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|Shared By:||Michael McGuigan on May 6, 2011|
DescriptionZunil, and its brother Santo Thomas, are very prominent land forms in this region of Guatemala. The volcano can be found between the towns of Zunil in the state of Quetzaltenango, Nahualá in Sololá, and Zunilito in the state of Suchitepequez. Although Zunil offers some of the most stunning views to be found in Guatemala, it is probably one of the least visited volcanoes. Zunil belongs to the oldest geological generation of the Guatemalan volcanoes. It is a heavily eroded cone, with no apparent crater and was for many years considered a mountain.
There are a number of routes to the top of this Zunil. The Alaska route takes a little longer than most, but offers some of the most stunning views that can be found in Guatemala. It is an ancient trail that was first used by the Maya as a trading route. It is also the route to take if you plan to visit all of the Seven Crosses.
From the telephone tower head SW along a clear trail towards the ridge which is plainly visible. The trail traverses several small hills and splits into several paths along the way. They all pretty much end up on the ridge and if you keep a generally SW course, you should be fine. Once on the ridge, the route becomes obvious. The trail crosses three hills at about 11,000 feet. After the third knoll, the tail begins to descend. After a series of switchbacks, the you end up at the junction (N14.44.560, W091.26.827)between the trail that will take you the the peak of Zunil and the trail to the col between Zunil and Santo Thomas. After topping out, return to the junction and take the path to the col. Follow this trail until you reach another split (N14.44.082, W091.28.029). If you continue strait, you will be on the trail to the volcano Santo Thomas. If you head down, you will be going towards the finca Chingada where you can arrange to have someone pick you up. Most of this section of the trail follows an old logging road. The trail terminates at the finca, essentially the end of the logging road (N14.44.526, W091.28.049). At this point you can either drive out, or follow another trail through thick cloud and bamboo forests to the Fuentes Amargas Georginas thermal baths and soak your bones after a great day of hiking. It was at this junction that I spotted a rare Quetzal bird.
From Fuentes Georginas, the trail starts on the east side of the hot water pools, it is a small path, you will start on a very slippery, not well defined path. After some minutes of hiking you will reach an intersection of two roads, take the right one, then after some time of hiking you will reach a blue cross in the ground, it is in honor of a corpse, anyway from that place you can take right. From this place the path is a little hard, it has some leaves and trees that hit your head or backpack, but it's well defined from here. Don't worry because the trail some times goes down, it's just part of it. After about half mile of plain terrain, you reach a place called "El Aserradero" which is the only place where you will have no trees over your head, from this place you will see the whole cone of the volcano, from this place you take to your right wich is the east, and you will find a path that is hard to find, but after 100 meters it gets well defined. Here the path takes you to the summit. It's supposed to take 6 hours, but it really depends on the soil conditions, weather conditions, physical condition, etc.
You will need a good pair of hiking shoes, camera, sunblock, lots of water and snacks, and a bathing suit. It can get cold and windy on the ridge and peak, so you should bring something warm and dry as well.
Driving to Xela is fairly straightforward. From Guatemala City, get on Route CA1 heading West. Follow this route all the way to Xela (see the road map in my maps album). You will pass through Chimaltenango and Tecpan. At Los Encuentros you will find a junction, take CA1 to the South. Stay on CA1 until you reach San Cristobal. Here you take Route 1 South directly into Xela. The drive will take between three to five hours depending on traffic and road conditions.
From Guatemala City take a taxi to the Transportes Galgo bus station on 7a. Avenida 19-44 in zone 1 (tel. 253-4869). For about Q60.00 you can purchase a one-way ticket to Quetzaltenango (Xela). The trip will take between 3.5 to 5 hours depending on weather, road conditions, traffic, and how many people the bus stops for along the way. If you check in gear, make sure you keep track of your luggage ticket. After you arrive in Xela, take a taxi to the Parke Central, about Q25.00, where you can catch a good meal and enjoy downtown Xela.
If you plan to hike this route, you should consider staying in Quetzaltenango the night before so that you can get an early start.
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