Nebaj, Guatemala is a small town and the base for exploring the unique Ixil Region. Check out our travel guide & find out the best things to do in Nebaj.
Things to Do in Nebaj, Guatemala
There are very few attractions in Nebaj besides observing the Ixil way of life – we loved this relaxed, traditional mountain town. Consider visiting Nebaj as one of the top places to visit in Guatemala.
Only the Ixil women wear traditional clothing. This is marked by red skirts, and brightly colored, woven huipiles. Greens, yellows, red, and oranges make up geometric patterns.
The main focal points to do so are at the central plaza, church and market.
1. Central Plaza
The central plaza is the place to be, and be seen if you live in Nebaj, Guatemala.
Everyone congregates here at some point during the day since it has:
- street food
- place of worship
- plenty of open space with benches
- all the key businesses surrounding it
The place is full of entrepreneurs as well from ice cream vendors and kid shoe shiner, to magic elixir hustlers.
The central plaza really has it all. Take your time people watching before checking out the white-washed church next to the colorful mural.
The church in Nebaj is a simple affair, but the religious are very dedicated.
Watch the faithful crawl on their knees to and from the altar in a sign of deference. Others light candles in the porticos of their favorite saint. This is a great place to hide from sudden shower as well.
The other big attraction in Nebaj is the market, with Thursday and Sunday being the best days to visit.
Grab some fruits to snack on, see the women’s traditional clothing, or just head to the ‘chicken’ bus terminal.
The alleyways are jammed with vendors on both sides, and locals pushing their way through as tarps hover just above you. Don’t visit if you are claustrophobic.
We visited on a Thursday, and got to witness school children playing during recess.
We had to climb over a pile of used clothes from the US and shoot through a wire fence, but the pictures of kids being kids were priceless.
4. Museo de Arqueologia
For those in need of a real attraction, you can always visit the Museo de Arqueologia (Q20 / $2.75).
We chose not to, but they cover the region’s history and culture.
5. Streets of Nebaj
Since there aren’t many things to do in Nebaj, you’ll probably do several laps of the town.
The most interesting things we found were the popularity of pinball machines with teenagers, and a small girl collecting wood scraps from her family’s woodshop.
The streets aren’t particularly nice, but they help pass the time when you aren’t doing day trips.
6. Food & Drink
Nebaj is a great place for Guatemalalan street food and cheap set meals since very few tourists make it to this region of Guatemala.
Around the main plaza you can find:
- Mexican style corn (Q3-5 / $0.40-0.70)
- Fried chicken and fries (Q10 / $1.40)
- Steamed and grilled tamales (Q1-2 / $0.15-0.25 depending on filling)
Our favorite tacos (3 for Q10 / $1.35) were on 5 Avenida, though.
A vendor near the main plaza also served a chocolate rice drink (Q1 / $.015) similar in composition to congee.
For set meals (Q16 / $2.20), there are a handful of comedors located around the city.
You can also get a breakfast dish of eggs, rice, beans, and coffee for Q12 / $1.65 in the market.
A bakery across from Popi’s also provides quick eats for breakfast.
One of the best things to do in Nebaj is to to make a day trip to the quaint highland village of Chajul.
It’s the most traditional town in the Ixil region where you’ll see women in traditional outfits and unique handicrafts for sale. You can pick these up at the weekly Tuesday and Friday market days.
8. Self-Guided Hike from Nebaj to Acul
The Nebaj to Acul hike is a great one to give DIY travel a try. It is short, easy & you can return by microbus. As long as you can find the start of the track from Nebaj to Acul, the rest is easy.
Simply follow the road going southwest from the front of the main plaza until it turns into the trail. The path is also on Maps.me for an easy reference.
Those attempting the Nebaj to Todos Santos hike without a tour also start here, and can find the entire trail on the app as well.
The road from town will naturally turn into the trail.
You will know once the path becomes dirt, and you are surrounded by vegetation instead of buildings.
It is hard to get lost as you are boxed in by corn fields and pastures. Expect to see locals making the commute in either direction as well.
However one of readers Marc wrote to us and said: “Thanks for your report. It is a good walk, however make sure that you take the right road out of Nebaj. Locals will show you the road to Acul the buses take. Very far and less attractive. And the path described by you is steep up and down, I would say.”
So the could be something to keep in mind…
As you get towards the top, you get excellent views of Nebaj, Guatemala. This area is the best spot for panoramic views on the Nebaj to Acul hike.
It is only another 5-10 minutes until you reach the top.
