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Santa Maria de la Concepción

Santa Maria de la Concepción is still my favorite Mayan village in the region.

A mother and daughter in front of the church
From the road coming into town
Seated in front of the church
I saw this small child all by herself as happy as a clam, eating a snow cone.
The well in the plaza.
Gold covered cherub.
Three girls from the village.

If asked about what villages one should visit that aren't often visited I always recommend Santa Maria de la Concepcion. Hardly any travelers ever go there and the town is truly spectacular.

Getting there is not all that easy, but well worth the effort. There is no bus nor is it on the road to anywhere else so you have to do a bit of exploring. The dirt road leaves from Solola, but I doubt you will find it on a map. Here is what you do.

Take the bus to Solola and ask. For those of you who do not speak Spanish now is the time to pull out that dog eared copy of the Berlitz Phrasebook & Dictionary Latin American Spanish (buy it on Amazon) and put it to work. For those of you who speak no Spanish and did not take my advice to buy a copy (tut tut) repeat after me: "Dónde está Santa Maria de La Concepción?" You can do it, you got this far, after all.

Don't forget, this isn't Paris and the locals aren't French. Guatemalans are happy to help travelers who make an effort to communicate. With any luck they will point you in the right direction. I would recommend going a block or two and getting a second opinion. Guatemalans always graciously give advice, it's just not always accurate.

Eventually you will find the road. Start walking. Sooner or later a pickup will come by. Wave it down, squeeze in and ride in absolute discomfort over one of the most spectacular roads in the entire world.

Nine dusty kilometers later you'll arrive in front of a magnificent seventeenth century church. Built in 1621, much of the original structure is still intact. Ancient wooden saints align the walls and the altar still has some of the Spanish silver decoration and gold encrusted carvings.

In the church you will usually find Don Juan Tos who works taking care of the place. He'll show you around. If he isn't there, chances are he or a friend will show up soon as the word will pass that you are in town. If you aren't claustrophobic or afraid of heights you can climb up the stairs at the end of the church to the belfry. Don Juan will always welcome ten or twenty Quetzals to help take care of the church.

By the way, you're on your own getting home. Look, you could have just taken a cab.

I originally posted this to the site in 2002. Since then road has been paved so it's not as dusty as it was and the ride is somewhat more comfortable. Sadly, Don Juan passed away. Donations are still welcome of course. There is a donation box at the front of the church, The money will go to help preserve a magnificent four hundred year old church.

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