Todos Santos Cuchumatán

High in the Cuchumatanes, the Mam-speaking Todos Santeros maintain a traditional way of life with their striking, bright, traditional dress and their adherence to the 260-day Tzolkin calendar. The town is hemmed in by 3800-m-high mountains either side that squeeze it into one long, 2-km street down the valley. The town is famous for its weaving, and even more famous for the horse race.

Some of Guatemala's best weaving is done in Todo Santos. Fine huípiles may be bought in the cooperative on the main street and direct from the makers. The men wear the famous red-and-white striped trousers. Some wear a black wool over-trouser piece. Their jackets are white, pink, purple and red-striped with beautifully coloured, and intricately embroidered, collars and cuffs. Their straw hat is wrapped with a blue band. You can buy the embroidered cuffs and collars for men's shirts, the red trousers, and gorgeous colourful crocheted bags made by the men. The women wear navy blue cortes with thin, light blue, vertical stripes.

There is a colourful Saturday market and a smaller one on Wednesday. The church near the park was built in 1580.

Around Todos Santos

The closest walk is to
Las Letras
, where the words 'Todos Santos' are spelt out in white stone on a hillside above the town. The walk takes an hour. To get there take the path down the side of
Restaurant Cuchumatlán
. The highest point of the Cuchumatanes, and the highest non-volcanic peak in the country,
La Torre
at 3837 m, is to the northeast of Todos Santos and can be reached from the village of
on the road to Concepción Huista. When clear, it's possible to see the top of Volcán Santa María, one of the highest volcanoes in Guatemala. The hike takes about five hours. The best way to do it is to start in the afternoon and spend the night near the top. It is convenient for camping, with wood but no water. A compass is essential in case of mist. From Todos Santos, you can also hike south to
San Juan Atitán
, four to five hours, where the locals wear an interesting
traje típico
. Market days are on Mondays and Thursdays. From there you can hike to the Pan-American Highway - it's a one day walk. The local fiesta is 22-26 June.

From Jacaltenango to the Mexican border

The road from Todos Santos continues northwest through
Concepción Huista
. Here the women wear towels as shawls and Jacalteco is spoken. The fiesta, 29 January-3 February, has fireworks and dancing. The hatmaker in Canton Pilar supplies the hats for Todos Santos, he welcomes viewers and will make a hat to your specifications (but if you want a typical Todos Santos leather
, buy it there).

Beyond Jacaltenango is Nentón, and Gracias a Dios at the Mexican border. When the road north out of Huehue splits at Paquix, the right fork goes to San Mateo Ixtatán, with ruins nearby. The road from Paquix crosses the roof of the Cuchumatanes, before descending to San Juan Ixcoy, Soloma and Santa Eulalia, where the people speak O'anjob'al as they do in Soloma. East along a scenic route is Barillas. There are several pensiones in these places and regular buses from Huehue.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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