatemalans will not automatically speak to you in English, as they do in more touristy locations.