Also known as Parque Centro America, Quetzaltenango's Central Park constitutes (as you might have guessed) the city's cultural epicenter. And it's not too difficult to see why. A lively daily atmosphere permeates the well manicured trees, shrubs and walkways of the plaza, which once consisted of two separate gardens until they were combined in 1938. Unique structures like its central pillar and trademark circular stone "kiosk" (dedicated to Rafael Álvarez Ovalle, who helped compose the Guatemalan national anthem) make for a great setting in which to kick back and take in the sights and sounds of daily life in the city.
The park's surroundings don't disappoint, either. On all sides, colonial and neoclassical structures provide both great photo ops and a cool opportunity to explore Xela's heritage firsthand. First and foremost there's the House of Culture building, with its columned entrance leading visitors into the city's Museum of Art and Natural History. You can also check out the imposing Municipal Palace, dating back to 1812, and La Iglesia del Espíritu Santo, with its front colonial facade paying homage to the church's original 16th century architecture. Last but not least, the magnificent Italian-inspired Pasaje Enríquez is home to various businesses, including some restaurants and travel-related shops. Not a bad way to spend a few hours getting acquainted with Guatemala's second largest city, wouldn't you agree?