Once at the top, the trail levels off and becomes grassy with barb-wired fences separating pastures that line the path.
There is virtually no way you can get lost on this hike.
After a handful of minutes walking along the ridge, you start to make your descent into Acul. The rocky road makes numerous switchbacks on the way down.
While hiking, we spotted a father and son collecting stones nearby as if it were their personal quarry.
You will start to notice corn fields and houses again once you get towards the bottom of the trail from Nebaj to Acul.
Keep following the road, and join the others heading into Acul as well.
Most locals traveling this way will be farmers tending their fields, or collecting firewood to heat their stoves.
The town is very rural with only one church, and a small main street. Don’t expect to find many things to do in Acul.
The one exception is visiting Hacienda San Antonio…
9. Hacienda San Antonio
Hacienda San Antonio is an upscale hotel which also manages a farm full of plants and animals, along with producing their own cheese.
They really try to multitask, and be ready for providing a pleasant environment for the occasional guest while still earning a daily income. However, the two don’t lend well to each other.
The grounds are nice with cows grazing before a lush mountain backdrop. But the 100 odd roosters are not conducive to an enjoyable stay.
You can see the multitude of cages dotted all along their property.
The other aspect they could improve upon is having small portions of cheese available for purchase.
Upon our visit, they only had whole wheels up for sale. We were hoping for more of a cheese shop with a variety to choose from, individual portions, and perhaps a sampling.
I guess their primary customer buys in bulk so individual sales are not of concern. As a tourist, 1 kg isn’t very feasible to travel with.
You have two options to get back to Nebaj from Acul. You can retrace your steps, or an easier option is to catch a microbus (Q7 / $0.95).
Microbuses pass by Hacienda San Antonio in Acul, and will drop you off in front of the church in Nebaj.
Nebaj to Acul Hiking Time: 2 hours
Hiking Difficulty: Easy
Finding the Trail: Follow the road in front of the main plaza southwest all the way to Acul.
Things to See: Corn fields and green pastures, a panoramic view of Nebaj, valleys, and Hacienda San Antonio
Cost: Q7 / $0.95 for microbus back to Nebaj plus extra for food or drinks
This self-guided hike from Nebaj to Acul is not a must do but it does provide an escape from the gritty towns for a change of pace
10. Todos Santo
If you’re feeling extra energetic the 4-6 day hike from Nebaj to Todos Santos Cuchumatan is one of the most epic things to do in Guatemala!
It’s not for the faint hearted though as much of the route is above 10,000 ft. But you’ll be reward with sweeping views of the Cuchumatanes mountains trekking in areas only accessible by foot and staying with local families along the way.
There are definitely nicer places to stay in Nebaj, but Popi’s Hospedaje fit our needs well.
Not only were they the cheapest (Q35 / $4.80 dorm, Q80 / $11.00 double) we found, but they had reliable hot showers, and the fastest Wi-Fi. All the rooms were basic with shared bathrooms.
The restaurant downstairs had a variety of dishes and nice atmosphere, but we did not eat there. Many expats frequented during the day to take advantage of the Wi-Fi.
However, the Wi-Fi is part of the restaurant and was turned off each night at 9:30 pm when it closed. Plan your use accordingly.
The easiest way to reach Nebaj is from Coban.
A microbus (Q50 / $6.85) departs at 6 am and 1 pm each day from their bus station.
Heading to Todos Santos Cuchumatan requires three legs.
The first stretch is in a microbus from Nebaj to Sacapulas (Q15, 45 minutes / $2.05), which can be found 1 block behind the church.
The first connection was easy as the driver’s assistant let us out directly across from the departing microbus to Huehuetenango (Q20 / $2.75, 100 minutes).
At the bus terminal in Huehuetenango, find the ‘chicken’ bus for Todos Santos Cuchumatan (Q20 / $2.75, 2 hours).
Purchase a ticket at the Transporte Flor de Maria office directly behind the bus, and mark your seats with pegs in the wooden board.
Buses depart at 10:20 am, 11:20 am, 2 pm, 3:15 pm, and 4:15 pm.
Buses (Q5 / $0.70) and microbuses (Q7 / $0.95) leave regularly for Chajul at the ‘chicken’ bus station located on the far side of the market.
Return microbuses from Acul cost Q7 / $0.95, and can be caught across from Hacienda San Antonio.
Everything in Nebaj is walkable, but tuk-tuks cost Q5 / $0.70 for anywhere in the center of town.
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Visited in July 2016
Updated in February 2020